With its bohemian charisma, Sayulita, a fishing village turned tourist hub, offers a jumble of handicrafts shops, small bakeries, chic boutiques and stores with talavera tiles piled in the front yards. Posters cram shop windows offering flamenco, psychic readings, painting classes and yoga. Local Huichol Indians display wooden animals, jewelry, pottery and wall art pieces in the town square.
The town itself offers plenty of shopping opportunities along its cobblestoned streets. Sayulita Surf & Art is worth a look whether visitors surf or not—the shop sells one-of-a-kind artworks utilizing vintage and used surfboards. On Sunday, Sayulita hosts a small street fair with tents and stalls lining one of the town's streets allowing vendors to temporarily display their wares.
Among the attractions in Sayulita is the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts. It's partly a shop that sells the colorful yarn paintings and beaded handicrafts the Huichol Indians are famous for, and it's partly a community resource that donates profits to Huichol villages. The donations are used for educational programs that help preserve the Huichol language and culture. Susana Valadez, a Chicago anthropologist, started the center in the mid-1990s.
Laid-back Sayulita is also a surfer's hangout. Many of the residents are expats who first visited the village during the hippie era of the 1960s but went back to buy vacation homes. The result is a suspended-in-time hippie vibe, though this is changing as multimillion-dollar mansions and villa rentals dot more of the surrounding hills.
Visitors will also find an array of restaurants and bars. Some local favorites include Don Pedro's, which serves Mediterranean cuisine with Mexican and Californian accents under a giant thatched palapa with views of the sea and surfers. Expats and locals alike congregate at Rollie's, especially for breakfast, and Sayulita Fish Taco is a standout when it comes to delivering signature Baja-style fish tacos as well as down-home Mexican cooking.
In addition to surfing, water-based activities in Sayulita include enjoying the many beaches, snorkeling at Playa de Los Muertos or sportfishing from an open-bow panga (small motorized boat). Dedicated surfers should know that waves are at their best December-April.
Land-based activities include hiking or mountain biking along jungle trails, and horseback riding and ziplining are available at Rancho Mi Chaparrita.
The operator Wildmex Surf Holidays and Adventures is located right in town on the beach in Sayulita Bay. It can set up travelers with everything from surf lessons to extensive surf and camping trips, as well as kayaking and mountain biking excursions.
Sayulita is about 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta International Airport. Confusingly, visitors should note that Puerto Vallarta and most of the Bay of Banderas part of Nayarit is on Central time, and Sayulita is on Mountain time. More than one traveler has arrived at the airport for their return flight thinking they had an hour to spare but instead discovered their flight taking off.
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