7 Free Things to do in Sayulita, Mexico

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A secret no more: Sayulita, Mexico has become a fast favourite among vacationer's and all for good reason. With beautiful beaches, beginner friendly surf, and world class fish tacos, Sayulita offers something totally special not found elsewhere, and trust me I've looked. There really is no other Sayulita.

If you haven't yet heard of this little slice of paradise, here is some background for you: Sayulita is a happening surf village nestled on the jungle surrounded shores of Mexico's Nayarit state. Located just an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, this once quiet haven has turned into the vacation destination for those looking for something outside of the mega resort towns of Pacific Mexico. Sayulita is drawing in crowds come high season, with day time package tours out of PV now adding a stop in this Pueblo Magico to their regular offerings. Sayulita is worth more than a day trip, but regardless of how much time you have here you are bound to enjoy it. With the extra influx of visitors comes the usual rise in costs. Although still a fairly affordable place to visit -- especially if you happen to be coming from a city in Canada, Europe or the USA -- the costs in Sayulita have been steadily increasing.

Fear not my friends, Sayulita is still a budget friendly traveler's paradise. With unmatched natural beauty, taking in this slice of heaven doesn't have to be expensive.


7 Free Things to do in Sayulita, Mexico

1. Visit Playa Los Muertos

The beauty and colours of the Playa Los Muertos cemetario are inspiring. The way the people of Sayulita, and Mexico, pay tribute to those passed is something to be admired and Playa Los Muertos is no different. The beach is aptly named in respect to those no longer with us, "Beach of the Dead". So take a walk and pay your respects through the graveyard, enjoying the view.

The beach has a small, sheltered bay that makes it a great place for swimming and paddle boarding.

To get here follow Caracol street towards the ocean. Caracol curves to the left and becomes Pescadores street. Follow this street past Villa Amor and under the green archway. Continue up the hill and you will reach the cemetery.


2. Visit Playa Carricotis

Just South around the bay from Playa Los Muertos, Carricotis is a beautiful beach for watching the sunset in solitude, this locals favourite is just far enough off the beaten path to remain quiet and empty. Carricotis is much larger and less frequented than Playa Los Muertos and is a great place to walk the beach taking in the lush jungle and ocean views. There is a small bay in the north corner and a long stretch of open sand to the south. The waves here are untamed and rowdy at times, making it a great place for body surfing if you've got those kind of water skills.

There are no services on Carricotis, which adds to the quiet tranquility of the beach, so come prepared with water and snacks if you plan to relax for the day.

To get to Carricotis continue past Playa Los Muertos to the left into the jungle on the dirt road. Take your second right hand turn and head upwards. There are a couple  private residence roads on your right hand side, (ocean side) that are not for public use,  keep going passed these until you reach the dead end and the small pathway that leads to Carricotis.

There are a few wooden signs through the pathway from Los Muertos signaling your heading the right way to Carricotis. If in doubt ask a local for assistance. The walk to this beach is well worth the bit of confusion it takes to get there. It takes around 20 minutes from Los Muertos to reach Carricotis.

3. Hike to San Pancho

A sweaty venture through the jungle, this hike isn't for the faint of heart. Make sure you bring plenty of water, a snack, and proper footwear. The empty beaches along the way and jungle breezes make this hike worth it, but it can be a bit confusing. Head north along Avenue Del Palmar street as far as you can go, from here you will head parallel from the ocean into the jungle.

The hike takes you through the jungle passed Los Cuevos Cove and Playa Malpaso, and ends near the home of an ex president of Mexico. Apparently there used to be a fenced off part of the pathway leading from the residence back to the highway, but currently they have left a spot for hikers to pass through a barbed wire area. The opening is a clear, large cut in the wire, so you won't find yourself having to through any crazy moves to get around it.

The hike takes under two hours and is around 4 miles in distance. Once you hit the cobblestone street around the ex presidents house you will head up the hill and reach Hacienda San Pancho and the highway. From here you walk along the highway a few hundred meters before you reach the entrance to the town. You will be hot, you will be sweaty, but the margaritas in the sand will be all the more worth it.

The beach at San Pancho is lovely and the town is funky and relaxed and much quieter than Sayulita. It is a great place to take in an afternoon.

A word of warning for those travelling between Sayulita and San Pancho through the jungle: do not bring any valuables with you and never travel alone. I've personally had no issues on these trails but better safe than sorry.

4. Turtle Release at the Turtle Preservation Camp

Located on the northside of Sayulita, the Turtle Preservation Camp aims to relocate sea turtle nests. Each day at 6:30 pm the camp volunteers release turtles hatched that day into the sea. The Preservation society helps more turtles safely reach adulthood without being poached. The nightly ritual of release is something really special to watch. Each little turtle swimming off into the huge powerful ocean is a pretty crazy sight to take in. 

To get here follow the beach past town to the north, or follow Avenue Del Palmar north, over the bridge and passed the school. Turn right when you see this sign below directing you to the turtle camp. They have a Facebook page with up to date information you can locate here. 


5. Watch the sunset from one of Sayulita's viewpoints

Sayulita's steep hills and jungle peaks make for a great place to take in the views over the town and beach anytime of the day but sunset is a particularly awesome time to take it in. Head east from the square towards one of the small pathways and stairs that take you up into the hills away from town.Calle Rio Zarquito or Call Gabriel Rodriguez will get you there or head up the steps past Calle Marlin and Escondido Bar.

Alternatively head north east and hit the hills around "Gringo Hill" neighbourhood and hike your way up to beautiful vistas. 

6. Have a beach to yourself at Playa Malpaso

Located north of town is the beautiful stretch of sand Playa Malpaso. Shaded by thick jungle, this part of Sayulita is rarely visited and seems miles away from the often packed main beach in the center. This is a great place to throw down a towel and catch some rays. 

Around a 20 minute walk from the plaza, follow either the main beach or Avenue Del Palmar to the north until the end of the road. Here you will follow a dirt path into the jungle. The path runs parallel to the ocean. You will hit a small stream, cross the river and head to the left. If you head to the first left, this will lead you first to a small bay, Los Cuevos Cove, if you stay to the right and go up the small hill on the pathway and back down again you will reach Malpaso. Try to stick to the path close to the ocean and you'll find it. 

Locals warned there was a big undertow/riptide at Malpaso so be extra careful in the water here. 


7. watch the world go by in the plaza

Sayulita is one of those places that makes people watching a worthy pastime. The colours, the locals, the sunburnt tourists. It's hectic/busy and calm/tranquil all at once. That's what you get in this bustling surf town and that's what makes it the little gem that it is. Enjoy the clean pacific breeze under one of the large trees in the centre of the square. The church bells' hum will bring you back to what this town may have been even twenty years before: a small quaint village in the heart of Mexico. While visitors may come and go in Sayulita, it's vibrant cozy energy is what will remain constant. One of the most memorable places to visit in Mexico, it's sure to land in your favourites. 


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