9 Amazing Things to See and Do Between Sayulita and San Blas, Mexico-Explore the Seaside Villages of Nayarit
Hunting for day trips from Sayulita?
Look No Further!
Heading North up the coast of Mexico's pacific state of Nayarit you will be greeted with overgrown jungle roads, ghosts of celebrities past, and empty stretches of beach coastline
If you are looking for some adventure and less tourist trotted spots, then exploring the coast north from Sayulita to San Blas is for you. Interesting locations filled with stories of the past, wonderful open air markets, fun seaside villages, classic Mexican charm and gorgeous beaches await. If you're looking for more info on Sayulita, we have you covered: what to do in Sayulita go here, and for where to stay in Sayulita go here.
Accessing the multiple destinations on this list is easiest by car but can be reached by bus or taxi depending on your preference and budget. Explore the area in a full day, or break it up into multiple day trips depending on how much ground you like to cover at once.
There are several car rental agencies in Sayulita -- we had a super positive experience with the Alamos in the center of the village -- shout out to the very helpful Noel, a super honest and easy to work with staff member.
Car rentals in Mexico often get a bad rep, but personal experience has proven otherwise having rented cars in several states and cities across the country without issue. That being said, practice the usual precautions: snap photos of any visible damage on the vehicle, take the extra insurance regardless of your personal Visa/MasterCard coverage and (hate to be painfully obvious here but) follow the rules of the road and always go the speed limit. Even if traffic is crazy and locals are zooming by you, fight the urge to speed. Take the target off your gringo-mobile and channel your inner grandma - keep 'er slow and steady Sally.
Now on to fun times and tan lines *cheesy enough for you?*
Hop in your transportation method of choice to enjoy a taste of what Nayarit has to offer.
9 Amazing Things to See and Do Between Sayulita and San Blas Mexico
1. Take a Stroll in San Pancho
Your first stop heading 7 kms north from Sayulita on highway 200 is San Francisco (or San Pancho as the locals call it) a cool, colourful little spot. With awesome margaritas and funky shops, there's no guessing that this little pueblo is feeling some of the busy spill over from neighbouring Sayulita. Vibrant street art, a combination of authentic, local and expat driven eateries, cool surf shops, and a much quieter beach than Sayulita are all found here. If you are a lover of relaxed beach towns, San Pancho is a great place to explore and spend an afternoon, or more, meandering.
As real estate is slightly more affordable here and accommodation prices sitting lower than Sayulita, this quiet little pueblo is growing at a rapid pace. Each year the streets become a little busier and the sleepy farming and fishing town take on a little more of a gringo-esque feel. However, the strong undertow at the beach, and the lack of surf here has kept some of the crowds at bay, keeping San Pancho as quaint as it is charming.
Every Tuesday in San Pancho is the Mercado Del Sol Farmer's market held in the square of the same name, Plaza Del Sol, featuring fresh food, live music, crafts and artisan goods.
2. Take in the views of the Bay of Jaltemba in Rincon De guayabitos
North another 30 mins from San Pancho on the 200 is Rincon De Guayabitos. When you get into Rincon, do yourself a favour and head up the south bound avenue Bahia de Banderas that runs parallel to the highway. The views over the bay of Jaltemba (famous for resembling a giant swimming pool) and the main beach are beautiful. Once you've taken your fair share of pics, head down into the town. The feel here is distinctly more Mexican in flavour than some of the southern aforementioned towns. Although a bustling tourist beach town, the shops and eateries are directed more towards locals rather than expats and gringos, giving it an authentic, charming, and down-to-earth feel. There is a definite family feel found here, with many children's toy shops lining the streets and even the shore line. The water is warm and clear, and it is great place to enjoy one of the many pineapple vendor's treats or take a swim in the giant swimming pool aka the Pacific Ocean.
3. Hit up the Tiangus (open air ) market in La Penita
Also nestled in the same bay as Rinco De Guayabitos, just three kilometers down the road, or a quick 7 minute drive, is La Penita De Jaltemba. A small Mexican fishing village with an updated malecón and a wide, golden sand beach, La Penita is the largest of three towns that makeup the Bay of Jaltemba.
The Tiangus (open air) Market at La Penita runs year round on Thursdays from 8:00 am-1:00 pm and is one of the biggest in the region.
4. stop to enjoy the endless STRETCHES of nayarit beaches
Down the 200 highway are numerous openings onto stretches of untouched sand. Aside from a couple of locals driving their motorcycle down the shore, we were the solo visitors to the many beaches we stopped to enjoy. The jungle in this area is very lush and overgrown, making for Jurassic Park-like viewpoints. Green, lush landscapes spill down the sides of the hills onto the sand. Park and take a stroll down your beach of choice.
5. Stop for Coconuts in Matanchen
Heading further north along the 200 and around 75 minutes from Sayulita, you will reach La Matanchen Bay. You know by this point you're going to need some hydration, so why not go straight for the coco? Nothing beats slurping the juices from a fresh coconut plucked from the tree whilst beach side. While sipping your natural electrolytes, take in the beauty of the bay.
Found here in Matanchen bay is Las Islitas -- home to the Guinness World Record's longest ever recorded wave at 5,700 feet. A once year round bustling surf destination, in recent times surfing at Las Islitas is said to be best in the summer. With construction over the years and damage from hurricanes filling the bay with sand, natural wave breaks have been disrupted, unfortunately shortening their length, and changing the over all surf conditions.
Fortunately relaxing and enjoying the bay are still great ways to enjoy Matanchen.
Here you will find hammock-bearing eateries with wooden tables and plastic chairs, offering up cheap cold beer, fresh seafood, guac, and fresh coconuts all readily available for your enjoyment.
6.Visit the roadside San Blas crocodiles
Continue to head North from La Matanchen towards San Blas. San Blas acts as a gateway to La Tovara park, a federally protected nature reserve with available tours taking you through the estuary and mangrove swamps by boat. To find out more about these tours go here.
To easily catch a glimpse of some of the wildlife and crocodiles of the area on your way into San Blas, pull into the swamp's lookout just off the highway south of the town. There is parking available and even a nice spot to eat your lunch Croc-side, but don't worry -- the area is fenced off between you and the reptiles. There are several crocodiles that call this area home, so depending on their schedules you should almost be able to spot one from your car.
7. Stroll the streets and take in the history of San Blas town
The echos of a somewhat muddled past are found in the streets of this quiet town of 8,800 hundred inhabitants. The history of this seemingly basic and somewhat ordinary town is enough to intrigue even the most slight of buffs.
Colonized by the Spanish in 1768, San Blas became a Spanish Naval base and the starting point for Spanish expeditions to the Pacific Northwest. For nearly two decades during this era, San Blas was one of the busiest ports on the Pacific coast of the Americas. Due to small size of the bay and climatic factors causing multiple health issues, the business from the port left this area for the likes of Acapulco and Manzanillo.
In the 1900's, a forced displacement of the Yaqui people -- a group of Indigenous people that lived along the Yaqui river in the Sonora desert in what is now the Southern most parts of the U.S. and Mexico's state Sonora --began at the port of San Blas. Thousands of Yaqui people were taken from their homes and forced onto slave ships arriving in San Blas where from here they would be sent to various sugar cane plantations in Oaxaca, tobacco farms in the Valle Nacional, or the Henequen Plantations where they lived out the remainder of their lives as victims of slave labour. To learn more about the Yaqui people go here.
The 1960's witnessed a brief surge in visitors here with the opening of then luxury Playa Hermosa, a resort frequented by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and even The Door's Jim Morrison whom was said to have spent a booze fueled holiday here where he allegedly wrote L.A. Woman. The area where the resort was built was particularity bad for mosquitoes and eventually pushed out the privacy seeking celebrities who grew tired of the continual bug issue. The ruins of the hotel can be found just off the main beach walkway, ask locals for directions.
*ICYMI Hermosa means beautiful in Spanish, hence why the multiple playas/beaches donned with this name*
Most recently, San Blas was devastated by the destruction of 2002's Hurrican Kenna, taking out 95% of the town's buildings. Hurricane Kenna, which at the time was the second most intense Hurricane to ever strike the west coast of Pacific Mexico, blew through the region from San Blas to Puerto Vallarta, killing four people and injuring and displacing hundreds more. The town has rebuilt since then but still bares a bit of an air of abandonment.
La Contaduria, an 18th century Spanish fort built in 1979, has been restored and is open to the public for viewings. There are also the ruins of a colonial church here -- Nuestra Senora Del Rosario. The church was meant to be the star of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, The Bells of San Blas.
Once you are finished exploring the ruins and town, head to the main beach.
8. Playa del borrego san blas
A stretch of golden sand and quiet (yet funky) beach bars line Playa Del Borrego. There is a small recommended hostel here, frequented mostly by surfers called Stoner's Surf Hostel. The vibe at Borrego is very relaxed, chill, and quiet. Finding gringos on this path is way less likely than neighboring towns to the south. The further you head north away from Puerto Vallarta the quieter the beach towns become, and Playa Del Borrego is the perfect example of this.
Borrego beach is a great place to enjoy a chilled out beach almost to yourself whilst sipping a delicious strawberry margarita. There has been tales of Can't Seem Em's or Sand Flies on the beaches in this area so be mindful if laying out on a blanket; a better bet is to borrow a lounger from one of the beach bars if sun bathing is your thing.
9. Take in the beauty of the Jungle roads, coastal views, and curb side shrines
The number 200 highway, with its green coat of jungle, is so over grown in spots you literally feel like you're driving through a video game fantasy land.
Mystical road side shrines can be found on numerous spots along the way, and whether or not they align with your beliefs the beauty in their presence is hard to ignore.
The direct drive from Sayulita to San Blas takes just over two hours to complete, but the lush jungle, spectacular viewpoints over the Pacific, and fun stops along the way make the drive time more than worthwhile.
Comment below if you're planning a trip to Nayarit, want to chat about the region, or are looking for more inspiration for your next beach adventure!