Surf’s up in Sayulita, Mexico


Sayulita beach

As I gazed at the surf breaking vigorously over boogie boarders trying to ride the waves in Sayulita a large platter of tender octopus swimming in She-Devil sauce, comprised of jalapenos, slivered onions and tomatoes, was placed before me.

Sayulita offers a change of pace from its bigger and busier cousin, Puerto Vallarta. The beaches of Puerto Vallarta are renowned for their beauty and many facilities have taken advantage of the access to the water, building large resorts to cater to the throngs of sun worshipers that flock to these climes in winter months. While full service resorts offer many amenities and conveniences to the traveler, a day trip to a more laid back environment to enjoy sand, waves and sun is sometimes in order.

The bus to Sayulita

The bus to Sayulita

Recently we struck out on our own to see how easy it was to navigate to Sayulita on local transportation. It turned out to be easier than expected, though riding in the back of the bus for the hour long trip presented some challenges. The reward, however, was worth it.

After inquiring at the front desk of Club Regina in Marina Vallarta, we armed ourselves with the necessary information about how to locate the bus and made sure we had small coins, though we learned that the bus driver does give change.  After we caught a small bus on the main road outside the resort we transferred to the Sayulita bus at the busy transfer station at Walmart (a de facto landmark). We looked for “Sayulita” painted on the windshield of the buses but didn’t need to worry that we wouldn’t be able to spot it as many bus drivers asked us where we were going and directed us toward the front. We paid our 25 pesos (US$2.00) and made our way to the last row of seats, learning quickly that these old buses lack shock absorbers. We bounced along the uneven road and hung on as we rounded corners, admiring the jungle scenes that appeared once we left the outskirts of town and made our way over the hills that separate Puerto Vallarta from Sayulita 22 miles away.  Passengers on the bus were split about 50:50 between hardy tourists and locals, though on the return trip there were mostly locals.

River through Sayulita

The river runs through the middle of Sayulita

We reached the end of the line and all the passengers disembarked in the small town of Sayulita, a few blocks from the beach. Massive flooding earlier in the year had taken out a bridge so we crossed a temporary structure and made our way to the beach. We found a beautiful curve of sand dotted with palapas and umbrellas facing moderate surf. Surfers have been coming here for years and gradually Puerto Vallarta visitors have discovered Sayulita, but the town retains a relaxed atmosphere and local flavor, though shops and restaurants are clearly geared toward servicing tourists. The buildings lining the beach are two or three stories and have been there for awhile—no shiny steel and glass here.

After securing lounge chairs and an umbrella we plunged into the refreshing sea and frolicked in the waves. As far as surf goes the waves weren’t really consistent enough for surfers to get a long ride, but a few groups were trying. Boogie boaders and body surfers had a great time riding the waves onto the beach.


Octopus with She Devil Sauce

One of the pleasures of this area is the abundance of seafood and we poured over the menu from a nearby restaurant whose waiters regularly made a circuit out to the beach.  We enjoyed  platters of fresh octopus and sweet grilled shrimp for 100 pesos (US$8.00) from El Costeno Restaurant, and then did a little shopping from the beach vendors who walked up and down the beach in the hot midday sun carrying heavy loads of textiles and jewelry.

As the sun dropped lower on the horizon we reluctantly packed up and traipsed down the street to catch the bus back to Puerto Vallarta, making plans to spend an extended period of time exploring the many beach communities north of Puerto Vallarta next time.

Sayulita is located in the state of Nayarit, Mexico. Information about the area and vacation rentals is available at and

See related articles by Inga Aksamit about Puerto Vallarta: