When we’re in the midst of a long stay, Chad and I love exploring the region by doing day trips and when we can, an overnight trip. For our stay here in Puerto Vallarta, we chose the nearby beach town of Sayulita as our overnight trip.
Getting to Sayulita
Sayulita is about an hour by car from Puerto Vallarta, but since we don’t have a car, we took the bus. There is a bus from the Walmart on Highway 200 operated by the company Compestela that goes direct to Sayulita with about two dozen stops along the way for just 55 pesos (about $3). Luckily the buses from our neighborhood that go to that Walmart are marked with “Walmart” or occasionally “Walt-Mart” on the window, so it was easy (and cheap, at just 10 pesos) to catch a bus to get us to where we needed to catch the bus.
We’d scoped out where the Sayulita bus would be on our prior trip to Walmart so we were able to get right on with perfect timing to get two seats together. This is important because the bus doesn’t stop selling tickets once all the seats are full. Even though the bus is much nicer than the city buses with soft seats and air conditioning, they still fill every inch of the aisle with people standing. Luckily there are buses to Sayulita three or four times an hour, so if we hadn’t had such good timing, we would have waited 20 minutes to be first on the next bus. With all the stops it took around 90 minutes to reach Sayulita and was overall a comfortable ride.
Arriving in Sayulita
Sayulita was actually a contender to be the base of our four-week stay. It is much smaller than Puerto Vallarta, which we typically prefer. However, it is so small they don’t have a true supermarket (like Soriana or Walmart here), which can create challenges in our diet. So, we settled on Puerto Vallarta, which in retrospect was the right choice. But we were super-curious about what Sayulita would be like and hopeful that it would be less crowded than our experience in Puerto Vallarta.
Unfortunately, this was not true. We could tell right away on our short walk from the bus station to the beach past dozens and dozens of souvenir vendors that Sayulita was even more of a tourist town than Puerto Vallarta. The beach itself was also dismayingly crowded but we found a spot to put down our blanket and enjoyed the picnic lunch I’d packed for us.
One really fun thing about Sayulita’s beach is watching all the surfers. It is a well-known surf destination, especially for beginners seeking lessons, and we enjoyed watching people catch some waves. Unlike Puerto Vallarta, which is on the Bay of Banderas, Sayulita faces the open Pacific Ocean, so the waves are definitely bigger.
A Chill Afternoon
After our picnic, we took our backpacks to our hotel (review below) in the hope of checking in early. While they told us (in Spanish; no English speakers at this hotel) that we couldn’t check in until 3, they allowed us to leave our stuff there. With such a crowded beach and big waves, we weren’t super-enthusiastic anymore about swimming. So, we decided to just walk around Sayulita until our check in time.
Somewhere I picked up the misconception that because Sayulita is in the state of Nayarit, which operates on Mexican Pacific Standard Time an hour earlier than the Central Standard Time of Jalisco (Puerto Vallarta’s state), time in Sayulita would be an hour earlier than Puerto Vallarta. This proved not to be true, so we had less time to spend walking than I’d initially thought. We walked through the town to the end of the beach, but there wasn’t a lot to see – lots of restaurants, a few bars, tons of souvenir stands, some yoga and massage studios. In fact, one big thing in Sayulita is massages on the beach. There were probably a dozen different places right on the beach offering massages.
On our way back to check in, we picked up a couple of beers, which were great to enjoy on our porch. For an extra $20 (making our total hotel cost $82 via Booking.com) I’d been able to reserve a room with a terrace with a view of the ocean and we really enjoyed that amenity. We used our time on the terrace to see where else in Sayulita we might want to go and read about a beach that you reach through a cemetery called Playa de los Muertos (which is actually what our beach in PV is called but for a different reason). So we picked up a couple more beers and headed that way. Late in the day, that beach was much quieter than the main Sayulita beach and taking the road through the cemetery was unique.
After the cemetery beach, we got cleaned up in our room and ready to go out to dinner. On our earlier walk, I made a reservation for a cute seafood restaurant away from the main part of town. We had time to catch sunset on the beach prior to our 7 p.m. reservation at El Jakal. Our meal was good but not great, but we finished it with a couple of awesome paletas, especially the lemon-basil.
A Morning Hike, Beach Time and Lunch
Chad had researched a hike to a “secret beach” between Sayulita and San Pancho called Playa Las Cuevas, so the next morning we got an early start to hike out there. The hike over the rocks and through the jungle was beautiful and as promised, the beach was empty (though there were people leaving as we arrived and others arrived as we left). The hike itself was the best part and it was so nice to be on a dirt path surrounded by trees and vegetation.
After our hike we picked up a coffee and some pan mantequilla from Cafe Espresso near our hotel, which we enjoyed on our terrace. The literal translation of pan mantequilla is butter bread but it was more like a moist breakfast cake and really delicious. We spent the rest of the morning enjoying our terrace then went to the beach at 11:30, leaving our backpacks again at the front desk.
For our beach time, we returned to Playa de los Muertos because we’d liked it so much the day before, but it was much more crowded. However, we found a good spot for our blanket and there weren’t too many people in the water. We had a great time playing and relaxing, then when the beach started to get crowded after 12:30 we returned to the hotel for our stuff and then went for a couple of beers and a late taco lunch. Our tacos and doradita (tostada with melted cheese and topping) from Tacos Prieto’s were excellent.
Return and Summary
After lunch we walked to the bus station and bought two tickets from the counter before joining the line of people waiting for the bus to Puerto Vallarta. Luckily again we were early enough to be able to get seats together on the bus, but we had to stand in line about 15 minutes waiting for the bus. The ride back was uneventful again and we made a quick Walmart run to stock up on Greek yogurt and coffee before taking an Uber back to our apartment.
Now that we’ve been to Sayulita, I’m really glad we chose Puerto Vallarta instead. As much as Puerto Vallarta feels touristy and full of folks from US and Canada, Sayulita feels much more so. And, here in Puerto Vallarta, there are many more pockets that feel like authentic Mexico (plus far more street taco stands!). But, we had a great getaway to Sayulita and I’m glad we saw it. I’d definitely recommend it as a short trip as part of a longer stay in the area.
Review of Vista Villas Suites – Great stay with a lovely view – We selected a suite with a sea view and loved having a very comfortable private terrace that, sure enough, had a nice view of the ocean. The room was clean and comfortable. We didn’t use the kitchenette on our short stay, but it seemed appropriately equipped. We were told the reception desk would be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., but this was not our experience the day we checked out (no one at reception at 11:30 and told no one would be there until 3).