Sayulita rests on the shimmering shores of the Riviera Nayarit – a long length of coastline that rolls northwards from the buzzy city of Puerto Vallarta under the gaze of the lush Sierra Madre ranges. Luckily, there are lots of free things to do in Sayulita, Mexico.
It’s hemmed in by some of the most celebrated beaches in Mexico, which tumble down from rows of swaying palms to the sky-blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. These days, travelers flock in to soak up the rays, drink tequila cocktails, munch on salty fish tacos, and ride the waves. Here’s what’s on offer if you don’t want to spend a single peso…
Learn about the best free things to do in Sayulita below!
1. Go surfing
The Sayulita surf is some of the very best in all of Mexico. Up there with the likes of Puerto Escondido and the Oaxaca coast, it’s all about reliable waves for virtually the whole year. Unlike its compadres further south, this one’s got breaks to suit all levels of surfer, from the total beginner (local spots like the Sayulita beach break and La Lancha are the best if that’s you!) to the seasoned pro (nearby San Pancho and the town’s reef break are more challenging). The best part? You won’t have to pay a peso to get on the Sayulita waves if you come with your own board in tow.
2. Explore the coastal paths
There’s a web of wonderful coastal paths that weave through the jungles to the north of Sayulita. They can take you into lush pockets of capomo and spiky habillo trees, all threaded with verdant blooms of ferns and vines. One of the best paths snakes up ridges and down hidden valleys to whisk you to the town of San Pancho. It’s a doozy of a day hike, taking around 2 hours each way and offering glimpses of secret bays, rugged headlands, and even the occasional monkey!
3. Hit Sayulita Beach – obviously!
The gold-tinged shores of the Riviera Nayarit are one of the main reasons so many folk head to this corner of Mexico year on year. What’s more, Sayulita is known to have some of the finest sands north of the Bahia de Banderas. You’ll find them rolling out right in front of the town, backed by coconut palms, framed by rugged hills and reefs. There are some strong waves, so be careful when swimming. Expect long days of sunbathing here without having to spend a dime!
4. Playa de Los Muertos
While the main beachfront in Sayulita is packed with surfers and sunbathers, the hidden cove of Playa de Los Muertos offers a more secluded place to lay your towel. It’s a bit of a trek along winding, wiggling roads to the south of the town center to get there, but the reward is a laid-back cleft in the shoreline that has soft sands, a couple of bamboo-built beer shacks, and interesting little tide pools where you can splash and swim to your heart’s content.
5. Climb Monkey Mountain
The allure of the cooling Mexican Pacific is often so great that visitors to Sayulita regularly forget about the jungle-dashed Sierra Madre mountains that lie a little to the east. They’re a real playground for adventure seekers, and adventure in these parts is totally free! This is truly one of the best free things to do in Sayulita. One of the top hikes to make is to the summit of Monkey Mountain. The trailhead is located a little down the road towards Punta Mita. There, it dives into thickets of palms and blooms of orchids, slowly zigzagging upwards to a peak that offers sweeping views across the golden sands of Higuera Blanca beach.
6. Spend the day in San Pancho
The little surf town of San Pancho is a mere 7km to the north of Sayulita. You can hop in a taxi, but that would cost you a bunch of pesos. The budget-friendly way to arrive is to hit the walking paths along the coast (psst: they’re totally free!). Then, get ready to delve into a charming Mexican coast town complete with cobbled squares and cantinas that spill out onto the streets. The beachfront at San Pancho is also a charmer. It has fantastic sunset bars with chilled margaritas, along with resident mariachi bands that play well into the evening.
7. Get your selfie shot at the Sayulita sign
Smack bang in the heart of Sayulita’s main plaza, between the coffee shops and margarita dives, the iconic town sign spreads between bouts of bougainvillea and park benches. It’s not much to see, except that it’s scrawled with bright and jazzy graffiti. However, it’s a must-stop spot for that compulsory selfie. It won’t cost a thing, but you might have to queue to get it all to yourself. If there’s only one thing off this list of free things to do in Sayulita that you decide to do, take this selfie!
8. Free spa treatments on Playa de Barro
If you can find a way to head north past San Pancho, around 15 minutes outside of Sayulita, it’s possible to hit some of the less-trodden coastal paths of the whole riviera. They can whisk you along headlands and past eco B&Bs perched on the cliffs to the remote beach of Playa de Barro. There’s a chance there won’t be another soul in sight if you make it there. What’s more, you get the joys of a natural mud “spa”. Locals believe the watery clay that bubbles from a stream on the south end of the beach is good for complexion and skin health. Don’t worry – you can wash it off in the Pacific once you’ve had enough!
9. Sayulita Farmer’s Market
The Sayulita Farmer’s Market – known locally as the Mercado del Pueblo – is the first of its kind on the whole of the Riviera Nayarit. Taking place on Friday afternoons close to the central plaza of the town, it’s all about showcasing the fresh and tasty produce of the Mexican Pacific. There’s a big focus on juicy avocados, mangos, and – of course – tongue-tingling chilly peppers. You’ll also find craft wares and jewelry. Oh, and you don’t have to go buying stuff to enjoy, because the market also hosts live music and entertainment.
10. A day in Puerto Vallarta
Okay, so a daytrip down to the happening coast city of Puerto Vallarta isn’t technically free, but the local bus costs a wallet-friendly 46 MXN (that’s just $2.20!). What’s more, it should be easy to hitch a lift, what with the main Nayarit coast road running right past Sayulita itself. Whichever way you arrive, PV – as the town is known here – is an enthralling place. The Malecon coast promenade is a hubbub of spring break bars and cocktail joints (perfect for people watching). Then you get the charming Romantic Zone, where lively LGBTQ+ venues mix with cobbled streets and Wild West-style saloons.
11. Get to Playa Patzcuaro
If you’re keen to escape the crowds of Sayulita but also want to keep the travel budget intact, a trip to the remote but loveable bay of Playa Patzcuaro could be just what’s needed. It’s not too far from the surf town – a good pair of shoes and a breakfast of hearty huevos rancheros could propel you there in under an hour. What awaits is a wave-bashed stretch of pristine sand, flanked by craggy rocks and deep caves. It’s truly beautiful.
Of course, there are loads more things to get up to in Sayulita, especially if you’ve got a few pesos to spend in the process. If you can think of any more completely free things to do in Sayulita to add to this list, be sure to drop them in the comments below!
About the Guest Author: Joe
This is a guest post put together by Joe from The Surf Atlas. Joe’s recently returned from a trip to hit the waves and taco stands of Sayulita and the Mexican coast. It’s fair to say he’ll be returning at the first chance. You can follow him over on The Surf Atlas Facebook and Instagram.