One of the major metrics by which we judge our vacation spots is "Corona Truck per City Block." Sayulita scores pretty damn well.
What is it? A street side hole-in-the-wall serving incredible tacos and the best horchata in town (in our humble opinion). And it’s cheap. Like I-feel-like-I-just-stole-from-this-nice-lady-serving-me-tacos-cheap. So make sure a few pesos end up in the tip jar!
Two people, 5 tacos, couple beers runs about 100 pesos ($5 bucks). Hours are late morning until early afternoon…we’ve missed last call for our mid afternoon snack here a few times and have been pretty bummed so plan accordingly.
As a point of reference…I was last in Sayulita for 5 days and ate a chicken mole taco from Naty’s 9 different times. And we arrived after they had closed on day 1. Twice a day – every day.
The order…Chicken, beef, marlin, rice and beans…it’s hard to go wrong at Naty’s.
But…the taco that will change your life is the chicken mole. It’s smoky with a hint of sweetness and heat.
The details…The sun set hours ago, dinner was great, you had a margarita. Then another margarita and a couple of beers. Suddenly you’re starving again. Fortunately for you Tacos Ivan sets up their taco operation right around dusk to serve up the best late night drunk food anyone could ask for – tacos al pastor.
These guys set up the cart and a big spit of well seasoned pork with a pineapple above it. The whole thing starts slowly rotating on the rotisserie with the sweet juices of the pineapple dripping onto the pork. They use a long blade (some might call it a sword) to slice the pork into the corn tortilla and then, with a great degree of flair, showmanship and skill, they wield their sword to flick a piece of pineapple into the taco shell held in an outstretched hand some distance from the rotisserie.
As an aside they were flicking pieces of pineapple with some uncanny accuracy at my girlfriend standing 15 feet away and waiting for her taco. While I’m not generally permitted to throw food at her she didn’t seem to mind the gentleman from Tacos Ivan doing so.
Finding it…Tacos Ivan sets up about dusk where Avenida Revolucion meets Calle Jose Mariscal.
The Order…there is really only one order. They are specialists. They do what they do. And they do it well. Spit roasted pork and pineapple tacos. Don’t overthink it. They’re about a buck-a-piece so when you are done there is only one thing to say… “Uno mas por favor!”
The details…we were up the road in San Pancho (aka San Francisco) Sayulita’s smaller and sleepier neighbor when we ducked into a place in search of a margarita and a michelada. I love me a good michelada – and Barracuda didn’t disappoint.
Sayulita and San Pancho are both fishing villages, turned low key surf spots, turned burgeoning tourist destinations so make sure you eat plenty of mariscos (shrimp) and marlin. Barracuda does these as well as anyone. While wandering around Sayulita later in the day we realized there was another Barracuda outpost…so I guess, “technically” we’re touting a chain restaurant!
The Order…Shrimp tacos. Fish tacos. Barracuda doesn’t seem to miss so order with confidence.
The Details…Mary’s is Sayulita’s most highly rated restaurant on Trip Advisor (at the time of this writing) and it always seems to have a big tourist crowd. Mary’s earn their high ratings with what some might call “familiar” Mexican food.
The Order…Mary’s Taco. It won’t disappoint. Camarones (shrimp), roasted pablanos, melted cheese and avocado. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
The details: Sayulita Cafe is supposedly the oldest restaurant in Sayulita (think 1980 not 1800) so they must be doing something right. The proprietor is a gem and will recognize you (or pretend to recognize you) year after year – makes me feel good either way!
The Order… Molcajete. A huge serving of spicy beef broth with grilled steak, chicken and roasted vegetables served in a heavy stone bowl. If you eat one “fancy” meal in Sayulita this should be it. You’ll still be sitting at a table in the street with golf carts, mopeds and trucks buzzing by to keep the pretentiousness in check.
The Details: Big. Giant. Burritos. And good breakfast burritos. Nothing you can’t find in the U.S. but a good quick meal. One burrito and a couple of beers won’t run you much more than about $5 and easily feed two people.
The Details…Sayulita is awesome. And naturally…it has attracted a number of ex-pats. Well… these proprietors were drawn all the way from Italy and do a pretty mean pizza-pasta combination in their bustling restaurant. If you get a craving for Italian this is your place.
The details: For when that friend says "I can't eat any more tacos" and you humor them. Find your way across to the north side of town (across the bridge) and wander down the street until you see the bustling pizza place with the wood fired oven. Bring a drink – both because this place is BYOB (awesome!) and because you will have to stand around for a few minutes waiting for a table because it’s just that good.
The details: Smoothies and egg sandwiches. On bagels. It’s all good. And they have gluten free options if that’s your style.
Walk north on the beach out of town and you’ll notice some tents. They looked “free” but I can’t speak to the legality. Your mileage may vary.
We heard it runs about $10 a night. We met a couple of guys staying there who couldn’t say enough good things about it. Chris was staying indefinitely. Tomas had a ticket out of Guatemala City a couple of months from now and no plans to leave any time soon. Sounds like a strong endorsement to us.
Lots of options and pricepoints.
Sayulita has some incredible homes on the beach and set up in the hills above town. Size, number of beds, and price all vary.
We’ll say this…put together a group of friends and you can live like Pablo Escobar for a week for less than you might think.
The beach in Sayulita is an incredible place to learn to surf. There’s the advanced break to your right and the mellow beginner break to the left. It gets crowded later in the day and the best waves are generally in the morning before the wind starts blowing things out. So get down there by 9am. There is nothing like a quick surf session in the ocean to banish that tequila hangover.
Take a Lesson. There are a ton of great surfers and instructors in Sayulita because of the incredible surf their beach has. We’ve had good luck with lessons from…
Just Rent a Board. If you’re more of a I’ll-just-figure-it-out kind of person you came to the right place. For $5 bucks you can take a board and go practice in the waves for an hour.
The main beach in town is incredible. It is a big, long, sandy beach with mellow waves great for swimming, body surfing and just screwing around in the waves. You can rent a lounge chair and someone will bring you drinks – if that’s your thing. And that can be a great thing. On the other hand there are a ton of people and a ton of vendors (always respectful but a constant presence). But if you fill your cooler with beer and walk with you towels north on the beach for 5 minutes you can remove yourself from the crowds and have a stretch of sand all to yourself.
Head south out of town. Pass through Hotel Villa Amor and the town graveyard – which is beautiful, colorful and definitely worth seeing. Quick 10 minutes later and you will find another great but much smaller stretch of sand with a nice mellow swimming area. By no means undiscovered but it will have fewer people and fewer vendors.
Our fellow beach-goer nailing the timing on the photo.
We heard about this beach which is about a 20 minute walk through the jungle beyond Playa de Los Muertos. After some wandering and second guessing ourselves we finally found it. And only had to share it with two other people. Pack water and beer and whatever else you’ll want because there are no vendors or services out here. We’d offer directions but they might just get you more lost. Ask around in town. Wouldn’t be an awful idea to rent a golf cart for this excursion.
San Pancho is a small town a quick ten minute taxi ride from Sayulita. There are fewer shops and fewer people. It has a great sandy beach but the currents and waves are a little more intense. Definitely worth a quick afternoon trip.
If this place sounds familiar you are probably a fan of the Bachelor in Paradise series. They filmed it here. Don’t hold that against it. It’s an incredible hotel built on a great beach about a 10 minutes taxi ride from town. Sayulita’s beach is great but it doesn’t face true west so you miss the epic sunsets. Playa Escondido on the other hand serves these up in spades. We’ve heard they are a little hit or miss on letting people in the resort unless you are staying there or have dinner reservations. But we wandered in, ordered beers from the bar and hung out on the beach for sunset without any trouble.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Drink)
There do not seem to be any restrictions to prevent you from walking around Sayulita with your own beverage. But Mexican jail is rumored to be unpleasant so use your best judgment. Restaurants don’t seem to mind if you sit down while still finishing your margarita from the bar across the street. It would probably be bad form to walk up with your own bucket of beers but otherwise it’s pretty relaxed and makes for a nice stroll into town with a drink while you decide where to grab dinner.
Hire a Shuttle from the Airport.
You don’t need a car in Sayulita. We've had excellent luck with Amanecer Transportation to get to and from the airport in Puerto Vallarta. They are always at the airport waiting for you. They have a cooler full of beer which they will offer you as soon as you get in the van. Like clockwork they show up in Sayulita to take you back to the airport at the end of your trip. They might show up in a big van…they might show up in a brand new suburban. Either way it's your shuttle to paradise.
Your shuttle driver will be glad to stop at the Mega – a big box store between the airport and Sayulita to let you pick up some groceries. Our first time in Sayulita we overdid it on the groceries and since the food was so good and the tacos so cheap we barely touched them. The staff at the house we rented were more than happy to take them so they didn’t go to waste but now we skip the Mega. The beer and tequila were really cheap but it’s pretty cheap in town too and you get to support the local community. We’d say skip the Mega unless you have a huge group, need a ton of beer and water or are really intent on doing a lot of cooking.