The Sayulita surf scene is one of the best on the Riviera Nayarit – a region of Mexico that’s known for taco-scented beach towns, great waves and laid-back vibes.
Sayulita surf at a glance
- Great vibes in this chilled Mexican surf town
- Excellent and affordable surf tuition
- The Sayulita weather is stunning and the water is warm
- Line up is busier by the year
- Sayulita hotels can be pricy
- Kook fest during peak holiday periods
This is a part of our greater guide to surfing Mexico.
What will I find in this guide to Sayulita surf?
An introduction to Sayulita surf
Sayulita is a charmer. Let’s get that out of the way first. Sombreros jostle in the tequila bars on its cacti-sprouting central plaza. Cobbled streets lined with happy-hour beer holes and coffee joints filter off this way and that. Cool boutique hotels and surf hostels abound. It’s just the sort of place you’d imagine when you get a-thinking about a Mexican holiday.
But you’re not here for R&R, right? Well…no worries. There are upwards of 15 surf breaks in the vicinity of Sayulita. That’s because the town puts you smack dab in the heart of the region known as the Riviera Nayarit. It’s a long stretch of shoreline that runs northwards from Puerto Vallarta, and it’s loaded with reefs, point breaks, and some beginner-friendly beach breaks for those with the surfboard in tow.
The town of Sayulita has managed to elevate itself to one of the surf havens of the riviera by offering a trio of breaks right on the doorstep. We’re not going to pretend they are the best-quality waves going. They aren’t. However, they go do give a great selection of different styles of riding, meaning you can graduate from mellow beach breaks to left-right reefs without even leaving town.
Of course, you can venture further afield. There are oodles of schools and tours on offer. They could whisk you down to the Punta Mita surf spots, where you can catch nice A-frame wedges. Or, they could whisk you northwards to the challenging fast rides of San Pancho and beyond. It’s a region you won’t get bored of in a hurry. And it’s got loads in the way of après surf and authentic Mexican charm. We’re counting the days until we can go back.
Where is Sayulita, exactly?
Sayulita was once just a relaxed fishing village a few clicks north of the buzzing coast city of Puerto Vallarta. The discovery of its powder-white beaches and great breaks means that it now bustles with like. Thousands of travelers per year come to seek it out on the 200 Highway heading north. It’s actually one of the first towns you’ll come to on the famous Riviera Nayarit. Buses in from Puerto Vallarta take around one hour. Coming from inland Mexico, you can arrive from Guadalajara in around five hours (take the VIP bus – they’re comfy!).
A guide to the best Sayulita surf spots
This is probably the break that put Playa Sayulita on the surfing map. At least, it’s certainly the reason there are so many surf schools in the town. That’s because it’s an uber-beginner-friendly spot with mellow waves that will rarely be a challenge. Facing north, it cuts out any heavy S-SW swells and offers good protection from the open ocean. That means regular sets with nice periods and glassy conditions. There’s also a long take-off zone that can offer both green and whitewash. The downside of the Sandbar is that’s busy these days (like really busy). We sat and watched one hell of a board-flying fest last time we were in town. Nonetheless – it’s a cracking place to try surfing for the first time.
Sayulita Right (S Right)
The Sayulita Right is the most consistent wave in the town itself. It breaks at the river mouth on the main beachfront over a rock-studded sand bottom with a few patches of reef. Things seldom go overhead here. In fact, tummy- to chest-high waves are the usual order. Consequently, you see plenty of 8ft plus in these parts – there’s no denying it’s a corker for longboards! Try to hit this one middle or low tide. Watch out for a busy line-up.
Sayulita Left (S Left)
A quirky little wave that only likes to rear its head on bigger days (usually during the summer months), the Sayulita left is another river mouth break. It’s located a little north-east along the beach, but is still right next door to the Sayulita Right. It boasts a faster take off, a smaller take-off zone, and quite a quick but fun left-hander that’s a gem for goofy-footed folk. The ride can be quite long when it’s working, with a finish that’s along Playa Sayulita’s northern end.
Away from Sayulita town itself is the Bahia Cove (Some people call it The Cove others call it Bahia – after the Bahia de Banderas). It’s the most ocean-facing of all Punta Mita surf breaks. That means there’s extra exposure here, so windy days can be a no-no. We’d recommend going early on an organised tour to get in there before the onshores start in the afternoon, mainly because you’ll usually need to hitch a ride on a local fishing boat to make it to the swell.
The beach at Litibu sits less than 25 minutes’ drive through the coastal jungles from Sayulita town. It’s a great option for all levels, but is predominantly used by beginners and improvers looking for something a little different to the Sayulita surf spots in the town. Good things about Playa Litibu: It’s remote and not busy at all. Bad things: It can close out at the hint of a swell and is rather exposed.
Sat facing the small town of Punta de Mita around 30 minutes’ drive from Sayulita, Stinky’s is one of the most popular breaks. It can cater to pretty much all levels of surfers. Beginners get mushy whitewash to practice on, but should be aware of rock and reef underneath. Intermediates can also find some rippable and decent-length rides, although a strong S swell is usually needed to get things pumping. Hang around for low tide for the best conditions.
La Lancha is one of the very best Punta Mita surf spots going. It sits on the northern edge of the Bahia de Banderas, and is still one of the most popular places for Sayulita’s surf schools to visit. Under the gaze of the Sierra Madre, it’s a wonderful beach fringed with coconut trees and ocean vines. There are two breaks. The best is a nice wedge A-frame (although it’s predominantly a left) that can be overhead and quite fast. There’s also a mellow right hander with a few boulders underfoot – great for longboarders.
The lone break on this list that’s to the north of Sayulita sits in the town of San Pancho. There’s not too much to the wave itself. It’s a quick and challenging beach break, prone to closeouts and needing a good paddle technique in the take off. We’ve been here and watched beginners get nailed on the heavy swells. It’s not really suited to learning on, but can be a good goal if you’re keen to improve on drop ins and dealing with speed. The best thing about San Pancho is the town itself – there’s an authentic Mexicana charm in the cobbled streets and playa beer bars that Sayulita lost years ago!
Our pick of Sayulita hotels and surf hostels
Hotel Ysuri Sayulita ($$$)
After a sea view? Eat. Your. Heart. Out. It’s simply stunning at the Hotel Ysuri Sayulita. Granted, you’ll pay for the luxury. But luxury it definitely is. Lots of rooms face the open Pacific, gazing up the length of lovely Sayulita Playa (you’ll even be able to check the surf conditions with just a glance off your balcony). There’s a large on-site pool and gorgeous interior design that’s modern with a twist of hacienda charm.
Casa Pia ($$)
Casa Pia is a boutique hotel with loads of style. The doubles are well-appointed in modern and breezy colours and furnishings. Bathrooms are all refurbished to high standards with top levels of comfort, walk in showers and big units. There’s also an industrial-chic edge thanks to the exposed breeze block walls. A coffee shop in the same building (just below) helps with the post dawn patrol wake up.
Hostal Tortuga ($)
Hostel accommodation hardly gets better than Hostal Tortuga. There’s a pool in the garden with swinging hammocks and lovely breeze-kissed deck areas. The shared bathrooms are really clean and modern. There’s a nice terrace for sharing surf tales and beers with other guests. It’s also a wallet-friendly option.
La Redonda Sayulita Hostal ($)
If you’re after somewhere sociable, fun, and just a little hedonistic, the La Redonda Sayulita Hostal is the option to plump for. It faces the main beach breaks, so is perfect for a Sayulita surf trip. It’s also adults-only and has its own bar. Dorms are the main sort of stay, but it’s really about meeting and mingling with other travellers and surfers here.
A guide to Sayulita weather and the Sayulita surfing seasons
There’s usually something to surf in Sayulita whatever the time of the year. Seriously, this is considered one of the most consistent surf towns in Mexico. Of course, there are noticeable seasonal changes in the size of the swell and the Sayulita weather to boot.
Winter (November to March)
Snowbirds flock down from the US and Europe to enjoy the winter sun of the Riveira Nayarit between November and March. Sayulita weather hits a zenith at this time. It’s usually consistently warm and baking on the beaches. The ocean is hot but refreshing. It’s a great time to be alive on the Mexican Pacific.
In terms of surf, winter is actually more prone to N-NW swells. That keeps things relaxed and more manageable. The waves are consistent but usually peak at chest to head height. Sets can be really glassy, especially around the Punta Mita surf area. We would recommend doing dawn trips to the waves to beat the crowds and catch your sesh before the offshores start (you’ve got the heat to thank for those).
Summer (April to September)
The summer is considered the peak surfing season in Sayulita. However, that should come with a warning. Beginners and improvers will surely feel more at home in the winter months. That’s because the summer sees the S-SW Southern Ocean start powering up the swell direction and the hurricane season off the Pacific add even more slosh to the equation. The result? Double, triple overheads and really fast sets. It’s perfect if you’re a seasoned short boarder. It’s not so good for a first-time surf school.
As far as the weather goes, June, July and August all see temperatures hovering around the 30 degrees mark. August and September tend to be the wettest of the bunch, and there’s a load more humidity here – it’s probably not the time to plan hiking excursions to the Sierra Madre on top of the surfing!
Surf shops in Sayulita
You won’t be short of a place to pick up the tropical wax and the ding repair in Sayulita. The town is packed with independent stores of all stripes. Some that come highly recommended include:
Quiverito Surf Shop
A ramshackle set up in a simple little opening on Calle Marlín in the heart of Sayulita, Quiverito Surf Shop has some serious charm. The people here are always smiling and chatting. They beckon in passersby with a range of handmade tees and hessian bags. They also do bespoke ocean-inspired art items and surfboard rentals.
Los Rudos Surf Shop
Back behind the main plaza in central Sayulita is the compact and cool Los Rudos Surf Shop. It’s a tight-knit little boutique that’s packed to bursting with tees, rashies, caps, bags – you name it. The focus is mainly on surf fashion, but you’ll also catch a few waxes and leashes and tech. Oh, and it’s the go-to place for skate gear in Sayulita.
Where to eat in Sayulita
Sayulita has no shortage of great eating spots. Below, we’ve picked out just a few that might just tickle those taste buds.
Part café, part art gallery, ORGANI-K has a unique vibe and one of the town’s best arrays of healthy, hearty food. It’s a perfect place to stop by before or after an early surf session. The coffee is wonderful and the smoothies are packed full of pick-me-up goodies.
Jack’s Place ($$)
Jack’s Place sits on the main road leading in and out of the town. There, it tempts diners with a medley of creative meals. You’ve got Thai-inspired noodle dishes topped with peanut and chilli. You’ll get Asian seafood broths. And there are reports that the place does some of the best pizzas around. You can decide for yourself, but there’s no denying that al fresco garden and terrace is a fine place to chow down!
Cocos Beach Club ($$)
Cold beers on the beach – that’s the main draw of Cocos Beach Club. Yes, it’s not going to be the cheapest spot in town. But there’s hardly anywhere better for watching the waves roll in, the wipeouts, and the sunset. A menu of craft beer sourced from the region is a welcome addition to platters of nachos and grilled Mexican meats.
This ultimate guide to Sayulita Surf is always being updated and changed. If you think we’ve missed something or gotten something wrong, we’d sure love you to get in touch. You can use email or just drop a message in the comments below.