Playa Malpaso Sayulita Is Sayulita Worth Visiting?
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Is Sayulita Worth Visiting?

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Is Sayulita worth visiting in 2024? We have been visiting since 2019 and have noticed some big changes in just four short years.

We first visited Sayulita in 2019 during the low season. We had heard many things about this incredible surf beach along Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit and were excited to check it out on our van life Mexico adventure.

That first trip, we stealth camped in our van, one street back from the beach, and spent our days in Sayulita surfing, laying under palm trees, and hunting down the best fish tacos we could find. Our nights we spent tracking down the best beach bars and cocktails Sayulita has to offer. All in all, it was an awesome time.

We have since returned on two separate occasions, once for a few weeks in January 2022 around New Year’s Day and again in November 2022 after getting married in nearby San Pancho.

We are sorry to report that each visit has been more disappointing than the last.

Is Sayulita Worth Visiting?

Not in the way that it was.

Sayulita, the once tiny beach village located in the Riviera Nayarit, on Mexico’s Pacific coast has long been recognized as a hidden gem for in-the-know surfers and counter-cultural bohemians, however, as the years have passed, the secret is well and truly out and much of the charm and allure of Sayulita seems to have diminished.

So, why might Sayulita not be worth visiting in 2024?

The main culprits are environmental degradation, overcrowding, and over-commercialization. As a result, Sayulita lost its essence, and travelers searching for more authentic and fulfilling experiences may no longer find it in Sayulita.

6 Reasons Why Sayulita Is Not Worth Visiting in 2024

The reasons why Sayulita is not worth visiting represent our own opinions and should be taken as such when deciding whether or not Sayulita is worth visiting.

1. Sayulita Has Become Overcrowded

One of the primary reasons why Sayulita is no longer worth visiting is the overcrowding. Once a serene and laid-back town, it has become a victim of its own popularity.

The influx of tourists has led to overcrowded streets, beaches, and restaurants. Visitors seeking a tranquil beach getaway will be disappointed by the constant noise and lack of personal space.

A woman standing on an empty beach, the picture is framed by palm fronds
If you’re looking to escape the crowds, Sayulita is no longer the place to do it

Sayulita’s infrastructure is also struggling to cope with the sheer volume of visitors, resulting in congested roads and a strain on public amenities.

In high season and especially around holidays such as New Year, or Day of the Dead, the town becomes so full that even walking down the main street or grabbing supplies from the local convenience store becomes an exercise in patience and planning.

2. Sayulita is Overcommercialized

Sayulita’s rapid growth has led to a loss of authenticity and a surge in commercialization. What was once a quaint fishing village now resembles a commercial tourist hub. More and more local businesses are being replaced with generic souvenir shops, high-end boutiques, luxury hotels, and expensive restaurants. On the beach’s southern end, a square meter of sand has been claimed by restaurants, bars, and hotels selling back space with lounge chairs and umbrellas.

3. Sayulita is Overpriced

Another downside of hyper-commercialization here is the rapid rise in prices. As the taco stands make way for fusion restaurants, local bars are replaced with cocktail lounges, and the thatched roof shacks are torn down to create large hotels, the prices in the town have skyrocketed. And the inflation doesn’t just apply to these luxury experiences but to everything, from Airbnb rentals to the price of beer at the OXXO.

Cocktail Sueno Sayulita Is Sayulita Worth Visiting?
Fancy cocktail bars (while delicious) make Sayulita more expensive than other Mexican beach towns

4. Sayulita Is Becoming Westernised

The businesses that are proliferating here tend to cater more and more to the tastes of the predominantly Western tourists descending upon the town. Yoga studios, cafes offering espresso and acai smoothies, and a wave of international restaurants have replaced many local businesses. As a result, the local culture and charm have been diluted, and the town’s unique heritage is being eroded. This shift towards mass tourism has resulted in a loss of the genuine Mexican experience that travelers seek.

5. The Damage to the Environment

Is Sayulita worth visiting? Here is the main beach overflooded and full of boats.
Sayulita’s main beach leaves much to be desired.

Unfortunately, an alarming side effect of Sayulita’s meteoric rise in popularity has been significant damage to the local natural environment.

The uncontrolled expansion of hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals has resulted in deforestation and habitat destruction.

Furthermore, thanks to excessive tourism and inadequate waste management systems, the once pristine beaches have now become the dumping ground for the increasingly overpopulated beach town. The small river that runs into the sea separating the main beach from the north beach pollutes the sea, leaving it a murky brown color instead of the crystal clear blue for which many of the Mexico beaches are known. The beach itself is littered with trash and debris.

The delicate ecosystem, including the surrounding jungle and marine life, has been compromised due to unsustainable development practices. Visitors who seek an untouched natural paradise will be disappointed by Sayulita’s current state.

6. Sayulita Sickness

As a result of an overstressed sewerage system, norovirus is a regular problem for visitors to Sayulita. So regular, in fact, that it has got its own nickname in the town, the now infamous Sayulita Sickness.

Sayulita Sickness originated in pre-2019 when the town’s sewage system became overloaded with the rapid development of accommodation to support the growing tourism industry. The sewage overflowed into the river, which dumps directly into the ocean on Sayulita Main Beach, where many tourists swim each day.

The Sayulita Sickness is so widely known that Sayulita travel guides often include recommendations for avoiding the Sayulita sickness, such as starting a course of probiotics before you arrive or avoiding the ocean and only swimming in pools while visiting, not exactly a ringing endorsement for a beach town.

Sayulita Is Not as Safe as It Was

To preface, we hate to push the agenda that Mexico is an unsafe place to travel as we don’t believe it inherently is. Unfortunately, Sayulita’s rise in tourism has also led to increased safety concerns and crime rates. The town’s inability to effectively handle the growing population of visitors has led to an inadequate police presence and strained local resources. Reports of petty theft, scams, and even violent incidents have become more frequent in Sayulita. Tourists are advised to exercise caution, especially in crowded areas and during nighttime.

Are There Still Reasons to Visit Sayulita?

We have listed a number of reasons why we don’t think visiting Sayulita is worth it, but there must be a reason we keep going back.

To be fair, Sayulita does have a lot going for it.

It is easy to reach and well-serviced by the airport in Puerto Vallarta.

People in Sayulita speak English relatively well, making getting around Sayulita easy.

There are countless Airbnbs, boutique hotels, and hostels competing for your business. Each styled as if they were going to be featured in next month’s edition of Travel and Leisure.

There are great restaurants in Sayulita serving both Mexican and international cuisine.

The cafes in Sayulita are airy, relaxed, and the perfect start to your morning. This is a rarity in some other beach towns throughout Mexico.

The cocktail bars in Sayulita really make you fall even more in love with the margarita than you did when you arrived.

The surf is consistent and great for beginners to learn (although be aware you’ll be sharing the waves with hundreds of other learners).

Ultimately, “Is Sayulita worth visiting” is a question you’ll need to answer for yourself, but for us, while Sayulita may have initially caught our attention, as an authentic Mexican beach town, it is no longer the hidden gem it once was. The issues of overcrowding, environmental degradation, commercialization, and safety concerns have reached a point where we won’t be returning.

Today, there are countless other destinations in Mexico that offer a more genuine experience, with pristine beaches, cultural richness, and safety measures in place. Travelers looking to explore lesser-known coastal towns or remote beach destinations where they can truly immerse themselves in the natural beauty and vibrant culture of Mexico should look further afield.

Sayulita’s decline serves as a reminder that unchecked tourism growth can lead to irreversible damage and the loss of a once-charming destination.

Other Beaches on the Riviera Nayarit We Do Recommend

If you are headed to the Riviera Nayarit for the beach, then there are, in fact, much better beaches than Sayulita.

The area is home to a number of fantastic beaches and beach towns just a stone’s throw away from Sayulita. Nearby San Pancho, the next beach town over, is one of our favorites. In fact, we actually got married in San Pancho in 2022. San Pancho offers many of the same things that draw people to Sayulita without the crowds, at least now.

Lo de Marcos a little further afield, is slowly, however, creeping up to the top of our favorite Riviera Nayarit beaches. Less developed than Sayulita and San Pancho, the town still retains an authentic charm, likely a similar vibe that drew people to Sayulita originally.


Hopefully, we’ve helped you decide if Sayulita is right for you, but if you have a question or a comment about ‘Is Sayulita Worth Visiting?’, please let us know below.


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  1. We mourn at the loss of lovely Sayulita! Your description was accurate. 15 years ago our first solo trip to Mexico was to Sayulita and we enjoyed it so much we returned to Sayulita 3 winters over the next 5 years. At that time there was no cell service and I checked in with my office using one of the 3 barely working pay phones in town. And it was a beautiful town with locals and expats who really cared about the community. Then the New York Times wrote a full page article in the Sunday Travel section gushing about the attributes of Sayulita. I’m sure there were similar articles in other publications. Over the following 10 years we returned for short visits and each time came away shaking our heads about the over-development, and just this winter (Jan 2024) brought family to show them where our Mexico adventures began. What a mistake – as I’m sure they were not impressed by the overrun, almost seedy place it has become. 15 years ago we heard whispers among the locals about their unhappiness about being ignored by county/state governments that controlled the purse strings over municipal services like streets, sewers and water services, as well as large land owners that controlled property development. We were told the only elected official in Sayulita was the Sheriff. I believe Sayulita was a victim of lack of land use planning and lack of municipal infrastructure to plan for growth.

    1. It’s a bit disheartening to watch this kind of thing play out in real-time. We have witnessed it in a few different destinations. As they become more popular, they get exploited at the expense of the local people and the local environment. We try to be conscious of this sort of outcome and share the truth about these types of destinations and destinations that are at risk of ending up like this rather than be a part of the problem.

  2. In May we spent 10 days in Sayulita after our prior visit in 2022. We were totally put off by the beaches being so dirty, the water is like swimming in a toilet. The water color was so brown from the sewage that comes down the river. We both got sick and had to seek a doctors help. The place now is extremely over crowded, expensive and over rated. I could go on with how Sayulita has changed but we want to forget the complete nightmare.

    1. We couldn’t agree more. It is a real shame what has happened to Sayulita and to so many places throughout Mexico and the world that become a victim of their own popularity.