Looking for local restaurants in Sayulita, Mexico? Last month M and I decided on a whim that we needed to get out of town. Warm weather was necessary. Ocean waters were a must. Local foods were a top priority. We picked Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico with a little over two weeks before our departure.
We booked our first three nights at the adorable Hotel Hafa and planned to determine where we are staying for the second half once we got there. Our only goals were street food, local Sayulita restaurants, beaches, naps, and books.
Sayulita was a perfect destination for us for many reasons. First of all, it was easy to travel to. We flew into the Puerto Vallarta airport. Taking a taxi was an option, but my goal is always to live like a local when we travel. We bypassed the taxi line when we exited the terminal. Take a left and walk to the end of the building. Follow the walkway over the arterial and stand at the bus stop right at the base of the walkway.
Taking the bus in Mexico was easy, safe, and inexpensive. We paid a whopping 70 pesos (less than $4) combined for the 45-minute bus ride north. Since this is a longer ride the bus has padded seats and storage for bags along the ceiling. We were among other tourists heading north. After driving through Nuevo Vallarta and Bucerias, the bus started winding through the final lush mountain stretch. The bus driver stops for a break once you arrive in Sayulita, so no need to worry about missing your stop. When the driver backs the bus into its parking spot, you know you have made it to the end of the line. After a 2-3 minute walk into the heart of downtown, we easily found our hotel and settled in.
Sayulita, Mexico isn't a very big town. Over the course of our 5 days there, we ended up walking almost every street. The area is filled with local restaurants and shops. Some of the restaurants are a dedicated space, many people are serving out of street carts, others live above their restaurant space and are doing what they need to get by. I'm always on the hunt for food that might as well have come out of someone's home kitchen when I travel, and Sayulita definitely provided on that request (and pretty much every goal we had).
Local Eats - Sayulita Restaurants, Cafes, and Street Food
We happened upon Mary's restaurant within hours of arriving and it was our favorite of all the Sayulita restaurants. Crazy that it happened to be our first meal!
We realized on day one that people eat late in Sayulita, Mexico. Most people leave the beach around 5, shower and change and then head out to dinner around 7 pm. After a full day of traveling that schedule wasn't going to cut it. Mary's was one of the few Sayulita restaurants that had people in it at 4 pm so we grabbed a seat. They are such a small mom and pop restaurant that they don't serve alcohol. However, you can walk down to the convenience store down the street, grab two ice cold Tecates out of the cooler and pop them open back at your table (or on the walk there, I suppose. Open containers are a totally normal thing in Sayulita, Mexico).
We ate at Mary's twice during our stay and I firmly believe it is the best food in town. Our first night we opted for an assortment of tacos -- chicken, carne asada, grilled fish and Mary's taco. Do yourself a favor and order Mary's taco. The grilled poblanos on that taco are unreal and I think we agree that it was the best thing we ate on our trip.
Our second visit to Mary's we had the ceviche and the Mary's fajitas (a mix of seafood, meat, and vegetables). Loved the fajitas and the portions are very generous. However, the ceviche might have been the closest competitor for "favorite dish of the trip" against Mary's taco.
Street tacos are everywhere, especially at night. During the day, we stopped at Tacos y Mariscos El Rinconcito. They offer fried fish and shrimp tacos that are incredibly light and airy. If you are a fish lover, I would suggest you order the marlin taco. The marlin fish tacos are rich, nearly raw, and not fried.
In the evening, Tacos al Ivan rolls their cart out. You won't miss it because there will be a swarm of people around the cart. The pork is stacked onto a spit similar to a gyro and they place a whole pineapple on top of the spit. Each taco is thinly sliced pork with a chunk of pineapple. Top it off with one of their many homemade salsa and enjoy.
These are only two of the many taco stands you'll find and are some of the best Sayulita restaurants, in my opinion. One of our dinners was a Tour de Taco Cart. Highly recommended.
EMPANADAS DE HOJALDRE
M loved these for breakfast. He was all about the sweet options in the AM as a breakfast appetizer (totally a thing) since most of the restaurants don't open until 10 AM, but this little sidewalk shop opens at 8 AM. My personal favorite was to enjoy the chicken mole as an afternoon snack. Yes -- Chicken, chocolate, flaky dough and it is AMAZING.
In complete honesty, I was a little skeptical of this joint. It looked a little too touristy for my taste. M was set on a burrito, for lunch, so we did a lap around town and I couldn't find a better burrito option so we ended up back at Burrito Revolucion. I was so wrong. This spot was hearty, fresh, and the sauces were something special. It's a "must visit" when you are in Sayulita, Mexico. Michael got the steak burrito and I got the shrimp burrito. Their sauces and salsas are so good, they bottle them for purchase. I doused my shrimp burrito in the smoky chipotle salsa.
There are endless breakfast spots around town, but most don't open until 10 AM. Not to mention, after endless tacos (who knew someone could burn out on tacos?) all I wanted was some greens. Do a lap around town and you will surely see these ladies. Stop and chat it up. They sell freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice. They make parfaits with ripe chunks of whatever fruit your heart desires -- papaya, mango, berries, etc. However, my favorite was to ask for a green smoothie with a grapefruit juice base. They loaded it with chunks of celery, broccoli, cucumber and cactus and handfuls of parsley and cilantro. After a few too many street tacos and margaritas, this was ideal.
20 pesos for a hearty slice is a screaming deal. I could understand the bargain price if they were store bought pie of mediocre quality. However, these are homemade cakes and you can taste every bit of love this lady pours into her goodies. If I remember correctly there were around 10 options including tres leches, chocolate tres leches, orange cake, carrot cake, flan and chocolate flan to name a few. We opted for the chocolate flan and the tres leches. Both were beyond delightful and a total steal. I know this isn't exactly a Sayulita restaurant, but these ladies deserve some love.
You'll find the cake lady setting up her table in the square after dusk. I would highly suggest purchasing a couple of options because you will be sad if you walk away with just one and plan to share.
MARGARITAS at HOTEL HAFA
I am not a huge drinker so, unfortunately, this post is lacking in advice on where to go out. Besides Tecates from the corner store, and a few blended drinks on the beach, the only place we really went out was the bar in the Hotel Hafa. Painted in all reds with long plush bench seating, this is the type of place you are meant to stay and heart-to-heart with someone. By midnight or so, this bar gets quite full. However, this is a quiet spot for a drink right after dinner. All of the margaritas are made with high-quality tequila and freshly squeezed juice. Some of our favorites were the Mandarine Mint, the Orange Ginger, and the Cucumber Habanero. This bar also has a great wine list beyond just vino blanco and vino rioja.
Let's also take a moment to honor the orange/red rim on that glass. They forgo your standard sugar or salt rim for what seems to be a chili and brown sugar rim. Life changing.
PALETAS FROM WAIKIKA
Popsicles, ice cream, milkshakes abound at this little shop. I opted for a mango popsicle that was a mix of mango juice and full mango chunks. M opted for a cookie and cream option with full Oreos inside the popsicle. This place pleases for breakfast dessert, afternoon snack, or late night treat.
When you head into the local markets take a look near the door because you will see little coolers labeled with different names. These are all the local tortillerias dropping their fresh daily tortillas for sale at the grocery stores. These ones, in particular, were at the little market on the beach side of the square in downtown Sayulita, Nayarit. I would highly recommend picking up a pack of tortillas if you can't make it to an actual tortilleria.
Near the bridge on the north side of town a sweet couple making fresh churros during the day. The cart moves closer to the Tacos y Mariscos El Rinconcito during the evening. You can watch as the batter is swirled into the bubbling oil and the color transforms before your eyes into the perfect golden brown. He snags it out of the oil at just the right time, lets it cool a second and then dumps the entire thing into a vat of cinnamon sugar. By the time it is chopped into manageable pieces and tucked into its brown paper bag you hand over a whopping 20 pesos and you still have a warm dessert. Take note -- If we had been smarter, we would have brought an ice cream cone or milkshake from Paletas From Waikika with us to dip the warm churros into.
The Eternal Hostess isn't primarily a travel blog, but I love sharing these restaurant experiences for anyone that is planning their next trip! I am always bringing home inspiration from these trips.