Puerto Vallarta or Sayulita

Embarking on a Mexican adventure and caught between a getaway to Puerto Vallarta or Sayulita? These neighboring gems share the same coastal vibe, yet each has its own distinctive personality. To help you choose which destination is better for your vacation, let’s take a look at what both places have to offer!

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Which is Better? Puerto Vallarta or Sayulita?

Both destinations are world-famous for their beautiful beaches, lively town centers, and rich cultural atmospheres. However, Sayulita is a small town and popular with those seeking a more intimate beach getaway. Puerto Vallarta is much larger and, therefore, has more diverse beaches, accommodation options, and outdoor activities. 

Location and Weather

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Located just an hour apart, these two destinations provide a stark contrast in experiences. Puerto Vallarta is a bustling city known for its lively dance floors and sophisticated spa facilities, whereas Sayulita offers a quieter escape, maintaining the charm of a small fishing village. Both are easily accessible via the Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR), serving as a convenient entry point for international travelers.

The climate here is as welcoming as the local communities. With temperatures typically ranging from the mid-80s to low 90s in the summer, and a mild 70s in the winter, every time of year offers something special. The warmer months bring the vibrant high season, attracting beach-goers with their promise of golden sun and azure waters.

However, if you prefer a more tranquil visit, consider coming during the low season, spanning from June to October. This period marks the rainy season, characterized by short, refreshing showers mainly in the afternoon or evening. It’s a wonderful time to enjoy the lush greenery of the jungle surrounding the area, which thrives during these months.

While the region is a paradise year-round, it’s wise to note that the rainy season also brings a slight risk of hurricanes. These are rare and generally pose minimal threat to the area, but staying informed during your travels ensures a safe and enjoyable trip.

Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the main beach of Sayulita or exploring the vibrant streets of Puerto Vallarta, understanding the unique locations and optimal weather conditions can greatly enhance your experience on Mexico’s enchanting Pacific coast.

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Are you drawn to the gentle sound of waves and the feel of soft sand beneath your feet? Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita, nestled along Mexico’s Pacific coast, boast some of the most inviting beaches, each with unique charms and activities.

Puerto Vallarta’s expansive coastline offers a variety of beach experiences, from bustling urban stretches to secluded natural coves. In the city center or the Romantic Zone, Playa de los Muertos is a vibrant hub of activity, lined with eateries and beach bars, perfect for those who enjoy being in the heart of the action.

For a more tranquil day by the sea, head south to Conchas Chinas, renowned for its clearer waters and quieter ambiance. This beach is ideal for swimming and snorkeling, away from the city’s hustle. It’s a popular spot to anchor down for a peaceful day or to catch a stunning sunset.

In contrast, Sayulita offers a more laid-back beach experience, ideal for both surfers and sun-seekers. Playa Sayulita, the town’s main beach, is a favorite among both locals and visitors. It’s the perfect spot for beginners to take surf lessons or for experienced surfers to challenge themselves with the bigger waves.

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Just a short walk away is Sayulita’s other Playa de los Muertos, tucked near a quaint cemetery and surrounded by lush greenery, providing a more secluded setting. This beach shares its name with its more famous counterpart in Puerto Vallarta but offers a distinct, quieter vibe.

Regardless of your chosen beach on the Pacific Coast, it’s important to be mindful of the ocean conditions. The Pacific is known for its strong currents, particularly in the winter months, making some beaches better suited for surfing than swimming. Always check local conditions and consider chatting with street vendors or stalls where locals gather, as they can provide up-to-date advice on sea safety.

Whether you’re planning a day trip from Puerto Vallarta to explore the Sayulita area or settling in for a retreat full of yoga and paddle boarding, these beaches offer a slice of paradise for every visitor. Remember, while enjoying these beautiful spots, local businesses often prefer pesos over credit cards, so keep some cash on hand for that refreshing smoothie or unique piece of jewelry to remember your trip by.

Activities and Amenities

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Whether you’re seeking thrilling adventures or peaceful escapades, both Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita offer a plethora of activities that cater to every type of traveler. Here’s how you can make the most out of your visit to these popular destinations on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

Puerto Vallarta shines as a beacon for those looking to immerse themselves in a dynamic mix of activities and cultural experiences. With its bustling atmosphere and wider variety of excursions, it’s a city that invites adventure at every corner:

  • Scuba Diving at Los Arcos: Dive into the deep blue and explore vibrant marine life at this renowned diving spot.
  • Sunset Views from the Malecon: Stroll along this beachside promenade at dusk for some of the most spectacular sunset views.
  • Hiking to Mirador de la Cruz: For panoramic city views, make the rewarding hike up to this famous lookout.
  • Cultural Tours in Zona Romantico: Wander through charming streets on a walking or food tour to taste and see the local life.
  • Visiting the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Marvel at this iconic landmark, a focal point of Puerto Vallarta’s skyline.
  • Ziplining the Superman: Thrill-seekers will love flying across the longest zipline in Mexico, a heart-pounding experience!
  • Whale Watching (December to March): Witness majestic humpback whales during their migration season, a truly awe-inspiring sight.
  • Golfing at Vista Vallarta Golf Club: Golf enthusiasts can enjoy a round in one of the most scenic settings.

While smaller than Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita offers a unique charm with its laid-back atmosphere and rich cultural tapestry. It’s the perfect spot for those looking to unwind or engage in leisurely activities:

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  • Surfing at Playa Sayulita: Renowned for its waves, it’s an ideal place for surfers of all levels. Beginners can take lessons while experienced surfers can tackle the larger swells.
  • Explore Magic Towns: Sayulita is part of the prestigious “Pueblos Magicos” program, which celebrates towns across Mexico known for their “magic” qualities of beauty, historical significance, and cultural richness.
  • Yoga Retreats: With its serene setting, Sayulita is a magnet for yoga enthusiasts. Places like Villa Amor offer tranquil spaces to practice and rejuvenate.
  • Day Trip to San Pancho: Just a short ride away, San Pancho is another enchanting small town in the Riviera Nayarit that’s perfect for a day trip.
  • Shopping and Dining in the Main Town: Stroll through the town center where street vendors and boutique stalls offer everything from handmade jewelry to delicious local smoothies.

To navigate between these locations, you can easily hire a taxi or use Uber services. Both destinations are connected via a well-maintained highway, making travel between them convenient whether you’re arriving from the Puerto Vallarta airport or heading out for a day of exploration.

These activities and more make Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita not just places to visit but experiences to be lived. Whether you’re looking to delve into the heart of Mexican culture or simply enjoy the pleasures of the ocean, these destinations promise memories that will last a lifetime.

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Your accommodation choice can greatly impact your trip, which is why it’s an important factor to consider when deciding between Sayulita or Puerto Vallarta.

If you want a luxury beachfront hotel, all-inclusive resort, or high-end vacation rental, then you’ll want to stay in Puerto Vallarta. This is where you’ll find all the upscale lodging. Most of the larger resorts are along the Hotel Zone, although you’ll also find them in Nuevo Vallarta and further south near Conchas Chinas.

Downtown has more affordable and intimate accommodation options. I especially like staying in the Romantic Zone since you can easily walk to restaurants, shops, attractions, etc. 

Sayulita is much smaller and caters to backpackers and eco-friendly travelers. For this reason, there aren’t many resorts or all-inclusive options. However, there are quite a few boutique hotels and luxury villas near the water if you want to be close to the beach.


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Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita are both excellent destinations for foodies. There’s something for every taste, dietary restriction, and budget! 

You can also find some good street food in both places. The tacos here are to die for (go for the birria tacos, which is a local specialty in Jalisco), and they’re relatively cheap compared to more formal, sit-down restaurants.

However, you’ll have no problem finding an international restaurant if you prefer something more Western/European. And although Sayulita has fewer options in terms of restaurants, it still’s a good option for vegetarians, vegans, and picky eaters. 

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If you’re interested in late-night parties, raging nightclubs, and non-stop entertainment, then Puerto Vallarta is where you’ll want to be. There’s something happening practically every night of the week, making it the better location for partygoers. 

While downtown Puerto Vallarta is the heart of all the action, you can still find beach bars, cocktail lounges, and live music venues along the coast. I recommend starting your night with a stroll along the waterfront promenade (Malecon) before heading to a bar or restaurant in the Romantic Zone.

Sayulita may not be as big, but there is still a vibrant nightlife scene. Whether you’re interested in a laid-back sports bar or a posh beachfront nightclub, there’s guaranteed to be something to keep you entertained all evening! 

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Travel Costs

When it comes to costs, it’s a toss-up between these two beach towns.

Puerto Vallarta has a broader range of options in terms of lodging and dining. So while it’s possible to spend a lot of money here, you can also find some good deals and affordable places too. 

On average, Sayulita tends to be the more expensive destination, although it may not have the same level of luxury resorts as PV. But because it caters more to tourists, prices are generally higher. 


  • Mid-range hotel: $50 – $100 a night
  • Luxury hotel or all-inclusive: $200 – $400 a night
  • Meal at local restaurant: $5 – $10
  • High-end meal: $30 – $50
  • Cocktail: $5 – $10
  • Local beer: $2 – $4
  • Snorkeling Trip: $40 – $60
  • Zip Line Tour: $35 – $50
  • Food Tour: $40 – $60


  • Mid-range hotel: $80 – $120 a night
  • Luxury hotel or all-inclusive: $200+ a night
  • Meal at local restaurant: $10 – $15
  • High-end meal: $40 – $60
  • Cocktail: $12 – $18
  • Local beer: $4 – $8
  • Snorkeling Trip: $60 – $80
  • Zip Line Tour: $50 – $70
  • Ruins entrance cost: $5 

Although choosing between Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta may seem like a tough decision, there is one thing to keep in mind. The drive between them is less than an hour, so it’s possible to visit both areas during your trip! That way, you can spend time in both and then make the final decision as to which is better for your beach vacation. 

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