Sayulita solo travel safety, in the words of a local resident
Solo female travel in Sayulita: is it safe? Can you do it on your own? I traveled to Sayulita thinking I’d only stay a month but I ended up living there for 2 years! These were the best years of my life and in this post, I will tell you everything about it, especially in terms of safety.
Reader Mail: I found your blog while searching for Mexico. I am Frances from Oklahoma and I am preparing to travel outside the USA to expand my horizon. Mexico seems to be the closest place for that. However, I am still scared about what I hear on the news. Here in the US, Mexico does get a lot of bad press and my dad is worried about my decision to come to Sayulita. Is solo female travel in Sayulita safe? How is Mexico in general? Thanks a lot for your help and thank you for encouraging young girls like me to go out of their comfort zone. Your blog is a gem!
– Frances Johnson, USA
I totally understand your dad’s concern. While there are many Americans here, its safety is still a question for many. I went to Sayulita in 2018 in the hopes of just staying for a few weeks but I ended up moving to Sayulita and living there for 2 years! I also didn’t expect that but when you come to Sayulita, you will see what I mean. It will probably happen to you, too!
In this solo female travel in Sayulita guide, I will only tell you about my personal experiences. Before I begin, I need you to not worry about it because Sayulita is the safest place I visited in Mexico. The town is very small so you’ll know everyone in an instant. We protect and care for each other here – you’ll really love the community!
Good luck and I hope you make it!
Solo female travel in Sayulita: personal experience
Is solo female travel in Sayulita safe? YOU BET IT IS!
For years, this small Mexican town has been visited by many female travelers across the world, especially Canadians and Americans. The increase of direct flights to Puerto Vallarta International Airport (closest airport to Sayulita) has made it easier for travelers to access this beautiful coast of Mexico.
There are direct flights from Vancouver, Montreal, San Francisco, San Diego, among others. These flights are often less than $300 USD (2-way) so many people from the north choose Sayulita as a vacation destination.
Learn more about this town: see blog posts about Sayulita, Mexico
I grew up in a coastal town in the Philippines so I don’t really feel different in Sayulita. I’ve been here for 8 weeks already and loving every minute. Unlike other Mexican cities that I’ve stayed in for a long time (Mexico City and Guadalajara), the small size of Sayulita makes my stay here very comfortable.
For example, in Mexico City, I stayed in the Guererro neighborhood and wouldn’t dare walk there at night by myself. In Sayulita, everything is walkable and is pretty safe. The locals are used to having foreigners around.
I did have a bad experience being hustled by the police. One night, my friends and I decided to go skinny dipping on the main beach of Sayulita. I get cold easily so I didn’t go with them.
I stayed behind and watched all of their things. 5 policemen came flickering their flashlights on my face and my friends. Apparently, skinny dipping is not allowed in Mexico. They said there are appropriate beaches for that but not the main beach.
My friends did not speak any Spanish so I had to deal with the police. They insisted to bring my friends to the police station and pay 2,000 Mexican pesos (about $100 USD) each for the offense. If my friends refuse to pay, they will be detained at the police station for 24 hours.
Both ways don’t work for us so I told them how we can go forward without going to the police station. Obviously, they wanted money for it so I made the best deal possible: instead of paying 2,000 Mexican pesos per person, the policemen were happy to accept a 600 Mexican pesos bribe for the “offense.”
I am from a poor country, too, and I don’t usually bribe police officers but they did not relent in this situation. I was also put in a place where they wanted to go out and drink with me just to get it over with. The other officer was looking at me like he wants to grab me anytime but I kept my cool.
I force myself to stand tall in instances like this. This way, it becomes very obvious to them that they are not allowed to touch me or talk to me in a manner they prefer. I always had the upper hand when dealing with men like this.
Other than that, there wasn’t a time where I felt harmed in Sayulita. That instance is from our own doing anyway. I will not have that encounter with the police if my friends were not doing something “against the rules.”
Is Sayulita safe? Can you travel solo?
Sayulita is a very family-oriented town so you can see a lot of families on the beach and a huge amount of kids running around town every weekend. It has been a destination for family travelers, including Mexican families. Sayulita is only a 4-hour drive from the city of Guadalajara so it serves as the closest vacation spot to Mexicans.
Police are patrolling around town every night to keep the Sayulita environment safe. There aren’t a lot of crimes in town so they are more focused on enforcing laws regarding drug possession.
It is very likely that you will see (and smell) people smoking weed on the streets. People here don’t mind but the police do. Avoid smoking pot in public places and be discreet if you want to use drugs. You’re a big girl – you know how the rules are.
There is also a big community of ex-pats in Sayulita. As I wrote at the beginning of this article, most foreigners who reside here are from the United States and Canada. They hold a lot of community events like yoga, dinner parties, and rooftop bbq.
If you stay here longer, I am sure you will come across them. Most of the foreigners I know have lived here for at least 6 years. They love it, they have the experience, they’re still here – I guess that’s enough reason to believe Sayulita is safe.
If drug cartel wars are your concern, Sayulita is not like what you see in the movies. Sure, it’s 4 hours away from Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo’s Guadalajara but this story is from the ’90s. Today, Jalisco and Nayarit are not the breeding places of drug cartels. Or at least, you won’t notice it.
The whole town is illuminated with lamp posts so it’s okay to walk after midnight. I remember being super drunk and walked by myself to the hostel at 3:30 am. Nothing happened to me. People didn’t even talk to me! The only people I saw were the ones who were about to open their food trucks for breakfast. They did not pay attention to me and carried on to their daily business.
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I am a bit worried about where I moved. I stopped the hostel living in Sayulita and moved to an apartment. My street doesn’t have lamp posts and is very dark. I am very uncomfortable walking in the dark by myself so more often, I always walk with friends who live on my street.
I’ve been told that the only danger I can face when walking in dark streets is dogs. There are a lot of street dogs in Sayulita that bite. Take note. This is important!
Dear Sayulita mayor, the streets of Punta de Mita need their lamp posts fixed! I mean there are posts but they don’t work. I believe my street is the main avenue and needs attention. If you are able to read this, please do something about these lights and make our environment feel safer. Thank you. 🙂
Is Sayulita safer than Tulum?
ABSOLUTELY! Sayulita is a way smaller town and everyone knows everyone. There are lots of violent crimes in Tulum and one that contributes to that is the increase in tourism. They’re also not petty crimes – shootings, police brutality towards tourists, etc. Although you can still visit Tulum if you can. I really can’t stop you from doing so. But if you do, please take extra precautions.
The small community of Sayulita makes everything feel safe. In just a week of being there, you will know everyone. We leave our belongings on the beach when we take a dip – nobody will touch anything. A lot of lost items were returned to the owners because words go out so fast. Once you post on the Facebook group, everyone will help in finding your lost item for you.
Solo female travel in Sayulita guide
Best things to do in Sayulita for solo travelers
Take surfing lessons
Surfing is one of the best things to do in Sayulita. In fact, some people come to town only for surfing! When I came here in May, it was the best time to learn as the waves are really low and are perfect for beginners. Most of my friends who tried it the first time we’re able to ride right away.
These waves are really friendly! There are many surf schools in Sayulita but they are pretty expensive. It can cost up to $35 USD per hour. You can get in touch with me if you want to take classes with the best surf instructor in Sayulita! He’s a friend of mine and I am supporting his business through promotions on this blog.
Private breakfast in a local’s home
My friend Macarena, who is a chef from Argentina is one of those people who opened her home to tourists by providing private breakfast. This experience is not only about food but Macarena also shares some insider tips about the beauty of living in Sayulita.
You will get a full-service breakfast at a local’s home – it’s the best way to get to know the Sayulita lifestyle. You can also gain friends along the way with this experience!
Best of all, if you want to practise your Spanish, this is one of the best activities! Let me know if you want to avail this and I will introduce you to her!
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Explore Sayulita’s street food scene
Street food is not for everyone we have a lot of this in Sayulita! We actually know most of them as we recently opened a TV series called Sayulita Street Food Icons. Most of these are family-run and we felt very privileged that they wanted to share their stories with us.
Believe it or not, some beach towns in Mexico do not have street food as much as Sayulita does. Our street food is not limited to tacos so try them all and support local!
Don’t worry – our street food is safe. Everything is homemade so know that the locals are serious about hygiene. I would understand if street food is not your thing. It’s not for everyone after all! Should this be the case, make sure to check out the best Sayulita restaurants which I categorized according to cuisine.
Cooking classes with Daniel
Daniel is a local chef and one of the original families in Sayulita. I’ve worked with Daniel a lot and I know how good he is in the kitchen. He can definitely come to your accommodations to do the cooking class for your group. In this Sayulita cooking class, you will learn how to make some of the most popular dishes from Mexico like chile relleno, enchiladas, and frijoles fritos.
Sunset at Carricitos Beach
Carricitos is my favorite beach in Sayulita and I come here every day with my dog, Lola. It’s quite a hike to get there – if you are walking from the center of Sayulita town, it can take you 20-30 minutes depending on your speed. The walk is a canopy forest where you can see hundreds of fireflies during its season (August-September).
Accommodations in Sayulita for solo travelers
The most common accommodation type in Sayulita is Airbnb. However, if you are traveling alone, you don’t want to stay in Airbnb by yourself without connecting with people, right? If your solo travel goal is to NOT be alone, stay in hostels.
There isn’t a lot of Sayulita hostels but here are some of my recommendations. Guaranteed that you’ll meet people in these places!
La Redonda Hostel: dorms from $15 USD
Traveling solo on a budget? La Redonda Hostel Sayulita is super affordable and the nightly rates include free breakfast. People who stay in this hostel do things together like exploring the Sayulita nightlife, surfing on different beaches in Sayulita, and even cooking dinners together! If it’s your first-time in Sayulita, stay here and you’ll never be alone!
Book here: 100+ best hotels in Sayulita, Mexico
Selina Sayulita: privates from $85 USD
If staying in a hostel is not the type of accommodation you are into, you can get a private room at Selina. However, this is the party hotspot in Sayulita so if you’re looking for a good night’s sleep, it will be a little impossible to do that here. If partying is your thing, then definitely stay here. I guarantee you’ll have a lot of fun and you don’t even have to leave Selina! They have a restaurant, too!
My Sister’s House: female only, dorms from $20 USD
This is the only all-female hostel in Sayulita and it best first solo female travelers! First-timers in Sayulita prefer this accommodation (especially the women) since you’ll be easily surrounded by female travelers in this hostel. They also have a daily yoga class on their patio which is open to outsiders so you’ll also meet locals who take classes regularly with them.
Sayulita travel and safety tips for solo female travelers
Sayulita is not one of those Mexican towns where you need to take extreme safety precautions. You can definitely relax and enjoy your vacation without having to worry about being harmed. Here are some of the basic solo female travel in Sayulita tips that I can share with you:
Be careful when swimming
Just last week, I faced a very terrifying experience when one of the girls I went to Carricitos Beach with almost drowned. We were watching her from the shore and couldn’t do anything about it. The waves were pretty strong and none of us couldn’t get to her. Good thing a lad from Seattle bravely (and greatly) swam the strong waters to get to her. It was terrifying!
The beaches around Sayulita are swimmable but there are times when waves get out of control (remember, this is a surf town). We don’t really know when that’s coming so only swim if you have the skills. Before going in, always observe the sea.
Never leave your bags unattended, but you actually can
Girls, this is a protocol everywhere and I usually put it in all of my solo travel articles. But honestly, in Sayulita, I am not hyper-vigilant with my things because I know everyone already. And you probably will after a week of being out and about.
One time, an American girl contacted me and asked if I can help her with her bag that she left at the Sayulita main beach. I passed the word to town (groups of friends) and within the day, this girl got her bag back!
Even though Sayulita is super safe, you still shouldn’t leave your stuff anywhere especially if you have valuables that are costly. I do tell you that no one will steal your things in Sayulita because, in small towns like that, thieves are super easy to locate.
In 2019, a group of guys stole a safe from a bar. They got caught and the whole town beat them up in public. I couldn’t believe I saw that! Although I do not agree with hitting people (especially if it’s 100 versus 1), that event made me feel safer. It’s like sending a message: ‘this is what happens to you if you steal in Sayulita.”
For now, we have a great community but as Sayulita grows, this can all change. I believe that the safety of the community depends on its members. Sayulita has that.
Calle Gaviota (where the Kiosko is) is one of the sketchiest streets in Sayulita
Personally, I never avoided this street because the locals here already know me. I can also handle myself well when it comes to the people living here as I am fluent in Spanish. However, I passed with some girls here one time and they did not feel comfortable with the guys standing in the dark, offering drugs.
No one will harm you in this street but you will get a lot of stares from the people in this neighborhood. As I said, this does not bother me and it’s not a big deal as long as I know the right words to say but it might be bothering you. I don’t know – to each her own, I guess. You can take other streets when going to the beach. Pelicanos Street is one of the safest, so far!
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Mexican men can be intense
I’ve been dragged to dance, coerced to have a drink, and have been grinded (nearly humped) by numerous men who wanted to dance with me in the club. Again, Sayulita is a touristy area even to Mexicans so expect high volumes of tourists on weekends. Non-Mexican men can also be intense but Mexican men are harder to shoo.
When going to clubs, always bring the girls with you so they can save you from the discomfort. Of course, this is only bothering you if you feel that they are aggressively pursuing you. If you like it, then go for it! No one’s going to stop you! Mexican men are also very romantic – who knows, you’ll find your future partner here!
Through my travels in Latin America, I realized the importance of speaking Spanish. Being able to speak it well is vital to solo female travel safety, not just in Sayulita or Mexico but all over the region. Countries from Mexico to Argentina all speak Spanish (except Brazil) so learning won’t be that difficult.
I realized most girls don’t learn Spanish as English is also widely spoken in tourist areas but I swear to you, speaking this language will save you!
Because of my Spanish-speaking skills, people just think I am Latina. Nobody even asks where I am from here! If they do, they expect me to blurt some Latin American country (because of the way I speak). Personally, that’s a milestone for me as I don’t get that much attention. Blending in is super convenient for solo female travelers!
With regards to what to wear, well, this is a beach town so wear anything you want!
I’d walk in Sayulita during the day with a bikini (no shirt and shorts) and people don’t look at me like crazy. You also know that I am a braless ambassador since I was 20 – I am never bothered by the stares in Sayulita. This small pueblo is really Western when it comes to women’s clothing!
There are also a lot of places to shop here but take note shopping in Sayulita is more expensive than in Mexico City or Guadalajara. Better do your shopping in big cities before coming here!
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Consider your source
I know the news is one of the most reliable platforms we cling to as it appears to be the only resource we have when planning our travels but before saying no to solo female travel in Sayulita, make sure you’ve exhausted all your efforts to investigate.
You may contact locals on Couchsurfing to see the current situation (that’s what I do). Just make sure the person/local you are going to contact has enough Couchsurfing credentials. Check references and vouches from guests they hosted.
Get in touch with your country’s embassy/consulate in Mexico
I always do this, especially when in doubt in the countries I visit. I send an email to the embassy or consulate of my country to see the situation. When I planned to go to Pakistan, I wrote to the Embassy of the Philippines there and asked if it’s safe for a Filipina woman to travel to Pakistan.
The consulate staff, which was also a Filipina responded and told me it’s okay. She gave me a go signal and wished me well in my travels to Pakistan.
Por favor, get travel insurance!
I’ve had enough of people comfortably traveling without insurance. I know it’s another expenditure in your travels but more than anything else, it is important! I’ve had enough medical emergencies where I found myself without travel insurance. It’s really painfully expensive!
I use SafetyWing and I only pay $40 USD per month. I am under digital nomad insurance and it’s covers flight delays/cancellations, lost luggage, emergency assistance like accidents, and COVID coverage.
The best way to meet people in Sayulita
Go to Yambak
Yambak is situated in front of the plaza so you’ll often see big groups of foreigners sitting outside, drinking their beers. Tuesdays are usually packed because of the 2 for 1 beer promo on national beers. You can always sit at the bar in Yambak but it’s packed with people all the time. This is where I met so many people, sometimes you won’t even keep track of how many people you’ve talked to!
Join Witches of Sayulita on Whatsapp
During COVID, a group of girls started a Whatsapp group for women in Sayulita who are into the digital nomad lifestyle and have their own businesses.
This group is usually for exchanging ideas and collaborations. You will also be updated about current events by joining this Whatsapp group. Just beware of the notifications because it’s a lot! You’ll meet very interesting women here who will eventually become your friends.
Smile and say hello
Everyone in Sayulita is super friendly so if you just start with a “hola,” you’ll find yourself chatting with that person for hours! There is a very strong sense of familiarity in Sayulita so everyone treats everyone as their friends. If you are a shy traveler, this could be a great chance to practice your social skills. Nobody knows you anyway and no one will judge. Go ahead and try this Please let me know how it worked for you!
Attend events in Selina Sayulita
Selina Sayulita only opened in 2020 but they have been spearheading different events in their hostel. They have a restaurant that serves as a venue for after-parties with DJs. Aside from the parties, they also do wellness activities and seminars. They have lots of spaces to hold events and you’ll meet other travelers and locals when you go. Selina events are usually announced first in the Witches of Sayulita Whatsapp group.
Join yoga classes
Daily yoga sessions are also a thing in Sayulita and are always composed of women. Partying all the time in Sayulita can be tiring so if you want to put a healthy activity to the mix, then go to yoga classes. I can’t really recommend a specific one but this will be on your radar on your first week. Again, words go out fast in Sayulita!
Talk to bartenders and waiters
People in service in Sayulita are usually people who left their life in comfortable cities. I’ve made a lot of friends by chatting about how I ended up in Sayulita but other people’s stories are more amusing! Bars that have super cool bartenders include Don Pato (Gaby and David), Cava Mezcaleria (Miguel), and Public House. All the bartenders in these bars are expats who have been living in Sayulita for years.
Join Facebook groups in Sayulita
The Original Sayulita People (2.5k members) may seem very elite but this group is really helpful! Here, you can find jobs, see the latest events, and network with like-minded individuals. Members are both locals and foreigners who live in Sayulita. Sayulita People is also an active group with more than 15,000 members.
Bumble or Tinder in Sayulita
As it is a small town, everyone you will see on the streets will also be on Bumble or Tinder. You don’t really need the app but it could be a tool if you’re not the type who just comes up to people and say hello. In my experience, there were a lot of travelers in Sayulita who are on the dating apps but are not going out to party.
My girlfriends and I also match the same guys. The town is so small that even dating in real life, many people had conflict in dating the same person. Either way, the apps are still a good way to meet people in Sayulita so go for it! It’s safe!
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