Millions of tourists head to Mexico primarily to beach resort destinations along the Riviera Maya, on the Baja California peninsula, and on the mainland Pacific coast. Puerto Vallarta is one of the most popular coastal areas, but just an hour’s drive north and well worth a look if you’re after a quiet, low-key beach village is the small town of Sayulita.

First discovered by surfers in search of the perfect wave in the 1980s, when it was a simple fishing village, despite its substantial growth, to this day it retains a distinctly bohemian atmosphere.

Sayulita is set on a bay with tree-covered hills dotted with homes and condo buildings rising sharply from the water. Pedestrian walkways lined with handicraft stalls, surf shops, and outdoor restaurants lead from the heart of town, which is always bustling with activity, to the sand.

It’s warm year-round, as is the water, although it can be too warm and humid for some folks.

Retire in Sayulita

A considerable advantage of living in Sayulita is that while there are markets, stores, restaurants, and even medical clinics to cover your day-to-day needs, you can also easily head south to the larger town of Bucerias or even further to Puerto Vallarta to get anything you might need. This makes it very convenient to live in Sayulita as you get the funky vibe of a bohemian beach town, with the conveniences and comforts of the big city available just down the road.

Nearby Puerto Vallarta has big box shopping like Walmart and Sam’s Club, and large grocery stores and hardware stores. There are also many concerts, live theater, festivals, and celebrations you can enjoy. Plus with a large international airport on the north side of the city it’s easy to get to and from your hometown to the U.S., or have friends and family come to visit you.

Many expats in Sayulita also take care of all their healthcare needs in Puerto Vallarta as it has several major hospitals and medical clinics with the latest equipment and is fully staffed with specialists.

If you want to stay active, Sayulita is still a small town despite its growth in recent years, so you can walk just about everywhere for your shopping and recreation. There is limited parking in town, especially on weekends, so going on foot, bike, or golf cart is the ideal to get around easily.

One thing to keep in mind in Sayulita is that it’s like many Mexican beach towns in that there is distinct high season and low season. As can be expected, the expat population swells in winter when U.S. and Canadian “snowbirds” arrive, and restaurants become more crowded. But that doesn’t mean Sayulita is dead in low season. Many expats stay year-round so there is always an active social scene. And it’s increasingly popular with Mexicans from the interior, who visit on the weekends and then in large numbers during holidays like Semana Santa and Christmas.

Lifestyle in Sayulita

It’s all about the beach and the water in Sayulita. You enjoy world-class surfing and standup paddle boarding, as well as fishing in the local open wooden boats for a good price. If you’d rather stay on shore, you have plenty of options too.

Beach massages for a quarter of what they cost in the U.S. Plenty of beach bars and restaurants right on the sand with a view of the bay.

Sayulita is an active town, with plenty of expat get-togethers, happy hours, and other events, as well as volunteer activities, to keep you busy night and day.

A highlight of the day for many residents, expats, and visitors is sunset. Typically, people head down to the beach, maybe bringing a cooler and their own chairs or go to local expat hotspot Don Pedro’s.


Real Estate in Sayulita

Due to its popularity with expats, real estate prices in Sayulita have gone up in recent years. But it’s still possible to find deals. And it’s certainly a bargain compared to what you might pay for comparable properties in coastal California and Florida.

A one-bedroom condo with community pool and tropical garden area, one block from the beach in the heart of town, is listed at $195,000. A two-bedroom in the same building goes for $335,000.

Three blocks from the beach is a one-bedroom home with enclosed courtyard for $140,000. On the south end of the bay, on a hilltop, is a two-bedroom home with jungle views for $185,000.

Another two-bedroom home, in town, recently renovated with pool and privacy wall, will run you $269,000. For ocean view homes, expect to find listings at $400,000 and up, although some buyers are ready to negotiate.

Cost of Living in Sayulita

In general, you’ll enjoy a lower cost of living in Sayulita than in the U.S., although you will find that rents are higher than in other parts of Mexico because of the small inventory and big demand. This is especially the case in high season from December to April. You can expect to pay around $1,000 per month for a two or three-bedroom home or condo in a convenient area.

Electric bills can be high if you run your air conditioning a lot, but luckily, because many homes are on the hill here they do benefit from cooling sea breezes and many days you can just keep the windows open.

But for groceries, nights out, and restaurant meals you’ll probably spend half or a third of what you did back home. Property taxes are also very low, as are medical care costs.

All in all, a retired couple can live comfortably on a budget of under $3,000 per month, including rent.

Here’s an example of a monthly budget for a couple in Sayulita:

Expense U.S. $
Rent (two-bedroom condo) $1,000
Electricity $150
Gas and Water $30
Cell Phones (x2) $40
Groceries and Household $300
Internet $50
Taxis/buses $40
Dining Out $200
 Monthly Total $1,810

The Takeaway

Sayulita offers you the benefits of a low cost of living, great weather, and a funky laidback vibe, with the added convenience of amenities of nearby city Puerto Vallarta.