As a travel blogger, I am often asked what my favorite country that I’ve been to is. Though I could never choose just one, Mexico is and will always be in the top five.
It is a beautiful country with incredibly varied landscapes, gorgeous scenery, and kind & hospitable people. Not to mention some of the most delicious food you’ll find anywhere! Mexico is a place I will return to again and again.
freshly made guacamole with queso blanco, anyone?
If you’re looking to take a trip to a coastal location in Mexico, I highly recommend either the Riviera Maya on the East coast or a small area on the Pacific coast where the states of Jalisco and Nayarit meet. There, you’ll find the city of Puerto Vallarta and the beach towns of Sayulita and Punta Mita.
Though close in proximity to each other, Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita, and Punta Mita are all very different places with their own unique charm.
Whether you’re looking to surf, dive, club, be pampered, or just plain relax on your vacation, this corner of Mexico has it all.
Let’s start with some basic facts about the area…
How to get here: You’ll need to fly into the Puerto Vallarta airport. Central Puerto Vallarta is located only 15-20 minutes from the airport, while Punta Mita is 45 minutes away and Sayulita can be reached in just under an hour.
When to go: This area of Mexico is ideal for visits all-year-round! In the winter months, temperatures are around 75 degrees and in the summer, go up to around 85 degrees. To avoid the high prices and massive amount of tourists that come with the winter, though, I recommend booking a trip here between late-March and early October.
How long to stay: A week or more is ideal! I recommend visiting two (or three) of these places while in the area.
Sayulita, Puerto Vallarta, and Punta Mia: Which Should You Visit?
Now that we’ve covered the basics, you’re left with a more difficult decision: Sayulita, Puerto Vallarta, and Punta Mia: which would should you visit and why? This wouldn’t be a problem for you if you’re a digital nomad or have the ability to travel for longer periods. But if you had to choose between these beach towns on the pacific coast, here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from each.
Perfect for: Surfing, relaxing on the beach, getting off the grid
Ahhh, even typing the word Sayulita brings me back to this beach town north of Puerto Vallarta. It’s one of those places that makes you feel a certain kind of happiness, you know?
Sayulita is a small surf town, full of charm and color, located just 10 minutes away from the town of San Pancho. It has a very relaxed, boho feel with a big expat community, quaint shops, and a slew of casual juice bars.
Days here are spent lounging on the beautiful beach, surfing and snorkeling, shopping for unique (and cheap!) clothing pieces, and wandering adorable streets with a fruit smoothie in hand. Your only responsibility here is to soak up the hot Mexican sun and relax.
While in town, I recommend staying at Villa Amor, one of Sayulita’s most luxurious hotels with beautiful oceanside villas and plenty of Sayulita charm.
soaking in the views at Villa Amor‘s Paraiso Villa
In terms of dining, eat delicious Mexican food at Casa de Chile Relleno, scarf down pizza at La Rústica, get a chocolate-covered banana at Chococabana and enjoy smoothies at The Anchor & La Esperanza.
thank you, Casa de Chile Relleno
bananas with rainbow sprinkles and toasted coconut from Chococabana
Perfect for: Relaxing in true luxury
Punta Mita isn’t so much a town or city like Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta. Punta Mita is a small area home to a couple of ultra-luxurious hotels. There are quite a few options, but I recommend staying at either the St. Regis Punta Mita and the Four Seasons Punta Mita.
The St. Regis and Four Seasons are world-renowned for their hospitality and luxurious accommodations, so these properties are like a destination in and of themselves.
a suite at St. Regis Punta Mita
a suite at Four Seasons Punta Mita
Book a stay at one of these resorts and work on checking off the only item on your “to-do” list: relax. More specifically, soak up the sun on a beautiful private beach, enjoy a therapeutic spa treatment, and lounge in your villa. If you want a bit more adventure, book a snorkeling or boating excursion through the hotel or a local tour group.
And if you’re sick and tired of relaxing all day, take a day trip to La Cruz — a small fishing village just 30 minutes south of Punta de Mita. Explore the local culture by visiting the fish markets, wander down quaint, cobblestone streets, and check a few more beautiful beaches off your Riviera Nayarit bucket list.
For those who enjoy playing a round of gold, Punta de Mita offers some of the best golf courses on Mexico’s pacific coast. Take a swing at the Punta Mita Bahia golf course, where players will be treated to sprawling views of the iconic Banderas Bay.
Perfect for: More touristic activities, clubbing, city life
Of the three, Puerto Vallarta is hands-down the busiest place. It is, after all, a city, so you will find plenty of tourist places like Señor Frogs and the like. While visiting landmarks like the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe are a must, the key to enjoying the best of Puerto Vallarta is going off the beaten path.
Check out the crowded waterfront for 20 minutes, but then head up into the city streets where the tourists start dissipating. Wander! There, you’ll find cute cobblestone streets, quaint boutique shops, and some of Puerto Vallarta’s best local restaurants.
I recommend checking out Casa Tradicional for lunch and El Arrayán for dinner.
ceviche with green apple at Casa Tradicional
order the duck at El Arrayán – it’s the specialty!
I recommend staying at Hacienda San Angel, a luxurious boutique hotel with charming rooms. It’s the perfect hidden oasis that will allow you to escape from the bustle of the city.
beautiful outdoor lobby at Hacienda San Angel
Puerto Vallarta is also a great destination for whale watching. From early December to late February, lucky visitors could catch a glimpse of the humpback whales that congregate in the warm waters of Banderas Bay. But if you want to get up close and personal with the marine life of Puerto Vallarta’s surrounding waters, snorkeling at Los Arcos is an activity you don’t want to miss. Not only will you see a huge array of tropical fish, but snorkeling at Los Arcos will take you closer to octopus, rays, and lobsters that these waters home.
For a feel-good day trip, head to Nuevo Vallarta and take part in a conservation project that releases baby sea turtles back into the ocean. This isn’t a widely available project, but there are several companies in Puerto Vallarta that offer these experiences.
Which Will You Choose?
When it comes to exploring Mexico’s Pacific coast, there isn’t a shortage of beautiful beaches. But between Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita, and Punta de Mita, you can easily see that no two beach towns are alike. Whether you’re up for the traditional tourist activities, a little R&R, or a vacation spent surfing and snorkeling, each of these coastal towns will cater to your heart’s desires.
So, what will it be for your next Mexico trip – Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita or Punta Mita?
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I’ve been to Puerto Vallarta twice and felt the urge to go back pretty much the moment I left! I definitely need to check out Sayulita and Punta Mita! I’ve been reading through a lot of your posts and really appreciate the depth of your writing, which is a rarity in the blogs I’ve come across. You’ve got my subscription. Thanks, Christina!
Oh you absolutely need to check out Sayulita and Punta Mita! I’m so in love with this area of Mexico. And that is so nice of you to say! I’m happy to hear that and glad that you are now following along, Courtney. xx
I looove the decorative skulls! I haven’t heard of Sayulita, but I think based off your descriptions, that’s the one I would visit! Enjoy and safe travels <3 !
Sayulita is seriously the BEST! You should absolutely visit.
I have never been to Puerto Vallarta but it seems so much more beautiful than the party city it is made out to be! The food pics are great too!
It is super gorgeous if you explore off the beaten path! Thanks for reading xx
I went to puerto Vallarta with Contiki two years ago – it’s definitely a busier part of the area but I had a lot of fun. I wish I had seen the oxen heads you’ve pictured here, they are gorgeous! I’d love them for my wall!
It definitely is busier, which is why I preferred Sayulita actually 🙂
These places all look so amazing! I love your photography too – what kind of camera do you use?
Thank you, Rosalie!! I use a Fujifilm X-T2 with a 18-135mm lens. I love it xx
Ahh this is so helpful as I am hoping to plan a birthday trip to Mexico in January and was debating between these areas! I am really intrigued by Sayulita and can’t get over the view at Villa Amor. You had me at guac! xo
Wait I want to go to Mexico for my birthday in January too!!! 🙂 Sayulita is the most amazing place and I would love to go back. Thank you for reading Natalie xx
I’ve never been to any of these places (or Mexico at all) but actually almost moved to Sayulita a few years back because it felt like eeeeveryone was living there. I definitely think I would love this region and hope to check out at least Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta next year!
That’s so funny! After I visited once I immediately wanted to live there for a few months. It’s such a great place and you’ll love it when you go!
Next time you visit Sayulita, maybe you could be interested in staying with us at Casablanca Sayulita Hotel http://www.CasablancaSayulita.com
Check it out, its right on the beach!!
In Sayulita, what is the nightlife scene like? I like to surf and then enjoy some beers afterwards. Also, is there a good mix of tourists and locals?
The nightlife scene is low key bars, but still very fun! Definitely a good mix of tourists & locals – that’s part of why I love Sayulita so much is that it doesn’t seem touristy at all ?
Hi Christina, I am planning in August and was debating between these 3 places, so glad I came across your blog. I am leaning towards staying in PV and taking day trips to both Sayulita and Punta on different days. Do you think that is doable? Is PV safe to walk/roam during day and night? Thank you!