Is Sayulita Safe? A Solo Female Perspective

Whether your life revolves around surfing or you’re a digital nomad seeking a laid-back beach spot, Sayulita is a popular choice. But is Sayulita safe?

Sayulita is a very safe town. From my experience as a solo female traveler, it’s one of the safest places in Mexico.

To give you a more well-rounded understanding of safety in Sayulita, I’ll share my experience and fact-backed data.

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First Things First: A Disclaimer

I spent one month in Sayulita and had a positive experience safety-wise.

But the information I share here, with the exception of statistics from linked sources, is my personal opinion based on my encounters.

Everyone has unique experiences that shape their perception of any given destination.

So, take what you want from this article and leave the rest. And above all, never let your guard down just because I or anyone else tells you that a destination is safe.

Trusting your gut and following basic safety practices are vital to improving your security in any destination.

May I Ask A Favor?

Since the recent bad press about safety in Mexico, we’ve seen an uptick in readers looking through our Mexico safety articles. I’m doing my best to answer the questions I receive. However, the safety situation in any destination can change fast, and I’m not currently on the ground in Mexico.

So, I’d appreciate you returning to this article after your trip and leaving a comment about your experience in Sayulita.

There’s nothing like recent firsthand experience to paint a more realistic picture of Sayulita’s current safety situation.

An Overview of Safety in Mexico

Before we talk about the specifics of safety in Sayulita, below is a chart showcasing health and safety data for Mexico as a whole.

OrganizationIndex scoreCountry ranking
Global Health Security Index57.025 of 195 (good)
Global Peace Index2.61137 of 163 (bad)

Safety in Sayulita: What the U.S. Department of State Says

A view of the downtown tourist district of Sayulita.

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) rates Sayulita as a Level 2 for safety, meaning that you should “exercise increased caution.”

While that might sound intimidating if you’re already on the fence about whether Mexico is safe enough to visit, you can take heart knowing that the DOS rates nearly all Mexico tourist spots as a Level 2.

Below is a breakdown of the different levels, offering perspective on what each entails.

1Exercise normal precautions
2Exercise increased caution
3Reconsider travel
4Do not travel

According to the DOS, you need to practice increased caution when visiting Sayulita because of crime. That’s a better situation than several other destinations on their Level 2 list, which state that there’s crime and kidnapping.

Furthermore, the DOS places no restrictions on government employees wanting to travel anywhere in Riviera Nayarit, including Sayulita.

So, the bottom line is that the U.S. gives its seal of approval to people wanting to visit Sayulita. They just want you to be proactive about preventing situations that could lead to crime.

Safety in Sayulita: What the Statistics Say

Is Sayulita safe? Sayulita is a very safe destination for Mexico, including its beach.

I typically check Numbeo for statistics on a destination’s safety. But they don’t offer data on Sayulita, which is likely more positive than negative—if Sayulita were super dangerous, it’d probably make their radar.

So, even though I don’t have statistics to answer the question “Is Sayulita, Mexico, safe?” it’s reasonable to turn to the data from Sayulita’s neighbor, Puerto Vallarta.

According to Numbeo, Puerto Vallarta’s crime index is 33.55, with zero being the safest and 100 the most dangerous.

In contrast, Mexico City’s crime index is 68.39, and Baltimore in the United States has a crime index of 76.01.

So, Sayulita sits in an area of Mexico that’s significantly safer than many other domestic and international cities.

Travel Tip: If you want to travel to Puerto Vallarta, don’t miss my guides on taking the bus from Sayulita to Puerto Vallarta and PV to Sayulita. They’re different procedures, and the bus stop situation in Puerto Vallarta can get confusing for newbies.

Visiting Sayulita as a Solo Female Traveler

A narrow cobblestone street on a steep hill.

I felt so safe in Sayulita as a solo female traveler that it was liberating. 

Granted, I had just arrived from Guadalajara, where I didn’t have a negative safety experience per se. But Guadalajara is significantly more dangerous than Sayulita, so the difference in how cautious I had to be about when and where I went was palpable.

Downtown Sayulita is only a handful of blocks long and wide. It has restaurants, shops, and bars that stay open well into the evening.

And they even have some shops and restaurants, like Oxxo and Chocobanana, that open early in the morning.

So, I felt safe wandering around the main streets in Sayulita by myself day and night. I booked my accommodation at Selina Sayulita, right in the center of town.

That said, if you’re asking yourself, “How safe is Sayulita if I’m staying outside of the main center?” my answer is that it’s still quite safe, but the roads are likely too quiet to risk walking alone in the dark.

And possibly even during the day, depending on your comfort.

I recommend asking your hotel or private rental host about safety walking around the area where you’re living.

I also urge you to be careful at the beach at night. That’s not only a recommendation for solo females but for people of all genders and group sizes.

I felt completely safe walking Sayulita’s beach from one end to the other by myself during the day, given that many sunbathers and beachgoers were around. But most of the beach becomes desolate after dark, and you could encounter people with bad intentions.

Is Sayulita Safe at Night?

An image of a hostel in Sayulita at night.

Downtown Sayulita is very safe at night. Every night is a party night there, but in a small bar and hostel kind of way; you won’t stumble upon massive clubs.

As a result, many shops and restaurants stay open late into the evening, every evening.

Nevertheless, if you’re staying on a quiet street outside the main Sayulita center, or if you need to come or go home after businesses close, I recommend playing it safe and taking a taxi.

Is There a Cartel Presence in Sayulita?

There’s a cartel presence in Sayulita, but you likely won’t notice it. 

That’s because, unlike some popular Mexican tourist destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula, Sayulita isn’t a hot spot for cartel activity.

Yes, someone might offer you drugs. And if that happens, they likely have a connection to a cartel. 

But as long as you’re not buying—or worse, trying to sell—drugs, you shouldn’t have to worry about a run-in with the cartel in Sayulita.

Transportation in Sayulita

A Sayulita to Puerto Vallarta bus.

If you’re wondering, “Is Sayulita safe transportation-wise?” the information below will shed light on transportation safety.

Is it safe to take an Uber in Sayulita?

Taking an Uber in Sayulita is as safe as in most other cities. You’ll have access to Uber’s safety tools, including the ability to share your ride’s location. 

Ubers can sometimes be hard to come by in Sayulita, depending on demand. So, know that you might have to wait longer than average to get a ride. 

Is it safe to take a street taxi in Sayulita?

Street taxis are safe in Sayulita, although it’s always best to call a ride rather than flag a taxi off the street. Although Sayulita isn’t notorious for being a destination packed with crime-ridden taxis, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Is it safe to drive in Sayulita?

It’s very safe to drive in Sayulita. But driving and parking can be a nightmare in downtown between cobblestone, potholes, a plethora of tourists, and narrow streets.

For this reason, many people prefer renting a golf cart to driving a car. Golf carts give you more flexibility to weave through downtown, and you’ll get to enjoy breathing in Sayulita’s fresh air. 

Is it safe to take a bus in Sayulita?

Taking the bus to and from Sayulita is very safe. There aren’t buses that operate locally within Sayulita; the town is so small that most people stick to walking.

But Sayulita has a bus station on the outskirts of town. You can take several buses around Nayarit and even hop on a bus to Guadalajara.

A Note on Airport Transfers

The Puerto Vallarta airport is the closest airport to Sayulita. Unfortunately, it’s a prime place for pirate taxis to linger, along with genuine taxi drivers who want to overcharge tourists.

For this reason, if you fly into PVR and plan on using a taxi to get to your accommodation in Sayulita, book a taxi at a designated taxi stand at the airport.

You can also book your airport transfer in advance. Many legitimate companies operate airport transfers from Puerto Vallarta, and you can book them online after reading their reviews.

Uber also operates at the Puerto Vallarta airport. Based on my experience, Uber drivers are limited in the Puerto Vallarta region, so it could take you a while to find a ride at peak hours, not to mention a driver that’s willing to drive all the way to Sayulita.

Beach Safety in Sayulita

A view of the beach in Sayulita.

As a surf town, Sayulita is known for its strong waves, depending on the weather and time of year.

Rip currents happen, so it’s important to check the flag on the beach. Green means it’s safe to swim, yellow indicates mediocre water, and red means you should stay out of the ocean.

Overall, though, Sayulita isn’t a great swimming destination. 

The water is often brown, and it’s locally well-known that the immediate ocean water around Sayulita is poor quality.

The reason?

Raw sewage runoff.

Sadly, the government hasn’t kept up with waste management as Sayulita has grown, resulting in sewage that dumps into the water. 

You’ll find plenty of diehard surfers willing to run the risk of illness to catch a wave. But, personally, I wouldn’t venture into Sayulita’s water as things currently stand.

A Note on Hurricane Season

Hurricane season runs from May 15th to November 30th in Sayulita. 

Although major hurricanes and direct hits in Sayulita aren’t common, Hurricane Roslyn made landfall in Nayarit as a Category 3 hurricane in October 2022.

Flash flooding was an issue in Sayulita during this hurricane, as it has a river that cuts between where the road from the bus station leads into the heart of downtown.

So, should you visit Sayulita during hurricane season, consider purchasing travel insurance. That way, you’re protected should a hurricane in Sayulita disrupt your trip.

Is the Water Safe to Drink in Sayulita?

By now, it likely comes as no surprise that tap water isn’t safe to drink in Sayulita. 

Ironically, the tourist city of Puerto Vallarta, which sits a little over one hour south of Sayulita, offers some of the most potable water in Mexico (though I still recommend doing your due diligence to know its source before drinking it).

Although Sayulita is small, there are tiendas (convenience stores) on nearly every street corner, making it easy to stock up on cheap bottled water.

How To Stay Safe in Sayulita

Below are some basic safety precautions to take in Sayulita. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of where you travel.

  • Take a taxi at night
  • Don’t walk around showcasing expensive electronics
  • Only take out money from ATMs inside a bank
  • Never carry around all your credit cards and cash
  • Use a money belt
  • Don’t wear flashy jewelry
  • Ask locals for advice
  • Don’t leave an unopened drink unattended
  • If you’re going to get inebriated, do so with a trustworthy sober companion

Finally, trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Other Safe Destinations in Mexico

I’ve explored much of Mexico as a solo female traveler and have felt safe in several other destinations.

Below are the top places where I’ve felt the safest, in addition to Sayulita:

Should you be considering a trip to Cabo, learn why I don’t recommend it for solo female travelers.

The Bottom Line: Is Sayulita Safe?

Tourist shops in downtown Sayulita.

Sayulita is one of the safest tourist destinations in Mexico. Between that, its great waves for surfing, and decent WiFi, it’s becoming a popular spot for digital nomads. 

The Department of State doesn’t change its destination rankings for Mexico frequently. Nevertheless, it’s best to check their website before you travel to ensure there hasn’t been recent activity that makes them recommend reconsidering or canceling your trip.

But the most likely scenario is that you’ll get to have a safe and enjoyable time in Sayulita.

If you have questions about safety in Sayulita or want to share your experience, leave a comment. I look forward to hearing from you!

8 thoughts on “Is Sayulita Safe? A Solo Female Perspective”

  1. Thank you for the information. I plan to be in Sayulita for 10 days in early May. I did not realize the ocean wasn’t good for swimming. That is totally new info to me. Are any of the beaches just out of town decent water for swimming? How about kayaking?

    1. Hi Susan,

      I visited a handful of beaches around Sayulita and wouldn’t classify any of them as good for swimming in the sense of having calm, clear water. That tends to be a theme for Mexico’s western beaches — the Yucatan is hands-down a better destination for non-surfers wanting to spend a lot of leisure time in the water.

      That said, bacteria-wise, there are several Blue Flag certified beaches in the Riviera Nayarit region which are safer to swim in than Sayulita. As long as the waves aren’t too strong, kayaking is a great option for Sayulita and the surrounding areas.

  2. Hi. Thanks for this great information on Sayulita. My sister and I will be in Sayulito for 10 days beginning May 2. I’m really disappointed to hear that the ocean is not suitable for swimming. We chose Sayulita anticipating a beach vacation. Is the ocean swimable in the close by beaches?

    1. Hi Lynne,

      I believe I just responded to your sister, so you can see my response to your questions under her comment 🙂

  3. I’m glad I came across your helpful tips! My husband and I are traveling at the end of May and tried to set up a transfer through GetYourGuide. I was advised they don’t have this option. I might have misunderstood your recommendation. We would like a private airport transfer. Do you have another recommendation? Do you feel taxis are safer than a private company? Thank you.

    1. Hi Molly,

      Thank you for this update! I’ve revised the article accordingly.

      In that case, I recommend either giving Uber a try, booking a private taxi upon your arrival at the Puerto Vallarta airport, or booking online in advance with a company that has lots of good reviews. Ubers can be hit and miss at the Puerto Vallarta airport, given the high demand for them. So, booking a private airport taxi or online in advance is likely your best bet.

      I don’t think taxis are necessarily safer than a private company; it depends more on how you approach booking them. A taxi you book at the airport will likely be safer than flagging down a taxi off the street, and a private airport transfer you book online with lots of good reviews will likely be safer than booking with a company with no reviews or poor reviews.

      Wishing you and your husband a wonderful time in Sayulita!

  4. After living in Sayulita for several years (I’m from the USA), I would say that swimming there is totally fine. My kids and I swim in the ocean daily and have never gotten sick. It’s true that infrastructure and quality sanitation is not ideal in Mexico, and sadly, even the big resorts like FourSeasons, which have plenty of money to do better, also dump into the ocean (located in Punta Mita). Don’t drink the ocean water of course but it’s definitely clean enough to swim in. Sayulita is a well known and profitable beach destination and the government doesn’t want to risk losing this revenue. They keep it clean. You also definitely don’t need to be a die hard surfer to go in the water. This town is one of the best places to learn to surf. And you’ll see lots of kids and families swimming

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