Spotlight on Sayulita, Mexico's Off-the-Beaten-Path Surfing Haven

World Standup Paddle and Paddleboard Championship Opening Ceremony

The Riviera Nayarit surfing haven of Sayulita is in the international spotlight this week. It’s hosting the World Standup Paddle and Paddleboard Championship. Sponsored by the International Surfing Association (ISA), the event brings together more than 300 competitors from 30 countries.  

The ISA hopes to convince the International Olympic Committee to include surfing and paddleboard sports in future Summer Games. But one needn’t be a budding Olympian to appreciate Sayulita’s allure. 

Javier Chavez, owner of Sayulita-based Wildmex Adventures, specializes in surfing excursions in Sayulita and nearby Punta de Mita.  

“Standup Paddleboarding and Surfing are ideal activities in the Punta de Mita-Sayulita area. With our mellow waves, warm water and tons of beach access, it is easy to enjoy any of these sports,” Chavez tells Travel Agent

Chavez works with travel agents as well as specialty tour operators.

“If clients are interested in surfing, the multiple surf breaks in the area provide consistent waves for beginner and intermediate surfers. For standup paddleboarding, we have lots of beaches with no waves at all. In most cases, it’s even possible to take the entire family out to the beautiful beaches,” said Chavez. 

Surf lesson in Sayulita

Some of the Riviera Nayarit’s top hotels are a fairly close to the best surfing action. They include the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort and the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, all AAA Five Diamond properties.    

The Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita is a favorite of Susan Brodner’s clientele. 

“The entire Riviera Nayarit is glorious. It’s such a unique setting of the jungle against the sea. Sayulita is adorable and I tell my clients they should try to get there,” the luxury travel consultant for All Star Travel Group tells Travel Agent. 

Zachary Rabinor, director general and CEO of Journey Mexico notes that not all high-end clients are looking for Sayulita’s bohemian vibe. But a good percentage of them are. And agents with an in-depth understanding of local attractions can be invaluable to clients. 

“Let’s face it. Your clients don’t need you to tell them that there is a great spa or restaurant at their luxury hotel. But if you tell them there is a beautiful, vibrant little town that’s already on the international stage, that will intrigue them,” said Rabinor. 

Surf lesson in Sayulita

Places like Sayulita resonate with travelers on a quest for local, authentic destinations. Moreover, they help diversify Mexico’s appeal.  

“We need a counterpoint to the big-box, all-inclusive destinations. Sayulita is within an hour of a major international airport. It’s a great place to get a surfing lesson, go kayaking or take a boat on the Bay of Banderas. You can also take an excursion to the Marietas Islands or simply just go shopping. There are lots of cute boutiques where the local artisans sell clothing and other handcrafts. And you can set up on the beach and eat some amazing seafood under a palapa. It’s much more authentic than being served by a beach butler back at your resort,” said Rabinor. 

This week’s ISA championship emphasizes that surfing remains Sayulita’s biggest international draw. 

“My involvement with Sayulita goes back 20 years. Back then, it really was simply a fishing village with one hotel and one camp area. It grew a lot in ensuing years. At first it was a bit of a disappointment. But to be honest, the growth has mostly been in the ‘Lonely Planet,’ low-rise vein. It’s maintained a local flavor and character. There’s lots of incentive to keep it that way,” said Rabinor.