Sayulita’s History

For 2011 Sayulita is positioned as one of the most visited places in Mexico, preferred and known internationally for surf culture, thanks to social media and mass media.

The popularity of the town had an unprecedented boom and with it the designation of magical town was sought, which was achieved in 2015 for its charm, magic and good vibes that characterize this place. The mix of this town encompasses several characteristics that can only be found here. The hippie atmosphere of the 60s, the atmosphere steeped in surf culture, mixed with the mysticism of the Wixarica culture, the colorful cobbled streets, the warmth of its people. The town is embraced by the nature of the green hills and the fresh waters of the Pacific Ocean. Sayulita is a town full of magic.

Get to know the magical history, the endless options to do in the town and its charming beaches. We invite you before to appreciate Sayulita in the virtual tour.


Prior to the Spanish Conquest, various little towns from Banderas Bay participated in a coastal shipping network to trade products such as dye snail, shell lime, pearl, giant snail, and other sacred shells. The Nayarit archaeologist José Beltrán Medina, assures that from this coast they sailed south to Peru, and north to Baja California. The archaeologist points out at least five sites of strong indigenous cultural development: El Malinal in Higuera Blanca, Tintoque, Pontoque, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and Bucerías.


Sayulita 1964 (Bernardo Macias)

In the Compostela Report, written by Lázaro Blanco in 1584, a town with the name of Santa Cruz Saloc appears on the coast of Valle de Banderas. Undoubtedly it is Sayulita, since it is located between two points that from then until today have kept their name, called Pontoque one and San Francisco the other.

Saloc seems to derive from tzallantli, a Nahuatl word that has several meanings: port, gorge, ravine. All of them are very appropriate to define the area of Sayulita, a port in a plain sheltered by mountains and gorges, where the indigenous population of Saloc was located. The Christian name of Santa Cruz, with which the place was baptized, could be related to the cult of Xipe Totec, indigenous god benefactor of agriculture and goldsmithing. Xipe Totec was worshiped by the people who lived by the sea. He was celebrated in spring to praise the first rains and the birth of corn. In this sense, it coincides with the Spanish celebration of the Holy Cross, which the ancient Catholics carried out with the same purpose: to celebrate nature. Without a doubt, the Santa Cruz Saloc of those times suffered the same fate as the other towns in the area. During the 17th century, pirates awaiting the passage of the Manila Galleon frequently raided Banderas Bay. The seaside towns were burned several times by buccaneers to steal their pearls. Although their name was preserved, Tintoque and Pontoque disappeared as towns, but Santa Cruz Saloc and San Francisco Apazan managed to survive.

In a map of the Coasts of Nueva Galicia dated in the year 1798, the place continues to appear with the name of Santa Cruz. By then, it belonged to the property called Jaltemba of the Romero family of Guadalajara. With around 50 thousand hectares, the hacienda extended along the coast from Punta de Mita to La Peñita, and inland, the northern part of Cerro Vallejo until it borders the Ameca River. The hot climate, the damage caused by mosquitoes and other animals, and the impassable roads in the rainy season meant that in some places the stay of its inhabitants was reduced to working times. Santa Cruz and its ranches barely reached six or seven houses. Some of them were only inhabited during the dry season or survived as milking in the rainy season. Living conditions in those times were precarious.


From Santa Cruz to Sayulita: the Transformation of a name.

The word Sayula derives from the Nahuatl tzaulan, which means place where flies abound. According to Don Federico Munguía, Chronicler of Sayula, Jalisco, around 1920, it was Don Lauro González Guerra who baptized the place with the name of Sayulita. Don Lauro, originally from Sayula, Jalisco, administered the Hacienda de Jaltemba at that time, and on the occasion of a visit to the place, evoking his homeland that he loved so much, he decided to baptize this small coastal hamlet located with the name of Sayulita. Don Lauro González Guerra was born on June 2, 1887, son of Mr. Lauro González and his wife Basilia Jiménez. He was a progressive citizen, initiator of the carnival festivities in his town and one of the best municipal presidents that Sayula’s history has recorded. He died in Guadalajara in 1977.

Eduardo Gomez Encarnacion - Cronista ed Bahia de Banderas


Eduardo Gómez Encarnación – Bahia de Banderas Chronicler.



Intermediate history of Sayulita first half of the 20th century

In the first half of the 20th century, coconut oil palm trees proliferated in this region of southern Nayarit; all the men worked to collect these, which were split in half with a stone to extract the oil from the nut. At the time of the coconut oil boom, many people died of lung diseases, caused by inhaling the dust that the coconut gave off when it was split.

Every week “El Salvatierra” arrived at the small port of Sayulita, where the oil production of the hacienda was shipped. The first owner of this was Don Marcial Nuño, but the Cristeros expelled him from the region and he was forced to sell the property, in 1927, to the Camarena family. The hacienda grew, and in addition to the production of oil, it soon became an important cattle emporium started by Mrs. Camarena’s son, Don Santiago.



Sayulita 1964 (Bernardo Macias)

In the year 1936, “Don Santiago gathered all the workers on the beach and told them: ‘Now I hand over the land to you so that you continue working it and in this way prevent this prosperous region from collapsing.’ By then the Camarenas had sold all their head of cattle and the government expropriated the hacienda lands. Then the Sayulita ejido was born.

In the 1940s, coconut production was considerably reduced and the locals resorted to agriculture and fishing, which to this day is varied although less abundant. It fishes, among others: red snapper, snapper, horse mackerel, sierra, grouper, oyster, shrimp and lobster.


Modern History of Sayulita second half of the 20th century to date

In 1965 the La Varas-Vallarta highway was built and with it another important activity was inaugurated in the region: tourism.

A few years later a government project for tourism expansion and development began; In Sayulita the streets were paved with stones, the kiosk, the plaza, the market, the sidewalks, etc. were built.

These changes facilitated access to this town, most of them foreigners from the United States and Canada, who stopped in this paradisiacal town before reaching Puerto Vallarta.


Sayulita 1964 (Bernardo Macias)

Over the years, Sayulita began to gain fame mainly because of surfers, who loved surfing the waves that formed on this beach. Little by little the surf culture began to permeate, the surfers began to spread the word about a rustic town surrounded by the green jungle and with extraordinary waves.


More and more foreigners who visited the town stayed and wanted to start a life in this paradise, the integration of various foreigners with the local people began to give rise to one of the most emblematic towns in the region, and also one of the most popular. The good vibes, the integration of people from different places and countries and the surfing subculture began to create a town with an accelerated tourist development.

This is how Sayulita is considered one of the most visited and popular towns in the region, with a great tourist offer that is different from other destinations. Surf, Art, Gastronomy, Rest, Lodging and above all Good Vibes make Sayulita one of the most visited towns in the region, and in Mexico.