Tacos. Tequila. Tanning. In that order. That’s my ultimate recipe for a week of relaxation so when Wil wanted to take a trip to Mexico, I was in. Then he told me about Sayulita, I couldn’t contain my excitement.
About an hour and a half from the crazy party vibes of Puerto Vallarta, lies this chill little surf town where all kinds of international ex pats and Mexican natives live harmoniously.
There are no real hotels, mostly villas and condo or casita rentals. There is a long strip of beach and the town is divided by a river. North of the river are larger homes and vacation rentals. South of the river you will find the town square, and most of the excitement. Generally, it is only about 5-10 minutes to get to the beach or the town square from most rentals in the surrounding area. Perfect.
We got there at the end of one of the busiest weeks all year – Easter Weekend. We were told that it is a popular week for Mexicans to pack their cars and camp out along the beach for some big surf and even bigger parties.
Pros: bustling streets, lots of music, lively events in the town square
Cons: people everywhere! Tents all over the beach, traffic galore, loud drums all night long (this didn’t bother us for a few days but it may have for a whole week)
We stayed at Casa Higuera, a family run property consisting of 2 homes and 6 “Casitas“, self contained 1 bedroom studios. Both casas and all casitas are built on the west facing hill with breathtaking views of the beach and sunset. There’s a shared pool and private walk 2 minutes straight down to the beach, or through the road into the town. I would say the location was perfect for what we were looking for. We could easily run up and down from the beach all day, yet were far enough away from the town noise for it to be a bother.
We could still hear drums, the ocean and people on the beach faintly in the distant, which I personally loved. It was very soothing.
The Town of Sayulita was always bustling in the day, and got relatively quiet around 12am. There were countless cafes, restaurants, markets and shops.
Oh the shops! There was everything from handmade Mexican souvenirs, furniture, clothing, surf gear of course, and my favourite – leather and handmade jewelry.
My favourite shop, and where I bought a gorgeous black leather tote bag, was Pachamama Sayulita. When we went, they were using the gallery space during renovations which was spacious and bright, with original hardwood floors. I just felt so comfortable hanging out here, especially with Isis who helped me pick out the bag. She explained the leather was local and fair trade, locally made by Mexicans who were paid fair wages. I was sold. Oh and the bag was so so pretty. Black raw leather, with a big tassle. Note: I use this bag almost every day now.
There wasn’t too much of a party scene, but a couple bars were known for their live music and cheap tequila. Don Pato’s was one of the ones we went to and it was fun, but most days, after long drinking in the sun, walking around and spending time at the beach, we weren’t looking for big ragers. Apparently, an hour and a half drive out to PV (Puerto Vallarta) will give you more than a fair share of the party scene.
Beautiful, clear water and fine sand that actually shines with golden flecks. Careful, that sand gets HOT. The first day, we spent most of the day hanging out on the beach. This is what we observed:
- Paying for chairs is expensive. At $20 per pair in front of Don Pedro’s you also had access to their menu, bathrooms and could be served on the beach. We brought a cooler and got street food, they didn’t seem to mind. The chairs were comfortable and spaced out nicely. You can go to the north side and get chairs with a bucket of Corona which isn’t bad either, works out a bit cheaper.
- The beach is pretty busy, which is why chairs are nice if you like to hang out. We spent most of our time in the water and on paddle boards.
- In the early morning it is calmer, you can sit with a coffee and watch the surfers. It’s pretty entertaining. Otherwise, it stays busy until sunset.
- Jellyfish were rampant when we went in May, especially in deeper water. WATCH OUT.
- Beach vendors are also rampant. They aren’t pushy, but the same people will continue to come by and offer you their goods. A polite “no thanks” is sufficient for them to move on to the next tourist.
We found the small, cheap taco vendors to be the best. The restaurants on the beach may have prime real estate but didn’t have the greatest food. Don Pedro’s is an exception, our dinner there was delicious, albeit a little expensive (Around $80US for 2 meals and a couple cocktails). They also have live salsa dancers on Tuesday nights.
We made breakfast in the morning most days, but ate out at a couple of the breakfast places which were good. For lunch we almost always ate tacos or some variation at one of the many restaurants and vendors.
Our favourite thing to do though was shop at the markets in the day and cook our own dinners. We had a couple dinners out, but the view from our casita at sunset was so beautiful, it was so much more fun to put some music on and make a little feast then dine al fresco on our patio.
San Pancho was an experience of its own. Not sure how much detail we want to get into, but basically, we got dressed up for a night out and took a taxi to this little neighbouring town, 15 min north of Sayulita.We had heard great things about the restaurant Mar Plata, and planned to go for an early dinner. Well, our taxi driver dropped us in the middle of a heavy residential area in front of a beautiful two story white washed building. It was quiet, but we wandered in only to be told that they weren’t open for business and couldn’t accommodate us until they were. They did offer to SELL us two beers for our 20 minute walk in the blazing sun back to San Pancho’s main street. We were not impressed.
We braved it, and wandered back starving and thirsty, finding as much shade as possible along the way. Wil stopped at a 7-11 mid-way to crush two beers. Tipsy and hungry, when we got back to San Pancho, we were desperate for drinks and food. In that order. Here are our two standout spots from the excursion:
A boutique hotel, built with a simple eclectic style, we came here because it was known for great organic cuisine. Except it was so organic, they were sold out of almost everything – except for tequila. I won’t hold it against them because we went right after the big Easter holiday. We settled for a salad, oysters and tequila tasting. After heavy tequila pours, we decided we had tasted the best tequila in the country.
It was an artisanal anejo, sold specially to the hotel. We paid $40 and ran off with two as if we had gotten the best deal of our lives.
Run by hipster surfers, both Mexicans and a couple international transplants, this place is the San Pancho go to for pizza, live music, delicious tea infused cocktails and a killer rooftop patio.
Everyone was so chill and friendly here. There was no room for pretentiousness and everyone seemed happy to have you there and to hear your story. We met a few groups of people from all over. Some are regulars, some live in the houses in town, and others like us had never been to this awesome place before.
The people are a big reason why I will definitely be making regular trips back to Sayulita.
Esto es México.
BONUS: SECRET BEACH, LAS CUEVAS COVE
Through the north side of the town, after a bit of a jungle hike, lies an expansive, secluded and beautiful beach, Las Cuevas.
It’s a trek, but if you follow the directions (taken from SayulitaLife), you will be greatly rewarded with one of the most expansive serene and pristine beaches I’ve seen in Mexico.
- To find it, as Sayulita’s main beach ends and before the house built into the small headland, walk inland along the right-hand side of the arroyo (river valley) and get on to the jungle road.
- Follow this north (left) and shortly you will cross a small river (dry in the winter) the main path looks to follow the river to the right but look straight ahead and you will see several large boulders.
- Clamber over or go around the rocks and follow the path across a cobblestone road (which is a private road from the beach-house to the main highway) and continue straight. You will go over a small rise and a dirt road will join from the right.
- Approximately 50 meters further the path splits, take the smaller left fork to Las Cuevas.
- The path ducks under the trees going down hill and you will come upon a wall, continue to the left past a small white graffiti covered concrete block building and over a small bridge. You will see the cove open up before you.
- To the right of the cove there are poorly maintained steps which lead up onto the bluff which overlooks the long wild beach of Playa Malpasos.
- There is an opening through the rocks, this is NOT advice to go, but if you’re brave enough, when the tide drops you can run through the rocks to access the other side of the cove to this wild beautiful beach on the other side.
- Watch out for the tide, it is very strong and will carry you out to sea if you’re not careful.