We heard about a sleepy little fishing village just north of Puerto Vallarta from friends who had visited the area and found this relatively hidden gem of a vacation destination, situated on a prime section of sandy beachfront with a long, gentle surf break of warm, clear water.
The story goes that Sayulita was “discovered” by groups of traveling surfers in the 1960s and has maintained the charm and warmth of the Mexican culture of years gone by, as well as keeping its laidback surfer vibe, without becoming commercialized.
We subsequently learned that the pueblo has developed into something of a “foodie" mecca, specializing in unique regional cuisine based on recipes passed down through generations.
Sign us up… Sayulita, here we come!
Compact and Well Managed
North American expats make up a large segment of the population and play a dominant role in promoting and managing the businesses.
The current population is estimated to be about 5,000 semi-permanent and permanent residents. The flow of tourists is determined by a combination of the weather and seasons and the limited but excellent accommodations. The months of November through April are considered the prime time to visit, and usually attracts about 1,000 tourists a week. With air and water temperatures around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit - "perfection" comes to mind.
Finding THE Place to Stay
We found that the local organization Sayulita Life offered the best match for our requirements. There are numerous other rental sites offering the same homes but they typically have a service fee that usually ranges over $100. Sayulita Life does not charge a fee. Their website offers over 400 vacation rental listings and provides a comprehensive as well as current wealth of information.
We selected this fully equipped and well stocked three-bedroom home high on a hillside in the north end of the town in an area called Nanzal Hill which is a little farther away from the sometimes robust activity of the town center.
Getting to THE Place to Stay
The Puerto Vallarta airport is modern, spotless and very efficient. Being our first time to a new destination, we opted for a car service (Jose Ramos Transposition) for the 40-minute drive which cost about $150 for a round trip.
A friendly, English-speaking driver greets you upon arrival and helps you settle into an immaculate Suburban, offers a cold beverage and makes you feel welcome to his part of the world.
Provisioning the Vacation Rental
The driver continues toward our destination and follows a well-rehearsed routine with a side trip, to stock our vacation rental, at one of the largest grocery stores we have ever seen. The MEGA offers everything,
Tourism may be relatively new to this area, but they certainly understand the concept of visitors coming to have a good time and spend money.
This store has a complete line of groceries, fresh seafood, a large meat counter, local produce, and a delicatessen with a large cheese section, an on premise bakery, fresh tortillas, and a wide variety of prepared take-out meals.Their wine, beer and liquor departments offer a wide selection at surprisingly reasonable prices. If you forgot something, they probably have a replacement as they also sell cosmetics, clothes, beach toys and even electronics.
After stocking up, the journey continues as we drive along a well-maintained roadway through a scenic jungle canopy and passing through a few small villages before we reach our destination.
The Vibe and Our First Meal
In the process of selecting and renting a villa, we established a relationship with the owner and his on-site property manager, Eric (who also happened to be the bartender at a popular restaurant), who assisted us in ordering our first dinner, via email, before we even landed.
A quick phone call to Eric confirmed our arrival and that we were on our way to the restaurant. This is apparently a “normal” exchange for the car service as it went so smoothly with Eric waiting at curbside with our take-out meal and the keys to the villa.
Our initial interaction in our new setting was how pleasant and trusting everyone has been… we began to dial back our stress meter from the travel day and that first glass of wine was a toast to the Sayulita lifestyle and attitude.
Manchaca enchiladas, shrimp tacos, paella, salad and wine
First Impressions of Sayulita
Think of it as an adult playground with cobblestone streets and an array of transportation options besides walking - cars, trucks, horses, and golf carts.
Our very favorite mode of transportation was an electric golf cart which holds four passengers and comes equipped with cup holders for your favorite cold beverage (margaritas fit perfectly too!).
The golf cart affords fun transportation that's easy to park and opens up more options to explore the town and local surroundings such as a secluded beach next to a cemetery - no seriously, a great spot for peace and quiet.
Dirt road through the jungle leading to a secluded beach
One of many colorful grave sites
Playa de Los Muertos
There are over 100 dining options, ranging from exceptional street tacos served on paper plates to fine dining with white tablecloths and candlelight at gourmet restaurants on the beach.
Camaron (shrimp) and pescado (fish) tacos
“Pescado Zarandeado” (Pink-Style Snapper)
A special dining treat is offered by over 17 personal chefs who will come to your rental villa and prepare regional specialties and provide a cooking class at the same time…. at very reasonable prices, too.
Mexotik Owner – Daniel Murillo – Sautéing Octopus
Clothing boutiques, art galleries, local artisans and indigenous people offering everything from rugs, ceramics, sculptures, tapestries, and handmade jewelry just to name a few items.
Typical street scene
Hand Woven Wool Carpet – Exceptional Workmanship and Quality
Inviting stores with colorful and unusual items
All that shopping is exhaustive and a natural solution can be found in the over 25 different yoga, fitness, massage and holistic spa salons scattered throughout town.
For the exhibitionist on your shopping list there is a mineral mud massage “show” set up on the beach which includes a strange but comical masseuse covered in mud, complete with a feather headdress.
Therapeutic Massage with Clay
Water Sports and Activities
You are at a surf oriented beach… so get out there and experience the thrill. As the saying goes… “Only a surfer knows the feeling”… just do it!
There are over a dozen surf schools and board rental operations right there on the beach.
In addition to surfing, Sayulita has over 20 adventure-tour operators offering horseback riding, jungle canopy/zip trek tours, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing charters and ecosystem/bird watching explorations.
Sayulita exceeded our expectations and every day was full of positive experiences.
The warmth and charm of this village and its people have made an indelible mark on our travel writer hearts and as we departed Puerto Vallarta’s airport we were already planning our return.
Viva México - viva Sayulita!
After all, what is the hurry… be inspired…
© 2017 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar
© 2017 Picture Credits: Bob and Janice Kollar