If you have yet to hear of Sayulita, keep an eye out, you’re about to start hearing more and more about this once-secret spot.
Just the name alone evokes an escape. A respite. Another world all together. The airy-ness with which the word unfolds from your mouth will, just by itself, get you excited for a visit! As you pronounce the town, Sayulita, one can not help but smile and reach for their little Jason Mraz hat and flip flops, even if only in their mind.
Say-u-lita: First the “Say” (sounds like Sigh) then the “u” (sounds like you) and then comes the grin inducing, “Lita” (sounds like Let).
Say it now, “Sayulita”. Yes, just like that.
Grab your backpack and flip flops and yup, you too are ready for a Sayulita vacation!
For many, the reason to pick this location would be to unwind with friends or family. In recent years it’s even garnered attention as a filming location for the “hit show” Bachelor in Paradise (please dear god, tell me you don’t watch that).
We on the other hand were on a mission: yes, sure, try and relax a bit, but more importantly: MEET OUR WEDDING PLANNER!, finalize millions of checklist items, and sample and taste our way through town, all in the name of investigate research.
Nothing quite goes together like Wedding planning and a beach vacation, right?
Boarding a flight from Oakland International Airpot, Michelle and I set off for a four day run through. We’d been two or three times before for vacation but this time we had other motivations.
You see, fast approaching, this surf town will play host to our friends, family, and loved ones. 80 people flying in from four corners of the USA: Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Florida.
For the first two days, we decided to start with the fun stuff. We hit as many bars and restaurants as humanly possible and tried to remember half of them to tell you all – my dear readers.
The subsequent two days were wedding central galore: meet the planner, tour the grounds, and plan out the logistics of shuttling a horde of 80 folks back and forth from Puerto Vallarta airport.
So what’s the deal with Sayulita?
Tucked into the jungle and along a quite portion of the Pacific Ocean, this was once a haven for Mexican’s seeking a holiday weekend and Canadian expats. Now it’s one big melting pot: luring the yoga mat toting and active wear crowd, the Bay Area and SoCal thirty-something-crowd looking for a chill weekend, and couples and families that choose to steer clear of sprawling Resorts where you never truly feel like you are somewhere else. After all, isn’t the reason we travel to get a bit uncomfortable?
This once sleepy surf town is no longer the West Coast’s best-kept-secret.
As we strolled from spot to spot and dutifully took notes we amassed a can’t miss hit list that we’re sharing with you.
WHERE TO EAT
Matiz | Upscale and chic, this outdoor restaurant is a Spanish tapas style bar with an ocean twist. White tables, soft lighting, and inventive plates like ahi tuna with pita chips drizzled with a swirl of balsamic reduction. Definitely get the crab croquettas on a stick.
Achara | Perhaps in the most visible shift to Sayulita. The town now has a posh Thai restaurant that looks more like something you’d find on Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District. The narrow entrance with tables leads to a small four person bar (perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail) and in back you’ll find more tables. Dark, intimate, and the spot of the moment: you’ll find a younger crowd looking around to see who looks best.
Yeikame |You’ll find traditional Mexican and Oaxacan fare here, unlike anything else you will taste in Sayulita. With deep spices, earthy sauces, and slow simmering pots, you can sample traditional Mole or enchiladas in a pumpkin seed sauce. Large plates and happy customer after happy customer lead this spot to expand and double the size of their space.
WHERE TO DRINK
El Patio | Set down the beach from the main square, you can stroll in at sunset fresh off the beach, or come back after a shower for a few cocktails made with great care. Sit at the bar and enjoy the chic layout and talk with the American and Aussie expats that now are bartenders at several places in town. Order the mezcal lemonade cocktail with burnt rosemary.
El Attico | Hands down the place to be on the right night. The hostel-style bar is on the street corner, there’s a hanging swing that is the most prized seat, and patrons will spill out standing into the street, the sidewalk and down in front of the live music. Order a tequila shot or even better, a Mezcal, and a Victoria beer to wash it down.
Escondido | Opened by a Bay Area couple, the simple white balcony has lounge cushions, there’s a flat screen playing Surf videos, and relaxing ambiance all make this a perfect post-dinner cocktail spot to look down to the main square and plan out your evening ahead.
Don Pedros |A true jack of all trades, this restaurant and bar will likely be a spot you visit, maybe even more than once. A two story restaurant on the beach with a winding bar, TV for catching a sports game, and often, live music or dancing. It’s one of the more expensive spots in Sayulita but it’s been around since 1994 and is of sorts, the first / last bar to visit if nothing else seems to work.
WHERE TO STAY
Villa Amor | The original Villa Amor is just that, the original upscale hotel offering for a stay in Sayulita. Set atop a hill and on the left hand side of the beach, the yellow villas jut out from the thick green foliage and are visible from the beach. While one of the pricer stays, you can’t go wrong with this refined spot. Each villa is unique and are sparingly laid out with furniture and tables to keep your focus on the beach and the location – not on staying in your room. Note: no TV in the room.
Casa Tres Vistas | An AirBnB house, perfect for couples or a group.Set atop Gringo Hill, an approximate 15 minute walk down to the main plaza or Beach. You’ll go up and down a steep steep set of stairs. But it’s worth it and you’ll burn off those fish tacos! 3 Bedrooms. Sleeps 6.
Casa Nawalli | A brand new offering – part hotel and part oasis. This secret garden, pool, and 5 room boutique is a relaxing selection for couples or a small group that is looking for a chic and thoughtful home base. Take a look at their webpage and email them for the best rate.
HOW TO GET THERE
Note: When leaving the Puerto Vallarta airport, like many destinations in Latin America, the walk from baggage claim, to immigration, and then out to the real world is a bit of a mad house. You’ll wind through and then appear into a hallway with throngs of people holding signs for taxis, shuttles, all-you-can-eat-packages, resort packages, zip line tours, and who knows what else. Keep your eyes fixed and continue on. Not until you walk outside into you finally exit, will you see your driver. (We had someone try and point at our bags and say we dropped something just to slow us and talk with us!) Just do your best to smile and keep walking.
Private Shuttle | Fill out a request form here and they’ll email you within 48 hours. Easy to arrange. They will have a sign with your name on it. Cost is $130 USD for the trip to Sayulita and back to the airport. They will also stop at the giant grocery store half way and wait in the parking lot for you to stock up on all sorts of food and beverage (great if you are staying at a house with friends and plan to cook).
Uber | We’ve never tried but talked with other that have hailed an Uber from the airport to their destination in Sayulita, about an hours drive. Cost was $30-40 USD for the one way.
SEE YOU IN SAYULITA!
(Been before? Did we miss something or a spot you recommend? Tell us below as a comment)