Getting There: Sayulita is 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta International Airport. It’s important to note that Puerto Vallarta is on Central Standard Time while Sayulita is on Mountain Standard Time. More than one traveler has arrived at the airport for their return flight thinking they had an hour to spare to discover their flight taking off.
Where to Stay: Lodging options in Sayulita are plentiful and run along the lines of villa properties, boutique hotels and modest bungalows. Here’s a look at two possibilities.
— Villa Amor has a total of 33 luxury beachfront villas. Some of Villa Amor’s villas have a private terrace, plunge pool and kitchen. Every villa is uniquely designed to afford expansive views of the coastline, jungle and town. High season rates range between $110 for a Standard One Bedroom Villa and $750 for a Three Bedroom Premium Villa. Public areas at the property include a lounge and outdoor pool area surrounded by fountains.
— The six-room Petit Hotel Hafa is a boutique hotel in the town center on the corner of a plaza and two blocks from the beach. Rooms reflect the artistic bent of Marina Mignot, who co-owns the hotel with her husband Christophe. The rooms playfully blend Mexican and Moroccan design. A nice touch is the chartreuse floors and the hand-tempered copper sinks in the bathrooms. All six rooms are individually priced from $50-$85 per night. Room #1 is the most expensive and can sleep up to three people, with either a king-size bed and one single bed or three single beds total. Air-conditioning comes with an extra charge of $5 per night, bringing the total to $90. Petit Hotel Hafa also has a roof deck overlooking the town and the ocean.
It’s probably true that the majority of clients who agents book for a Riviera Nayarit vacation are on their way to one of the high-end resorts in Punta Mita. While Punta Mita has all of the amenities and features to furnish a vacation experience, including championship golf, first-rate spas, luxury resorts and excellent beaches, there’s more to the Rivera Nayarit region awaiting the curious traveler.
Sayulita’s beaches are a hit with surfers and those looking for a hippie vibe. // © 2009 Mark Rogers
One of these regional treasures is the laid-back surfing town of Sayulita, also known as Punta Sayulita. This picturesque town — which also doubles as a fishing village — is sheltered in a palm-lined bay and is the perfect choice for the traveler looking for some serious down time and a taste of rural Mexico.
Surfers began discovering Sayulita in the mid-1960s, and the town still has a hippie vibe. There are two surf breaks right in town, and many more a short drive away. Dedicated surfers will want to know that waves are at their best between December and April.
The town itself offers plenty of shopping opportunities along cobblestone streets, with an emphasis on traditional Huichol handicrafts, fine jewelry, textiles and beachwear. Sayulita Surf & Art is worth a look whether visitors surf or not — the shop sells one-of-a-kind artworks utilizing vintage and used surfboards. On Sundays, Sayulita hosts a small street fair with tents and stalls lining one of the town’s cobblestone streets allowing vendors to temporarily display their wares.
Visitors will also find an array of restaurants and bars. Some local favorites include Don Pedro’s, which serves Mediterranean cuisine with Mexican and Californian accents under a giant thatched palapa with views of the sea and surfers. Expats and locals alike congregate at Rollie’s, especially for breakfast, while Sayulita Fish Taco is a standout when it comes to delivering signature Baja-style fish tacos as well as down-home Mexican cooking.
Water-based activities in Sayulita include enjoying the many beaches, snorkeling at Playa de Los Muertos or sport-fishing from an open-bow panga (small motorized boat). Land-based activities include hiking or mountain biking along jungle trails, while horseback riding and ziplining are available at Rancho Mi Chaparrita.
The operator Wildmex Surf Holidays and Adventures is located right in town on the beach in Sayulita Bay. It can set up travelers with everything from surf lessons to extensive surf/camping trips, as well as kayaking and mountain biking excursions.
Melanie Schneider, director of sales and marketing for The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort has become an avid surfer since moving to Riviera Nayarit.
“I’m not yet a pro surfer,” admitted Schneider, “but my personal favorite surf break so far is Burros, which is south of Punta de Mita.”
When she finds herself on land, Schneider has a few favorite Sayulita spots.
“I like Buddah Mar — they do hand-knit bikinis, and their dresses and jewelry have a touch of Asia. I also go to ChocoBanana, they serve delicious chocolate-dipped frozen bananas.”
Everything, right down to the local snack, is a bit unique in Sayulita.