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Villa Amor, Sayulita, Mexico

Sayulita, Mexico is a hidden gem as colorful as the buildings that adorn its beaches and streets. Though technically too small to be a city, Sayulita is a “pueblo” (Spanish meaning “village,”) located about 20 minutes outside of Puerto Vallarta.

A large tourist and beach vacation spot it is not – the pueblo of Sayulita is a lesser-known bohemian beach wonder but very famous for those who worship the waves.

Sayulita has some of the best surfing in the world, drawing surfer dudes and dudettes from California and Canada mostly, though word of its manageable, affordable, and quaint traditional Mexican nature are spreading.

Many of the wave-riders catch a few barrels on the shores of Sayulita or one of its neighboring small beaches. La Lancha and Los Burros are two a particularly stunning haven for surfers and paddle boarders. Sayulita is also a great place to learn to surf – friendly, gentle, and serene.

Many of the visitors to Sayulita end up staying...for good. The town ends of being a strong mixture of expatriates that can’t get enough of the low-key, stunning pueblo.

Many of the businesses – from the jewelry shops to the stunning hotel I stayed in, Villa Amor, are run by Americans and Canadians that came to visit and never left. Surf’s up.

View from the restaurant at Villa Amor

There are many condos, apartments, and small houses for rent on the beaches of Sayulita, but the hotel Villa Amor Sayulita is a series of villas owned by Barbara Fierman, a feisty New Yorker who too got caught up in the waves of the beach.

Villa Amor, one of the most upscale of the hotels in town (though still very affordable), has 30 villas, each with its own theme and carefully-curated art and decor. The one I stayed in, Linda, had its own unique Moorish touches, from a circular brick ceiling to a Turkish bathtub. The hotel offers tours, spa services (ask for Esperanza to work out the muscles in your back), and friendly customer service that never broaches on overbearing.

The villas in the hotel range from one bedroom to five, with its penultimate villa atop the hillside with sweeping vistas, two dining areas, its own pool, jacuzzi, and sub-zero refrigerator.

The food in Sayulita can be summed up in one word: fresh. In addition to being a haven for surfers, the town is a fishing village. Every afternoon beach-combers sell Mahi Mahi, Dorado (the local catch), and Camarones (shrimp) on a stick. It’s as fresh as the grill it was cooked on an hour prior from the morning’s catch.

Lunch. (Dorado and Camarones on a stick, $3 USD each).

Other notable fresh goods include avocados and fruit like watermelon, sold in cups on the beach for a few dollars each. Sayulita is known for its traditional Mexican fare, especially fish tacos. There are several competing small stands in the streets of the town, though each person you ask will tell you his or her favorite with intensity.

The restaurants in Sayulita are equally as fresh and delicious, incorporating a mixture of Mexican traditional foods as well as American ones influenced by the tourists and expatriates that come to live and start businesses there. Don Pedros and BreakFast are two particularly strong restaurants on the beach – from green smoothies and pita pizzas at BreakFast to yellowtail sushi and seared tuna at Don Pedros.

There is live music – often a surfer dude or two – singing at varying restaurants. On Mondays, Don Pedro’s transforms into a salsa night, with cocktail specials and hip-shaking. You can even find pad thai at Don Chow’s, though the best spots include Rollies for breakfast (Rollie is quite a character, he married a couple I went surfing with.)


Sayulita (c) 2010 Tiffany Schoepp

There is a relaxed and fun nightlife scene in Sayulita - for thumping house try Buddha Mar, or for a more relaxed cocktail Munchi's or Sayulita Cafe. Public House has over 30 different kinds of beer. You can also have a cocktail on the beach at nearly any hour - the margaritas and mojitos, as well as Coronas, are cheap and refreshing. 

Sayulita is the perfect spot to soak up sun – but there are plenty of sports and activities to do while visiting. The town is like the hot-weather version of a small ski village like Breckenridge, Colorado – where its occupants are active every day. Runners are constantly running the paths of the main roads, and there are the die-hard surfers every morning.

A particularly well-run and expansive outdoors company, Wildmex, offers surfing, paddle boarding, hiking, kayaking, and boasts a range of instructors from Mexico to Canada to California. Each of the instructors (one of mine was a former environmental school teacher, the other a Canadian student) is well versed in safety but also is in Sayulita because he or she saw the waves and the relaxed atmosphere and never left.

Surfeando at La Lancha with Wildmex

There are also paddle boards and surf boards for rent all along the beach. I did both surfing and paddle boarding. The former of which was less hard than anticipated – I rode a few waves and spent several moments reenacting Blue Crush (I was basically surfing in whitewash, but hey). The latter, paddle boarding, is a lot harder than it looks. Standing up on an enlarged surfboard and paddling, as I hear celebrities like Chelsea Handler love in Malibu, is basically one continuous wall-sit or squat. By the end your legs and arms are shaking and you want to be towed to shore.

As a certified Pilates freak, I had to try Mexifit, which is run by a stunning yogi named Shelley with a love for animals (you can also, in addition to bringing back small gifts, bring back a rescued animal from Sayulita with Sayulita Animals). I’ve never done pilates (well, this was Yogalates), in such a stunning vista, and probably never will again. Mexifit offers yoga, yogalates, and “ropes,” which is a modified TRX band resistance guaranteed to kick your butt. Mexifit’s slogan states it well, “earn your margaritas."

The Pilates "studio"

The best shopping in Sayulita is mostly traditional Mexican goods – beautiful colors and textiles, bowls, anything woven – notebooks, belts, linen shirts with embroidery, and silver. The Gypsy Gallery offers a full range.

There is also strong bohemian fashion in Sayulita – Pachamama, run by a jetsetter pair of sisters, has only two other outposts – in Santa Monica and St. Barths. My personal favorite store was Revolucion del Sueno, a Mexican-inspired jewelry and accessories store with neon bracelets and gold accents – skulls, peace signs, started by a pair of Frenchmen. Eager fashionistas will love the colorful rings and pillows that mix current fashion trends with Mexican influences like bulls, Day of the Dead skulls, and mustaches. (Yes, that trend started in Mexico.)

Jewelry at Revolucion del Sueno

The best part about Sayulita is its manageability. You see the same faces over and over, each friendlier than the next. The pueblo is manageable, affordable, and unforgettable.

For Families:

Sayulita also offers bilingual babysitters, day camps at Don Pedros, whale watching, and tremendous medical care.

Villa Amor rates start at $110 a night for a one bedroom to $1400 a night for a luxury 5 bedroom during holidays. To learn more about Sayulita, go to Sayulitalife.com.

--Submitted by Meredith Fineman. Meredith is a publicist, writer, and navel-gazer living in Washington, DC with her husband Ryan Gosling and their parakeet Ronald Reagan. She is the founder of FinePoint Digital PR. You can read more of her writing here.

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