What a pleasant surprise to discover that just 45 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta is a cool, laidback, surfer’s town called Sayulita.
Famous for its beach break, Sayulita has a guaranteed supply of mixed level waves, perfect for the amateur and pro together.
It feels that Puerto Vallarta has been attacked by the overdevelopment syndrome, but Sayulita, with its year-round population of around 2,000, has remained relatively unscathed.
It was first discovered in the 1960’s and was (and still is) a surfer’s paradise. The beach is a beautiful, huge crescent shape intersected by a river that seems to emanate from the jungle. Grazing by the river by an old plank bridge are horses and donkeys.
This is a town where the beach is the magnet. The beach is stacked in the center with surfboards, surf shops, and surf schools. You can rent everything from paddle boards to boogie boards. I sat under a very civilized umbrella easily rentable from Don Pedro – a restaurant come beach set-up where you can get fantastic grilled octopus and seared tuna.
Frankly, my idea of fun on a beach is to find a place like Don Pedro that sells umbrellas and lounge chairs and where I can get incredibly fresh and delicious seafood with a drink while watching other people do what I cannot do, namely surf and paddle board! So I watched expert surfers, beginner surfers (who wore beginner’s t-shirts), paddle boarders, body surfers, and just regular splashed types like me. At the far ends of the beach the fishermen and the pelicans went looking for their dinner. I’ve never seen so many pelicans diving in between surfboards in my life.
There are numerous tiny seaside accommodation places and at the end of the beach is a very nice, but not glitzy, hotel called Villa Amor which is where I stayed. Rooms range between $175-$300 per night for a one bedroom in high season. Sayulita is loaded with fantastic restaurants, taquerias, and a whole slew of funky bars that stayed open way after midnight. The crowd was mixed, cool, and very fit looking. Surfers usually are.
I love this place. The tiny shopping streets that stray off of the beach, the groovy restaurants, the mix of locals, old hippies, and newcomers. The beach had a freer feel to it.
If the beach was a spectacular white coral sand beach like the one in Cancun, it would have been ruined years ago with high-rises and packaged tours. This place never got there. A fiercely strong local citizenry protected it and the beach was funky enough to not pull the developers in. One of my favorite shops in Sayulita is Révolucion del Sueño which does an incredible trade with Zapata t-shirts made from beautiful soft cotton. My only tip to travelers who discover this place, don’t tell too many people.