A few weeks ago Erik and I went on our first international micro trip. It went really well. I'm calling it a micro trip because it was only 6 days long in a foreign country which is so. much. shorter. than the international trips we are used to. I wanted to see what it would be like to get out there into a different culture without totally losing touch with our normal life. Six days seemed short enough that people wouldn't even notice we were gone.
I hopped on Kayak.com and started looking for the least expensive, direct flight to a warm water destination. Without a direct flight, we would be spending about 12 hours traveling each way and that simply would not do for such a quick trip. After searching Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Cabo San Lucas and more, I discovered $350 direct round trip flights from SFO to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. - the jumping off point for a little surf town called Sayulita, one that I had been hearing about for years.
The basic trip layout was to fly into Puerto Vallarta Tuesday - arrive at about 3pm. Take the 50 minute $2 bus to Sayulita from the Airport. Spend 3 nights in Sayulita surfing and exploring. Then head inland 4 hours to Guadalajara, Mexico's 2nd largest city, for 2 nights before heading back to Puerto Vallarta to fly out on Sunday at 2pm. I booked our accommodations ahead of time (scary!) and the only travel variable we left was whether we would take bus or car for our 4 hour ride.
The bus ride to Sayulita was easy and even delightful. The route is only 38 miles but the big hill through the jungle can cause a slow down if any MAC trucks are on the road. And I believe there are always MAC trucks on this roadFor this reason it made more sense to take the bus for $2, instead of a taxi for about $40. Taxi's weren't going to save us much time. Plus, with a taxi we would have missed the venders getting on and off the bus selling everything from potato chips to socks.
We arrived in Sayulita and walked directly through town to our hotel, the Hotel Buena Onda, or Sayulita Surf Hotel, about 12 minutes from the bus station. Our room was beautiful! It was a private palapa, situated behind and above the rest of the b&b. The tall thatched roof made the room deliciously cool and the Mexican tile details in the bathroom were gorgeous. It had ample room to hang things and generally came equipped with everything that we needed. It was on the south side of town, about 3 block from the main plaza and an easy 20 minute walk to one of the smaller beaches, Playa Muertos. It was wonderful to wake up in this room and it cost $65/night. The only downfall was that it was not right on the beach. Being that we went to Sayulita for the surf, it would have made a huge difference to stay on the water. Luckily, we found the perfect accommodation for our next visit - The Sayulita Trailer Park and Bungalows.
Sayulita Trailer Park and Bungalows
This was actually the first spot that I found in my research, and it looked perfect, but then after more research I got mixed up on whether it was too far north or what. It turns out that it is right in front of the lefthand wave that we surfed everyday. It backs up to a very cute, but a bit less busy part of town. Town is tiny - it is about a 7 minute walk by beach or by cute streets to the central square. This north side is full of cafes and shops, has a few less bars. The Trailer park has myriad different accommodations, from camping in a grassy lawn, to little apartments to freestanding bungalows. The owners are a Mexican and German pair who have built the park slowly, each place having its own feel. Accommodations started here at $45/night depending on the season, and it really seemed to have everything that we wanted. When we go back, we can't wait to stay here!
There are many places renting boards in town. The main beach, which is flooded with visitors has a few rental shacks, but they were mostly slinging foam tops. We continued down the beach toward what we thought looked like a left (it was!!) and just before we got there found a much more beat up looking palapa with a rack of glass boards. All were beat up, but nothing that we weren't used to! Fernando was working the palapa all week and he rented us boards by the hour for 50 pesos, or abotu $3.50 US, a piece. It would have cost 200 pesos for 24 hours, which still only comes out to $12.5US and he had a good selection of long and short boards.
We had such a great time on that left! The water was warm, even on our last evening with a bit of wind, bikini or trunks was perfectly comfortable. The left felt like something of a machine and we found the locals really friendly. Potentially so because we are respectful surfers who wait our turn and then charge when it finally comes, but it was a pleasant situation for sure.
Other beaches and Nightlife
The nightlife in Sayulita is kind of off the chain. There seemed to be endless bars, and cafes and multiple nightclubs. Our first night there we went on a bar/boutique crawl to try and find the best spots. I popped into boutiques while Erik found a bar nearby to meet me at. We found a small outdoor bar, covered in kitch with swings for seats; we found a dark, intimate Mediterranean bar, with candle light and hushed conversation; we found rooftop bars and our favorite, Cava, a very small bar with entrance in the front and back, which served a selection of local Mezcals. Erik asked for two shots, one of the hardest and one of the easiest to drink. I found them both very strong and hard to drink - but they did have different flavor profiles. And truly, what this bar was going for was making these mezcals taste magical in their mixed drinks.
So the first day, we arrived, dropped our bags, walked down to the beach, spotted the left, walked to the left, watched the left, decided to surf, found Fernando and rented boards for an hour. Then we went out and had our pubcrawl.
We were noticeably a little bit slower moving. We had a wonderful nights sleep in our palapa and then eventually got out of bed and went into town in search of a good cup of coffee. As soon as we reached town, we ran into a fresh juice cart. I started with a green juice and Erik with carrot and orange. We went to Choco Banana, a popular restaurant on the corner of the square. We got 2 great cups of coffee and then the waiter didn't bother to bring us our change, i guess assuming we were gearing to give him a 50% tip on two coffees. We handled that, having already asked a previous bartender what normal tip rate is down there (10-15%). Of course we can always tip more! Erik and myself being in the food and beverage industry, we often do. But, come one, give us the chance to make the decision ourselves! Needless to say Sayulita is covered in tourists. Not a terribly easy place to practice spanish because there is no novelty to the locals of our gringo-ness, and everyone speaks english.
So we had our juice and coffee, stopped in a few shops and then went to check out that left again. Guess what? It was firing. We rented boards for another hour and took to the waves. It was epic. Many waves were caught, some very long ones and there was a friendly photographer in the water who snapped a great pic of Erik. Damn if that bearded man doesn't have style!
We returned out boards and set off to the north toward a deserted beach called Malpaso. We walked north through the neighborhoods until the road with big, newly built houses, turned into a fire road and then into a winding trail through the jungle. There were zigs and zags, some of which we took , some of which we passed, until we found some old stairs which led us down to a huge, expansive beach with wild crashing waves. No skinny dipping for us! It was secluded and wide, but the way that the ocean was jacking up and whomping down did not look enticing to wade in. I took a nap and Erik walked down to the end of the beach. Beach naps - one of the little joys in life.
We returned from MalPaso on a trail that looked out over the ocean the whole time and then landed on the very north tip of the main beach where we had been surfing. There were a few people camped there. This beach is huge, the northern part probably doesn't get bothered too much.
We jumped in the calmer, though still whomping waters of main beach and cooled off from our walk. It was about 5pm now, so we commenced a margarita tour of Sayulita. Looking to find the best one in town. The best one we found was surprisingly the first one we drank. It was on the beach where the waiter comes out to your chair. On the north side. We tried a margarita in front of our favorite wave at a reggae place called Camarones. The wave was firing, the best we had seen it. No boards, no surf. We continued in to town and had a margarita with chile salt on the rim, a great touch but the still not as good as that first drink.
The next morning was even slower than the previous and we set out south from our place to find Playa Muertos. There was supposed to be snorkeling there, but the visibility was very low. The walk over windy dirt roads to get to the beach was very calming and somewhat of a highlight. We spent some time at the beach swimming in the calm waters and then bought some meat on a stick which was delicious! On our way out we walked through the cemetery which gives this beach its name. It was beautiful and spread out over a hill, sandwiched between jungle and road. Very tranquil. We popped out of the trail to a lovely view of Sayulita to from the South, took some photos and made our way home to drop off the snorkels.
We spent our last day in Sayulita still in search of a good local made item to purchase from a boutique, and looking for street food. We spent some time figuring out whether to take the bus or rent a car and after speaking with our hosts, decided on the bus. I found a pair of awesome leather booties made in Mexico, and Erik told me that if I bought them then he would buy a pair of boots too. We ate some street tacos and then went to the beach to find our wave pretty messed up by the wind, but empty. We decided to go out an surf anyway, because it was our last chance at warm water, and anyway, the wave was empty so we were sure to catch something. And we did! It was a super fun session, very bumpy and sloppy, but it cleaned up towards the end, and a bunch of locals came out. If you ever see a wave you know to be a machine empty, go surfing.
After the surf, we felt full and satisfied. We made plans to have dinner with some friends that we had made and met them at a bbq place an hour later. We ordered massive amounts of meat and after eating my share, I started to feel not quite right. Faint, but as if it was coming from my stomach. Erik took me home, made sure I was alright and then I sent him back out into the night. I spent the night with an old friend I'd met only one time before - food poisoning. What a lovely 12 hours getting that out of my system in our lovely palapa with private bathroom before our 7am wake up to get on a 4 hour bus to Guadalajara!
Up next: To Guadalajara!
Sayulita Short List
- Sayulita Trailer Park and Bungalows
- Cava Bar
- Board Rental just north of rivermouth on beach
- Coffee at ChocoBanana
Did you make it this far? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!!