Months back, we met a Mexican guy from Sayulita, who described his little beachside town as the ultimate backpacker’s paradise. Along our journey, our excitement grew as more people raved about this ultra-cool resort just outside of Puerto Vallarta. However, as always in Mexico, we now found ourselves running out of time, meaning that we sadly only had one night to explore this laid-back getaway.
With a bump down to earth, we were deposited by our taxi driver from the chandeliered entrance of our engagement-treat hotel, to the bus stop outside Sam’s Place department store. Pot-holed roads made for a bone-shaker of a ride in a battered old bus, which dropped us on the side of Highway 200. The driver languidly waved his arm in the direction of a dark tropical forest, and with that, the hydraulics coughed back into action as the doors snapped closed, and the beast spluttered away. And then we were alone.
By phone light, we found a narrow clearing leading to a sandy road. Nerves taut, we shuffled down the pitch-black pathway flanked with jungle on either side, searching for signs of life. The hum of the jungle surrounded us, but maps.me reassured us that we were on track. After a few minutes, we saw some street lamps in the distance, and felt relief!
Arriving into the small town, we realised we had far too much luggage for the coolness of Sayulita; somewhere you could turn up in only a swimsuit and body glitter, and easily live out the rest of your days. Barefoot, dreadlocked men swaggered past with surfboards under one arm, as market stands bustled with life, and the hum of the beach bars carried on the coastal breeze.
Lush Hostel was unfortunately manned by a plastered “volunteer” who soured our arrival slightly. After laying into us about checking-in late, he eventually apologised when we showed him an email we had sent to his colleague. We were then plied with free beers and shots in the rooftop bar.
Around 11pm, we headed out to experience some of the life in the main streets. The vibe was a bit like a Thai island; think sandy roads, brightly coloured bunting, street vendors hushing away hungry dogs, and youths with bandannas, shiny eyes, and too many festival bracelets to count, clamouring at the window-booth of Oxxo for the cheapest spirits.
The beat of the party can be felt through the whole town, and whilst the nightlife is banging, Sayulita seems to attract all ages. As well as holiday-makers, we saw a variety of families and older couples, many who looked like they could be long-term residents, dressed in hemp, multi-colours, and worn sandals, harbouring a wistful glint in their eyes.
There were a few restaurants still open, and we had the most incredible fajitas in Casa de Chile Relleno on Avenida Revolucion – the main street in town. We wanted to try out some of the beach bars but instead settled on a few drinks in the lively town, as we had an early morning bus. We had overstayed in Puerto Vallarta, which unfortunately impacted on our time here.
A night in the unpleasant dorm over, we were up and ready to explore the streets at 6.30am. I can’t really think there are many places in the world that offer a more picturesque morning stroll.
Swinging palm trees tempted us down cobbled streets leading to the beach, and we immediately regretted not having more time to explore this gorgeous little paradise. Colourful market stalls opened up next to chic-coffee shops offering organic, gluten-free, acai berry breakfasts or gluttonous towering pancakes and avocado-toast – whatever you could want is catered for.
Tour operators have now set-up shop in this once sleepy fishing village, and we watched the ATVs and golf buggies getting their daily hose-down as middle-aged surfers in palm-roofed surf shacks waxed boards and organised life vests.
The beach is a small curved bay, lined with beach bars which offer a plethora of food options during the day, including lots of fresh seafood. The beach is great for surf, but the endless partying has taken its toll, and the sand could do with some cleaning. The luscious green headland provides a stunning backdrop to this contrasting place; both natural and artificial, sleepy and lively.
Not even having time to stop for coffee, we completed our lap of the town under stunning blue skies. Collecting our backpacks, we made our way back to Highway 200. The walk back towards the bus stop really showed the contrast between local farm life on the sandy streets, and the glowing resort.
We absolutely love this coast of Mexico, and will definitely be back to give Sayulita the justice it deserves (perhaps bringing board shorts and surf boards next time!).