When you need to hit the reset button, nothing recharges like Mexico. They’re packing them in like happy sardines along the Riviera Maya on the Caribbean side, so we set our sights on quieter Pacific shores. Specifically, the beautiful small town of Sayulita on the emerging Riviera Nayarit, an hour north of Puerto Vallarta.
Surf, swim, remote beach. Taco stand and mango popsicles. Repeat.
See how easy life can be?
Sayulita is all about the waves. Seriously: Shops that don’t sell beer sell surf gear. Three long breaks vary in intensity from beginner to extreme, guaranteeing a sweet spot for everyone. Beginners should head to Surf and Roll inside the Surfing Sayulita shop to arrange lessons with Cielo Godoy, Mexico’s third-place America’s Cup winner. She’ll have anyone up in no time. Advanced boarders can join her locals-only day trips to the best surf spots out of town.
If you prefer water sports of lounge-on-the-beach intensity, walk ten minutes around the bay, past upscale Villa Amor, and uphill past the cemetery to Playa de los Muertos. Ten more minutes — beyond the cemetery, up the dirt road, through the jungle — gets you to Carrizitos. (Look, if you want taxis, go to Miami.) Both pristine beaches are secluded from the surf breaks, with powdery sand and exceptional snorkeling. No concessions, no merchants peddling bracelets, just local families picnicking on the weekends — and the whole place to yourself during the week.
Escape the bustle of the town (such as it exists) at Luna 4, a thatched-roof cabana at Playa Escondida where the bed is comfy, the shower is outdoors, and the balcony overlooks the ocean. The resort has a private beach, daily yoga classes, hammocks, fresh margaritas, and a chef who used to work at NYC’s Tavern on the Green. If you want a group villa beach experience, go to Sayulita Bacabes.
Town square Sayulita Plaza brims with restaurants, but we kept the diet simple: tacos, coffee, fruit smoothies, and popsicles. Forty pesos gets you four amazing lamb and pork tacos at the cart on the east side of the plaza. El Espresso on the south plaza is the go-to for strong lattes, cappuccinos, and wireless, but hit Chocobanana on the north plaza for the frozen mochaccino. Paletas on Avenida Revolucion makes fresh melon, lime, mango, and chile popsicles — just try not to eat six every day. The best fresh-fruit smoothies (papaya, guava, watermelon) are made right on the beach at the natural foods store near Pazport Surf School.
If you want to bring Mexicana home, hit the tented Sunday market on the plaza for vibrant patterned totes, sandals, beach mats, and jewelry. Pick up the local beach kit — a hand-embroidered cover-up and a wide-brimmed sun hat — at one of the many shops lining the square.
WHEN TO GO
Sayulita gets crowded in December and January, but come spring and summer, the deals are better, and the tourists are elsewhere. The waves are at their best in the winter high season. Yeah, you’ll battle for ocean real estate with every surf hippie from the West Coast.
But it’s a sacrifice you won’t even notice.
Wish you were there right now?
Instead of at your desk?
Start with a photo tour.
Photos: Courtesy of Maggie Morris (2); Courtesy of Playa Escondida; Eliel / Flickr; Chantal m / Flickr