Sayulita, Mexico

The last few winters we’ve tried to head somewhere tropical to escape the Seattle rain. This year. for Meagan’s break in February, we decided to hit up Sayulita, Mexico for a week. It’s a formerly quaint but still relaxing beach town on the Pacific Coast near Puerto Vallarta. Meagan spent a week there last year for Las Olas “surf camp”, and this time, I got to go as well! It was my first time to Mexico since a Cancun trip my freshman year of college, and Cancun spring break doesn’t really count in my book as going to Mexico. So I was excited for this adventure.

Our headquarters for the week was a small resort just south of  town called Playa Escondida. The place is a little bit isolated with a 30 minute walk/hike/scramble to Sayulita town, but we quite enjoyed the relative solitude of the place compared to Sayulita itself. This was particularly true as the normal “charm” of Sayulita was a little worn thin with the large amount of construction that was going on by the beach and in the town plaza, presumably for an upcoming surf competition in March. Our room also boasted a pretty amazing oceanfront patio on which to pass the day reading, or to fall asleep to the sound of the waves at night (which amusingly some guests complained as being “too loud”!).

The general pattern to our days was: sleeping in; coffee / reading on the patio; breakfast; hanging by the beach; reading / sunbathing / margaritas; strolling to town to go surfing or simply walk the streets; après-surf margaritas / tacos / guacamole in Sayulita or back at Playa Escondida; watching the sunset; dinner; sleep. Not a bad life and one that we acclimated to quite quickly.

The weather was a little overcast for most of the week, but progressively improved throughout the trip. There was some rain on the first day, but the last few days there was generally more sun than clouds. It was a little less tropical than we had hoped, but we still got a good amount of the warmth and sun that we planned for. The staff at Playa Escondida was consistently awesome too.

Returning to reality was a a bit of a jolt, but fortunately for me there was a nice ski trip lurking around the corner…more on that later.

The Sayulita Report…

* Wednesday (2/15)

Early, early flight. Woke at 2:45am for a 5:15am flight out of Sea-tac. Connected through Phoenix and arrived at Playa Escondida mid-afternoon after an hour long van ride (cooled off with a Pacifico beer) from Puerto Vallarta. A fairly mellow day – started off the vacation with ceviche, chips/guacamole/salsa, and margaritas by the beach. Relaxing dinner in town at Sayulita Cafe – I had some sauteed shrimp that were pretty good. After dinner, bought some streetside carrot cake from a woman selling lots of pastries in the town plaza. Not bad.

* Thursday (2/16)

Lazy day, fairly cloudy with a bit of rain. Slept in, had granola and yogurt for breakfast, trying to do some damage control on the upcoming week of tequila and tacos. Hung by the beach and read for most of the day (finally making progress on Cloud Atlas), with more chips, guac, and margaritas.

Headed to town again for dinner, this time at Pizza Venezia for pizza and pasta bolognese that were both pretty tasty. They didn’t have alcohol on the menu but they said we could go to the German place across the street and bring beer/wine over from there. So we headed there for some wine and they graciously said we could pay for it after dinner. There were kids playing in the street outside next to our table, including one who was doing bicep curls with a dumbbell throughout the entire dinner. I am sure he will be strong. We finished off the night back at the German bar with some beers and tequila shots served by a boisterous older gentleman – unclear if he was the owner or a patron or whether he was of Mexican or European descent, but for sure it was an entertaining nightcap nonetheless.

* Friday (2/17)

Slept in again and barely made the 11:30 breakfast cut-off. Pecan hotcakes this time, which were pretty stellar. Meagan had a bit of a “stomach issue” so I decided to go for a run and investigate the path into town (we had previously cabbed back and forth). The first part is a beachfront rocky scramble that connects to a wooded dirt path a bit inland from the coast. The path finishes with a graveyard/beach (Playa de los Muertos) just before connecting with Sayulita town. With a few detours it made for a 4.5 mile run. Can’t believe I enjoy running now but I love the portable workout while on vacation, and it’s not a bad way to explore a new town!

When I returned Meagan was feeling better so we walked back to town and explored a bit more. We had happy hour at Miro Vino wine bar – one of Meagan’s favorite margarita hangouts from surf camp. Some nice baked calamari with tomato as well. Tempted to stay for dinner, but (shockingly) I passed up an upscale Italian for dinner in favor of a more mellow taco dinner down the street. I had been in Mexico for 48 hours sin taco, so we obviously had to fix that. The mahi-mahi / mole chicken / carne asada trio I had hit the spot. Washed it down with some Tecate.


* Saturday (2/18)

Woke up to sun, finally. Headed to town for breakfast, stopping at the famous Chocobanana. Oatmeal + coffee + bacon. Signed up for surf lessons – but advised us to come back in a few hours when the waves would be better. So we hung out on Sayulita beach for a while. With the constant litany of people hawking shrimp, beverages, oysters (?!?!), blankets, drinks, bracelets, hammocks, chips, candy, and other assorted wares, we came to appreciate the quiet and more relaxed beach atmosphere back at Playa Escondida. Oh well – it wasn’t actually bad – and I enjoyed a margarita on the beach while we waited. Surf lessons were fun – our instructor Victor was a good teacher and very enthusiastic. Coincidentally his girlfriend worked reception at Playa Escondida. On the board, I wasn’t exactly rocking it but by the end of the session, I was able to ride a few waves in on the 10′ longboard. The constant paddle, paddle, PADDLE! and fighting through the waves definitely wears on you though – surfing is a workout!

Enjoyed some low key post-surf sushi (spicy tuna roll and sesame tuna tetaki) and artfully presented margaritas at Pitaya. We’d be back for more of the same on Monday – this place was one of my favorite spots of the trip. The bartender was fun to chat with as well. Headed back to Playa Escondida, relaxed for a bit before enjoying our first dinner at the restaurant there – rocket salad + a Mexican beef tenderloin (arrachera?). Pretty delicious. Slept pretty soundly afterwards.

* Sunday (2/19)

Sunny morning again, slept in. Pecan pancakes for breakfast. Walked the path to town for some more surfing. Walked around town to check out some shops, stopping at Tacos Bicho for lunch. A little disappointing compared to the taco joint a few days ago. I think their guac had sour cream in it which I wasn’t a fan of. Went back to the surf shop to pick up some boards. Clouds rolled in as we took to the water. I was trying to catch waves a little further out  then the day before and it wasn’t happening. Might have caught one or two in the two hour session. The surf was pretty rough and just battling the waves to get out there was a bit of a workout. Craved some sushi but Pitaya was closed, so we headed to Chocobanana for some coffee and their eponymous snack/dessert. Felt a little slow and dazed and may or may not have been concussed. Got some carrot cake as well and then headed back to watch a pretty amazing sunset from the hotel bar (with margaritas). Finished off the night again with dinner at the hotel restaurant – rocket salad again + a grilled tuna. Not quite as good as the night before but still pretty tasty. Enjoyed talking Spanish extensively with our waiter Joel.

* Monday (2/20)

Last full day. Sunny again. Woke up earlier and went for a run. Post-run, made some coffee and read on the patio. Strolled down for breakfast – huevos Mexicanos and a banana muffin – the latter particularly good. Planned to go surfing but delayed a little while enjoying the sun and reading on the beach (with margaritas). Mid-afternoon strolled into town and rented boards again. Had a much better time – was more patient and the surf was a little gentler than the day before. By the end of the day I was able to somewhat consistently catch and ride a wave in the surf. On a very forgiving 11′ longboard, it’s still a long distance from being able to call myself even “proficient” at the sport but it felt like definite progress compared to the two other times I’ve tried surfing. Finished the afternoon with a trio of apres-surf spots. First up Pitaya again for a round of sushi + margaritas. Hit up the adjacent bakery for an apple muffin and carrot cake #3 (our favorite?). Then walked to the plaza to a tequila bar for some mescal (smoky!), tequila, chips/guacamole (the housemade chips were killer), and a fish taco. Cabbed it back to Playa Escondida with perhaps the happiest cab driver ever. Enjoyed another fantastic sunset, this time on our patio. Wanted a slightly more relaxing dinner but too lazy to head back to town, so we hit up the resort bar. Rocket salad (again), chile rellenos with beef, and of course margaritas made for a pretty nice final dinner for the trip, particularly with the ever-comical banter from our bartender Jorge.

 * Tuesday (2/21)

Departure day, so a little melancholy. Woke up to sun poking through the clouds. Made coffee and read on the porch. Collectively we went a little crazy at breakfast, with pecan hotcakes (I kinda liked them…), bacon, huevos Mexicanos, a muffin, smoothie, coffee, and juice. At least we wouldn’t be hungry on the plane. Soaked in the ocean with one final stroll along the beach before packing up and checking out. And then, with a van ride back to Puerto Vallarta, began the journey home.








Check out more of our pictures on Smugmug.

(I’m required to point out that a few of the images above were “borrowed” from the iPhone of noted photographer M. Dodge.)

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