This slice of Mexican paradise is filled with beautiful beaches, relaxed surfer vibe, and boho chic sensibility. This is where Mexico-meets-Malibu.
My earliest memory this beachy town dates back to the mid-90's. This was long before it was the "happening destination" and more so of a super sleepy surf town that only those in the know knew about. And, as the years have changed this place, it is still simply the perfect place to be.
It had been many moons since I sat in your golden sand, eating tacos de pescado, surrounded by the resplendent beauty of this pueblo magico.
The Mexican government just designated Sayulita one of its Pueblos Magicos, a pretty polarizing award igniting ire in some locals dreading the bus loads of day trippers from Punta Mita and Puerto Vallarta and glee in others that see ample opportunities for economic growth. But, to me, Sayulita will always have a special place in my heart.
Here's my guide on on Sayulita:
Naty’s Cocina ≫ I dream of this place when I’m in New York. You know you’re going local when you wake up and can eat a taco for breakfast, and the best place for this craving is Naty’s Cocina (only open until 2pm). My favorite is the chicken mole. Wow, my mouth is watering right now.
El Jakal ≫ This is the first place I ate in Sayulita, a must for an authentic Sayulita lunchtime experience. Staples like the coconut shrimp and ceviche tostado are a must, but be sure to ask about today’s catch. You may get to try rare surprises, like a stingray ceviche!
Estrella de Mar Mariscos ≫ This is a new family run restaurant that opened on the Northside of town that I’ve added to my list after trying their octopus ceviche. All outdoors, the menu is simple, fresh, and delicious. The perfect beach fare.
Su Casa ≫ Another newcomer to Sayulita, I found myself hanging out here nightly enjoying the fresh cocktails, live band and gorgeous staff :). And when I tried the freshly smoked ribs, it was a game changer.
Sayulita Café ≫ A small homestyle Mexican-restaurant, Sayulita Café infuses fine-dining but in a very Sayulita way. This is the kind of restaurant where they never forget a face and they’ll “make” a table in a packed house for a friend just returning into town for the winter.
Paletas La Reinita ≫ The beautiful retro style wall mural of Paletas La Reinita will catch your eye but the delicious ice pops and granitas in exotic pairings and cocktails are what will keep you coming back. Try the piña con chile or the rum, coconut and mango; and if you want a really authentic Mexican experience, try a raicilla granita!
Bar Don Pato’s ≫ Located in the center of town, right on the square, Bar Don Pato’s is perfectly positioned to be your go-to bar in Sayulita every night after dinner, with a live band playing 6 nights a week and an open mic night on Tuesdays.
Le Zouave de Hafa ≫ If a low-key glass of wine is more your scene try Le Zouave de Hafa, a wine bar opened in the last year from the same owners of the Petite Hotel Hafa and right downstairs! In line with Hafa, this intimate wine bar has gorgeous Moroccan decor and true to the Mignot family is a favorite of the expats and surfers of Sayu.
To be honest, during my recent time in Sayulita, the bars in town were packed! For a more casual option, I’ve been really into beach fires over a bottle of Clase Azul Reposado or chilling out while living to live reggae at Su Casa.
Petit Hotel Hafa ≫ The first place I stayed in Sayulita, I always visit the Hafa team when I’m in town. Founded by Christophe & Marina Mignot, this 6-room boutique hotel is the epitome of the boho-chic traveler’s dream, blending Mexican art and a Moroccan aesthetic in a gorgeous oasis right in the heart of town and just a few minutes walk from the beach.
Villa Amor ≫ A few years ago I would have said Villa Amor was a bit of a hike away, but with town ever growing, Villa Amor’s proximity to the town center seems to be growing as well! This stunning mini-resort rises out of the surrounding jungle hillsides of Sayulita overlooking the ocean with beautiful traditional Mexican palapas style architecture. Close enough but far away, this is the perfect retreat overlooking the water for a little R&R.
Airbnb ≫ Villa rentals were always a booming business in Sayulita, but with Airbnb a lot of property owners have really upped their game! I’m lucky enough to stay with friends while I’m there, but if this is your first time in Sayulita, why not stay with my friends, or at least in their Air BnBs and get a first hand insider’s experience? If Sayulita and MTV Cribs had a modern Morrocan lovechild, it would be my friend Taylor’s four bedroom beach front villa complete with a private bar, chef on request and amazing views of the surf break. Travelling a little lower key? Try my friend Isis’s jungle hideaway a little removed from town’s main drag with mango, banana, jackfruit, passion fruit trees on the property, amazing ocean views and access to a rooftop terrace that I spent many a night star gazing.
For such a small town, there is no shortage of boutiques in Sayulita with many functioning as galleries as well, displaying beautiful made in Mexico crafts and artisanal goods. My apartment in NYC is almost like a gallery itself with pieces displayed from some of my favorites. I love visiting my friends in their shops as soon as I get into town and having them walk me through their new pieces that they’ll know I’ll like. It’s a good thing I always pack light!
Pachamama ≫ This concept store, gallery, bohemian lair is a destination itself, having been featured in international mags like Elle alongside owners, Les Gazelles, the Mignot sisters. The Mignot family is tantamount to Sayulita royalty and with family spread through the Caribbean, Europe, and North Africa, they have become world-renowned as synonymous with gypsey life and style. I have yet to spend a vacation in Sayulita without buying something from Pachamama, from my Sayulita pearl – once you get there, you’ll know what I mean – to bags, dresses, and Pachamama’s well known take on the colorful embroidered Mexican wedding dress that I have hanging in my living room.
Gypsy Galeria ≫ Set up like a Mexican bazaar, do NOT enter this store unless you’re fully prepped with an extra suitcase. From handpainted Mexican tiles to revamp your kitchen or bathroom to paintings, crosses, and ceramics, this is one of my favorite places in town to shop for souvenirs for friends and family back home in NYC.
Evoke ≫ You know that cool friend, the one that has the immaculately decorated loft in earthy soothing tones, which each piece telling a travel story? Chances are, she has a piece from Evoke. With pop ups in NYC (where owner Brittney Borjeson hails from) and a new beachside outpost, Spirit, this zen shop should definitely be on your shopping trail when hitting the town. For sale you’ll find beautiful locally made clothing, textiles and jewelry, many of which are made by the Huichol tribe. What sets Evoke’s textiles apart from what you might see being sold in the town square are simply the soft, beautiful colors.
Ula Boutique ≫ Located in the center of town, the amazing jolly rancher-colored chandelier was what first drew me into Ula boutique. The only thing brighter than the neon pompoms (another Huichol artisanal trademark) is the smile of owner Paola.
The Beach ≫ Take a surf lesson, boogie board, or just lay out and people watch. Sayulita life revolves around the waves so embrace beachtime! There are some smaller, less crowded beaches in the area like Playa Escondida that are my favorites to take in the sunset and spend a great day with friends. Make friends with a local and find out about some others!
Jungle Hikes ≫≫ The terrain surrounding this beach town is breathtaking; there are points where it the jungle seems to cascade down into the beach. There are a variety of levels from the short hike from Villa Amor, which you can actually do with your sandals, to the steep hike up Nanzal Hill that gives you panoramic views of the town of Sayulita, the bay, Punta Sayulita and Monkey Mountain. Monkey Mountain is the most difficult hike in the immediate area surrounding Sayulita, averaging about 4 hours of rugged terrain. The mountain is considered sacred to the Huichol Indians and the trail winds through dense forests, ripe with wildlife from ocelots and jaguars to macaws and jays and beautiful flora and forest canopy. The view is spectacular: a 360-degree view from Bahia de Banderas to San Blas.
Sayulita Festival ≫ After a successful first year, the Festival Sayulita was back for January 2016. An International Film, Tequila, Surf & Music Festival, Festival Sayulita has already generated some buzz in Latin America.
Cumbia at El Camaron ≫ If you’ve never heard of cumbia, Sayulita is the perfect place to listen to this percussion-heavy Latin American music genre. And there is no better place to dance all night to cumbia beats than beach bar El Camaron, a local favorite.
Cover photo credit: Villa Amor