First family vacation since COVID!
I really can’t complain about lack of travel opportunities in the past three years; despite COVID, I still traveled to the Navajo Nation, took tons of bike and ski trips around Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and went to Canada for an interpreting workshop, and even snuck in a trip to Denmark and Switzerland during the three weeks in 2021 when we thought COVID was over. Yet, one thing we haven’t taken since 2019 is a family vacation, as compared to pre-COVID when we traveled a ton. With my daughter now toiling away as an engineering student on the other side of the country, it seemed like an opportune time to head back out on an adventure! We went to Sayulita, Mexico for a week over New Year’s and loved it, so I thought I’d write a trip report for anyone who might be interested.
Sayulita in a nutshell
Sayulita is a beach town on the Pacific Coast in the state of Nayarit, about an hour’s drive north of Puerto Vallarta. We’ve been to Mexico (Tulum, Oaxaca, Merida, Baja) many times but never to this area. I had heard about it from fellow Coloradans, and then got tons of great tips from a fellow translator, Jennifer Nielsen, who is originally from Colorado and now lives in the Puerto Vallarta area.
We were looking for a vacation destination with:
- nonstop flight from Denver
- no mega-resorts
- activities in addition to the beach
- reasonably priced lodging near the beach
- good food
Sayulita ticked all of the boxes, and off we went! Despite the Southwest airlines Christmas logistical debacle and a major snowstorm, our flight was even on time.
What we saw and did
We (myself and my husband, fiftysomethings; my daughter and her girlfriend, twentysomethings) rented a really nice house on AirBnB, about two blocks from the beach on Sayulita’s north side. The cool thing about Sayulita (from our point of view) is that it’s more like a real Mexican town than like a resort. The downside (again, our p.o.v.) is that the downtown would have been too loud and crowded for our taste. But the quieter north side of town suited us perfectly: it’s about a 10 minute walk from the main plaza but our house honestly felt like its own resort: surrounded by a wall and with a swimming pool and hot tub in the courtyard, and really zero noise, but easy walking distance to everything.
For the first four days, the twentysomethings mostly hung out on the beach while my husband and I went hiking in the mornings and beached in the afternoons. I had never tried booking activities through AirBnB Experiences before, and I was pleasantly surprised. I did a beach yoga class, my husband and I hiked Monkey Mountain and the jungle north of Sayulita. A true highlight was a hike and lunch at Natikari Rancho Verde, a jungle preserve right outside of Sayulita where you get to hike with donkeys (no kidding) and then eat amazing guacamole and fruit.
We then did two days of touring all together, and I would highly recommend both. We did a full day tour with Nayarit Uncovered, which was amazing. The guide picks you up in a Jeep, then you go out to breakfast at a local restaurant (we went to Maria’s in nearby San Pancho) and the guide shows you photos and videos of around six different places and activities, such as hiking, snorkeling, petroglyphs, waterfall swimming, etc. We picked petroglyphs and waterfall swimming with a stop at a fruit stand for lunch in between, and it was an incredible day! We particularly loved the waterfall (I don’t think it has a name), where we hiked into the jungle to swim in a gorgeous pool; we were the only ones there and it was truly magical!
For our second tour day all together, we did a boat trip with Ally Cat Sailing Adventures, which we also loved. The boat was a 60-foot catamaran, and you sail out to the Marietas Islands national park (whale sightings along the way!), where you first stop at a beach with some cool caves, then you snorkel (off a smaller boat that picks you up from the catamaran), then you stop in a cove where you can paddleboard, float on “lily pads” (floating mats tethered to the boat), or even dive off the boat if you want to. The boat is definitely a bit of a party atmosphere; nothing too crazy but there’s an open bar the whole day (we were offered mimosas at 8:25 AM!). Don’t do this trip if you want something very quiet and mellow, but I highly recommend it if you want something fun but safe with younger people. We scored a large couch on the boat deck and spent most of the day just lounging there and enjoying the ocean views.
Overview of the trip
I highly recommend Sayulita if you want an easy, fun trip to a place that is not a resort. I know a lot of people love the Cancun area, but we wanted something a little more low-key with things to do other than go to the beach and drink. Sayulita seems quite popular with Canadians and Mexican families, and we really liked the variety of people visiting there. The north end of the beach is pretty quiet, and in about half an hour you can hike to the uninhabited beach (Mal Paso) north of that. The town has pretty much everything you need, and most people who work in stores and restaurants speak at least some English (my daughter worked with lots of Spanish speakers in a restaurant in Colorado on a gap year so her Spanish is actually good, while the rest of us speak between zero and 10 words of Spanish and we did OK).
The food in Sayulita is also great. We ate at a number of local taco places and also bought food to cook at our AirBnB a bunch of times. Surprisingly enough, there are also two great French bakeries in Sayulita, and tons of places to buy local fruits and vegetables. We’re vegetarians and we definitely did not suffer for lack of food options. Sayulita also felt very safe, and I thought that the beach party scene was fun and safe for the twentysomethings. We had an amazing time and would definitely go back!