I recently had the pleasure of travelling to Sayulita, a small surf beach in Mexico. With a plethora of small businesses that will steal your heart, this charming, eclectic, community oriented village is located just 30 minutes from Puerto Vallarta.
The people are friendly and beautiful, the food is delicious and healthy (lots of vegan options). The main surf beach was busy but not too crowded and the water was pleasantly wavy. I didn't try surfing this time but I will definitely take lessons when I go back (hopefully soon).
As a whole, the culture and town attitude is very relaxed and welcoming. I found it to be a breath of fresh air seeing how both locals and tourists seem to share, play, and work together. It’s no surprise that you’ll find small business owners and surfers from all over the world, making a life in this mini-paradise, I even met someone from my hometown Victoria B.C.
We arrived in the early afternoon, and the first place that caught my eye was Orangy Juice Bar. The smoothies there gave me life!! Everything they made was amazingly fresh and healthy and the owners (who are originally from Canada) are very kind – I was pleased to find out that we were staying only a block away... I had smoothies every day from here.
Orangy El Juice Bar
Once we got settled into our cozy room right in the heart of the village, the first thing we did was bask in the view from the rooftop patio. The buildings were brightly coloured with lots of street art, dream catchers were everywhere, and the style was fresh and simple. The general vibe and environment makes you think of old school, vintage, mixed with hippie-surfer, down to earth artists…totally chill and a colourful feast for the eyes. Local free-roaming dogs were friendly and loved keeping you company at beach. This place truly is a gem… somewhere that I could see myself living one day.
(Below) Image: Street art. Outside one of the many vibrant shops
I wasn’t expecting to see the dozens of unique stores and markets, they were filled with many hand-crafted, beautiful pieces. What I loved most about the businesses was walking into a store and seeing the artists working right in front of you. It was enjoyable and interesting to talk directly with the makers and shop owners. It was common to speak english there, so despite not knowing very much spanish it was very easy to communicate.
One of my favourite stores was called Mulalu, located directly across the street from the Airbnb we were staying at. I purchased a lovely reversible bathing suit (see image) directly from the talented young woman who makes them herself. She offered to make alterations, and took the time to show how she sews the suits. Being someone who’s been in the customer service industry for many years, I have a big appreciation for good service and being treated well. I loved coming to this store and seeing all the cool vintage items they had.
Mulalu: Below Images from https://www.instagram.com/mulalu.sayulita
Another store that I frequented was Evoke. The place we were staying at was decorated with items from here and our Airbnb host Adilene also worked there. They ran out of a couple items that my friend (who was also staying at the same place) wanted, so Adilene was was nice enough to personally bring back items from the warehouse for her.
Evoke The Spirit: Below images from https://www.instagram.com/evokethespirit/
At the beach and on the main streets, you'll also see many people walking around selling everything from food, jewellery, bags, hats, clothes and of course dream catchers. What's nice is they don't pressure you too much, but it's still hard to resist their wares.
Unlike the indoor shops, this is where you have to be prepared to haggle over the prices. For example, when you first ask the price of a blanket (one of the popular selling items) they will say 800-900 pesos, when in fact the average price is closer to 300-400 pesos. On your first day it can be hard to gauge what's reasonable or know when you're getting ripped off so I recommend waiting a couple days to do your shopping so you get a good idea of what certain items cost. It doesn't take long to learn the average prices and after asking around it becomes easy to negotiate.
If you don't have shade or an umbrella to sit under, the beach (during the summer season) can be unbearably hot. You can buy or rent an umbrella (by the hour) or what I think is a better use of money is just to purchase a fruity drink or food at one of the beach front restaurants... the perfect way to enjoy a break from the sun is with a fresh coconut or pineapple... or in my case both!
I was in VW Bug heaven! I couldn't believe how many unique vintage bugs I saw. This was one of the coolest ones, but there were many and I loved them all.
It was nice to see how well all the cats and dogs got treated. Everyone looked out for the animals and they all seems fairly happy and healthy... This little cat was quite content laying outside the ice cream store.
The people I encountered had big hearts, and open minds. Never once did I have a hard time finding vegan food to enjoy and restaurants were more than accommodating. The food was made with love and the portions were big. Below are pictures from La Esperanza, we ate here quite a few times and were never disappointed. (The pesto, avocado toast was amazing!)
My biggest take away from observing how they do business in Sayulita, is the sense of community and trust that they share. It's not uncommon to hear someone say "don't worry, you can pay me tomorrow when you see me" even with tourists whom they had just met. With a population of approximately 6,000 (and growing), it's no wonder reputation plays such an important role, trust is seen as form of currency and everyone looks out for their fellow neighbour.
They take the time to chat with you and seeing the diverse, multi-cultural business owners (many from Canada) reminded me of home.
Sayulita will always have a place in my heart now, I truly fell in love with the culture and I'm already counting down the days to go back!
Here's an extra little story about a Sayulita Gecko that taught me an important lesson... to always finish my drink :P
The Drunken Gecko
Found this little guy chilling in my left over vodka mango juice one morning, must have been stuck in there overnight. At first I thought "aww so cute I should take a picture before he runs away"... And then I noticed he wasn't moving at all.
I poured out the juice and he looked 100% dead :'( I was very sad. I sat, looking at the motionless little body, wondering what to do...
Then he opened his mouth and started breathing!! :D
I rinsed him off in water and after a few seconds he was running up the wall... Was probably a little tipsy from the vodka though haha.
Happy ending for the drunken gecko.