Discover the sun, sand and surf of Mexico's beautiful Sayulita!
July 3, 2019
by Jaime Askew
Never-ending sunshine, beautiful local people, and an endless supply of foraged mangos and coconuts. The longboarding paradise of Sayulita in the Nayarit region of Mexico offers an unforgettable experience for any lucky enough to find themselves there. My time in Sayulita was meant only to be brief. Though once I sat on my board in the stark blue water, looking back on the adorable little coastal village, I knew this wouldn’t be the case.
Waves of Sayulita
As I’ve already alluded to, surfing is without a doubt Sayulita’s biggest drawcard. Mexican and international visitors alike come to its little stretch of coastline and learn to surf on the calm beach break of Playa Sayulita. However, don’t worry, this is not to say there aren’t more advanced breaks for the regular surfers to play with. Some of Mexico’s best surfers come to Sayulita, and in particular, for longboarders, it is a much sought out spot. No matter your skill level, Sayulita’s mix of reef, point and beach breaks make for the perfect surf trip. If you’re new to the sport, the town has an abundance of surf schools that offer private or group lessons, surf trips and board rentals. Remember to tip your instructor! They’re usually very passionate about what they do, know the spots inside and out, and genuinely want to see you stoked off that first wave!
Sayulita itself has a beginners bay at the south end of the beach with small waves perfect for learning, as well as 2 main breaks further up – a left and a right on the main reef, perfect for logs on small conditions, and when a bigger swell hits is also really fun for shorties and twin fins (my personal favourite). While we’re on the topic of the reef, though it means you’ll be paddling above beautiful sea life, onto slow peeling waves, I urge you, do not put your feet down in the water! The abundance of sea urchins in the area means if you don’t keep your feet up when you fall, you’ll be dealing with some nasty spikes buried into your foot that are quite literally a pain to remove.
La Lancha, Burros and San Blas Surf Spots
Aside from the main Sayulita breaks, there are many nearby spots available for a fun surf trip. La Lancha and Burros, both around 30 mins drive from Sayulita pick up bigger swell and offer left and right breaks with the occasional barrel. Fewer crowds and a walk through the coastal jungle to get to these spots is all part of the fun. Most surf schools will offer half-day trips to these locations with boards included. Just take a stroll along the beach and you’ll find a plethora of surf school tents to choose from that can cater a trip to your desires. They will usually charge around USD 50-80pp for a trip. That being said, don’t be surprised if you see prices advertised in USD, the Mexican Peso is the currency of choice while the USD conversion is there to make these prices more relevant to tourists. If you’ve got a free day, 1hr 30mins from Sayulita lies the town of San Blas, less accustomed to international visitors and equality as beautiful. It offers beach and point breaks, oceanside restaurants, and is home to the San Blas river where you can jump on a boat and go croc spotting. The sun sets as late as 9:00 pm during the summer, meaning even after a long day trip, you can make it back to Sayulita with plenty of time to watch the dusty orange, pink and blue colours dance on the water as the sun sets behind it.
Surf culture leaks into all other facets of the town. People walk around barefoot, go to dinner with zinc still on their faces and run on what’s often referred to as ‘Mexican time’. The cobblestone streets, brightly coloured bunting-lined roads and the square in the middle of town, all provide a delightful mix of lively and relaxed vibes morning and night. During the day you can stroll the boutiques, markets and art stores, pick up fresh fruit on the side of the road and have a beer under the warm Mexican sun. If there is no swell, snorkelling and stand up paddleboarding are fantastic alternatives. It won’t be hard to say hi to plenty of fish, turtles and octopus. You could also walk north along the main beach and explore the secluded headlands and palm jungles.
When the sun sets, the town puts on its dancing shoes and the salsa bars come to life. Live music is a large presence in Sayulita, often the square in the town’s centre as well as multiple restaurants on the main street, contain live musicians all night long. Mondays and Thursdays are salsa nights, however, there are no limitations in a place like Mexico. Don Pato’s is the most well-known salsa club, with live bands and 2 floors, there is plenty of room to show off those salsa skills. If salsa isn’t your thing, electric, house, jazz, rock and reggaeton are all also on offer in venues scattered around the town. A quick stroll through the main streets and you’re bound to find something to groove to.
In Mexico, dinner is usually eaten quite late so in between bars, grab a street-side taco (or 4) for 20 pesos (around $1USD) and enjoy. Coming from a country where Mexican food is widely loved, I never truly realised what we were missing out on. They say street vendors are the most authentic you can get, and in Sayulita’s case, this couldn’t be more accurate. Make sure you try a few different roadside stalls throughout your stay in Sayulita and notice the subtle differences in family recipes. Don’t rush it either! Sit down and have your quesadilla on a plate, like the locals. May as well run on Mexican time while you’re here. Save that nasty take away styrofoam as well.
So the next time someone asks if you want to explore the little coastal paradise of Sayulita with them, say yes. You won’t regret it. If you’re looking to be truly immersed in natural beauty, surf with turtles, witness some of the most striking sunsets of your life, practise your Spanish and feel a kind of relaxed you’ve never felt before – look no further.