Intro: Mexico, all about that ‘hustle and grind’.
Right off the plane, the guy who helps you secure a taxi, also negotiates the taxi price for you, including a cut for himself to “get a hae2mburger” later on. The taxi driver then secures a new price with you (from the cut that’s left), higher than his boss allows him to charge, to also include a cut for himself. The taxi driver takes your money, hands you his own pre-set money (less the tip he negotiated in the new price with you), has you stop at his boss’s stand (to exit the airport), you tell his boss you’re paying the pre-set price, hand his boss the money you were given by the taxi driver, and then off you FINALLY go to your destination. Easy as pie.
Walking the streets, the beaches, restaurants (WHILE you are eating), … any public place at all, the vendors are there, ready to ask anyone around if they want to buy their product, their goods, food, jewelry, you name it. Literally, even jewelry with your name ON it.
On the beaches they even hustle lawn chairs and prime seating in the sand, sometimes also paired with drinks (or even weed or other ‘accessories’) to lure your sale at a “prime location”.
“Amigos, I’ve got you right here. Almost free” …
They are working their asses off, for their family, for their life. Carrying product (and even their children) literally on their backs, and with them everywhere they go. They are always giving you a referral to another friend who can help you with something else later, even if you’re not buying their product now. Maybe you just casually mentioned to your friend that you were in search of a good snack, and now all the sudden you’re getting directions from Ricardo on how to find Maria with that “buenos tacos” stand down the street.
Even if you say “no gracias”, they will still give you their name for a product or service, just for “when you change your mind later”.
I truly respect this hardworking culture. Being here makes you really feel grateful for what you have at home, and how exactly you have it, but it also makes me extremely intrigued by a life lived another way. Of course I’m grateful for a effortless whatever-is-in-the-fridge dinner back home, but I’m also appreciative of the hustle and grind to put one on here. I’m appreciative of the stability in my life, but I’m longingly curious of “the beach is my office” free-flowing vibes here.
There is straight up business going on, all around you.
Recap: Was last week real life?
The first day is just a blur of emotions… minimal sleep, traveling out of the country, gaining 80+ degrees in one plane ride, exploring a new small city full of life, good food, and the ocean …. And then that MN Vikings football game!
We cheered, and cried, and cheered again, all from a small outdoor sports bar next to our Airbnb. There were no other Vikings fans in the bar at the time, but everyone became our comrade, rooting for us, and celebrating with us after. Afterwards, we walked the streets and people chanted with us in excitement from our victory! Not to mention, we came across the best damn street tacos you’ll ever have in your life! (No joke.) It truly was a perfect first day of escaping “reality”.
To top the night celebrations off, we also tried Mezcal, (a form of agave tequila that was the most delicious ever), at a swing bar in the middle of town square.
Yes, eventually we went to sleep, and it was in a beautiful loft with open windows to the outdoors, and star lights (on the ceiling of our real palapa roof) to lull us to sleep.
The day was bliss. Absolute Sunday-Funday! It couldn’t have been a more perfect start to a week of exploring (and eating) my way through Mexico.
Recap: Exploring Mother Nature’s Wonders
From the very start of the trip, we were hooked on finding this “Cave Beach”, known to be a hike out-of-town, but a secluded wonder you wouldn’t regret adventuring to. We heard about it through online travel videos, and did some (questionable) Google searching to provide us basic landmark directions to get there.
Through the “ritzy” part of town, through the Jurassic jungle, about 45 minute walk from the central beach we went. Further off our jungle-cliff-hike, we went to the largest secluded white sand beach yet, (and we were thinking we may have found a different beach all together) … But then there it was! A magical, frightening, hole in the rock to our left, with water rushing through it as the waves ebbed and flowed. You couldn’t see through to what was on the other side, you just had to take a chance. We watched the water level drain, hunkered down, and bolted through one by one. A rush of total exhilaration! We made it! And we couldn’t believe there wasn’t any people around in this beautiful area. What a gem!
The waves were so powerful here, scary even. Mother Nature instantly makes you realize how miniscule you really are. They crash into the rocks, ripping up the sand, and dragging it back out again. There isn’t any escaping or leisurely swimming on this part of the coast. Here you just take it all in. The sand, the salt, the sounds, the beauty! This is true tranquility.
The culture, the community, the town of Sayulita, was far more than I had even hoped it would be. We could walk everywhere we could even want to go, and we ate, and ate, and ate all the most delicious authentic food (after light research on YouTube on where to go and what to get). There was also plenty of variety in tequila everywhere!
What more could you ask for?
My advice to you: Don’t stay in a resort next time you go somewhere exotic.
Try staying right in the heart of it all! (Do your research of course, and make sure where you are going is safe enough to support your adventures.) Don’t take the easy way out, the comfortable way, staying in an “Americanized locked community”, with shitty food and fake experience. Be bold, and experience new things! You won’t regret it. It’s so exhilarating to be in another country, out of your comfort bubble, learning new things with all FIVE of your senses.
We said goodbye to this adorable pueblo, after what I feel was the best social-adventure of all we experienced in Sayulita. We were hanging out in the (outdoor) sports bar next to where we were staying, surrounded by casually drunk people our age. Everyone was chatting, chanting, and drinking, and there were sports on all the TV’s. Within time, a group of new drunk friends wandered to our table, curious to learn more about us. Eventually, they pulled up tables and chairs and joined us, for a few (many, way too many) rounds of Corona and Pacific, and we stumbled through the many languages and experiences that separated us, yet still tied us all together.
Our new friends were all French Canadians, from Quebec, on quite an interesting journey of their own. They didn’t even all know each other originally, or start this trip at the same time. Through an interesting web of connections, they were now conquering parts of lower North America together, and truly living the best life.
Moments like these, meeting people in another country, and learning about them, where they are from, and how they got to where we are now, is my absolute favorite thing about Travel. Nothing sparks my love and curiosity for life more than these experiences. We barely had one whole language in common from our group of four to theirs, and yet we connected so much that night.
Sayulita, you’ve won my heart.
Cheers. Salud. Adios. Buenos Noches. Hasta Luego. Until next time….
In case you ACTUALLY wanted tips …
Where we’re from: Minnesota, USA. Living just outside of Saint Paul, in Woodbury (and Hugo for my friends).
How we got there: We flew into Puerto Vallarta with no pre-arranged mode of transportation to Sayulita. It is about 1 hour drive to Sayulita from Puerto Vallarta airport. Once our friends arrived to meet us (traveling in from a Wedding they attended near Riviera Maya) we decided to hail a taxi out the front door of the airport. We negotiated travel to Sayulita for $60 American cash. (About 1,140 pesos)
Where we stayed: We choose to use Airbnb for our sleeping accommodations, and found ourselves right downtown, on a main passage, close to the beach, restaurants, bars, street food, night life, town square, and all in between. The street we stayed on was a main one, called Av Revolucian, and we were just west of Town Square. (If you want to connect on further details, that’s no problem, just let me know!)
If you’re staying in the ‘downtown’ area of Sayulita, you have to be accepting to the wild life that also calls this area home. Roosters, chickens, and dogs walk freely along the streets and the crowds, and you will definitely hear them in the mornings! We stayed in an apartment that had open windows to the outside, so the noises were amplified. If this isn’t your type of thing you’ll want to research options a little further out-of-town.
The rooster is the true mascot of Sayulita. Only the rooster sings the song of its people, all-night-long. …. The noises really didn’t bother me much, and each morning I was excited to get up and tackle the day anyway, but it’s definitely not for everyone. The second bedroom in our group was in a closed off space, but they could still hear the rooster songs too…
All of the animals you will find are friendly, but that doesn’t mean you want to go around smothering them with your love and attention. Oddly enough, most of the dogs have collars on them, even if it seems they are just wondering freely. Most dogs were not interested in us whatsoever (and wouldn’t even eat our offering of banana bread). I think most of the locals feed the dogs straight up raw meat, so they aren’t interested in much else you would have. Nonetheless, they are friendly, and they cohabitate the space with the locals and the tourists!
Places/things we ate: By far, the very best choice was vendor street tacos. (There were a few different ones to choose from.) The only downside was that they didn’t open until dark, and they weren’t all open every day of the week. Regardless, they were cheap, and they were incredible!
You can literally put guacamole on everything, I’m not even kidding. It’s at every meal, in some way or another, and you can always have a bowl of chips and guac as a snack. It’s fantastic! Of course I ate it literally every chance I got, and it was always my go-to snack in the afternoon, pairing nicely with a margarita (or two).
Breakfast seemed like the best meal choice here, with lots of wonderful cafe’s and menus. We mostly tried new places, and new dishes, each day, but one place we went back to again. This was also the place we went first, one morning when we were just trying to build a base, (and a man two tables over almost died!) … See side note below
[Side note: Well, okay he didn’t die, but we sort of thought he was going to die! His head just hit the table, BOOM! His wife was freaking out, patting his face furiously, shouting, and blowing air into his mouth. I literally thought this man was going to die. Staff at the restaurant were running around town looking for the “doctor”, and one person eating at another table ran and bought water with electrolytes from a nearby store. It was scary you guys! And selfishly to say, it almost ruined our breakfast. We had just ordered and it was day 1; we were worried. But then he was fine, just like that! We even saw him again a day later, walking down the street all perfectly okay with his wife. I’m happy for that guy, but I hope he figured his shit out when he got home!]
Okay so back to that cafe we went to twice, it was called “El Espresso Sayulita”, and was right on a corner of two streets, directly across from Town Square. (One of the two streets was Av Revolucian.) I strongly approve of their breakfast!
They also had a large memorial in the corner of the space, in remembrance of a local young girl. We are not sure what might have happened, but the tributes were captivating.
The best drink deal around town was to get a “beer and a bump”, a bottled cerveza that comes with a shot of tequila as a packaged deal. There were only a few bars that offered this, and at a reasonable price, but this was definitely the most cost-effective way to drink while out-and-about. Mezcal tequila was everywhere, and absolutely delicious, but only if you splurged a bit on pesos. The cheap shit, stay away from that, because it tastes like rubbing alcohol.
In case you haven’t realized it yet, we ate out the ENTIRE time. (Minus that one instance with banana bread … ) We did not go to the grocery store and stock up on items to prepare where we stayed. It definitely was something we researched and talked about doing, but then we just couldn’t help ourselves when we were there, and we wanted to eat everything we saw while walking around. It worked out, but we spent more than we (lightly) budgeted for this part of the trip. There are nearby grocery stores, but out-of-town, in another pueblo called Buscerias. You can get cheap groceries here if you stay in a place allowing for meal preparations, and if you have transportation to and from.
Here is the full list of places (from what I can pinpoint) that we ate out at:
- El Fortin: I think we got smoothies or coffee here?
- Rubin’s: Ate some sandwiches and salads here. Definitely a popular place, right on a main road stretch to the beach!
- Coffee on the Corner: Had breakfast and smoothie (juices) here. More of a walk away from town central, and in a “smelly” area, but still enjoyable [The area is apparently smelly due to a nearby sewage plant? I don’t really know. But there is also this “smelly” river you have to cross to get to this place, and that river is NOT enjoyable. We did see a child swimming in the river once though …. And there is a horse excursion that is set up on this river too …]
- Choco Banana: Had breakfast here (WONDERFUL), my friend also got a chocolate covered banana here, and we bought an entire loaf of banana bread here to bring to the beach.
- El Costeno: Only drank here, but they had the BEST bloody beers we could find. Cielo Rojo. Corona or Pacifico, mixed with clamato juice and lots of herbs/spices. Big boy mugs too!
- La Rustica: We had amazing pizza and salad here (and exotic drinks). It is probably one of the most beautiful restaurants around town, and it’s always a full dining room.
- Sayulita Cafe Casa del Chile Relleno: We had a big lavish Mexican meal here one night, with hopes of still getting street tacos later that night, but we ate so much we never made it to street tacos …
- Emiliano’s: (Across the street from above mention) We drank lots of Mezcal here …
- Oz Sayulita Hotel Boutique (It’s a restaurant too): This place was right next door to our Airbnb, but yet we never ate here. BEAUTIFUL building, but it honestly was always empty and they were giving away free tequila shots if you just follow them on Instagram …. (which of course I did … several times … and in different outfits each time, pretending I’d never heard their deal before … )
- Cocos Sport Bar: Also right next door to our Airbnb, and where we spent our first day/night, and our last night. Outdoor atmosphere. Only bar snacking food, but good drinks! Their snacks actually smelt really good, we just never needed to eat them. They even have a pool table. This place is clearly attractive for the younger crowds, and it seems fairly new!
- Mi Santa Tacos Bar: THE INFAMOUS “BEST STREET TACOS” STAND AROUND. You guys, you should be THRILLED…. I found it on the map, and can give you the name! It’s located near town square, and absolutely worth it to try! Get the PORK! It’s the scary looking red meat on the rotissere, and it’s DROOLWORTHY. I ate a total of like 10 of these things and I’m someone who is usually pretty questionable about meat…
- Maria’s Fish Tacos and Tostadas: Another great street stand, with the best chips and guacamole I had the whole time!
- The “Swing Bar” (whose name I can’t find): Right down the street from Maria’s, and this is where we first tried Mezcal, (and first got offered drugs). This place was also always busy, and the ladies that run this place seem totally rad.
Anywhere else that was food-gasmic, was a street stand, with no significant name or sign to it at all. As sketchy as that might sound to some of you, it couldn’t have been more worthwhile to us to take those changes. (And for the record, everything was fine and no one got sick.)
If I’m being COMPLETELY honest, we also went to one place that was quite shady …. (Sorry Mom!) It was one we had to walk by multiple times a day, getting to and from our Airbnb. (A bar/restaurant) It was always busy, but we found ourselves there twice late at night, and the “owners” were a bit on the “drug lord mafia” side of things, to say the least. One afternoon we also walked by and saw it all boarded up still from the night before, with someone clearly sleeping on the floor inside. This was also the day after we saw one of the “owners” stumbling around the streets late at night. Needless to stay, we were cautious here …
*WATER* … another topic worth mentioning, as it is Mexico after all. Luckily for us, our Airbnb had filtered water available for us in large jugs that we could change out when we needed more. We bought larger bottled water from convenience stores and would fill this up each day at our Airbnb and then carry it around with us, especially if we were going to the beach or on a hike. At any restaurant you will have to (and want to) pay for bottled water. Absolutely at all costs, DO NOT DRINK THE TAP WATER, (unless you’re some weirdo looking for a painful colon flush)…. You can find bottled water everywhere though, there is no shortage of that. Pair it with a nice shot of tequila and you should be set! The only downside is you’re probably not used to having to pay for clean water all the time, and you definitely will need to do that here.
I would also recommend NOT drinking the Ocean water …. Just saying!
Places/things we did: We didn’t pay for any “excursions” while we are here, we just wandered around freely and came across whatever was there. We seriously consumed most of our time in eating and drinking and wandering about … One day we walked the main beach to the end (I hiked up a small cliff), and then we stopped at a bar on the beach for drinks and snacks.
One night we walked to Playa Los Muertos, “Beach of the Dead”, just a few minutes from where we were staying. You literally walk through a beautiful graveyard, just to get to a smaller, secluded beach. You can’t help but truly admire the creative, artistic, love behind each grave. There are bold colors, and huge architectural masterpieces at each site. It was truly spiritual, and I’m happy to say I enjoyed the energy here. (NO bad or creepy vibes at all. They even had a skeleton woman sign on an area where they lead workout groups, right across from large grave structures.)
Exploring to the “Cave Beach” was by far our favorite. It was the hardest to find and the longest walk, but it was definitely the most worth it. We were fortunate that it was “winter” (January) while we were here, so it wasn’t too hot during the day. But it was still warm.
The beach was huge, there were very few people (and the ones that were there were NAKED campers literally living on the beach), the waves kept crashing, and crashing all day long, and the Sun shone bright. We packed bags and even brought along a large loaf of freshly baked banana bread to keep us company. I could have laid there comfortably all day long, it was so peaceful.
The only possible downside there was, is that the Ocean waves were definitely not something you leisurely swim around in, and I did long for that. You honestly do have to be careful here, or you will straight up get your ass kicked (or drown) by a wave. It’s powerful, and magical, AND dangerous. But it’s absolutely stunning, isn’t it?
Getting around: Walking, the easy way!
I don’t recommend having a car if you are staying downtown. The streets are narrow, crowded, and iffy. Plus you can literally walk everywhere easily! It’s just be a hassle unless you really need it.
You can easily catch a taxi anytime at town square, in the center of the city. Vans and cars wait along the edge of a small center park, with drivers dressed in white waiting on the curb for a customer. It couldn’t a more easy process!
Still need more help deciding if Sayulita is right for you? You’re in luck!
There are plenty of fun activities you can plan during your stay here… they have everything from surf lessons (as this is a surfing town after all … remember those powerful waves I talked so much about?), to whale watching excursions, to guided tours, to parasailing, to horseback riding, to shopping …. whatever you want to do in Paradise, really!
You will have no shortage of a full cultural experience here, even despite the tourism that continues to build around town. With this being a known surfing community, there are people that fly in from all over the globe to tackle waves here. We met plenty of nomads, traveling solo and exploring life, and came across large groups of people from places in Europe, especially France.
Sayulita had it all. I had honestly never heard about this place until our friends mentioned we should go here, but I’m definitely pleased that we did. It was a new one for the Mexico record books, and my first time going to Mexico without staying in a hotel or resort. But you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be back there again some day!
Check out my Instagram for more photos and highlights of my journey!
Here is a FUN website that will help ease your adventurous mind (and that I found myself looking at a lot while I was there). There are a serious of philosophical connotations that will help you distinguish if this place is right for you!
Stay tuned for … Party in P.V. [Mexico: Part 2] …. Coming soon!