Wanderlusting through Sayulita

Say Its Name

Dear Sayulita, Your name is sing-song-y. Even has a happy-go-lucky ring to it. Say-u-lee-ta.

Sure, it’s  a dreamland with bottomless tacos and tequila, friendly locals, consistent surf, and adorable pups perusing the streets, but that could describe many places along the Mexican coastline. Sayulita is special.  There are few communities with such a high concentration of charm per square foot. A long weekend might be just enough to discover the small details that make Sayulita so unique.

sayulita mexico

I can’t speak for you, but I prefer waking up to the sound of roosters and the soft meows from Salem, Hotel Hafa’s resident furball, to the nauseating “radar” iPhone ring tone that catapults me into the busy stream of New York life most mornings. But not for the next few days. The next three days I will spend at the bohemian-chic Moroccan oasis that is Hotel Hafa while enjoying the laid-back vibes of Sayulita, surfing and eating until the Venn diagram of those two things crosses in terrible ways that I won’t describe here. Sayulita is blessed with consistent waves for every level of surfer. For the intermediate and advanced surfers, there’s Punta Mita, El Faro, La Lancha and San Pancho. For the beginners, an ideal set up of small and gentle rolling waves over a sandy bottom with surf schools and board rentals aplenty on the main beach.

The next three days I will spend surfing and eating until the Venn diagram of those two things crosses in terrible ways that I won’t describe here.

Now, in theory, I may have taken enough surf lessons to open my school (very much in theory). Trust me when I say the best I’ve ever taken were in Sayulita. In fact, if Sayulita were in the worst place on earth—imagine maybe Penn Station at rush hour with the intersection of the 405 and the 101 crisscrossing the middle of it—I would still go back just to get another lesson from Kalle at I Love Waves. I learned more in an hour with Kalle then I have in the two-ish years I have been trying unsuccessfully to get better at standing on a board while being propelled by waves. But the school is not at the insection of Hades and oblivion, is it? It’s in one of the more welcoming little spots you are likely to find up and down a magical coast. That said, Sayulita’s waves are far from a secret, and you can count on a decently crowded lineup toward the north end reef break and a mosh pit of beginners toward the south as the day progresses.

For everyone’s safety, I preferred early morning surf lessons and escaped to Hotel Hafa’s cozy rooftop terrace outfitted with hammocks and an exceptionally comfortable couch to doze the heat of the afternoons away. When I wasn’t in an après-surf-slash-après-taco induced slumber siesta, I popped in and out of the colorful boutiques and cafes that line the tiny town. I began to notice a prominent theme among the locals. I don’t know what’s in the water in Sayulita, but everyone is attractive. Maybe it’s the fresh organic food, or the surf-before-work mentality—regardless, everyone seems to be glowing and it’s not just their year-round suntans.

I didn’t quite get to that bronze Coppertone myself. While I might have left in a divine red-tinged burn, with a bloated gut from copious amounts of tacos and large dark circles around my eyes from at least two too many margaritas, everyone else is radiant—beautiful inside and out.

Salem in his natural habitat.

Sayulita’s unique and friendly melting pot of like-minded individuals are bound together by a desire for a simpler, slower life with an emphasis on culture, art and most often surfing. With a large community of eclectic and worldly expats who stumbled upon this sunny little slice of paradise and never left, I encourage anyone out for a gander in Sayulita to stop into the stores, bars, coffee shops and restaurants and ask the locals about their journey. Everyone has a different story about how they arrived and more importantly why they stayed. From distressed divorcees, pro surfers, nomadic hippies, Canadian artisans, burned out New Yorkers, and European Wanderlusters, there’s a story behind every shop’s door and every bar’s counter. Maybe you’ll also daydream about never leaving.

Everyone has a different story about how they arrived and more importantly why they stayed.

If you don’t go wandering through town for the amazing stories, then go for the incredible food and fabulous shopping. I still dream of the fish tacos from Mary’s and the al pastor tacos from Tacos el Ivan. If by some extremely rare, undeniably strange, remarkably unforeseen chance you get tacoed out, Sayulita has some other fantastic options like healthy smoothie and quinoa bowls from La Esperanza, pub food at Sayulita Public House or pizza at La Rustica.

As for the shopping, don’t forget to bring your wallet and maybe an extra bag, you won’t be going home empty-handed. Sayulita’s artists and creators have mastered the ability to put a modern twist on traditional Mexican techniques and art and the results are simply beautiful. You might fill up that extra bag at former Northeasterner Brittney Borjeson’s Evoke the Spirit, a collection of authentic textiles, ceramics, jewelry and her famously intricate cow skulls that have been designed and created in collaboration with local artisans. The best selection of Sayulita’s notorious pom-poms and some untacky souvenirs for your mom can be found at Revolucion del Sueno. Meanwhile, if you happen to blow a swimsuit strap or lose your bikini bottoms surfing, head to Quiverito surf shop (not that I would know anything about that…).

Hotel Hafa Sayulita

Sayulita’s mellow daytime scene of surfers and sunchair-loungers ripens into a vibrant block party by nightfall. As the town square fills with hungry tourists and thirsty locals, the charming open-door bars and restaurants along the streets mesh together into one colossal buzz. I quickly became a fan of Hotel Hafa’s whimsical Bar Le Zouave where the blood orange mezcal margarita seemed to get better and better each night I sipped on it while observing Sayulita’s young and beautiful spilling into the streets to mingle. As the night progressed, I was taken by the dichotomy of frenzied tourists and Havaianas-clad locals who seemed completely indifferent to the intoxicated loafered bachelor and high-heeled bachelorette parties stumbling through the cobblestone streets around them. Later, you can retreat back to your refuge, Hotel Hafa’s rooftop terrace, this time for a nightcap of the “best tequila in town” under candlelight and in a particularly lucky case, a full moon.

Yes, Sayulita has great waves, food, shopping and booze. However, the true allure of Sayulita lies in the charismatic people, colorful architecture, authentic heritage and an effervescence that pulses through the barriers of its laid-back serenity.

Dear Sayulita, never ever change.

Do: While we’re on the subject of Kalle Carranza, you should absolutely take a lesson with him at Lunazul Surf School if you’re looking to learn (or rent your board there if you haven’t lugged one).