Hang Ten in Sayulita, Mexico

Road Journals Blog—In the beach town of Sayulita, the sun sets on deeply tanned children lazily paddling in the water, occasionally catching small waves and toppling off their boards. A group of blonde moms attempts cartwheels in the sand as unattended dogs snack on the forgotten or discarded remnants of foil-wrapped food on the beach. The bath temperature water feels tropical and exotic, especially to a group of unprepared journalists attempting to wade into the warm waves without letting water splash onto their expensive cameras.


The village of Sayulita, north of Puerto Vallarta, boasts a carefree vibe. | Kristen Haney

After a whirlwind sightseeing tour with American Virgin Airlines through Puerto Vallarta, during which lollygagging and leisurely strolling were strongly and vocally discouraged, an hour to relax with a beer and watch the sunset on the beach in Sayulita feels positively luxurious.

The surfing village of Sayulita, located 25 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta in Nayarit, acts as a haven for expats from the United States, Canada, and Europe looking to escape winter and bask in the coastal town’s warm rays. The distinct carefree vibe and hippie mentality, propagated by a smattering of dreadlocks and the long “duuuude” that often accompanies the helpful tips offered by longtime transplants, is infectious.


Take a stroll along near the warm waters of the Pacific. | Kristen Haney

If you have limited time in the laidback town, grab a beer from a local corner store, snag an order of fish tacos from unassuming La Fiesta, and walk down to the beach to wade in the tepid water and watch the locals. Before leaving, stop in Revolucion del Sueno for unique graphic tees emblazoned with pop art images, embroidered cushion covers, and cotton bags featuring bright renderings of revolucionarios.

If you have a whole day to whittle away, join the locals and hit the swells. A number of local shops rent out boards for the day, and newbies looking to venture onto the waves can find lessons from one of the many surf schools that cater to English-speaking visitors. Don’t be alarmed if you’re overcome with a sudden desire to shirk your responsibilities and stay in Sayulita indefinitely. The town has a way of charming tourists into becoming residents, and if you’re not careful, you’ll be the one paddling in the water, attempting cartwheels, and advising naive visitors to “exchange your money into pesos for a better deal, man.”

This blog post was first published in February 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.