When our good friend invited my family to her destination wedding in Sayulita, Mexico, my first instinct was to book a room at the fabulous Four Seasons Punta Mita, a mere eight miles south. We had been there before and loved it—still do. But instead, we decided to branch out from the comfy confines of that inclusive luxury resort (or the equally lovely St. Regis right next door) and try the Villa Amor right in Sayulita.
It was a smart move.
This colorful beach town was a blast and so full of personality. Rainbow-hued banners wave merrily over the main street, and shops and houses are painted in bright oranges, blues, reds, and yellows. Boho chic shops sell macrame bikinis and cool silver jewelry, and the whole place has a laid-back, artsy, hippie vibe—even the shopkeepers and bartenders go barefoot here!
Sayulita used to be a sleepy Mexican fishing village along the Pacific Coast and well off the beaten path. Then the gringo surfers discovered its warm waters and awesome waves in the '60s and '70s, and now travelers from all over are flocking to the tiny town of 4,000. Some have dubbed it “The New Tulum.” Day travelers daring to leave the hustle and bustle of Puerta Vallerta about 26 miles south can be found alongside more long-term tourists, as well as artsy expats and foreigners who wanted to go a bit off the grid and maybe open a boutique or bar. Now all the above mingle in an eclectic mix, enjoying the fish tacos, cervezas, and vivid sunsets.
Although the many nuptial activities kept us busy, we still had plenty of time for shopping, exploring, and sampling the local eateries. Here’s what I recommend:
Villa Amor: Nestled into the hillside, this beachfront hotel offers rooms with thatched roofs and spectacular ocean views, and a romantic restaurant patio overlooking the water—perfect for lazy breakfasts or sunset cocktails.
We had to climb 76 steps, past the azure blue double-layered infinity pool, to reach our suite (named The Besito Dulce or Sweet Kiss) but it was well worth it. Boasting two high-ceilinged bedrooms and bathrooms, it also had a tiled living room with panoramic ocean views. It was hard to tear ourselves away. And the food was excellent—starting with the margaritas and fresh guacamole and chips on our first day, and ending with the Mexican scrambled eggs with beans and chorizo, and mimosas on our last.
Camino a Playa los Muertos S/N, 63732 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico; Tel: 52 329 291 3010; Email: info@Villaamor.com
Sayulita has become a mecca for style hunters, with more than 45 shops all located near the main plaza. Some of the boutiques could rival those in the Hamptons or Malibu (albeit with a more rustic, authentic flair). Hint: Come armed with cash as some stores don’t accept credit cards. Here are some of my faves:
Pachamama: The epitome of hippie chic, this shop opened by French sisters Nathalie and Marie Mignot is a gypset paradise. Think pearls and shells twisted onto leather strings, romantic embroidered dresses, handmade leather bags, fringed vests, and dream catchers.
Calle Delfín 10, Centro Sayulita, 63734 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico; Tel: 52 329 291 3468
Evoke the Spirit: Evoke the Spirit is a great place for colorful objets d’art. There are decorative cow skulls adorned with yarn, woven blankets, tapestries, macramé wall hangings, Mexican pottery, and unique beaded jewelry made by local artisans, including the “Thousand Prayer Necklaces.”
Calle Jose Mariscal, Sayulita, Nay., Mexico; Tel: 52 329 291 3692
Gypsy Galeria: More affordable than some of the other shops in town, this is a good spot for trinkets to bring home to friends—religious-themed jewelry, linens, candlesticks, ceramics, day of the dead skulls and skeleton figurines, and anything with an image of famed Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo!
Calle Marlín 13, Sayulita, Nay., Mexico
Origenes David Luna: I could kick myself for not buying one of the gorgeous handcrafted leather purses here. They come in all colors, some with embossed floral designs, others with snowflake cut-outs.
Calle Martin S/N Entre Navarrete y Malecon, Centro Sayulita, Mexico; Tel: 52 133 1544 3282
There are also plenty of street vendors in town and on the beaches, selling everything from beaded bracelets, hammock swings, and sunglasses, to slices of coconut, meat on skewers, and cigars. You can haggle with them and get anywhere from 25 to 50 percent off, or even more, but don’t try this in the higher-end shops.
Don Pedros: Right on the beach, this popular two-story hang out was opened by two L.A. surfers in the early '90s and has amazing views. This is where our bride and groom held their “Day of the Dead”-costume rehearsal dinner, complete with karaoke. The shredded pork tacos were perfection, as were the fajitas.
Calle Marlin 2, Sayulita, Nay., Mexico; Tel: 52 329 291 3090
ChocoBanana: What started with selling chocolate-covered bananas out of a cooler on the beach has turned into a favorite hang-out, especially for breakfast or coffee cravings. The must-have is the smoothie made from bananas, chocolate, and coffee. (I had two while I was there!) Located right off of the main plaza, it’s also ripe for good people watching.
Av Delfín 14, Centro, 63734 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico; Tel: 52 329 291 3051
Sayulita Fish Tacos: Some say this is the best place for tacos and their shrimp ones are amzing. Plus, they have 300 types of tequila.
Calle Jose Mariscal 13, Sayulita, 63732 Bucerías, Nay., Mexico; Tel: 52 329 291 3272
Rustica: A great option for when you tire of Mexican fare—this open, airy eatery with lots of plants and candles has a cool vibe and serves up tasty wood-fired pizzas—such as “La Mexicana” with chorizo, mozzarella, onions, jalapeño, sour cream, and cilantro—late into the night. They also offer a good wine list and sometimes feature live music.
Av. Revolución 110, Sayulita, Nay., Mexico, Tel: 52 322 100 7379
Le Zouave Bar at Petit Hotel Hafa: A hideaway with a Mexico-meets-Morocco feel (this is where the lively bachelorette party was held). The hotel has a cool rooftop lounge, colorful rooms, and a cute shop—Corazon de Hafa—selling pretty jewelry and other trinkets, many with a heart motif.
Calle Revolucion No. 55, Centro, 63734 Sayulita, Nay., Mexico; Tel: 52 1 322 779 3573
Rent a golf cart for a day of fun. We had a blast tooling around town and exploring some of the dusty back roads through the jungles to hidden beaches like Playa de Los Muertos. Plus, they are easy to park. (We festooned ours with a red cloth heart and a giant pink paper flower so we could more easily distinguish it from the others on the street after a few margaritas!)
Our wedding schedule had us pretty busy, but those who have time should partake in one of many water sports offered—paddle boarding, fishing, snorkeling, sailing, scuba diving, horseback riding, and yoga retreats.