The other week my boyfriend and I escaped from New York for a last minute surf trip to Sayulita, Mexico. This small pueblo on the Pacific coast is set like a jewel into the landscape; homes and town cascading down green hills towards the sea, a wavy coastline of bays and coves. My calves are still feeling the many stairs we would climb up and down from the hillside house we were staying in to the beach – more often than not with a nine-foot surfboard in tow. It was just the beginning of the rainy season so the days would alternate between bright hot sun, big hulking wet clouds, thunderous rain and then sun again. It was perfect, never too much of anything. A nice reef break with a sweet, gentle wave graced the bay most days we were there, with more surf spots to explore up and down the coast. If the waves were flat, you could take a paddle-board out around the coast, watching fish glide by beneath you and head towards Playa de los Muertos, a great cove for swimming. The food around town was lovely, from fresh fish and shrimp tacos, giant burritos accompanied by all kinds of chipotle and fresh habanero hot sauces to ceviche, fresh juices and lots of cold Pacifico beer. The simple routine we got into was the perfect antithesis to New York city life: rise with the sun at seven, drink strong coffee and linger at home, go for a surf, have a big brunch, wile away the afternoon, surf again in the evening and have dinner watching the magical light finally disappear into night around nine.
There were bits of cheery pop up art all around Sayulita, from murals, to painted trees, reminders of how sweet life can be. I even found beautiful inspiring books of art and photography in the house I was staying, a gorgeous book by the fashion photographer Anne Mecke, whose work is inspired by exotic tribal cultures, and another by a photographer I was not familiar with, David Spear, whose black and white pictures of Mexican culture are quite beautiful. Because it was low season we got more of an opportunity to meet people and linger with locals. People seemed happy and life felt indeed sweet.
My favorite way to eat was to start at the fish store, pick up whatever was fresh that day – lots of mahi mahi, shrimp and red snapper – and then stop by the tortilleria for a warm steamy bag of freshly made corn tortillas. I would also grab some ripe avocados and tomatoes and lots of sweet tiny mangoes from the grocery . At home we would mash the avocado, add chopped jalapeno and a squeeze of lime juice, spread that on a couple of warm tortillas, pile on shrimp – they were so fresh and sweet – flash sautéed in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes, top it with homemade pico de gallo and a bit more lime, sit down on the terrace and eat overlooking the bay.
Early evening was a great time to watch kids playing in the sand, fishermen working on their boats and surfers getting the nicest waves of the day in the warm silky water. One of the best evenings was surfing until just before sunset, coming out of the water with a 100 wet pesos (about $7.50) between me and my boyfriend, and sitting down still dripping with water at the restaurant on the beach, El Costeno. We ordered two icy Pacificos and a shrimp cocktail, which turned out to be a huge goblet of plump cooked shrimp swimming in spicy tomato juice, accompanied by lots of tostadas, finely chopped onion, cucumber and tomato. By the time we left it was completely dark, we were dry and still in our bathing suits. Holding on to our boards we quietly wandered home the sand crunching beneath our feet.
Sayulita Short List:
Luna Azul a surf shop that offers board rental and lessons. Kalle and his team including Memo and Karen are super lovely. Great selection of boards and you would be very lucky to take a surf lesson with Kalle, an incredible surfer who was on the pro circuit for years. The Green Goddess smoothie at ChocoBanana with spinach, celery, parsley, pineapple, cactus and tofu. So good, I would suggest having one every day! Burrito Revolution for their mahi mahi burritos. El Break Café to keep an eye on the break while gobbling down a spinach tofu burrito. Panino’s for a good soy latte.
Sitting at the bar, the restaurant or a chaise at hotel Villa Amor any time of day is lovely for a different perspective on the bay and it looks like a really nice place to stay. Petit Hotel Hafa a very cool boutique hotel with a Moroccan feeling roof terrace and a fun wine bar next door. The Fish Store – I don’t know the name but it’s impossible to miss, you’ll spot the bright counter with a tiled mural of fish from the street. Unfortunately, the Mercado del Pueblo (Farmer’s Market) was not going on when we were there because it was off-season, but I hear the Friday market is fantastic and I can’t wait to catch it next time. And you must pick up some still warm tortillas from one of the tortillerias. Too many good taco spots to name, it’s fun to roam the streets and try a bunch of them.