Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Fall/Winter 2006 issue.

Sayulita is a day-tripper’s dream come true. It’s just what the quixotic traveler yearns for: a picturesque fishing village on a palm-fringed curve of sand with clean waters, lush jungles and incredible beaches to explore. Dogs, chickens and children wander its cobblestone streets and the pace is slow, but there are plenty of activities if you want to do more than simply admire the dazzling ocean.

This paradise is located less than an hour from the airport, so grab a bathing suit and board the bus ($20 pesos) across from the Sheraton Hotel or at Plaza Caracol, or hire a taxi (about $300 pesos), and head north along Highway 200 just 35 kilometers (22 miles).

Sayulita’s clean ocean waters are perfect for swimming, bodysurfing, fishing and people-watching. Don’t worry about bringing equipment, as everything from lounge chairs and umbrellas to surfboards and kayaks is available for rent.

A long-time magnet for surfers, Sayulita is known for its consistent break and long, rideable waves and is a popular locale for surfing tournaments. But don’t just watch, as much fun as that is! For the novice, there are several places to take lessons, which cost about $25 USD for a two-hour session.

Around the beaches of Sayulita there are even more beaches. A short walk through a cemetery on the south side of the main beach leads to La Playa de Los Muertos, a popular beach for snorkeling with a flatter shoreline and typically calmer surf. The beach at Carricitos, a 25-minute walk farther south through the jungle, is beautiful as well.

If you’d like to be guided rather than explore on your own, try arranging a fishing excursion or, during winter, combine fishing with whale-watching. Cruise out to the government-protected Marietta Islands and snorkel at the same time. The hill above town to the south, known as “Monkey Mountain,” is perfect for horseback riding. Rent horses and a guide in the village for about $10 USD an hour and collect wild orchids as you wander.

It would be easy enough to spend an entire day on the beach, but that would be to miss the essence of this delightful place. Sayulita is, in many ways, the town that Puerto Vallarta was a few decades ago. Stroll through the charming town square, with its shady trees, or settle on a bench for a spell and watch a world that is fast disappearing. The plaza is where the action is: children come to play, vendors to sell; it’s where the taxis stop and the buses go and everyone – surfers, locals, tourists and expats – gathers.

Wander off the plaza for shopping opportunities. Besides the usual array of souvenirs, a large number in the form of surfboards, find handmade jewelry (Sol, Banannie, My Jewelry), art galleries (Arte de Sayulita, Raintree Gallery), fabulous folk art (La Hamaca, Galeria Sayulita, Gypsy Galeria) and fashion (PachaMama, Tropical Fashion, Boutique Fever). If all this is exhausting, take a break and get a massage (Eden Massage, Bliss, Riki) or take a private yoga class (Om Yoga Studio, Via Yoga, Hara Mara).

Eating is another great activity in Sayulita! Come for a special brunch at Rollie’s near the plaza or stop by Choco Banana on the plaza, also open for lunch. After breakfast, the key culinary ingredients in Sayulita kitchens are fresh fish and seafood. Many people first come to Sayulita to dine at Don Pedro’s on the main beach, but try the terrific taco stands (Sayulita Fish Tacos) in the plaza. The long-established beachfront restaurants (La Terrazola, Costeños) have been joined by others offering everything from traditional Mexican fare (Amalia’s, Café Leyza, Alas Blancas) to Chinese (Dragon Rojo), Thai (El Thai), Italian (Macondo, Gallos) and continental food with a Mexican flare (Calypso, Iguana Azul, Raintree Restaurant, Bicyclette Restaurante).

The first people to discover Sayulita’s special beauty were probably small bands of semi-nomadic Indians. Fifty years ago, it was a tiny fishing village visited by an occasional American deep-sea fisherman and 30 years ago surfers began to enjoy its idyllic beaches and waves. Sayulita has been attracting more attention as development spreads north along the cast of Nayarit state, so come spend a day while Sayulita is still off the beaten path.