Sayulita is a vibrant, bustling community just 25 miles north of Puerta Vallarta. What was once more of a surfing destination has now become a full blown tourist spot, much more so than I had expected, since it’s known for being off the beaten path.
Tourist destinations aren’t exactly my cup of tea, though there are certain comforts they provide. Sayulita has got independent boutiques, upscale pizzerias and trendy bars, surrounded by food trucks, taquerias, dive bars and an authentic Mexico. Walk five minutes up into the hills from the plaza and you’ll find a genuine poverty only associated with developing countries. The juxtaposition is unnerving, but I’d argue, important to acknowledge if you travel to experience authenticity.
Just two blocks from the beach and two blocks to the plaza, my boyfriend and I stayed right in the middle of it all. I spent many a sleepy-eyed morning searching for coffee, only to be bombarded by the sounds and colors of this vivacious little town. Once we made it down to the main beach, I was grateful I had done a little digging before our trip and had come up with directions for some lesser-known coastlines.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand there’s a certain allure to plopping down in a beach chair and having a hardworking local bring you Coronas all day, but frankly, it’s not my style. So for a few days we packed our trusty beach bag full of canned beer, limes, burritos, books, cameras, towels and a blanket and set out to find the most deserted beach we could.
Playa des Los Muertos
Let me start out by saying I’ve got a thing for cemeteries. Maybe it’s the 16-year-old goth kid in me, but I’m fascinated with the ritual around death, especially in other cultures. So I thought the walk to Playa des Los Muertos was as exciting as the beach itself.
Starting at the plaza, walk to the main beach. Facing the ocean, take a left and walk down the beach until you come to the fishing boats and then clamber up onto the road. Take the road right, past the posh houses and resorts until you have to take a left. You’ll see a gorgeous crypt on the hill, walk towards it, over the hill and then stay right to get to the beach.
Here you’ll find more locals, comfort in the shade for your blue-eyed boyfriend and a pretty beach that I found good for swimming, though I did have to dodge a floating condom. Eh, whatever.
If you’re looking for a little more adventure on this side of Sayulita, carry on south and try to find Playa Carricitos.
Playas Las Cuevas
Find out when low tide is and then hike down to Playa Las Cuevas and Playa Malpasos! From town, facing the beach, take a right on Av. Del Palmar, which parallels the beach. Cross the footbridge, past the field and school, past more posh houses… It’s a bit of trek, but walk until you come to the end of the road. Cross the cobblestone driveway of the last house, step over the chain and walk down into the jungle. Eventually a dirt road will join the path from the right, but stay to the left past a graffiti covered cement building. Keep left on the path and you’ll be spit out at Playa Las Cuevas.
There’s likely to be no one on this small cove of a beach. Massive rocks will surround you and it’s all really quite impressive. There’s not a lot shade here, but man is it beautiful… Though again, we need shade for old blue eyes, so we carried on to Playa Malpasos.
If you’ve gone during low tide, you can access Playa Malpasos via the cave you’ll find to the right of the cove. Ignore the crabs (I promise you they are more wary of you then you are of them) and walk through the cave. If you’ve gone during high tide, you’ll have to hike up over the cave. No biggie. Here you’ll find a massive stretch of pristine beach with likely no one around.
The water is clean and clear here, no floating condoms, but be very careful swimming as there is a strong undertow. You’ll find shade under the trees towards the hill at the foot of the beach. The beach may seem deserted, but as always, be aware of any possessions you might be attached to. We camped up under a tree and walked down to the ocean, only to come back to missing shades. (It’s not my first rodeo and that was a rookie mistake.)
Remember, whenever in nature, but especially while communing with a lesser-known beach: RESPECT THE ENVIRONMENT. Mexico is a place where many people have nothing more than their local resources. Leave nothing behind but your footprints.
- Drink a cocktail at Cava and get an education on raicilla.
- Eat at Yeikame and tip those chicks well.
- Stay at Aurinko Bungalows and say hi to Carmen for me.
- Practice your Spanish and bartering skills with the street vendors.
- Have a locally brewed beer at Palmar Trapiche.
- Cross the footbridge for kicks.
- Have fun figuring the rest out on your own!