As a born and bred New Yorker, I still haven’t gotten used to the arctic chill that descends upon the city each year. When the birds migrate, so do I, looking for eclectic experiences and sunshine, meeting others along the way that share this philosophy and have built a whole lifestyle around it—the Gypset life. A must on the wanderlust tour of the world is the beach town of Sayulita, on the West Coast of Mexico. Whether you’re there for a few days or all season, here’s what to do to feel right at home!
What To Pack
Whether you are going for a week or a month, believe it or not, you can fit everything you will need for a trip to Sayulita in a carry-on luggage bag and a purse. This once sleepy fishing village is a stop on the backpacker trail, so you might feel a little out-of-place in heels. A lot of people even go barefoot—it’s called, “earthing!” I travel with my footwear trifecta: Soludos x We Are Handsome limited edition lace-up espadrilles, timeless Isabel Marant Dicker boots, and my perfectly worn in Havianas. “Glam” takes a more eclectic approach here—pack standard summer night staples, but leave room in your bag because this little town is a treasure trove for unique finds.
Where To Stay
Without a doubt, my favorite place to stay in town (besides with friends) is the Petit Hotel Hafa (63732 Jose Mariscal, hotelhafasayulita.com), right in the center of town, just off of the plaza. This boutique hotel is the embodiment of Gypset chic. Each room is uniquely decorated with Moroccan themed decor and heart painted walkways. There’s even complimentary tequila in the rooftop lounge overlooking Sayulita, the perfect place to laze away the evenings with the new friends you’re sure to make on your journey.
Get Blinged Out Sayulita Style
Surf towns aren’t necessarily synonymous with bling, but walk up and down the beach or through the plaza in Sayulita and you’ll see beautifully crafted jewelry from pearls, to sea glass, to Huichol tribal jewelry. Among my favorites is the Thousand Prayers beaded jewelry from Evoke (12a Jose Mariscal, evokespirit.com), a store recently opened by American Brittney Borjeson. The jewelry, like the other clothing and textiles in Evoke, are locally made. Each of the Thousand Prayers pieces are handcrafted by the women of the Huichol tribe of Nayarit and each bead is infused with a prayer.
Those flawless black pearls that you see draped down the backs of surfers and beach babes? You can find them at Pacha Mama (4B Calle Delfin, pachamama.com) right off the beach. This place is like the Gypset version of Parisian concept store Collette. From one-of-a-kind leather and pearl pieces to caftan style, hand-embroidered Mexican wedding dresses, you’ll stock up on exotic gifts for friends and then some. Ask for my friend Isis when you visit, who likes to say, “The pearl chooses you,” and will be sure to lead you to your pearl mate.
If you’re really lucky, jewelry maker, Joaquin Montoya will be in town. His custom diamond and ruby pieces will take your breath away and you can commission one with the precious stones and in the style of your choice. He was the first person I met in Sayulita, and you’ll likely find him at his favorite lunchtime ceviche spot El Jakal (Avenue Del Palmar), one of the best in town.
Depending on how long your stay is, you might want to stock up on fresh goods. If so, the Mercado is your best bet. The Mercado del Pueblo at the Casa de Cultura (Casa de Cultura) happens every Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is the only farmer’s market in Nayarit. It’s the best place to get local, organic produce from the region and it features craft and food stands from amazing local artisans and chefs with tons of vegetarian and vegan options. All proceeds from the market support the cultural center, so why not give back?
The Pulse of Sayulita: Surfing
Home of surf gods and surf gods to be—there is nothing like seeing a 5-year-old shredding through waves—it’s hard to walk a foot in Sayulita without running into an internationally recognized surfing or stand-up paddle board champion. Why not take advantage when you’re in this surf mecca, and take a lesson with the best of the best. Ask for Nacho or any of the Tigre Surf guys, or if you’re lucky, champ Fernando Stalla will be in town. You can find them right on the beach entrance off of Calle Marlin. If you’re a beach bum and don’t need a lesson, step it up Sayulita style and get a custom surf board made by local board crafting legend, Rogelio Ramos at his shop Dingbatz (Avenida Ninos Heroes). It can take about a month, so pre-order it to your design specifics and surfing capabilities, and have it waiting for you when you get to town!
Roots, Rock, Reggae
Every true Sayulite has at least one friend in one of the town’s various reggae bands. This place is bursting with creativity! In fact, noticing all of this talent, SayulitaBeach.com decided to hold the first Festival Sayulita for all lovers of Mexico, film, tequila, food, music, and surf. You can probably throw away your headphones when you get into town, since music will be all around you.
If you can’t play an instrument or sing, it’s ok to be a “band-aid.” My favorite is my friend Noble’s band, Uprooted! From checking out a new band every night at Bar Don Pato’s (12 Calle Marlin), to sharing a Mezcal tasting at Mezcalito (Calle Truco) to Monday night salsa at Don Pedros (2 Marlin, donpedros.com), there is always something to do. And if you’re up for it, dance until the sun comes up over the beach at Sayulita’s newly reopened discotheque, Zen Garden (10 Calle Martin). With an outdoor terrace overlooking the beach and international DJs in residence, this is a perfect place to end your night. A low-key glass of wine more your scene? Try Le Zouave de Hafa (55 Avenue Revolucion), an intimate wine bar with beautiful Moroccan decor, opened by the same owners as the Petite Hotel Hafa.
Have a “Yum” Moment
I didn’t realize I liked most Mexican food until I came to Sayulita. From the fresh fish ceviche on the beach, to the chile relleno offered at Sayulita Café (37 Avenue Revolucion), to the artisanal gelato at Gelateria Artigianale “La Mora” (59-A Calle Revolucion), Sayulita is packed with amazing restaurants and international cuisine.
Brunch is one of my favorite meals in this town, and the perfect excuse to see friends before the beach. One of the best places to do it is Naty’s Cocina (Avenue Revolucion). The best tacos in town (my favorite is the chicken mole), Naty’s is delicious, fast and cheap. If you’re looking for a more traditional, sit-down meal go to the famous ChocoBanana (14 Delfin). I must say, their frappe is a godsend.
The Yoga Life
Sayulites tend to be really grounded, spiritual people, and what better way to get a head start on that New Year’s resolution to center yourself than with yoga classes. Take a yoga class at Paraiso Yoga (Playa Azul, paraisoyoga.com) with Jennifer Isaacson. A Sayulita local for a few years now, Jen is one of the best teachers on the island. Maybe while you’re there, pick up some extra moves and ask her why they call her “Hip-Hop!”
The last thing that you simply must do while in Sayulita? Learn, understand, and become the embodiment of the phrase, “Sure, why not!” Sayulita is a magical place filled with pretty amazing characters with hearts as open as their spirits. When someone invites you to do something, or go somewhere, just go with it. You never know, you might end up flying in the air conga beats watching the sun set over Monkey Mountain, on a tour to the Marietta Islands, or cracking a piñata with the kids at Casa Clu.