Captain Pablo’s Boat Adventure

We threw our bags in the under-seat compartments, pushed the boat out onto the water and jumped in. There were eight of us in total: three friends from New York, a couple from Comox, Charlie and I, and our captain William, and we were on Captain Pablo’s boat adventure headed to the southern Islas Marietas.

Las Islas Marietas boat tour, Sayulita, Mexico

Getting to the Islands

We hadn’t gotten far out of the bay when we had our first sighting: dolphins! And not like those fake dolphins swimming in pools and jumping through hoops either, but real live ones, swooshing past our boat all slick and silver and almost invisible. We bobbed around until they were out of sight, and then continued on to Las Islas Martietas.

The Islas weren’t islands so much as dark rocky cliffs covered in bird crap. They had a large population of boobies on them which were a sight in and of themselves but it wasn’t until we rounded the bend to the snorkel spot that we understood the islands’ appeal. A ‘tunnel’ overhang opened up into a small turquoise uncovered beach about a hundred meters away.

Snorkel, Swim and Fish

Everyone except for William donned the provided snorkel masks and fins and took a dip around the boat to take in the tropical fish beneath. Charlie and I took the time to swim to the shore inside the island and sit on the beach. This, this we could get into.

As we sailed away from the group of islands, William took out a few fishing rods and set one up for himself and for a couple of the men that wanted to have a try. We drifted like this for a while, further and further from the Islas, directing the boat towards the pelicans and other birds bomb diving the fish schools, when someone yelled, “Whale!”

Captain Pablo, Sayulita, Mexico


We threw the fishing rods aside. Two humpback whales were swimming side-by-side further out towards the open ocean. They were doing half turn flips out of the water, teasing us, slapping their fins at each other. We ‘oooh’ed. We ‘aaah’ed. We laughed at our own giddiness. We waited at the edge of our benches until someone else yelled, “There!” and then we’d all scoot to the other side of the boat and stare.

We kept our distance but inched closer. About a hundred meters in front of us, one after the other the humpbacks almost fully breached out and crashed onto the water. Again. And again. And again. We all stared wide eyed, breath caught mid-throat, until one emerged, and flew…

We just saw a whale fully horizontally and out of the water. Shock.

When they were no more, William turned the boat around, and we started drifting in the general direction of home, concentrating on nothing more than lazily setting up the fishing rods again, and spotting a few jumping sting rays.

A Wave Back to Shore

When we neared the bend of the main bay, William positioned the boat to ride a wave in, telling us to hold on. It came under us, and off we went, furling towards the shore. When we got close enough, we jumped out, pulled the boat onto the shore and grabbed our bags from the under-seat compartments.

Sign up for Captain Pablo's Boat Adventures here, Sayulita, Mexico

We were all rosy cheeks, suntans and giant smiles. That was pretty much amazing. And worth it. And amazing again. We all said our thanks and our goodbyes to William and Captain Pablo who came out to greet us. One of the New Yorkers said “Gracias,” and was very pleased with their Spanish. Yes, we could all go home happy.

The Bliss that is Sayulita

Sayulita sneaks under the radar a bit – I do mean that in the ‘off the beaten track’ destination kind of way, but also in my own memory: when eleven days are washed away in bliss, Pacificos and sunshine, the experience somehow floats away into surreality.

But that’s what Sayulita is to me and to those that keep coming back: bliss.

the bay of sayulita

The little Mexican fishing-village turned bohemian surf town sits in a bay 35 kilometers north of Puerto Vallarta and is all sandy shores, dusty dirt roads, and the leggy palm trees and cartoon colored dwellings that line them.

Off in the distance, thatched roof palapas rise like temples out of the canopy of green in the surrounding hills – two worlds collide as locals tending chickens mingle with tourists renting hilltop apartments.

the town of sayulitaIn town, finger-lickin’ $0.60 tacos outside of hole-in-the wall taquerias with plastic chairs and kitschy tablecloths await, served up with various spicy sauces, margaritas larger than your face, and a consistent dose of warm local hospitality.

beach chair on main beach, sayulitaOn the main beach, white umbrellas and blue beach chairs are front row seats to surfers skimming waves, beatniks playing didgeridoos, and wealthy folk ordering no-fuss but still pretty in pink cocktails.

Off to the side, foot long lizards, white and blue fishing boats and portly tourists sprawl over the sand, while a few hundred meters off shore, whales breach, dolphins jump and stingrays fly when you’re not looking.

iguanaAnd the 4,000-some inhabitants that are lucky enough to call this place home?

A mishmash of local taqueria-running families, sarong selling peddlers, and tour organizing expats that, instead of being jarred by the tourism, intertwine fluidly with the dreadlocked backpackers, international tourists and professional surfers that flock here every year to find their bliss.peddlers, locals, surfers, tourists

Laid-back and perpetually smiling, Sayulita has something for everyone.

Don’t you want to find your bliss, too?


What you need to know:

What to leave at home: Wet suits and snorkeling gear. These are provided for by the surfing schools and fishing/snorkeling/safari sellers.

Use the extra room for: Headlamps if you’re staying anywhere outside of the four main cross streets. And a long sleeve if you get cold easily like I do. Sigh.

Getting there:

Sayulita lies 35 kilometers (20 miles) north of the Puerto Vallarta airport.

The easiest way to get there from the airport is to grab a taxi – but make sure you do so once you cross the pedestraian bridge to the other side of the street as this will cut the price in half (around 350pesos).

If you prefer to bus, cross the same pedestrian bridge over the highway and look for a sign in the windshield with Sayulita on it. Buses should come every 20 minutes and cost 25 pesos. You’ll have to get off at the Plaza Las Glorias stop, and hop on a city bus to head further north.

If you’re able to drive, head north from the airport on highway MEX 200, following signs for Tepic. At a small town called Bucerias, keep an eye out for a turnoff for Punta Mita and keep going past it. At the Pemex station a few more kilometers further, take the turnoff for Sayulita.