In Photos: It’s All About the People

We met lots of interesting people during our two weeks in Sayulita, many of whom were expats, some of whom were tourists, others still who were long-time visitors. But we didn’t meet everyone.

Some people I only caught glimpses of. These are the characters whose stories I don’t know.

Jewellery peddler on the beach, Sayulita, Mexico

Jewellery peddler on the beach.

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family on the beach

A local family gets together for an early evening picnic on the beach.

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peddler at mercado

A peddler of fabric sacks at the mercado pauses just long enough for me to take a photo.
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mexican cowboys

Mexican cowboys trot over the depleted Arroyo.

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band at the mercado

Servers from Italian Mangia Fuoco jam at the Sunday mercado.

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Tourists? Sayulita-fied locals?

Tourists? Sayulita-fied locals? Sayulita, Mexico

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A peddler picks his steps over a small stream, Sayulita, Mexico

A peddler picks his step over a small stream.

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Let Casa Pacifica Take Your Worries Away

There’s nothing quite like a massage in the sunshine while the breeze caresses your skin and the ocean waves crash somewhere off in the distance…but that was life at Casa Pacifica.

The Casa

four post bed in the penthouse of casa pacificaCasa Pacifica is a multi-story thatched-roof house up on the hill on the outskirts of Sayulita set just above secluded Playa Carricitos in what feels like the middle of the jungle.

Hosted/owned/managed by Sharon and Mike, a couple from San Diego, it consists of a penthouse, the main suite, a bungalow, and a casita. While Sharon and Mike were living in the main suite that season, Charlie and I managed to stay in all the rest of the suites during our two week stay.

The Suites

The penthouse was first, and it took my breath away. It was immaculate and spacious, and tropical without being kitschy. It was made up of one main room inside that had a living space, a four post bed, and a bathroom area, while the kitchen and dining area (and the patio of course), were all outside. The patio got lots of sunshine and was fantastic for sunbathing or staring out at the ocean, and, like the whole house, was surrounded by jungle and so was completely private.

the outside living room of the bungalow

Because the penthouse wasn’t available for the full week, we opted to stay in their bungalow as well. Like the penthouse, it felt very lush, but was cozier without compromising space. The terrace that spanned the whole length of the bungalow made up the living and dining areas as well as the bathroom, while the room running alongside it held the bedroom and kitchen. (This is where I realized I never wanted to leave).

from the patio through the casita and out to the outside bathroom

And because the rental place we had booked for the second week of our trip looked and felt completely uninviting after the paradise we had just lived in, Sharon and Mike managed to fit us into their casita as well, a separate one room dwelling just down a couple of steps from the main house. This one room just had a bed against one wall and a sink/fridge/desk along the other and connected the 5m2 patio at the entrance of the casita to the outside shower/toilet/sink on the other side. It only really had room to walk through but since we spent most of our time on the patio anyway, we didn’t actually mind. (Oh, and this is where the massages usually take place – 100 pesos ($10US)/hr – and are reservable at the gate to the main suite).

 A Word About Our Hosts

Sharon and Mike were absolutely wonderful, helpful and extremely accommodating in their dealings with us from our first email to our last goodbye. On our first day, Sharon gave us a quick tour of what’s best in town (groceries, breakfasts, fish market), made sure we knew how to get back to the house (we got lost anyway) and even took our groceries back so that we could hang out in town for a while. Throughout the next week, they offered to drive us into town a few times, helped us with our move to the other rental, and made room for us in the casita when said rental just didn’t compare.

Keep in Mind

I will honestly never say anything bad about my experience at Café Pacifica, however, just so this isn’t a totally biased review, I will pinpoint a couple of things that might turn others off.

First, the internet was a wee bit wonky but Sharon and Mike were getting it fixed as we were there so this should be solved by now.

Second, “the walk” to and from the town is really a bit of a trek, and while I wouldn’t trade it for anything, it might not be a welcome effort to anyone who prefers to be right in town, or doesn’t feel like trekking up and down hills everyday.

Oh yeah, and then there were the scorpions…but I didn’t say that.

The penthouse patio at Casa Pacifica, Sayulita, Mexico

Casa Pacifica honestly (honestly) made our trip. With the beach and the walk and the views (and the scorpion episodes), it really made the whole thing more of an experience than just a place to sleep at night. That’s why this post is tagged “you need to do this” and not “you need to sleep here.” Definitely coming back.

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For more information, Sharon and Mike have all the details and more photos of their amazing Casa Pacifica here.

*This isn’t a paid review – I actually just really loved this place.

How to Get to Playa Escondida Barefoot

Well, Moreno and I had the grand idea of ‘going all out’ one night during our time in Sayulita, Mexico, and we kept hearing about a restaurant just outside of town (1.5 kms) called Playa Escondida (meaning ‘Hidden Beach’ – something we didn’t know until we couldn’t find it).

The restaurant was part of a private jungle-beach hideaway resort of the same name and so was only reachable via the highway by local taxis (because non-locals, or locals who weren’t taxi drivers, didn’t stand a chance). Alternatively, we were told, we could get there by following the beach just over the rocks at Playa Carricitos.

That’s when Moreno and I had the grand idea of following the beach just over the rocks at Playa Carricitos. (See map below. For story, keep reading).

directions to playa escondida

…So, when I say rocks, I mean boulders.

The flip flops went flying. Dresses got hiked, sleeves were rolled and hands got dirty. But not too dirty. Most rocks only called for simple traversing, a few required lunge-steps, but some, well, those demanded near full body scrambles. So kind of dirty.

After more traipsing than I actually recall, we made it over the boulders and arrived on the next beach. Technically, this was already the actual ‘playa’ of Playa Escondida, but you’d never know it. With no restaurant in sight, we stomped on up the hill (the beach was on a slant, you see), passed a few random lounge chairs under a brush canopy, and finally stumbled onto something of an earthy resort.

We were saved!

me & charlie at playa escondida

Looking like crazy people that have just come out of the bush (which, in a way we were), we straightened up, dusted off, put our flip flops back on, and entered the inside of the outdoor restaurant.

It was a perfect evening – us behaving like proper lady and gentleman, Playa Escondida delivering what a night going ‘all out’ should entail (bill included) – all that was left was the trek home.

Well, the flip flops went flying again, the ocean was rising. Moreno had some grand idea and blinded me with his headlamp. He’s scaling boulders; I’m falling over myself laughing. Every beach is a hidden beach when it’s pitch black outside, and now we were on the way back to ours.

Playa Escondida Restaurant

Covered completely by jungle, Playa Escondida Restaurant stood part of a “private jungle-beach hideaway” resort of the same name, with the quality, and the price, to match.

the view from the table at playa escondida

On the “inside” (it was an outdoor restaurant), a swimming pool took up most of the floor space, and only a few select tables surrounded it. Charlie and I, having wanted a night where we “went all out,” sat at one facing the water, and as sunset started, lanterns began lighting up and the mood became magical.

Our server, I can’t recall if she was a local, was overtly smiley, extremely polite and had a propensity for saying, “Welcome…” every time she left our table.

She let us know the specials, gave us suggestions, and even offered to take our photo before presenting us with a meal that was both delectable on the tongue and aesthetically pleasing.

Oh, the shrimp, the fish, the fancy drinks! Lip-licking edibles were clearly the standard but the Camarones al Pastor I can personally vouch for – drool worthy: “large ocean shrimp with a red chile guajillo and achiote sauce served on a mound of steamed rice on top of a slice of fresh pineapple”…yummmm… (see photo below).

tropical shrimp brochetteWe ordered whatever dessert our server recommended knowing she wouldn’t steer us wrong, and spent the rest of the night enjoying ourselves, the allure and intimacy of our dimly lit surroundings making us feel like we were in a world of our own.

It was a perfect evening – classy, lighthearted, romantic – and Playa Escondida delivered on everything I had come to expect from a night where I “went all out.”

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

Whale!

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.