When we were in Riviera Nayarit in 2014 we took a day trip to Sayulita to surf.  Our visit felt brief and we left much of this cute beachside town unexplored.  So when we returned to the area earlier this month, we knew we wanted to go back to Sayulita.

Exploring Sayulita

We loved walking the streets of Sayulita and soaking in all the vibrant colors, artwork, shops, and people bustling around.  Sayulita used to be a sleepy little town that has become extremely popular in recent years.  The streets, which are mostly cobblestone or dirt, are extremely narrow to the point that two cars can barely pass each other without touching.  Most of the locals ride around on motor bikes and the streets and squares are full of pedestrians.

The bustling streets of Sayulita
The bustling streets of Sayulita

Sayulita street art
Sayulita street art

Where We Ate

There is no shortage of restaurants to choose from in Sayulita.  We opted for Don Pedro’s Restaurant & Bar which overlooks the beach.  After we sat down, we realized we were sitting at the exact same table in the same restaurant we ate at the last time we were in Sayulita 3 years ago.  I guess we know what we like!  The menu was varied and included traditional Mexican dishes as well as a good ol’ American hamburger.

The view of Sayulita Beach from our table at Don Pedro's Restaurant & Bar
The view of Sayulita Beach from our table at Don Pedro’s Restaurant & Bar

I was on a mission to try the paletas (traditional Mexican popsicles) from WaKika.   In fact, we stopped by a different location both days we were there – just checking for consistency.  The kids opted for regular ice cream, but I was a big fan of the paletas.  They have cream based flavors like blackberry cheesecake (recommended by our server) and mint chip – both were delicious! – and also lighter fruit based options.

Ice cream & paletas (traditional Mexican posicles)
Ice cream & paletas (traditional Mexican posicles)

Where We Shopped

We spent some time wandering the streets, stopping in shops, and admiring the work of local artisans.  We loved the colorful animals – it was so hard for the kids to each choose only one!

Couldn't pass up these adorable stuffies
Couldn’t pass up these adorable toys

We also walked away with some colorful pompom strands which are a traditional Huichol adornment.  The Huichol people are an indigenous tribe to Mexico.

Shopping the colorful street market in Sayulita
Shopping the colorful street market

Besides the street vendors, we also loved the dreamy shop Evoke the Spirit where we watched an artist working on a skull “painting” – applying hot wax to a cow skull and then pressing on yarn in amazing intricate designs.  The shop also has macrame and pompom workshops which would have been fun had we known about it ahead of time.  There is a main shop on the road leading into town as well as a smaller popup shop closer to the beach (next to WaKika).

Also worth a stop is light and bright Revolucion del Sueno with graphic art pieces, pillow covers, pompoms, blankets, towels, and other fun pieces.  We walked away with colorful pompom strands and thin lightweight beach blankets.

Surfing

The beach in Sayulita is expansive and the breaks are perfect for beginning surfers.  Our kids took their first surfing lessons here in 2014 and since then have become fairly comfortable on the waves.  We signed the kids up in advance for lessons with Wildmex which has a 1:4 teacher to student ratio.  The other people in our group didn’t show up for the lesson so the kids & Mike had two instructors between the four of them.  They had a quick dry land refresher lesson and then about 90 minutes in the water.  The last time we did lessons with Lunazul Surf School – we just showed up and got lessons on the spot, but it was also low season so probably best to book a lesson if you know you’re going to go.  Both companies were great and I would recommend both.  Lunazul is closer to the actual surfing spot so it cuts down on about 5 minutes walking with a surfboard, but otherwise I’d say they are fairly equal.

Surfing in Sayulita
Surfing in Sayulita
Heading out to catch another wave
Heading out to catch another wave
Racing each other to shore
Racing each other to shore
Lots of activity on the beach in Sayulita
Lots of activity on the beach in Sayulita
A picturesque spot for surfing
A picturesque spot for surfing

They tried hard to all get up at the same time.  I love their instructor in the background cheering for them!

Surfing Trifecta!
Surfing Trifecta!

Zip Line at Rancho Mi Chaparrita

Our daughter’s 11th birthday fell during our trip and she requested to go zip lining & horseback riding on her big day.  We found Rancho Mi Chaparrita just 5 minutes outside of Sayulita which offered those activities plus ATV, sport fishing, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, and snorkeling.

This tour had 13 lines and takes approximately two hours.  We flew through the course (literally) and were done in an hour.  Besides the guides, there were only 3 other people on the tour with us and sometimes they have up to 30 so there was no waiting around.  Once we got to a platform they sent us off again!  We were not allowed to take cameras or phones on the tour, but they had a photographer who took pictures and we had the option to buy them at the end.

Heading out on our canopy tour at Rancho Mi Chaparrita
Heading out on our canopy tour at Rancho Mi Chaparrita

The kids love to go zip lining and it never seems to get old for them.  Each course is always unique which keeps it interesting.  This course had a couple of side-by-side lines so we could race each other!

Zip line racing!
Zip line racing!
Flying above the treetops in Sayulita
Flying above the treetops in Sayulita

We were given the option on most lines to ride upside down.  Our 13 and 11-year-old chose to do this every time – and even our 7-year-old did it by the end of the course.  To make it even more exciting the guides would spin them on request as they pushed them off the platform.

Riding the zip line upside down!
Riding the zip line upside down!
zip line sayulita
Our 7-year-old loved the course!

I rarely get my picture taken on vacation so this proves I was there!

Flying through the course in Sayulita
Flying through the course in Sayulita

The last two lines of the course had water that shot up and got us wet.  Word got out that it was our daughter’s birthday and on the last line they pulled her back out into the middle above the spraying water and sang Happy Birthday (her favorite part of the course!).  After we were done, they gave her a t-shirt, a cupcake with a candle, and sang to her again.  It was really sweet and made her day!

Our guides at Rancho Mi Chaparrita singing to the Birthday Girl!
Our guides at Rancho Mi Chaparrita singing to the Birthday Girl!

And as soon as we were done, they had a table set up for Tequila tasting.  They gave the kids a shot of “kid tequila” (agave syrup) and we learned the ins & outs of tasting tequila – kind of similar to wine tasting.  They also taught us how to drink it without burning our throat – who knew?  It gave me a new appreciation for tequila.  My favorites were two tequila liqueurs – chocolate & coffee – fabulous when mixed together!

We took a shuttle into town where we ate & shopped and then returned to Rancho Mi Chaparrita later in the day for horseback riding.  Again, we weren’t supposed to bring phones or cameras, but this time there was not a photographer.  Other people in our group did bring phones and were using them – so that’s what I get for being a rule follower.  We trekked a bit through the rainforest down to a fairly deserted beach where we hung out and they let us gallop.  It was a lot of fun, but I personally preferred the zip lining.

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