I know, I know ... everyone's sick to death of me yammering on about our recent trip to Sayulita, Nayarit Mexico. Bear with me as I share a few more thoughts post-trip.
I've traveled to quite a few towns in Mexico (and Andi's visited even more places than I have), and there were several things that stood out to us about Sayulita:
1. Pesos: Get some. One thing that's never been an issue while traveling in Mexican towns like Cancun, Cozumel and Ixtapa is using the US Dollar. In fact, many locals working in the service industry prefer the US Dollar because they can often find a better exchange rate. Our family traveled to Cabo San Lucas last year and many businesses accepted credit cards with the option of either paying in US Dollars or Pesos. This made paying for food and merchandise while traveling incredibly easy.
We assumed Sayulita would follow suit and traveled with US Dollars and credit cards, only to find out later that businesses in town mostly accept Pesos. It makes sense since we were in Mexico, but it's just different than our experiences in other (bigger) touristy towns. Sayulita doesn't have a bank in town, and the nearest one is half-way to Puerto Vallarta, about 20 minutes away. There were several stand-alone ATMs available that disperse Pesos in small increments. ATM transaction fees were fairly high and the exchange rate varied by machine, so this method wasn't the most cost-effective option for obtaining cash. There was never a time we were completely out of money during our trip, but it did force Andi to hit up ATMs constantly to build up enough Pesos on hand. Bottom line: convert US Dollars to Pesos before arriving to Sayulita.
2. Book transportation ahead of time: Transportation from the Puerto Vallarta airport to our condo in Sayulita was easy, thanks in large part to Andi who pre-arranged a private suburban for our family. A clean, cool (A/C) and spacious SUV was waiting for us at the airport with cold beers, bottled water and apple juice at the ready. We used Amanecer Suburban Transport (Contact: Lucio; firstname.lastname@example.org) $140 cash round-trip. The suburban company had car seats available for use, but we traveled with our own for the kids.
Andi also reserved a golf cart to use during our week in Sayulita, and it made our vacation much more enjoyable -- especially with kids. Roads in town are narrow and parking is limited, so moving around town in anything bigger than a golf cart (i.e.: a standard-size vehicle) would be a pain. But, parking the golf cart was easy, and made commuting to restaurants and the beach a breeze. One of our family's favorite activities to do in the evenings was drive around on the golf cart and people-watch around town. So much fun! Reserve in advance as rentals go quick. (Contact: email@example.com) $40/day cash.
3. Rent (don't bring) baby gear: Andi also reserved a high chair and pack-n-play for Aden directly through our condo. The items were waiting for us in our unit when we arrived, so we didn't have to worry about picking up and returning them. There are several baby gear rental companies in Sayulita which offer a variety of baby items including strollers, pack-n-plays, cribs, toys, etc. We brought our own stroller, but hardly used it since we had the golf cart for transport around town. Next time, I'd leave the stroller at home.
4. Stay on the North Side: We rented a two-bedroom / two-bathroom condo unit at Los Almendros (www.losalmendrossayulita.com,) and were very pleased with our accommodations. It's located on the north side of town, which is quieter and more removed from the hustle and bustle of Sayulita's town square. We were three blocks away from beach access, and even the beach was quieter on the north side of town. It was perfect for our family.
5. Rent (or buy) beach gear: One of the things we loved about Sayulita was the chill atmosphere on the beach. There aren't any big hotels in town with roped-off sections of lounge chairs and cabanas; it's more of a self-service vibe. People bring their own towels and umbrellas to the beach, and set up anywhere on the sand. Fortunately, our condo had a beach umbrella and towels we used during our stay.
There weren't as many peddlers selling food and merchandise as we'd experienced in other parts of Mexico either. There were still a few ... but overall, it was nice not to encounter pushy salespeople wherever we went.
6. Dinner made easy: One of the highlights of our trip was hiring Mexican-natives Pancho and Beatrice to cook for us during our vacation. Hiring private cooks wasn't as expensive as you'd think! Andi met with Pancho on our first day in Sayulita to determine a meal plan for the week, then Pancho and Beatrice shopped for ingredients, prepared four different dinners for our family, and cleaned up after each meal. We paid $40 per adult / per meal which included the cost of groceries. There were leftovers after every meal which served as lunch or/ snacks for the following day, and also sufficed for several of the kids' meals. Best of all, we were able to feed the kids in the comforts of our own condo and then put them to bed or let them play nearby while we enjoyed our own meal in peace. Pancho and Beatrice also provided some interesting conversation over dinner as they shared stories with us from their life in Mexico. (Contact directly for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org)
One night during vacation, the five of us ate at La Rustica and enjoyed a not-so-relaxing dinner at a small table set up on the side of a street. Andi and I could only laugh as we literally cut food into bite-size pieces for Tory and Aden on our laps because the table wasn't large enough. We shoveled food into our mouths and got the heck out of there ... which was a shame, really, because the pizza was excellent.
There are 80+ restaurants and food stands in the small town of Sayulita, and some of them had high chairs available to use. I'm probably in the minority in needing /or caring about this, but for me it was a really big deal -- it completely defined my enjoyment of a meal. It got to the point where one of us ran into a restaurant to check their high chair availability before we'd commit to eating there. Places that offered high chairs all had the same wooden version which, if I'm being honest, were really dirty from sitting outdoors. I decided to let it go because there wasn't much I could do about it, but next time I would travel with disposable placemats to make eating more sanitary for the kids.
7. Communicating with locals: Sayulita's known as a small fishing village, but it still accommodates nicely to tourism. Almost everyone we met in the service industry (lodging, restaurants, etc.) spoke and understood English which made communication easy.
Sayulita's small-town charm has left me dreaming about our trip long after we've returned home. I normally don't like traveling to the same vacations spots more than once (so much to see! so little time!), but I'd definitely go back to Sayulita again. Until next time ...