Vail Daily travel feature: A low-key Mexican escape |

Vail Daily travel feature: A low-key Mexican escape

Caitlin Row


To get to Sayulita, hop on a plane from either Grand Junction or Denver to Puerto Vallarta, take a 40-minute taxi ride and you’re there. It will take approximately six hours and a few flights from Grand Junction or about four hours of travel from Denver.

Sayulita’s population is about 5,000 residents and it’s part of the Mexican state, Nayarit.

Check out for information about the village and vacation rentals.

Editor’s note: The U.S. State Department offers travel warnings for rural areas and secondary highways in the states of Nayarit and Jalisco, Mexico (where the Puerto Vallarta airport is located). Visit for more information.

Beach life abounds in Sayulita, Mexico, including gentle surf breaks, tasty street food, a healthy ex-pat community and ocean-side vacation rentals. Located 40 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, this tiny fishing-turned-surfing village also boasts blossoming ties to Colorado, as many residents of the state flock to the area for a quieter south-of-the-border experience.

“The town was a much more authentic experience than any other place in Mexico we had been,” said Sarah Shrader, of Grand Junction, who visited Sayulita last October. “There are no resorts in Sayulita, just rental homes and small hotels, so it was less commercialized. We didn’t do any touristy things while we were there; we only surfed, ate, swam and relaxed. We snorkeled at the Marieta Islands one day, and that was fantastic.”

The Marieta Islands are a popular destination for snorkeling thanks to clear water and a variety of marine life, and they are located a few miles off the coast.

According to Shrader, Sayulita was “a perfect fit” for her family, including three boys, age 7, 10 and 12, who wanted to learn how to surf.


“We wanted a quiet, non-touristy place on the Pacific Ocean with nice waves and warm water,” Shrader said. “We looked at Todos Santos as well, but the waves there were a bit bigger and we were assuming would be more challenging for beginner surfers.”

Danny McGuckin, a veteran bartender currently pouring drinks at Beaver Creek’s Toscanini, also traveled to Sayulita during Vail’s offseason to soak up the sun.

“I chose Sayulita because I heard many good things from a lot of friends,” McGuckin, of Avon said, describing it as “a ski bum’s offseason getaway for sure.”

McGuckin, along with Chance Humphrey (also of Avon), spent two weeks exploring the village. The friends he made, as well as a cruise with Sayulita Sailing Explorations (, were vacation highlights.

“I will definitely go back someday,” he said. “I met at least a dozen people from Colorado.”


As long as you stay within the village and not on the outskirts, Sayulita bustles with activity day and night; imagine barking dogs, vrooming engines and children playfully hollering.

It also offers a welcoming, casual attitude that lends itself to relaxation (and sometimes humorous disbelief): humidity (a welcome change from dry Colorado); weirdly large insects; warm, very blue ocean water; wide-open beaches; and never-ending camaraderie among locals and travelers. Visitors will see an overabundance of street dogs begging for scraps, unfortunately. Adopt one by visiting Sayulita Animals (

Don’t miss Playa de los Muertos (literal translation is Beach of the Dead), which can be accessed through a small graveyard built into a hillside above the main beach.

According to Sayulita Life ( “Walk to the south (left when facing the sea) around the curve of Sayulita Bay past Villa Amor and follow the dirt road left up the hill, under an arch and through the cemetery. On the far side of the cemetery, turn right to Playa de Los Muertos, which is very popular with Mexican families and a safe swimming beach. Huge rocks protect it on both sides.”

It’s important to note the Shraders “felt totally comfortable” sending their boys into town for ice cream without adult supervision.

“It was super safe and everyone was friendly,” Shrader noted.

Kristin Holt, of Los Angeles, has visited Sayulita twice a year since discovering the village a few years ago.

“The town and people are what keep me coming back,” she said. “I love the beaches and the culture. I love going to pick up dinner to cook and everything is fresh.”

Fun fact: Holt always travels with her dog, Chico.

“As long as you get all their shots and paperwork 20 days prior to entering Mexico, it’s easy,” she said.


Don’t miss Burrito Revolucion, a tiny taco and burrito shop with street seating and tasty dipping sauces. A sister shop may open in Denver soon. Stay tuned.

In this writer’s opinion, street food was way better than the much-touted high-end restaurants catering to blander palates. Duck into alleyways or walk down the street to see what’s cooking. The best food is made by locals from carts, and it’s surprisingly inexpensive. One woman even made and sold tacos from the trunk of her car.

Don’t forget: Folks from the states should not drink tap water in Mexico, as it may cause gastrointestinal issues. Drink bottled water instead!