When thinking of what to do with kids on vacation, it's always good to go right to the source: the kids themselves. We are lucky to have Maya Olson, Passported's junior correspondent, a 7th-grade downtown New Yorker, who's a keen observer with good taste and knows how to have fun in the sun. Check out her story below for her take on everything cool to do in Sayulita, Mexico, a laid-back beach town just north of Puerto Vallarta on the Riviera Nayarit.
Fall has come. You’re walking down the block, wrapping your arms around you to stay warm, and actually considering wearing a hat. Yet really, all you can think about is your next escape to the beach. Hmmm... maybe a new bathing suit, a cold lemonade in your hand, the sand through your toes, and waves lapping at your feet. The sun on your back, your legs nice and tan. Forget about Pumpkin Spice Lattes, you can already taste the iced coffee and the only hat you want to be wearing is your vintage baseball cap that is just the best thing ever… I’m sorry, what were we talking about again? Oh right, your next escape, and how to do it the right way. Here’s my advice.
“Daddy, I’m hungry. I’m ready for fish tacos.” My sister whined, but I was distracted. Laying on my surfboard, I turned around. On one side of me was my dad and sister in the water, behind me it looked like one of the local artists has painted the sky, and on the other side, a local surf pro is ripping up a wave.
“Oh Maya, this wave is perfect. Start paddling.” Thanks to my absolutely incredible surf lesson this morning, I feel like a pro. I start to paddle, paddle, paddle… and I jump up. This wave was perfect. Up ahead of me, I see my mom sitting at a table on the beach, and a waiter bring out guacamole. My dog was playing with the friendly strays. As I rode the wave, I started to turn (new trick) and aimed for that guacamole ahead. My dad and sister followed me in on a paddleboard. I jumped off the board, picked it up, waded out of the incredibly warm water, and handed my board off to the surf school (they all have stands on the beach). I sat down at the restaurant with a towel, talking to my mom about the warm waves. I was in love with Sayulita.
WHERE TO STAY
Most people choose to stay in house complexes on the beach; we rented ours through Sayulita Life. All are about a five- to 10-minute walk along the beach from town. Most include pools, and are quiet and safe. The beach in front of the houses aren’t usually the best for surfing, but are quiet and perfect for late night swims. The houses are large and well-equipped, and offer flexibility. Most houses have maids, and views of the beach. Especially great with kids (at least I thought so), because there were other friendly families, it was quiet, and the beach and pool were easily accessible.
WHERE TO SURF
In Sayulita, if you asked anyone where to surf, most would direct you to Lunazul Surf School. They offered many classes, the instructors were incredible, and they have a reputation for a reason. The shop itself is nice, and it is preferred by most. I also tried the Sayulita Surf School, which is owned and taught by multiple-time national champions and has a stand on the beach, like most of the surf schools. They were all so kind and let us keep our endless bags of stuff there, and our pup was constantly enjoying the shade they offered. We rented many nice boards, and were free to take and leave boards as we liked.
WHERE TO EAT
Almost every single restaurant in Sayulita will offer fresh seafood and good guac (but be sure to ask about the last boat and how fresh the fish is before sitting down), but the town's most popular and elegant restaurant is Don Pedro’s. Right on the beach (but in its own environment), it is upscale and offers a large variety of food. Another popular location is Alas Blancas, where you can have your toes in the sand while being served good food, and although it is much more casual than Don Pedro’s, it's perfect for the after-swimming taco in a civilized place. If you are on an early morning run, or need a break from the beach, be sure to check out Orangy Smoothies. With a very flexible schedule (everyone needs time to surf!), this little stop has the best smoothies in the small town. It's simply a juice bar and a few stools, but very cute. I also had an acai bowl obsession, and went to El Fortin for acai bowls and coffee with my mom. A little farther into town, but worth it for the acai bowl. And last but absolutely our favorite, there's Fish Tacos My A**, a stand on the main street that serves (you guessed it) fresh fish tacos, which are grilled in front of you. Sure, it’s a stand on the hot street, but a favorite by everybody. We actually grabbed tacos, then sat down about 10 feet away at Panino’s, drinking coffee and lemonade (the customers next to us also ordered a very delicious looking pizza). You may even want to stop for paletas or gelato after that hot day on the beach at Wakika or Buonissimo.
WHERE TO SHOP
Every time I’ve been to Sayulita, one of my first stops is always Revolucion Del Sueño. Graphic tees and adorable designs, it’s really a cute, beachy boutique that is a must. The first thing you'll notice when walking by Pacha Mama is the big stickers with artsy designs with strong messages. The art there is beautiful, but they also have clothing. Really, just walking down the main street you can find whatever you need available to you, and adorable little boutiques worth stepping into.
TRIP HIGHLIGHT: MARIETA ISLANDS
You’ve probably heard about the Marieta Islands. Whichever tour guide you choose, I suggest you bring a GoPro, and tons of snacks and supplies (sunscreen, rash guards, etc.). It’s a beautiful boat ride out there (usually the boat is in Punta Mita, where you can drive to), and as soon as you get to the island, you can jump off the boat and swim by the caves, where you have the option to snorkel and see hundreds of fish. Then, you can swim under/through a cave and get to a small hidden beach that’s basically magical. Any tour guide you choose will most likely have a small boat and tour guide to show you around. Talk about a family experience! Then after, you can eat at beachside at Mariscos Tino’s, and enjoy the rest of your stay in this paradise! 100% worth every second of it.