Beaches, Booze, and Boys – Sayulita, Mexico

After my series of very somber posts, I figure it’s time to lighten things up around here! 🙂 Who wants to hear about my Mexico trip?!?!

Hooray,  that’s at least 2 yes’s, so let’s get going!

I had planned a weeklong vacation to the small surf town of Sayulita, Mexico, which is about 40km outside Puerto Vallarta. From what I’d heard before going, it was less touristy than Puerto Vallarta and had more of an authentic Mexico vibe. To the shock (and horror) of some of my friends, I was going all alone.

Me? Well I was delighted. Adventurous times, ALL FOR ME! No asking other people where they wanted to go! No having to plan for others! Magical, magical time where I could explore all I wanted, whenever I wanted! And yet… I needed something.


And I did. Handily, she happened to sit next to me on my flight. She had a Mexican boyfriend and was traveling to meet him in Puerto Vallarta. She’d been here before and actually had lived in PV for 6 months. (props to her!) We spent an hour in the customs line just chatting about random things.

Naturally, when she and her boyfriend offered me a ride to the bus stop later, I took it. (Hey, exit buddy, remember?) Adventure number 1.

Exit Buddy had already given me 40 pesos for the bus, and Mexican Boyfriend had described the bus station where he was taking me, a place I’d read about on Google. I figured Mexican Boyfriend might know more about his city than I did from reading Google. So really, I was taking a calculated risk (Just take my logic so you stop freaking out). Also, my intuition was saying it was fine, and my intuition is damned reliable.

Only 10 minutes later I was safely on the bus to Sayulita, Mexico, thrumming with excitement. (See? Intuition FTW!)


I was not in America anymore!! Dorothy was in a beautiful new land of COLOR! I felt glee surging through all of my cells. The sounds of secret language, the dingy yet brightly colored buildings, the musty smell of tropical air. I was HOME – in a rackety local bus with a questionable driver. Yes, this felt exactly right.

I arrived in Sayulita and got settled in my room. First thing I did was gulp down a glass of bottled water. I could feel the culture shock settling in; the dread of trying to speak a language not my own, the fear of not being understood and not getting what I needed. What did I need at that moment?


I dreadfully needed a meal. I roamed the streets of Sayulita, terrified to ask for what I needed in my terrible Spanish. Finally, after about 2 hours (I’m not kidding, my language shame can be massive) my hunger overtook my fear and I stopped at a little taco shop. I proceeded to try to order. I said the first thing that I read on the menu under Chicken. The manager laughed in my face. “Do you know what that is?” he asked in English. My cheeks were red and I dropped my eyes. “No,” I said. He explained and I changed my order. I meekly sat down at the counter and tried to swallow my shame. At least now, I had food to wash it down with!

The next morning I made my first jungle trek out to a nearby beach, about a 25 minute walk from the room I was staying at. Maria, the girl working at the coffeeshop/bookstore downstairs, had told me that Malpasos was a good beach to go to. Quiet and huge, and no one goes there. “Perfect,” I thought. Being the direction magician I am, I followed the directions Maria had told me exactly one time and steered myself to this beach full of awesomeness:


Oh yeah, and did I mention that’s only ONE half of the EMPTY beach? This was the other half:


Do you see people in either of those? Yeah, me neither. I saw maybe 10 people on that beach, in the span of 3-4 hours. And that’s my high estimate. It. was. glorious. And as an added bonus, I’d had a beautiful jungle hike to take me there in the first place.


If there’s a heaven, it’s at Playa Malpasos, Riviera Nayarit.

That privacy also meant I saw a fair amount of nudity from the people who did frequent that beach, but who could blame them. It does look like Paradise, after all. (ps. If you haven’t skinny dipped in the ocean, you haven’t lived… so put that on your bucket list for next time you’re at a deserted beach)

A few days later, I headed off to Playa Carricitos, on the other end of town. This is what I found:

(Is this real life???)

Ahhh, Mexico. How I love thee and thy deserted beaches only minutes from the tourist-frequented ones.

I spent several days of my week there hiking to the beaches the locals frequented; Malpasos and Carricitos. Forget the crowded, party vibes at Sayulita’s main beach. I’ll take quiet ANY day.

However, someone didn’t get my memo about QUIET.

If I could sum up Sayulita in 3 words, it would be: Beaches. Booze. Boys. (Hence, the post title)

(Yep, Dem Boys)

Unfortunately for them, all of them expected me to react thusly:

(Oh sure I’ll go on a magic carpet ride with you even though I don’t know you! *wide-eyed blink*)

But I went for the first word – beaches. And since I didn’t go for the other two (boys and booze), I also spent a large part of my week rejecting offers of either one, or both at once. No, I don’t want a cerveza. No, I will not go to that party with you.

However, this offered an unexpected highlight of my trip… Endless hours of amusement. I have nicknames for most of the boys now. For the sake of time (and for sake of saving stories for later), I’ll only tell you about a couple of them.

Justin Bieber definitely files under “youngest and sassiest.”


He was a waiter at El Itacate, my taco shop. The first night he met me, he asked me out for drinks in his laughy, sassy way. I skirted the issue and left before I had to give an answer (but not before he’d tried to discount my dinner to HALF of what I owed – I argued and insisted on paying the full amount).
I returned the next night, my last night there.
“Now tell me where you going after this?” he insisted.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” I was trying to be vague and hoping he’d get the idea. But he wouldn’t stop his harassment and I couldn’t stop laughing. He was hilarious.
Finally I said, “Okay but I am too young for you.”
“How old are you?”
“Oh! I am 25 too!”
“Yeahhhh. Sure you are.” I grinned.
“Okay, okay. But I am always with the older girls! My last girlfriend was 3 years older than me.”
“How old are you?”
(Does it make me a horrible person if I couldn’t help laughing in his face?)
Finally he gave up.
“You are not going to go with me.”
“Well what am I doing then?” with a mournful, puppy dog look.
“I don’t know.” (laughing to myself)
He walked away rather dejectedly and half-heartedly waved goodbye when I said “Adios” a few minutes later.

Then there was Montreal, a Canadian surfer who hung out at the San Pancho surf shop.


He was handsome, direct, and maybe a little cocky (just maybe). The second day I talked to him, he asked me to drinks within 5 minutes of my showing up. I said yes…

And then was stricken with anxiety. “OH SHIT!!! I’M GOING TO FAIL MY SOBRIETY IN SLAA!” all my thoughts shouted.

“Umm… hey. Sorry. I am going to leave right after this so, I’m not going to go with you to get drinks after all.” Those words were awkward, but I survived them. I was only there at the surf shop to buy some hippie pants, anyway.

I didn’t anticipate talking to Pablo the shop owner until Montreal returned with his lonely drink. And then it began.
“Hey, why did you say yes and then no? You’re missing out on a good time. I’m pretty awesome.”


I felt faintly amused but not at all ready to surrender myself. “I know, that wasn’t cool. I’m sorry I did that.”
“Yeah well, it’s your loss.”
“Well I don’t really even know you.”
“Drinks is a good way to get to know someone. “
“Yeah but I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“Well all the more reason to live it up before you leave. You can leave with a smile on your face.”
“I already am leaving with a smile.” (Apparently Mexico made me ballsy)
“Well, you can leave with even more of a smile on your face.” (and really, is that the best you can do?)
This back and forth lasted for about 5 minutes, until I paid for my pants and left the shop. As I was leaving, Montreal called out,
“Hey, the offer still stands.”
“And I’ll come find you later.”
“Um. Okay.”
I hotfooted it out of town and back to Sayulita. And thank heaven, did not see Mr. So Sure of Himself Montreal again.

In the end… I had a pretty awesome time and I’d go back in a second (most searched term in past 2 weeks: freelance jobs). Despite all the crazy boys, the beaches were divine, the food was insanely delicious, and the other fascinating people I met were inspiring. Most of all (serious moment) I learned how to be with myself, by myself. I learned more about myself than I ever have. I watched myself handle crazy, silly boys, culture shock, and taking care of myself when I felt down and depressed. I saw too the things that stand out as important to me: Art. Travel. Connection.

Some of my favorite moments the whole trip?

A conversation I had with an artist named Oksana, who was selling her boyfriend’s art on the street to make a living. Mornings sitting with Maria at the coffeeshop downstairs, discussing life. Understanding only a little of the Spanish the waitstaff at El Itacate spoke, but feeling a strange sense of belonging while sitting there with them. A 12-step meeting in another country, and all the beautiful connections that brings. The last afternoon in San Pancho, sitting with Ali and Ava, two little Mexican girls, playing dominos in a shady upstairs room. Simple moments, but the profound gratitude I had while in them lasts until this day two weeks later, sitting in front of my computer in chilly Colorado. Artistic moments. Moments on the road. Moments where I was connecting. Despite the hassle of dealing with catcalling men… I’d go back in a heartbeat.

I mean, who wouldn’t go back to this?


23 Replies to “Beaches, Booze, and Boys – Sayulita, Mexico”

  1. If you ever want to swim naked at the beach without leaving the US, there is one here in Florida. Come visit sometime. I give good directions.

  2. I took a photo of Manzanillo on my blog recently and that was pretty heavenly. This places sounds enchanting too. Sounds like you were hit on more than a pinhata ha. Glad you have such great memories from the visit. You so strike me as someone who can make friends sitting next to someone on a flight 🙂

    1. Hahah more than a pinata is right! But despite all that it was pretty enchanting.
      I am actually just discovering this really friendly side of myself! I’ve never made friends with someone on a flight before. However, now that I have discovered I have this magical power… the world might not be ready. 😉

      1. If the universe evens out though, you might get someone horrible next time 😉 I once struck up a conversation with someone on the seat next to me when I was looking for a pen and he handed he one of his. I thanked him, we got talking, and the time flew by (so to speak)

      2. I think that’s why I’ve never struck up a conversation before! The person next to me has always been boring or “horrible.” =P Or just wanted to be left alone. This worked out great though, because Exit Buddy and I both took our respective naps before actually emerging for conversation. 🙂 The sequencing worked out just right. I think we started talking due to customs forms or something like that!
        Haha your pen story reminds me of that line from Cake’s song, “At the city bank we’ll meet accidentally, we’ll start to talk when she borrows my pen.” I guess that does actually happen!

    1. It IS absolutely glorious! I am raring at the bit to go again already and it’s only been 3 weeks. Killing me.
      The first dish, haha, was breaded chicken… aka parrilla. It was under chicken on the menu so I just said it. 😀 I wanted grilled chicken though, not breaded. I think the guy knew how out of it I was with hunger and culture shock and just had to say something 😀

      1. The strangest thing I ate in Mexico was beef tripe… aka cow stomach and intestines. Not my favorite, that’s for sure. It’s nice when the locals looks out for you!

      2. Oh yeah! That’s a popular dish anywhere but America, it seems. It was hugely popular in Azerbaijan when I was there, and pig stomach was popular in China. In China, I took one look at the pig stomach and said “Oh no way am I eating that.” It looked so gross I knew it wasn’t right.
        Haha yeah it was great of him! I desperately needed the guidance that evening!

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