I’m going to be honest. Mexico has never really been on my radar. For the longest time when I thought of Mexico I imagined big, all-inclusive resorts filled with gringos and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it’s just not how I like to travel.
That all changed when my husband and I found ourselves with a kid-free week during Spring Break. Our original plan was to take the van and head to Sedona but just two weeks before we were set to leave we decided to go a little bigger.
”What about … Mexico??” I said. My husband looked at me like I was nuts because this was completely out of the blue. He’s always game for my crazy ideas though and a few hours later I had booked us flights to Puerto Vallarta.
But … where to go? With a goal of relaxing, eating some good food, and avoiding all those resorts I came up with an itinerary that I honestly think was pretty perfect (with a few caveats that I will get into!) for this trip. Travel planning is kind of my superpower (and part of what I do for work as an adventure and destination elopement photographer) and it all came together quickly.
A quick note about these photos: I have a long history of traveling with a full photo kit … and only using one simple camera. And this was no exception. I never once got out the big cameras and relied completely on my beloved X100F (which probably deserves a review of its own) and my iPhone. Hey, I may be a professional photographer but I was also on vacation! 🙂
I first heard of Sayulita years ago and had been told that it was a quiet little hippie town obsessed with yoga and surfing. In researching this trip I had read that it had also been ”discovered” and had become quite a bit busier in recent years and that was definitely the vibe.
We stayed right in the center of town which was awesome in terms of walking to the beach and grabbing food but in all honesty, for us, it was not ideal. Next time we’re in Sayulita we’ll stay on the outskirts of town, possibly in one of the cute places on the way to Playa de los Muertos (beach of the dead!). I think having the peace and quiet on the edge of town combined with the access to food and activities would have been perfect for us (but if you’re more into the party scene, YMMV!).
Day 1 – Sayulita – Exploring town, checking out the beach, and margs (obviously!)
Right away when we arrived in Sayulita I noticed that there were SO MANY DOGS running around. They all looked healthy and some had collars on but most of them didn’t seem to be with anyone. I later learned that the street and beach dogs in Sayulita are cared for by Sayulita Animals and that if you find one you like you can call the number on the tag and they’ll actually do the paperwork so you can adopt it and take it home with you! We didn’t come home with any dogs but man I was tempted. 😉 Seeing so many strays could have been such a bummer but these dogs looked SO healthy and happy that bringing one back to Colorado might not have actually improved it’s life much!
Day 2 – Sayulita – Private Tour with Nayarit Uncovered
This was hands down my favorite thing we did in Mexico and I honestly can’t recommend it enough!!!!
A little backstory: several years ago we were at a brewery in Reykjavik, Iceland when a couple guys from Japan came in with an older Icelandic dude. We listened as the older local guy told them all about the places he was going to take them to eat and drink and we both looked at each other and knew that THIS was something that would be right up our alley for how we like to travel – we’ve been seeking out those experiences ever since. In Portugal that looked like a private wine tasting dinner with a chef. In Mexico it looked like a 12 hour off the beaten path adventure with a guy named Rene.
When my husband first floated the idea of hiring Rene to me I was hesitant. We only had two full days in Sayulita and I wasn’t at all sure that I wanted to spend ALL of one of them on a tour. I’m so glad he pushed for it because this day was AMAZING.
Rene picked us up at our hotel and took us to a delicious spot in San Pancho for breakfast. While we destroyed plates of chilaquiles he pulled out the photos on his phone and asked what we felt like doing that day. The options ranged from hiking to hidden beaches to seeing petroglyphs to swimming at the base of waterfalls to visiting nearby towns. We ended up doing some hiking, stopping at an amazing fruitstand owned by a friend of his, checking out a waterfall, hitting up a secret beach (which was when I finally pulled out the ”real”) camera and ending the day at a craft brewery (I was on a mission to eat as many tacos as possible on this trip but we couldn’t pass up the chance to try a local hazy IPA).
It was the BEST DAY EVER. The couple hours we spent swimming in the warm waters of a secluded beach with our new buddy are some that I will never forget. I’m already coming up with ways to incorporate this whole experience into an epic Mexico adventure elopement. 😉
Day 3 – Sayuita – Marietas Islands and Playa de los Muertos
We woke up this morning tired and happy from our adventure the day before but with another activity on the docket. We were scheduled to take a boat ride out to the Marietas Islands to go snorkeling and see some wildlife. We cruised around the islands in a small group with our guide and saw tons of birds (including blue footed boobies!), jumping sting rays (I had NO IDEA they did that!) and a giant manta ray.
When it was time to jump in the water our guide told us that the visibility that day was so bad that we probably wouldn’t be able to see anything and asked if we wanted to go see if we could find some whales instead. Um, yes!!!
It. was. magical.
I have seen plenty of whales in my life but always from the shore (or as a kid at Sea World). Being out on the water with these creatures was absolutely incredible and something I will never forget. It’s odd that for something so large the thing I felt most being in their presence was … peace. I can’t explain it but I will never forget it!
After lunch we relaxed at the hotel for a bit and then headed to Playa de los Muertos, the quieter beach in Sayulita for sunset. It got it’s name because it is right next to the cemetery in Sayulita which was colorful and beautiful (I love visiting cemeteries in other countries).
Day 4 Sayulita to Yelapa
On day 4 we packed up our things and headed to the place I was most excited about – Yelapa! Yelapa is a tiny town that is on the mainland but only accessible by water taxi. It still feels VERY much like authentic Mexico and I was SO excited to get there!
We took a taxi to Puerto Vallarta and an Uber to the tiny town of Boca de Tomatlan (which was adorable!). From there we boarded the water taxi for the 45-ish minute ride to Yelapa!
Yelapa. Is. MAGICAL.
I can’t recommend this place enough!!! It’s quiet and beautiful and the people (and beach dogs!) are friendly. We spent most of day 4 exploring Yelapa and drinking margs and it was perfect.
Day 5 Yelapa Waterfall Hike, Epic Beach Naps, and the best Tacos of my life!
Yelapa has two waterfall hikes. One is really short and popular with the daytrippers who come out on the water taxis. The other is quite a bit longer. At 6 miles round trip – and with a pool at the bottom of the waterfall – it was the perfect morning hike!
After our hike we made our way down to the beach for a drink, some snacks at one of the beachside restaurants, and a nap. When I woke up from my beachside snooze we cleaned up and got ready for dinner! We had dinner that night at Los Abuelos and I CAN’T RECOMMEND IT ENOUGH. The best tacos of my life, friendly people, a beautiful setting, and an actual abuela making fresh blue corn tortillas. Don’t think twice. Just go.
Day 6 Yelapa to Puerto Vallarta and the Zona Romantica
On our last full day in Mexico we boarded the water taxi to Old Town Puerto Vallarta and caught an Uber to our hotel. I had found Hotel Luna Liquida when I was planning this trip and I INSTANTLY knew this was the place for us and holy smokes, I was right! I LOVE boutique hotels with lots of character and this one delivered big time! This is one of my favorite hotels anywhere in the entire world. It was a splurge but it was worth it! FYI – we stayed in “Sol 3” and I can’t recommend it enough!
It was located in Zona Romantica, a short walk to all kinds of restaurants, shops, and bars and was absolutely gorgeous!! I’d honestly go back just to spend more time this hotel. Look at the view from our room!!!
While we were walking around in Puerto Vallarta we met Roberto and fell in love with his handprinted art. He offered to paint us a bull skull that night so we could take it home with us the next day! This is an iPhone snap of him finishing up our skull when we went to pick it up the next day. He’s the nicest guy and I’m obsessed with his work!
Day 7 Adios Mexico!
All good things must come to an end so on day seven we said goodbye to beautiful Mexico and headed back to the snowy mountains we love.
I’m honestly blown away by this country, it’s kind people, the incredible food, the beautiful art, and the opportunities for adventure. I had always thought of big resorts when I thought of Mexico and while you can certainly do that there there is SO much more to the country than that!
I can’t wait to go back and I’m already dreaming and scheming up ideas for off the beaten path Mexico adventure elopements! I’m SO stoked to go back and explore this magical place with one of my couples!
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