Hotelier-restaurateur Rodrigo Peña shares his top picks on where to eat, drink, and recharge in Sayulita, Mexico.
It only takes a few days in the surprisingly hidden surf town of Sayulita before you begin to recognize familiar faces. One of those faces is sure to be Rodrigo Peña, owner of four of Sayulita’s most stylish establishments. On any given day, I’d catch the entrepreneur walking barefoot, as many locals do, within his airy 9-room Don Bonito Hotel, at his buzzy Italian restaurant La Rustica Sayulita, or grabbing a scoop of Ferrero Rocher ice cream at one of his Wakika locations. Born and raised on this scenic coast, Rodrigo put it perfectly when he told me “travelers should consider how hard it is to leave Sayulita, it is not easy saying goodbye to that laid-back part of yourself that comes out being here.” I happen to be living proof of just that—someone who planned to come for a mere week and ended up staying for ten. Here are the places this Sayulita native once shared with me, and now brings to you.
Rodrigo Peña’s Perfect Day in Sayulita, Mexico
7 a.m. — Board Meetings
Weekend or weekday, a good coffee and good waves is how we start our days in Sayulita. Beginners usually go to the left side of Playa Sayulita for a lesson with Lunazul Surf School or take a short drive to Playa Chacala. If the waves are sleepy, a hike to Monkey Mountain for a scenic view is a must.
9 a.m. — Sea to See and Sip
If you’re new to town, a turmeric tea or green juice at Miscelánea is a sure way to meet locals and travelers alike. Its simple bohemian design creates a warm ambiance where you’ll easily strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you.
10 a.m. — Café the Right Way
There’s no place I’d rather go for a full breakfast than Bonito Café. It is a minimalist modern paradise filled with interesting people… and their pets. We’ll be eating delicious French Toast while the sun peers through to the pool.
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12 p.m. — A Hike to A Hidden Beach
If you walk the hilly cobblestone streets that lead you through the north side of town, you’ll end up at the entrance for a shaded hike to Playa Malpasos. It’s much quieter and more secluded than the main beach in town, and definitely worth the 30-or-so minute hike.
2 p.m. — An Afternoon of Eating
I’ve always loved watching the waves and surfers while eating aguachile at Alas Blancas. When I’m looking for a quick bite I’ll go to Ruben´s for a delicious sandwich and chips. You also won’t want to leave town without trying the authentic local cuisine at both Mary’s Traditional Mexican Cuisine and El Itacate.
4 p.m. — Shop Around
There are a select few stores I recommend going to in town—Manyana, Project Artefakto, Evoke the Spirit, Sayulita Wine Shop and the artisanal Palmar Market.
7 p.m. — A Sunset Reset
On most days of the week, there are great sunset restorative yoga sessions at The Rose Room rooftop at Don Bonito Hotel. It’s truly an ideal way to reset from the day and get ready for the festivities that happen at night in Sayulita.
8 p.m. — Dinner’s Ready
I may be biased, but we’ll be going to La Rustica Sayulita for the atmosphere and food. I would order the Camarones al Ajillo and Tuna Tartar to start, the La Picosita pizza, and for dessert, the Pastel Don Bonito. It just has a great vibe right in the center of town. If you have more than one night, definitely go to El Jakal for local fish and Achara for delicious and modern Thai cuisine.
10 p.m. — Dance Like Nobody’s Watching
Sayulita by nature is unpretentious, and people here love to dance. The cocktails and music at Hula Sayula Bar are my favorite, it’s a great place to go with friends or even to meet new ones. I would also say a drink at Le Zouave with its intimate ambiance followed by another at the local favorite Escondido Bar should be on the list.
12 a.m. — A Midnight Snack
Just at the corner of the main plaza, which by night is filled with people having sidewalk cocktails and street performers, you’ll find Tacos al Pastor Diaz. You won’t be able to just have one, so make sure to get a few!
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The Sayulita Essentials
Where to Stay in Sayulita
If you stay near Sayulita Plaza, be prepared for some noisy nights. The north side of town is where you’ll find a serenely quiet night’s sleep, and just so happens to be where you’ll find Don Bonito Hotel and their charming neighbor Casablanca Hotel.
What to Read Before Visiting
You’ll thank me later if you spend time reading about the local spices and the different levels of spice between salsa picante, picoso and muy enchiloso.
Know Before You Go
Sayulita is relatively easy to navigate. It is small in size, you can walk from one end to the other, and while some opt for golf cart rentals which are found all around town, they aren’t necessary. Getting here is also relatively simple—it is under an hour away from Puerto Vallarta International Airport and you can always find taxis outside of the terminal. Make sure to take cash with you, as sometimes the ATMs run out and many places don’t accept cards. Most importantly, not getting surfing lessons or a great pizza from La Rustica would be your biggest mistake.