Before my trip to Sayulita, Mexico, I did some pre-beach prep that I’d never tried before: a spray tan.In Kensington, I discovered Canada’s first professionally applied spray tanning salon. Sundrops has sprayed 10,000 clients over nine years, so I felt ok about offering up my epidermal layer. Owner Laura Downing’s friendly welcome to her cabana-like enclave assured me that this is a better alternative to the bottle — the bottle of self-tanner, that is. In a soothing, blue-tiled room, I stripped down and got sprayed with a fine mist. It felt a little like the cool shot on my hair-dryer.A mere three minutes later, spray tan success! No streaks, no weird color and no extra tan around the ankles. The Sundrops sprayer will wipe down your fingernails, but I would go further and wipe between your fingers and the palms of your hands. Don’t touch the rest of your body for a few minutes either. How does this sun-free chemical-free tan work? It’s a sugar beet derivative which reacts with the amino acids in the top layer of your skin. The tan lasted a solid seven days, even though I was in and out of the ocean on my trip. Stocking up on Sundrops’ line of homemade, food-grade, all-natural moisturizers helped with the maintenance. Now that I’m in Calgary staycation mode, minus the cation part, I feel a return trip coming on… to Sundrops!
Different worlds collide and co-exist in Sayulita. This serene señora comes down from the hills every day to sell her handmade jewelry. I went crazy for her natural pearl necklaces (or bracelets or belts — however you want to wear them). She also made the traditional dress she’s wearing.Debbie de la Cueva’s jewelry boutique on Delfines is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Delicate, chic, sophisticated — just as lovely but in a whole different way.For such a small town, there’s a large selection of yoga studios. But their advertising is still old-school.I could never get over the wonderful contrasts here. Putter down to Panino’s for desayunos, where they have better croissants than most places in Calgary. Your gorgeous mocha comes with an ocean view…… and a front row seat to the action at the best fish taco stand in Sayulita, directly across the street. Grilled or fried options make it worth the lineup, and if you’re lucky, you’ll snag a seat — the stand is so popular they’ve added some tables and chairs.Because that’s what food sellers do here. Forget the sidewalk, which is usually a narrow, crumbling, ankle-busting obstacle course. Al fresco dining in Sayulita is in between parked cars. I didn’t try this cafe, but I wanted to because of the sophisticated branding on their sign — above the tables in the gutter. Yeah!Spend only a few minutes in Sayulita and you’ll realize: this town has heart.Even shopping is an affair of the corazon. Boutique de Hafa is the heart of an endearingly hip yet affordable family-run hotel. In the background you can see the aptly named Gringo Hill , where most of the real estate has been claimed by Canadian and American vacationers’ luxury casas.Sayulita has another love affair with skeletons. And when they collide with Frida Kahlo (who wasn’t exactly a regular on this stretch of the Nayarit coastline), even better!The art of expression just seems to be in the air. And in beer bottle caps on the walls.Mi corazon! You will forever have a place in my heart, Sayulita! Hopefully see you again soon. And in case you missed them, Walk to Sayulita, Playa Escondida and Love Nest are the other posts from the trip.
Enamored as we were with the Love Nest, Mexico is bigger than a single casita. With Sayulita on our minds, we ventured out along the barely contained jungle path through our resort. The village is only a five minute taxi ride, but we wanted to walk there.Turns out there’s a map for that! The super-friendly staff at Playa Esondida had a laminated version for us to study, but not borrow. We chose to capture the moment with an iPhone rather than rely on our vacation brains.Meandering north from our idyllic resort beach, we came across some Huge Boulders and a Big Red House — just like the map says. We clambered over, passing by the casa rojo, to find ourselves at Carrizitos Beach, another gorgeous swath of sand that’s always deserted. Then we headed up a narrow horse trail through the jungle…… which led to an unpaved road. Like most roads around here.And like most roads in Mexico, and life in general, you never know what’s coming around the corner. This time it’s a gaucho from Rancho Manuel, with horses to rent. He stopped to say hola, hand us his card and trot on.After a few more turns along the hilly jungle road, we passed a kaleidoscopic celebration of life, more festive than most Mexican graveyards, according to a local. It’s also used in a lot of directions, as in, “Playa los Muertos is the beach right beside the cemetery, ” (which may sound morbid but it’s a great little beach, complete with occasional lifeguards and heavily armed but friendly police) so it comes in handy to know its location.As you reach the crest of the cemetery’s hill, you get your first view of Sayulita.Originally a sleepy fishing village, this sandy bay, with its reliable wave action, got the attention of surfers in the sixties. Slowly it has become a mecca for vacationers seeking a safe haven in Mexico and an antidote to the all-inclusives.We couldn’t wait to see it. But the path to Sayulita leads right through Villa Amor’s oceanfront property, a boutique hotel is known for its open-air rooms. On the left, their restaurant balcony jutting out of the seawall is a slice of Portofino, in the heart of Mexico.Me and my amor couldn’t resist Villa Amor, our color story destiny. Besides, a mojito was mandatory before moving any further.We managed to limit ourselves to uno and press on. Although it got overexposed in the sunlight, I recall taking this picture because of the boat’s name: Jaws. It sums up the vibe here: the traditional way of life co-existing good-naturedly with the modern.Finally, after the vacation version of a 30-minute walk, we made it: Sayulita! Now one of my favorite little villages in North America. Coming soon: Around Town.
When a resort christens a casita the Love Nest, it raises certain expectations. Will it be worth that sheepish moment at the restaurant when you charge dinner to the room and they ask which villa you’re in? Yes. A thousand times yes.
A steep, switchback trail through Playa Escondida’s jungle-jammed property leads to the secluded bamboo villa. After our 56-stair climb, I was glad we didn’t have to lug our own suitcases. (I was going to say I don’t stay at lodgings without bellboys, but then I remembered gracing an Idaho motel with my fabulous presence less than three weeks ago). The Love Nest’s front door was just a few more steps up on the right, but first I had to see what was beyond Door Number Two, ajar and tantalizing.It turned out to be the door to paradise. From our Lanai, which just seems so much more apropos than veranda or porch, we faced due west. Perfect for sunbathing, sunsets and moonsets. We could see a little of the resort’s beach below, but no other villas. And no one could see us.The Love Nest is more than surface beauty — it has a quirky personality that gives you a constant grin. A circular thatched hut with adobe flair, the lower landing inside has a seating area, a mini-fridge and table for two.Upstairs, the main attraction is the bed, minus the traditional swan towels. It takes up almost the entire room, even though it’s only a double. As a king-sized coma aficionado, I was worried about this, but I slept blissfully. Maybe it’s something in the water…… which was purified, prettified and provided for in abundance. The only mirror only offered a view of my clavicle, but I was too charmed by the bamboo faucet to worry. Besides, it gave me ammo for my vacation m.o. of avoiding my hairbrush.In keeping with the Love Nest theme, the shower is built for two, with a shower head in each corner. If you haven’t noticed yet, bamboo is the only barrier between you and the jungle — no windows.Back up the steps to the bedroom (if you’re not ok with steps, this is not the villa for you) the ocean vista, along with the siren song of the crashing waves, usually lured me back out to the lanai…… where I had the option of a hammock with a view…… or a lovingly landscaped two-person hot tub. The gardeners here make sure to fill in any jungle bald patches with plants. The pink-leafers popped my peepers. Meanwhile, the waterfall behind the tub was lovely, but it conflicted with my ocean audio. Yes, I’m that type of hotel guest. The amazing staff here acted like I wasn’t nuts. However, when you’re in the tub, you don’t really notice all of this…… because this is the direction you’re facing, with Punta Mita out there on the left. You can see that it’s a tough decision every night: where do you sit to take in the sunset?Or do you sample some of the other activities available at the Love Nest?Still, even paradise has its pain. If you leave your shoes outside, give them a shake first before putting them on. Who wants a scorpion sting getting in the way of getting jiggy?We could have watched the sunsets from the beach, but then we’d miss all the colors reflecting in the sand. During a week at the Love Nest, I saw the best sunsets of my life. Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s the video:
Set a bookmark — Blue Besos is in Sayulita all week!
Blue Besos Goes to Sayulita!Playa Escondida is a secluded beach 18 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It’s also the name of the muy romantico boutique resort here, tucked into the lush jungle hillside overlooking the Pacific.If, for some loco reason you didn’t realize it when you made your reservation, when you arrive at the resort’s office (to do that, I recommend booking the hotel’s driver, who will greet you at the airport with a giant Suburban and make sure you have enough cervezas for the 40-minute ride, purchased from the liquor store conveniently located in the PVR parking lot) it hits you: this is not a Four Seasons. Or a Hyatt. Or a Hilton. Or any other hotel brand with a global marketing initiative. And, as a globally recognized woman tends to say… it’s a good thing.This is what a hallway looks here. Overflowing with foliage, Playa Escondida feels like a hipper version of the Swiss Family Robinson’s house, minus the ladders. The very things that make this resort so wonderful also make it tricky to photograph. On the right, you’ll find the entrance to the fine dining restaurant. The steps up to the lounge are hidden on the left. Follow the path to the end… … and you’ll arrive here. Don’t feel compelled to choose the hammock because that lounger looks a little too hard. Someone will be right out with cushions to get it just right, Goldilocks.Even when it’s booked solid, the small number of rooms at the resort limits guest numbers, keeping the beach muy tranquillo. It’s not the best for swimming with these rocks scattered along the shoreline, but if you walk south for, oh, about five minutes, with Monkey Mountain in the distance, you’ll find a long stretch of sand. Perfect for body surfing. Even during major holidays, the beaches south and north of the resort are deserted, probably because there are no other hotels along this stretch of the Nayarit coast.Or you can get there on horseback, via a jungle trail. The hotel has its own horses, so if you book a ride, it’s just you and the gaucho. Speedy is playing it cool, but I look a little bedraggled because we’ve just been cantering up and down the beach having the ride of my dreams, splashing through the waves. Check out Speedy’s one-eared bridle! Her Mexican saddle is totally different than Simon’s Argentine polo saddle, but once I settled into it, it was vaquera time.The owner, who has no other hotels, started with a couple of thatch-roofed casitas ten years ago. Now up to almost 30 rooms and villas, two thirds are either right on the beach, like these ones above, or have an ocean view.After outdoor yoga, offered free every morning on a terrace overlooking the ocean (claro) I finally tried a coffee at the restaurant, also overlooking the ocean, although my photo doesn’t really show it. Being in vacation mode, I have to admit that My Usually Ultra-Excellent Photography Skills were in slacker mode.Every other day I had my coffee at the room, brewing it myself with the maker provided. Can you see why I had vacation brain? Look at this view! Deets on the Love Nest later. (I’m not kidding — that was the name of my room). Meanwhile, I highly recommend David Sedaris’ latest: Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. His hilarious essays were the perfect length for my reduced mental alacrity. Playa Escondida is one of those rare hotels where the reality is actually much, much more beautiful than the website photos. Which is saying a ton, because their website is great. I was so agog, I almost forgot to blog.
So I’ll leave you with the video that instantly cemented my decision to come here. It’s like no promo I’ve ever seen, and instantly filled me with amor for my as-yet un-met amigos at the resort. Meanwhile, that’s not all! Blue Besos Goes To Sayulita continues all week.
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