Hiya Cakies! Following up on the recap of our recent trip to Punta Mita, we have a little treat for you from our friend and talented local photographer Jillian Mitchell. She’s rounded up some of her favorite spots in the Sayulita area, which is an amazing resource for any of your considering a wedding down that way, or even just a fun Mexico vacation in the future! We’ll let her take it from here.
Destination weddings are the absolute best. I might be biased since that where I spend a lot of my time, but hands down my favorite weddings have always been the closest friends and family of the bride and groom gathered in a beautiful space to spend the week or weekend. When else do you get to celebrate love and have a killer vacation at the same time? And what better place to do it in than a warm, sunny, tropical paradise. For more than eleven years I have called the paradise that is the west coast of Mexico home and that’s where my wedding photography got its start. Just north of the Puerto Vallarta airport (about an hour drive) lies a not so hidden (anymore) gem named Sayulita.
Sayulita is the small fishing town that became a large vacation village. In the 80’s there was one dirt road and a couple small palapa restaurants on the beach and by the time I got here 20 years later there were hotels (albeit tiny ones) and small shops, but for the most part it was still sort of sleepy with only two bars for nightlife, compared to the twenty some odd there is now. Sayu (as the locals call it) is now a bustling metropolis compared to what it once was and you can find pretty much anything your heart might desire while on vacation.
I’m here to share a little of my insight into getting married in the Sayulita area along with some of my favorite wedding flavored places and spaces on the coast.
Depending on the size of your wedding there are venues for just about everyone. My absolute favorite venue in Sayulita is Teitiare Estate because you get the best of everything from a private beach with gorgeous cliffs for photos to the lush lawn filled with palm trees and the insanely gorgeous house of Vogue photographer Anne Menke and her husband Johann as the background. You can make images literally on every inch of that property. Who wouldn’t want an impromptu first dance on the beach?
Villa Amor is another popular wedding venue in Sayulita. It’s one of the oldest hotels in town and sits on the south end of the beach. This gorgeous view from the top photo in this post comes from the Gran Villa which sits at the top of Villa Amor and is included when you book your wedding there.
Ceremonies are most often held in the space adjoining the beach with the receptions to follow at the Gran Villa and its brick laid patio, but sometimes you get a kick ass bride and groom who shake things up a bit (which is the best way to throw a destination wedding) like these two who decided to have their ceremony down on Los Muertos beach and walk through the cemetery on their way back to the reception. I’m so incredibly lucky to have clients that want to make new and different images with me.
Now onto the good stuff! Where to eat, drink, dance, and shop!
Hands down my favorite place to eat in Sayulita is El Itacate. You can find it just off the main plaza heading out of town with it’s bright orange paint and tables in front. They have some of the best tacos in the history of tacos. Try their chile relleno taco which is topped with a chicharron de queso (a huge fried piece of cheese). Add to that the four different salsas, grilled, onions and beans to finish it off with and you’re in taco heaven.
Next up is El Break. Located right on the beach this place has some killer seafood. Try their spicy tuna tostada or one of their balazos (sort of a mini bloody mary without the alcohol, but with shrimp, oysters, or octopus) while you watch the wannabe surfers mix with the local pros on the break right out front. Hence the name, El Break.
Last, but definitely not least are Tacos El Ivan. You can’t miss these tacos as you come into Sayulita, after the bridge on the right hand side of the road. Just look for the incredibly large piece of pork on a spit with people standing around mouths salivating. Now that we have our own Tacos Ivan in San Pancho I almost don’t need to go to Sayulita at all. A word to the wise when choosing your salsa, when these guys say hot they really mean it. Their chile de arbol salsa will burn like no other! (But if you’re a professional taco eater it’s super delicious.)
For some healthy eats and quick bites like smoothies and acai bowls Orangy and Organi-K are where it’s at. Both located on the other side of the street one north and one south of Itacate. And you absolutely can not leave Mexico without a paleta. Known to you as just a regular old popsicle these are classic Mexican summertime treats and Waikika has over fifty flavors to choose from. They have two locations in Sayu one towards the beach on Calle Delphines among the hip shops and one on Avenida Revolucion on your way to the plaza.
(Editor’s note: We found this adorable popsicle co., La Reinita, that caters weddings in Sayulita too! Cocktail pops! Just sayin’.)
For an afternoon cocktail and straight on into night Cava is the place to be. A little hole in the wall (quite literally), Cava has maybe 12 seats, but at night can be packed to the walls. Head here for the best mezcal cocktails in town. The nightlife is abundant in Sayulita and for the most part it all takes place directly around the plaza, but on Friday night the place to be (and the biggest night of the week) is Camaron. All the way down the north end of the beach Camaron is the go to spot for dancing and more often than not to Cumbia music. It’s gotten to be kind of a ritual in a way. Be sure to fill your evening before you go though, Camaron doesn’t start until 11:00 at night at it’s earliest and goes until 3 or 4 in the morning. If you get there on the early side you’ll be able to watch the beach fill up with people until it’s absolutely packed.
For shopping you really can’t go wrong anywhere. You have the hippie chic, but definitely not hippie priced, shops of Pachamama (the original hippie chic store, this place has been open for more than 12 years) and Evoke and even an entire street dedicated to local artisans from crochet bikinis to hand woven leather bags. (El Aretfakto is worth checking out too!) In the past few years due to the tourism boom there has been an influx of indigenous Mexicans (and Guatemalans) to the area and you’ll find them selling their handmade felt animals or the ever-popular Sayulita pompoms on the streets as well. To round it all out you have Revolucion del Sueno with their brightly colored t-shirts, pillows, bags, and more printed with the familiar yet much more hipster faces of Zapata and Frida Kahlo.
If you sneak outside of Sayulita a few minutes north you’ll find the quieter village of San Pancho. One of my favorite weddings took place on the north end of the beach at a private residence. San Pancho might not have a lot of options for weddings venues and the ones it does have are for the smaller celebrations, but when it’s good it’s so good.
San Pancho (San Francisco on the maps) is the quieter, more keeps to itself cousin of Sayulita. Where Sayulita is the place to go to party it up, San Pancho is where you go not to be found. It’s gotten more popular in the past few years so don’t except to find a completely empty beach anymore (for that you can go north to Lo de Marcos), but it’s still heaps less crowded than Sayulita.
If you do find yourself for an afternoon or even a few days in San Pancho here’s what you need to know. First and foremost you have to stop in at Entreamigos, an incredible community center right at the beginning of town. Entreamigos is a certified non-profit that has been giving opportunities to the children (and now adults) of San Pancho since 2007. They are home to a bilingual library, computer center, recycling center, a used clothing store, and a retail store selling items all handmade in San Pancho.
After you swing by Entreamigos cross the street to Mexicolate where Toto and Mariana make chocolate treats from the cacao plants they grow in the area. Their vegan chocolate mousse is to die for. A little further down the main street almost directly across from the soccer field is Gallo’s restaurant, with traditional Mexican dishes, handmade blue corn tortillas and the only selection of pulque (a fermented alcoholic beverage very typical to Mexico City) that you can find on the coast.
Head down the main street a bit more and you will come across a small handful of stores to get your shopping on along with Barracuda restaurant where you can get your fill of fish tacos and ceviche tostadas. Once you get to the beach you have a few more options to fill your belly, my personal favorite being La Perla. Try a Cielo Rojo (basically a bloody mary with beer which doesn’t make it sound even remotely amazing as it actually is) while watching the sunset as the surfers catch waves meters in front of you. One thing that San Pancho has that Sayulita never will is year round sunset viewing. You can’t beat it.
I may have saved the best for last because this next spot is my favorite hidden gem. Yelapa is a tiny little fishing village located south of Puerto Vallarta and accessible only by boat. This would in itself be an amazing place to get married, but on top of the seclusion and adventure there is an incredible hotel at the very southern point of the town, Hotel Verana. Built originally for the owners (an architect and a designer of course) several years ago they decided to expand and open it up to the public and we are oh so lucky that they did. Every corner of this property is perfect for photographs and you truly feel like you are in your own private oasis.
At the end of it all destination weddings really give you the opportunity to spend time with the people you love most. Rather than rushing around for six hours trying to say hello to Uncle Jim and your parents’ best friends from college, you get to have an incredible vacation in paradise (or a winter wonderland which to point out I would love to be a part of) and truly have an opportunity to be with the ones you love most in the world. The only other tip I have is to really be in the moment. Enjoy yourself and breathe deeply and take it all in. It’s going to fly by and the only thing you’re going to have left are your memories aaaaand you photographs so make sure you find a photographer who is the perfect fit for you. Someone whose vision you can see on your walls for years to come.
Don’t you want to pack your bags and hop on a plane this weekend?! We seriously can’t wait to go back and explore more of the super charming area north of Puerto Vallarta. If you’re looking for a chic place to stay, with a completely beautiful beach, can’t recommend the W Punta Mita enough. (Though it’s not in Sayu proper, it’s so lovely and relaxing!.)
Thanks for sharing your insider tips on Sayulita, Jillian! Goes without saying that she should be your number one choice for a wedding photographer if you’re planning a wedding in that part of Mexico. If you’d like to see more of Jillian’s work, check out this beautiful Yelapa wedding here, and this moody Day of the Dead inspired wedding in Sayulita here.