Family Travel to Sayulita, Mexico: A Pueblo Magico for Families!?!?

img_4021We wanted to get out of town – last minute! There was no snow in the mountains and my kids were about to be out of school for 2 1/2 weeks. What to do? Where to go? I started researching about three weeks out. I was sure it was possible to get away with our family of four using miles for travel and points for staying in an Airbnb, but not simple. I did a lot of research and finally landed on flying into Puerto Vallarta [PVR]. My whole family had spent time in Sayulita, Mexico over the years and it seemed like an easy trip that ticked off a lot of the most important travel points for my family:

  1. Travel mainly on miles/points
  2. Surf/beach/warm
  3. Easy non-stop travel

img_3948Having spent a lot of time in Mexico and Central America we knew we could make a quick trip to Sayulita and all get our needs met. Not a tough decision for my family!

Getting There

We flew to Puerto Vallarta on United for 17.5k points and back on Southwest for 9k points [per person]. We got cash in the airport [don’t forget to let your bank know you are traveling] from our ATM card [I recommend using your ATM as they give the best exchange rates]. We actually forgot to tell our bank and we ended up having to call our bank from the airport to get our account unfrozen – just plan ahead and it’s not a problem! We got the kids some snacks and drinks in the airport since we were about to take a cab for at least 45 minutes. We then easily caught a cab right outside the airport for $50 to Sayulita. Super easy! Most hosts can arrange a pick up at the PVR airport – but it will cost a little more.

Sayulita, Mexico

This amazing town has been designated as a Pueblo Magico by the Mexican Government.  It is an easy, non-stop flight from the USA and only 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta. It is also a laid back, sweet spot, that offers lots of real Mexico with a lot of the comforts and ease you might expect from a tourist spot.

img_4039The town in small enough that you can stay almost anywhere and be in easy walking distance to the beach. Be aware that there are a lot of places to stay up steep hills just outside of town – okay for adults and teens, but tough on little ones. This time my family really enjoyed staying a little out of town – we stayed on the north end of town, right on the beach, and loved the peace and quiet. It was a flat 5 minute walk into town along the beach or roads just behind our Airbnb. Certainly there was still more than enough going on to keep us entertained – beach, pool, ceviche on the beach, great food, massages, surfing, etc… I did notice that a lot of Gringos rented golf carts – but I like to get my family walking.

img_3965Food: Sayulita has great food options! Check out garlic shrimp on the beach at any of the restaurants, fresh fish at Don Pedros [we indulged and eat at the fanciest Sayulita dining establishment and it was still under $20 for each of us including a delicious swordfish meal, drinks, etc…], and delicious food at almost any turn. Try Choco-Banana for yummy breakfast and deserts. Eat street tacos at Ivan’s in the evening. Tacos at Naty’s during the day is always a great, very inexpensive, meal. Indulge in churros on the street in the evening. The food scene is a feast for your bellies and eyes – kids love it! 

Photo courtesy of Mariah Tauger Photography www.mariahtauger.com

Photo courtesy of Mariah Tauger Photography http://www.mariahtauger.com

Surf: You can rent surf boards of all varieties right on the beach. Look up and down the beach for the best options – prices and quality varied. You can also arrange lessons at many surf shops along the streets right off the beach or at the tents on the beach. One surf school option is Lunazul. The surf was very calm in December, but it can get big!

img_3943Beach: The beach runs along the crescent shaped bay that is Sayulita. It is beautiful, but the sand is a bit rough. In places the beach drops off steeply into the ocean. It’s okay for adults, but overhead for many kids and even teens. You will see people swimming, surfing and paddle boarding all day and into the evening. There is also a riptide that my own child has been saved from by a life guard on this very beach, so be aware. They do have life guards – a lot of beaches don’t! 

Housing: I love using Airbnb for housing – especially in small towns where I cannot use points or when I want a more local experience. Our options were limited because we were booking over the Christmas Break and we booked so last minute. But there were plenty of options on Airbnb. Also try VRBO and SayulitaLife for booking housing and all things Sayulita. With kids I always look for a pool in addition to the ocean since the surf can be exhausting to kids and sometimes it’s nice to get a break. It’s also nice to have air-conditioning in the bedrooms [even in December, but during warmer weather I think it’s essential!]. We booked with Airbnb for under $190/night, last minute, in high season and this included a pool and was steps from the beach. It wasn’t fancy by any means, but it had everything we needed! 

img_4018There are a few different options for housing in Sayulita:

  • In-town – convenient, but noisy and often cramped
  • North of town – quieter, 5+ minute walk to town [can easily rent a golf cart for young kids or grandparents]
  • Gringo Hill [or neighborhoods off the river] – these can be beautiful views, but a long walk, and very steep [double check this option for kids and grandparents]
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The Ally Cat

Explore: 

  • Take a quick trip to Punta Mita which offers beginner surf breaks that are long, long, long.
  • Sail to the Marietta Islands with the Ally Cat Sailing Adventures. This was a super fun, all day excursion that included lots of sailing, food, drinks, whale watching, snorkeling, paddle boarding, jumping from the ship into the ocean below.
  • Take a hike to Playa de Los Muertos – this is a hidden beach within walking distance to Sayulita even with kids. Walk out of town along the road that parallels the beach past Villa Amor. Head up over the hill past the cemetery on your left and down to a secluded beach – sometimes it doesn’t feel so secluded, but it’s certainly more private than the Sayulita beach.

The Good

  • Easy, direct flights to PVR and simple to transfer to Sayulita
  • Good food and easy to find
  • Reasonably priced – the flights, housing, and especially food!
  • The North side of Sayulita – we loved it! Good food, quiet beaches, peaceful evenings, etc…
  • It’s easy to get around without a lot of Spanish language skills. I also see this as a negative for those of us who want to practice our Spanish.

The Bad

  • It was packed! So many, many tourists. I would say you can expect an equal number gringos and Mexican tourists in December. The summers are relatively empty there, but humid.
  • The beach is okay, but it is so crowded that there are literally umbrellas touching one another for 100s of yards, and stacked 6 deep, in the main part of town
  • You have to say, “No, gracias” so many times when you are near the beach because so many people are walking around selling their wares.
  • Too easy to speak English in this town that is used to tourists.

 

I have a sweet spot in my heart for Sayulita, Mexico. I do agree that it is a Pueblo Magico!

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Zika Virus and Travel: What’s A Family To Do?

It is no secret that the CDC has issued a travel warning for pregnant women considering traveling to infected areas of the world. In fact many airlines are offering refunds for travelers wanting to change plans based on the Zika Virus. It’s not clear how Zika is impacting travel and specifically families who are traveling. It is clear that the virus is spreading rapidly and to some of my favorite places to travel!

Zika Infected Areas

The most infected areas are shown here:

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Zika infected areas include [but are not limited to]:

  1. Cape Verde
  2. Caribbean
  3. Central America
  4. South America
  5. Mexico
  6. Samoa

Infection and Prevention

It seems only 1 in 5 adults infected with the Zika Virus show symptoms which are reported to be flu-like. The biggest issue is for pregnant women because there Zika could increase the risk of birth defects in unborn children. But what about babies? Young kids? Teens? The list goes on.

Since Zika is transmitted by mosquitos it is important to prevent being bitten. How do you do that? Outside Magazine online has some great suggestions:

  1. Use repellents that contain at least 20% deet
  2. Cover up with clothing
  3. Stay inside at high mosquito times of day [dawn/dusk]
  4. Use permethrin-treated clothing

Also, Consumer Reports just published a review of mosquito repellents that best protect against Zika. These are all ways to control your exposure to mosquitos and Zika virus. And the CDC has plenty of reading on the issue including an CDC FAQ page.

Will Zika impact your family travel plans? 

 

Do You Know What Drowning Looks/Sounds Like?

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None of us think its going to happen. We teach our kids to swim. We watch them near the water. But drowning is not always what we think. I just want to raise awareness.

It was almost exactly a year ago when my family was in Mexico. It was there that a friend told me the scariest story about a near drowning of their friend’s 3 year old when there were 6 adults around. Here is what I learned:

  • Drowning is often silent [the victim doesn’t yell for attention or gasp for air so loudly you can hear]

Their story goes that 3 couples showed up at their beautiful house for a relaxing vacation in Mexico. The house had a pool in the back. They were standing around talking when they first arrived since they came from different parts of the country. Kids wandered around. 15 minutes went by and they realized they were missing one child. They calmly looked around. It was then that they found their son floating face down in the water with all his clothing on. They still don’t know how it happened, but it did. It was silent. None of the 6 adults heard anything.

Do you know the signs of drowning? Since it is often silent you need to know what do watch for.

Here is a great article on how to know if someone is in trouble in the water. 

Family Travel: What I [Re]Learned On My Trip to Sayulita, Mexico

Sorry for the silence from my end this past week. I just got back from a last minute trip to Sayulita, Mexico with my kids [8 & 10] to visit a friend and her kids. My friend and I were solo for the week with both husbands traveling, so why not go? The friend I was visiting lives life fully! She is always packing in more in a morning than I get done many days. We have traveled with the kids lots, but this trip was incredibly humbling as a parent. Since many of you will be traveling this summer I want to pass along my lessons learned. Here is what I [re]learned:

1. Make sure your kids wear a rash guard/swim top if they are going to be spending the first few days submerged in the ocean and out in the sun. My 10 year old go so burnt [even though I applied sun screen–Badger–multiple, multiple times!] that he blistered, was so uncomfortable, and I believe got sunstroke and landed us in the hospital for fluids. I felt SO bad. Actually I still do. So maybe the waterproof sunscreens do have a place in our family or maybe we will just stick to the rash guard.

2. Hydrate! Ensure your kids are drinking LOTS! Honestly this is so important when you are outside all day in the sun. Somehow you have to double your water intake on a vacation! So buy the kids the cold water. Let them drink the icy limonadas.

3. Make sure you have sufficient entertainment for the kids in case of travel delays! We were delayed over 12 hours and finally ended up spending the night in Houston where I didn’t get my kids to sleep until 12:45am. Our family loves mazes, books, crossword puzzles, art supplies, and the good old iPad. Make sure they are with you, not under the plane!

4. Bring snacks–even if it’s a short flight. Our scheduled 2+ hour flight to Houston where we caught a flight to Denver turned into an over 6 hour flight as we had to circle forever, then were diverted to San Antonio where they had us on the ground for hours without food. United Airlines did not have food on the plane.

5. Throw caution to the wind and just go! We made this trip happen really last minute. It was great to just get up and go. You can do it! It makes for such great memories for the whole family. You don’t have to go to Mexico. Check out the National Parks right here in Colorado, spend the night at a cabin in the mountains, go camping, etc.

6. Get the kids involved and into the culture. I made sure the kids learned a little bit of Spanish before we left. I would practice phrases and words. They had to order their own food and ask in Spanish. They loved it! It made them feel so proud!

So along with sun burnt skin, dehydration, being stuck on a plane all day and having to spend the night in Houston, Mexico was just as I remembered. The people are so warm and friendly. They love it when you speak Spanish. The ocean is magnificent and so welcomed from a Boulder, Colorado family. The kids felt heart broken by the street dogs and wanted to take every dog without a collar home. They tried new things–and loved them [food, jumping from 30 ft. cliffs, surfing, etc.]. We felt really safe. We walked the streets at night. We met all sorts of people. We would do it again in a heart beat! I hope we make it happen sooner than last time [It’s been 10 years since I have been to Sayulita].