A Tale Of Two "Itas"

Discover Sayulita and Punta Mita, a pair of up-and-coming destinations along Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit

The potent margaritas served up beachside along the Riviera Nayarit are the perfect starting point for your vacation “attitude adjustment”—drink one and you won’t have a care for the rest of your holiday. Not that tequila is needed to adopt Mexico’s mañana mentality here, where strips of unspoiled sand, wicked surf breaks and thatched-roof beach palapas easily outnumber hawkers. 

Canadians who visit this 300-kilometre-long ribbon of Pacific coast north of Puerto Vallarta (PV) come to unwind in the sun and, increasingly, to escape the bustle of PV’s crowds. In 2013, 406,000 Canadians visited the Riviera Nayarit, a 78-per cent increase from 2012. Even more Canucks are expected to visit throughout 2014. 

Indeed, it seems the party, along with that coveted wedge of coastal paradise, has shifted north of PV to Sayulita and its exclusive cousin, Punta Mita, two up-and-coming Riviera Nayarit destinations. 

Both “itas” have it going on in the adventure, beach and cocktail departments, but the two spots attract markedly different demographics. Boho Sayulita captivates carefree expats and inked-up surfers, while Punta Mita appeals to jet-setters seeking a smart phone reprieve. Given this disparity, it’s fair to say only one “ita” will offer the right attitude adjustment for you.

Surf town Sayulita

Perfect for: Laid-back, budget-conscious travellers 

This fishing village-turned-backpacker’s paradise is just 45 km north of PV. Here, waves crash along one of the best beginner surfing breaks on Mexico’s Pacific coast, frigate birds pirouette overhead and children take a break from boogie boarding to line up on the sand for a cold helado (ice cream) from a portable cart. It’s Mexico at its most laid-back, where your only agenda item is a quick stroll from the shady palapa to a smoky taqueria for fish tacos. 

Between surf time and happy hour, browse the hip cafés and chic boutiques that comprise this pretty town. Sayulita oozes charm, wrangles up adventure and offers great value. 

Stay: Boutique hotel Villa Amor boasts relative seclusion and the best view in town. 

Sip: A large margarita to go from Costeños. 

Eat: The loaded breakfast burrito at Don Pedro’s. 

Do: Learn to surf during a 90-minute group lesson with Lunazul.

Posh Punta Mita

Perfect for: Well-heeled honeymooners and execs in need of some R&R.  

Pack your fat stacks for Punta Mita, a gated, 1,500-acre peninsula 20 minutes south of Sayulita that boasts luxury resorts, a pair of Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses and a smattering of estate homes. Your name must be on a guest list at one of the gates to gain entry into this private Eden of manicured lawns, pristine beaches and spectacular sunsets. 

Pampering is an understatement here. At the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, you’ll be spoiled by amphibious waiters who serve drinks in the pool, and poolside servers who circulate regularly to proffer coconut water refreshments, fruit snacks and cool, scented hand towels. 

Stay: Bill Gates recently purchased the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, an exclusive retreat that’s a favourite of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. 

Sip: A spicy margarita aguachile from the Four Seasons’ beachside Bahia bar. 

Eat: Walk 30 minutes from the resort into the tiny village of Punta de Mita for a plate of traditional fish tacos from Restaurant La Cabaña.

Do: Try the “After the Mexican Sun Water Lily” treatment at the Four Seasons Apuane Spa.