Thursday, April 7, 2011

I've Had the Time of My Life

... and I owe it all to you. 

Okay, well, not really. Really, I owe it all to Sayulita.

Last week I embarked on Part One of my One Big Thing for this year and went on a 4-day trip to Sayulita, México. I've been trying to come up with one word to describe it, and I just can't. It was amazing, relaxing, invigorating, gorgeous, and everything I needed. It was perfection (hey, wait, I did just come up with one word!).

I've traveled to México before, but my trips are usually more about exploring than relaxing. This was the first time I can remember going somewhere with the express purpose of lying around and not doing a damn thing. Discovery: not only am I good at being lazy, but I quite like it too!

Sayulita is about 40 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, and it's a small beach town that's mostly full of surf bums and American ex-pats. I stayed at Playa Escondida, a small boutique-style hotel located outside of town. It was the perfect combination of amenities - a restaurant, bar, and spa on site; English-speaking staff; the ability to book excursions through the hotel - and an off-the-beaten-path feel. Each unit was different, they were all open-air, and they were literally built into the jungle hillside (one unit had a large tree growing up through the bathroom wall). Being on a budget, I booked the smallest, cheapest room they had, Bungalow 2. I was totally fine with this - I didn't plan to spend much time in my room, and it had the one amenity I knew I wanted: a hammock on my private patio surrounded by lush tropical plants.

When I arrived I was informed there were some loud repairs going on near my room, so they'd upgraded me. I was a little bummed to hear this at first - they'd rebooked me into a room in Bird Canyon, which was an area way at the top of the mountain and therefore not in walking distance to the beach each morning. Plus, no private hammock. But after Cristian took me to see Casa Chachalaca (the name of my new accommodations), I was absolutely over the moon: a two-story treehouse, perched at the top of a canyon covered in tropical jungle. That upgrade was the best thing that happened to me. I slept with all the doors and windows open, and each morning I woke up at sunrise to the sight of the morning sun pouring down into the canyon, lighting up the palm and banana trees. Bird calls were my alarm clock. It was amazing.

This was the view I had as I sat up in bed each morning. I left the folding doors open each night just so I could have this first thing.
Another view of the canyon.
The room's interior was almost as nice as the views. My favorite part was the open-air shower - it felt so exotic and luxurious.

Warm sun and rain showerhead. *sigh*
I got over being way up at the top of the mountain pretty quickly because they gave me my own personal golf cart to get up and down the hill each day. Coral, the resident black lab, went crazy for the golf carts. She would hear the beep as you put it into reverse and come running, racing all the way up the hill. On more than one occasion she slept on my downstairs porch after an exhausting run. And one morning, she greeted me and started the day with another exciting race.

Getting ready to go.
She pretty much always took the lead.
Coral was such a tease - this was as close as she ever let me get to winning.
Besides racing with Coral, my days pretty much revolved around lounging on the beach and reading. 

Day 1: Reading in a hammock on the beach. No, I didn't manipulate the colors in this picture: the sky really was that blue, and my legs really were that blindingly white.

Day 2: Reading on a chaise lounge on the beach. Pacifico was my drink of choice - I mean, you can't drink the water, right?
Day 3: View of a hammock from a chaise lounge on the beach. The best of both worlds.
To my surprise, I made some new friends while I was in Sayulita (yes, other than Coral the Racing Dog). I'd imagined that I'd really keep to myself and read (and drink and eat), and I didn't go out of my way to talk to anyone at first. But Butch and Chris found me and I'm so glad they did. It turns out Butch grew up not far from where I live now, and Chris went to high school about four miles away from where I went to high school - small world! Those guys were so funny, and fun to hang out with, and really generous too. Their parting gift to me was a "beso" from Pie in the Sky, a bakery in Bucerías (about 30 minutes south of Sayulita). The "beso" was a dense chocolate brownie with a creamy, fudgy center that was so killer! I wish I had ten of them in the freezer for dessert emergencies. Thanks, Chris and Butch!

I'm pretty sure I was the only single person at the hotel - everyone else seemed to be part of a couple or group. And that was really fine with me. I'd expected it. But what I didn't expect was how many people seemed surprised that I was traveling alone, and how many called me things like "brave" and "independent" and "impressive" because of it. I was even told I have "moxie" (I have no idea what that means). I generally responded to these comments (sometimes out loud, but usually in my head) with: "Am I supposed to stay at home and never go on vacation just because I'm single?" My answer remains a very firm "hell no!"

I never went into Sayulita to explore the town, although several people assured me it was worth the 30 minute trek down the beach, clambering over rocks and stubbing their toes (suckers!). I did venture down the beach a little ways, just far enough to see some gorgeous scenery. The waves were up and the tide was coming in when I was doing my exploring, and it made for some pretty pictures.

The rocks were covered in small crabs who scurried away whenever I came near, but I still managed to get a few good pictures of them.

This guy looks like he's keeping watch for something.
This little one is in full camouflage mode.
I like to imagine this was a little crab family.
I didn't spend all my time on the beach. Occasionally, I made my way up to the pool, which provided some shade and some equally lovely scenery.

The pool, with the patio restaurant in the background.
And next to the pool was the restaurant. In addition to serving some really good food and drinks (not your standard hotel fare by any stretch of the imagination), it had some great dinnertime views.

Really, the perfect dinner atmosphere.
It really was the perfect vacation. I haven't felt that relaxed in a long time, and I enjoyed it so much that I'm thinking of making Playa Escondida an annual destination. And I'm already looking forward to my next solo trip - I just have to pick a destination first.

If you're interested in seeing some more photos from my vacation, head on over to Flickr and check out my Sayulita photostream.


fortunecookiejunkie said...

WIN. winwinwinwinwinwinwinwinwinwinwinwinwinwinwinwinwinwinwin

Lacy said...

Great Post! Sounds like the trip of a lifetime. just ranked Sayulita Number 1 for families:

Katherine C. James said...

Wonderful post. Love that you had such a great time. Now I want to go. I travel a lot on my own and get the same comments you do about bravery. I find the freedom and the adventures exhilarating. Adore Coral and the crab family. Thank you for sharing this. Again, it makes me so happy that you had such a good time. Yay!

The Plush Gourmet said...

Fabulous - thanks for sharing such a glowingly positive experience. Those less brave, those who have not yet dared travel alone will be much encouraged by your perfect vacation.

ilovebabyquilts said...

Wow, those two beach photos were amazing! The colors!

lahn said...

What an amazing trip. I love the pictures! Glad you had such a great time :)

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