Sayulita Life: Islas Marietas and Hidden Beach


Last month I finally checked one of my top destinations off of my travel wishlist: Sayulita, Mexico. Before we left, I wrote a post explaining how this trip came about, but it's only now that I'm getting to share the details of our adventures there. What caused the delay? Mostly me trying to hold on to the trip a little longer and live in the afterglow. For me, writing a recap meant that it was really over. But guess what? It is! We've been back for a (crazy) month and now the best way to relive it is to share it.

Ryan and I got to spend a gorgeous, relaxing 7 days and 6 nights in Sayulita - the perfect lazy beach getaway without the chaos of all-inclusive resort towns like nearby Puerto Vallarta. And by far, my favorite day from vacation was our day trip to Marieta Islands or Islas Marietas.

Prior to arriving at the beautiful Playa Escondida Resort, their awesome manager, Asuri, emailed me and asked if she could set up any activities for our stay. I told her that I would love to do the excursion to Marieta Islands and she coordinated the whole thing, booking our spots with Chica Locca and arranging for a taxi to pick us up that morning.

The morning of the trip, the taxi drove us from the resort to the center of town in Sayulita where the Chica Locca office is. We paid for our spots on the tour ($83/person) and then waited with the rest of the group. Slightly hungover, I ran over to ChocoBanana, one of the main gathering spots for breakfast, and got a double iced espresso to go. Soon enough, our open air bus pulled up, we piled in, and headed for the Puerto Vallarta Marina.

I really wasn't sure what to expect as we sped back through the lush jungle roads to the city. I basically thought we would take a boat out to see Hidden Beach, maybe be able to kayak on to it and take pictures, and then head back. Only our day was about 100 times more fun than that.

Everyone took their seat on the brightly colored cushions, Ryan and I nabbing the front and center spot. Within minutes a Chica Locca crew member brought us some fresh fruit and muffins for breakfast and took our drink order. We pulled out of the marina and headed out across the ocean.

We quickly learned that Chica Locca's open bar policy meant that --- like all our days in Sayulita so far --- we were going to be drinking... a lot. Every time our Coronitas neared empty, they were immediately replenished. Frozen strawberry margaritas, tequila shots, you name it, they had it out to you in a few minutes. That old cliche, "This is the life" really seemed appropriate on the Chica Locca boat.

As we headed an hour west towards the islands, we started noticing all the sea life around us. Dolphins, whales, stingrays that jumped out of the water and flapped a little bit before diving back in again. The sightseeing was great and I had no idea we were going to be seeing so much!

Pulling up to the Islands, there were a bunch of tour boats already docked outside of Hidden Beach (also called Playa de Amor), so the crew told us we were going to head to another island to snorkel and hang out for a while first. That's when I started getting really nervous. Nervous as in terrified. I can't swim and I've never snorkeled so the thought of jumping off this boat, despite having a life jacket, with snorkel gear attached to my face was making me feel like I wanted to puke. I was also kind of freaked out about putting the mouthpiece in my mouth... do they clean those!?

I decided to pound another beer to calm my nerves and then I marched backwards in my flippers to do one of the scariest things I've ever done.

The water wasn't cold at all and despite my awkward dismount from the boat ladder into the ocean, I didn't immediately go into shock and drown. Suddenly, there I was, swimming hand in hand with Ryan WITH MY FACE IN THE OCEAN. We only snorkeled for about a half hour but I was so incredibly impressed with and surprised at myself for getting the balls (buzz) to do it. It was really fun! I had lockjaw from biting down on my mouthpiece so hard for fear that it would somehow float away from my face, but aside from that, it was a blast. 

The boat hung out there for a bit and we relaxed in the sun and drank some more before we decided to try some of the other activities Chica Locca had to offer. Ryan jumped off the water slide (as fun as it looked, that was a little TOO terrifying for me) and then we took a couple of the kayaks out (another thing I'd never done before!) to paddle around in some of the caves. Margarita in hand of course. 

After we paddled back, it was time to pull up the anchor and take the boat back to the first island to swim up to Hidden Beach. I started to get really excited: I've wanted to explore this natural beauty ever since I saw it on Pinterest and realized it was right outside Sayulita, this little town that I've wanted to travel to since forever. It was meant to be.

This time I put on the flippers and the life jacket but not the snorkel mask. I was much more graceful getting into the water too!

The cave was probably about 30 feet long and a lot bigger than it looks. You can stand about 3/4 of the way through and the water is crystal clear. We walked onto the warm beach, took off our gear and admired how cool this little hidden spot was in person. It was somehow smaller than I imagined, but no less impressive and I had no idea that there was some cave exploration to be had too. The hilarious dudes of Chica Locca took us through the caves and had no trouble pranking me and scaring the shit out of me in the dark tunnels.

Exploring Hidden Beach is definitely one of the best adventures I've ever had. So much so that when I left I took a little souvenir: a nice piece of driftwood. I swam all the way back to the boat with it, where the crew made jokes about me collecting garbage, but I didn't care. I wanted a piece of this beautiful place in my home forever.

The crew passed out lunch on our way out for more whale watching... we actually saw some sea turtles too. We spent the next hour or two floating around, stopping once for people to water slide some more and try out the SUP boards. They even lowered a cushion into the water and used that as a floating table for trays of tequila shots for all the people who were in the water. After a group tequila shot on board, we headed back to the Marina to take a group picture and board our bus to Sayulita.

I'm pretty confident that this was one of the best days of my life and I can't imagine that could have happend without the amazing crew of Chica Locca. I would never recommend any other way of doing the Islas Marietas tour. It was a perfect day and one that I'll never forget. Our adventures even inspired me to get a new tattoo in memory of the trip, but I'll share more on that later...