This fishing village about 20 miles north of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast, offers dependable waves and beachside stays on a surf bum’s budget. Like Oahu’s surf-centric North Shore, Sayulita has a no-shirt-no-shoes-no-problem vibe. Flights to the area are generally no more expensive than travel to Florida in high season. You won’t need a car; the town is small enough to cover easily on foot, and area footpaths reward hikers with deserted beaches.
Eat Smart: Fish tacos are the local rival of the Hawaiian plate lunch favored by island boarders. Find the best at tiny Sayulita Fish Taco (329-291-3271), which warrants a wait for its Baja-style fish coated in beer-garlic batter. Ask for yours topped with mango salsa (when available).
Be Fit: Try the “sport of kings” by taking a surf lesson from Patricia Southworth and her team (look for her stand on the beach near Captain Pablo’s restaurant) for about $30 an hour. The Oregon expat has not only taught a decade of travelers how to ride, but has raised two boys who now compete on the international surfing circuit.
Live Well: During winter migration, roughly December through March, humpback whales pass close enough to allow you to whale-watch from shore. January traditionally offers the most viewing opportunities.
Where to stay: The only full-scale resort in town, Villa Amor (from $90; 619-819-5407) overlooks the town’s surf break and miles of coastline beyond from an oceanfront perch. Most of its 33 spacious guest quarters feature large outdoor patios and rattan furnishings.