There are destinations better experienced with forward-planning. Sayulita, a bohemian enclave in the Mexican state of Nayarit, is not one of those places. If it’s a departure from your daily grind you seek; a respite from the neat, predictable routines we’ve created for ourselves at home, Sayulita will show you the way. The question is, are you willing to follow its lead?

For a group of friends, banded together by overlapping social circles late September, the answer was emphatic, definitive yes. Expectations were simple: surf our brains out, throw back a few cervezas, stuff ourselves silly with tacos and repeat.

However, what I wasn’t expecting was a trek through literal jungle to get to the surf. During the shared van ride that shuttled the six of us plus one new Aussie friend (whom we picked up over breakfast at Chocobanana in town) to the beach access point near Punta de Mita, I prayed for a dry hike. Would the sun that broke through the early morning rainfall be enough to zap the jungle moisture we’d likely encounter as part of the twenty minute jaunt to the beach?

Shannon, my most intrepid friend from college lead the human caravan as she zipped through out of sight, hauling a rented board balanced on her head with ease. I, on the other hand held up everyone else behind me as I cursed my way through mud and stagnant pools of water. Rivulets of sweat slid down my chest and back. Whomever I prayed to must not have been listening.

Shifting my eight-footer from the top of my head to under my arm and then back to the top of my head, we maneuvered around and ducked under gangly branches reaching haphazardly across our path. Cautious attempts to sidestep earthy mush proved futile. So were attempts to repel the mosquitoes by dousing ourselves in citrus-scented bug spray.

Halfway through, I failed to wrench my foot out of one particularly sticky spot and instead popped the strap from the sole of my flip flop. In that instant, the struggle became very real. I’d have to walk the remainder of the way barefoot. Everyone has her quirks, and the sensation of mud oozing between my toes just grosses me out. It is the personification of why some people find the word moist so repulsive.

Sensing my rising panic, or maybe an opportunity to shut me up, one of the others offered to carry my board. I agreed at once. Plucking my flip flop from the mud I bolted toward the faint sounds of waves crashing and salty air wafting through the brush. Relief arrived as mud gave way to packed soil, then sand.

Finally, after a zig zag over some rocks the path opened up to our own private playground for that afternoon. Between the clouds engaging the sun in a game of hide and seek and the awe on my friend’s faces as they surveyed the scene, the discomforts of the journey melted away.

Waves arched and crumbled left and right with enough power to boost us forward yet restrained enough to keep us upright, and nobody was on them. What a welcome a surprise.


* * *

Back in town that evening, we devoured burritos and guacamole while the sun tucked itself beyond the horizon. From our wooden picnic table on the South end of the beach, surfers made the most of the waning light. Persistent entrepreneurs peddled cigars and other trinkets. Families packed up their young ones for the day.

Back at the picnic table, we were keen to see how the night would unfold.

We didn’t have to wander around long until our ears lead us back to the same outdoor bar we capped off our arrival evening with the night before. Ropes supported makeshift wooden swings as bar seating. A cluster of sidewalk tables crowded around the live band for an intimate environment out on the mostly empty street that Wednesday evening.

Feeling sluggish from a full day in the sun (and aided by the few beers I downed on the ride back from Punta Mita), I opted for water while I observed my friends do what they do best; bring the party to every space they occupy.

Rain began to fall; slowly at first. The band kept pace as the sky opened up in tandem with the rate at which the alcohol loosened them up. Hours passed and there were no signs of them slowing. As the night poured on, rain pounded the bar’s corrugated metal roofing and flowed over its edges to create a shimmery curtain.

With a steady stream of tequila and beer flowing, we twirled, salsa-ed, dropped it like we were in a Vegas club (and paid no mind that those moves weren’t genre-appropriate). Dancing, laughing and clinking bottles in the rain that evening, we were unapologetically in “vacation mode.”

Before arriving, I was anxious about how much we’d be able to explore and experience when the anticipated forecast during our stay read wet and rainy nearly every day.

However, if this evening was any indication of how the rest of our trip would play out, then by all means, open the floodgates.