Travel: Active Travel: Health Retreats

Sayulita: Sun, Surf, Sweat

Surfer town on the Pacific coast of Mexico


So. Word on the street is, Sayulita is the new Tulum. For us, this is definitely not the case. Sure they both have an undercurrent of hippy, but what Tulum has in bright, Caribbean turquoise waters, Sayulita has darker, Pacific waves. Tulum’s who’s who following with rustic/sceney (and pricy, on the ‘strip’) restaurants are replaced by Sayulita’s more surfer/spring break crowd with mix of touristy and local haunts to match. Sayulita isn’t on the DJ stopover list like Tulum, but it does have live music. They’re different, and Sayulita has its own charm – get out of town and dive into the jungle paradise.

The Hotel

So, we didn’t stay at a hotel, per se – we stayed at the eco-lodge, Haramara. Set in the jungle, this is where you go to get away from it all. Just a 10-minute drive from Sayulita, here you won’t find any of the conveniences – electricity, wifi – of town, but that’s what we came for: huts in the jungle complete with gas lamps, open air showers, hammocks and the sound of waves crashing.

The Retreat

We’re not sure how we signed up for a fitness retreat that started the day after New Year’s, but after the initial shock, we’re glad we did. Led by the brilliant Ariane Hundt from Brooklyn Bridge Bootcamp, the retreat was more fitness with encouragement than ‘80s bootcamp. Days started with a workout at 7, usually followed by yoga before lunch, with a final hour in the afternoon to sweat. The rest of the time was free. Workouts were based around resistance bands, and yoga was largely for stretching. There were words of encouragement along the way, and nutrition and other classes (vision boarding) you could pop into – the beauty here is you do what you want, no pressure. There were also a host of different treatments available, including ones that used sound and more alternative methods, a temazcal, a pool complete with bar (yes!), and healthy-ish ‘snacks’. Meals were three courses, three times per day. No gluten, little dairy, few carbs and lots of tea and protein. This, however, wasn’t a week about weight loss and deprivation, it was a week about starting the year off right. Alcohol permitted.

Other things to do

Definitely try surfing. These are the waves to learn in, and they’ve got some excellent teachers around who let you just get on with it, meaning more time in the water, less theory on the beach. The water is bathwater warm, and for early January, it wasn’t that crowded. If you’re not in retreat mode, look into renting a house (there are lots in the jungle that are very modern, with infinity pools) or check into one of the serviced hotels if you’re more room service than headlamp (Villa Amour – excuse the name – and Playa Escondida are good options). And eat at Mary’s Fish Tacos, with its colourful, plastic tablecloths (not Maria’s streetside fish tacos, mind you – so check).

What to buy

In Sayulita it’s all about pom poms and wire ‘laundry’ like bags (like the ones in Tulum! A similarity!). Head straight for the shop Revolución Del Sueño for neon striped cotton sarongs with pom poms and Panama hats with, you’ve got it, les poms. They also have lots of wooden Point Break-style surfboards around. Custom ones take approx. a month, and we saw artisan hats that looked a lot like ones from Yosuzi for a fraction of the cost.

Close to Sayulita

Get a car and drive! Punta de Mita is 30 mins from Sayulita. Here you’ll find one of the Four Season’s prized properties. At £800 per night (the lowest rate when we last checked), if you can’t splash to stay, call before to see if they’ll let you in for a walk around. You must call, though – two large, heavily guarded entrance gates mean this isn’t a casual stroll in (oh, and you also can’t walk in. You must go in with a taxi, sigh). There’s also a W here under construction and we have it on good authority that the design is going to be ‘mind-blowing’. The town of San Pancho is also worth a pop in, especially if you’re ready to trade your taco in for a cold pressed juice and vegan sandwich.

PV Stopover

If you have an inconvenient flight, it might make sense to stop over in Puerto Vallarta. 10 minutes from the airport you’ll find Casa Velas. With a swim-up bar, pristine grounds, beach club and all inclusive restaurants and bars (available around the clock, including room service), this is a stress free option. Skip the Señor Frogs in town (eeeeek!) and spend the day at the private beach club, where you can check into your flight with ease and order fresh coconut water smoothies on repeat. Not a bad way to start or end your trip.

For more fitness features read our Tulum and Ibiza reviews.


Haramara Retreat
Brooklyn Bridge BootcampFor more information on their upcoming Belize retreat click here.
Casa Velas from £325 per night, based on a double occupancy room.
Prices are for all-inclusive stays and are also inclusive of taxes. Offer available until 30th April 2016. Book online at

Originally published on
16th February 2016


Then subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter here: