I'm a big fan of Mexico. I haven't travelled there as much as I would like, but where ever I have been I've fallen head over heels, immediately. One of those places happens to be a small fishing village just north of Puerto Vallerta that's become a absolute favorite of American travelers, while still remaining small, authentic and beloved by locals and new arrivals alike. Sayulita. If you've been there, I'll bet you love it as much as I do.
Sayulita is not a big resort town. It does not have large hotel chains. It does not have an area for tourists only. What it does have is the personality and feeling of really being in Mexico. There are working fisherman out on the beach, families who've lived there for generations, and a fascinating community that's a blend of ex-pats and locals, which makes it rich in culture and easy on the traveller. Sayulita is the place for you if you want to go relaxed, low-key and real, and enjoy the authentic sights, sounds, flavors and atmosphere of Mexico.
My first visit was back in 2006 when I photographed my cousin's destination wedding. That vacation has become legendary in my family as the most fun, ever, so when I was contacted recently by the fine folks at Sayulita's Villa Amor, inviting me down to stay for a few days and get to know their property and wedding options, just guess how quickly I said, YES PLEASE!
My guy Matt and I flew down to Sayulita and were guests at Villa Amor for five fabulous days. Let me be clear - it was not nearly enough. Since the minute we drove away from our villa to head to the airport, we've been daydreaming, talking and scheming about how and when we can get back there. As you see these photos and hear about our amazing experience, I think you'll understand why.
Villa Amor is a resort that's comprised of 42 villas of various shapes and sizes nestled throughout a dramatic hillside and overlooking the beach, bay and town. The villa we were lucky enough to stay in was none other than the crown jewel of them all - La Gran Villa. It sits at the highest point on the hill, looking utterly impressive from anywhere in town, and even more impressive when you drive up to its huge courtyard and then walk through the heavy wooden doors. Absolute paradise. 4,000 square feet of it.
The three bedrooms are beautifully appointed and each feature their own private bathroom, the huge kitchen was built for a chef, and the main living space has a fabulous media room, dining room and living room - a great layout for families and groups of friends! The super-star of the whole villa however is the terrace. Spanning the entire back of the villa is an enormous stone terrace with a panoramic view of the ocean, beach, town and jungle interior. It includes cushy lounge chairs, dramatic columns, a jacuzzi and an infinity pool, right there on the very edge of the cliff, and that dear readers was where Matt and I spent every possible moment of our trip. That terrace is my new happy place.
La Gran Villa is where most wedding receptions at Villa Amor take place. The large cobble stone courtyard at the front of the villa is perfect for dinner and dancing, and the guests and staff alike can use the amenities inside as well. Most weddings there are around 60-80 guests, but they can accomodate up to 150. Resident wedding planner Karen Ruezga, who has worked exclusively planning weddings at Villa Amor for the past seven years, loves to help couples create their ideal, personalized, destination wedding. She told us that most people don't know just how flexible and creative they can be when it comes to weddings - if you have an idea for your celebration at Villa Amor, just ask! Karen also loves to help create the full destination wedding experience for her client's guests. She's done everything from organizing spa treatments and fishing trips, to tequila tastings, beach bonfires and sand castle building contests for the kids.
Karen says that the most popular time of the year for weddings is November through May - after that it becomes the rainy season when it's hotter, more humid, and much, much buggier! Most wedding couples rent out La Gran Villa, along with the others surrounding it so that their family and friends can all stay together and enjoy a vacation as well as the wedding. Her biggest piece of advice? Book early!
For wedding ceremonies, one of the best options at Villa Amor is the lush, green and blessedly shady Kissing Garden, seen below. It is such a welcome respite from the sunshine and heat, and even offers a little villa for the bride to get ready in. Perfection.
When we were able to finally tear ourselves away from our spectacular terrace we walked all throughout Villa Amor - down the winding roads and the even windier stairways that weave in and out and up and down the hillside. Every nook and cranny is filled with detail. Vines growing on crumbling brick walls, tiny geckos scurrying here and there, fountains, trees, doorways, iron gates - all lovingly bleached by the sun and calling out for someone to take their photo. (Which as you can see here, I did with abandon!)
Farther down the hill, right on the water, is Villa Amor's O Restaurant and Bar, where we enjoyed an amazing lunch one afternoon - simple, easy Mexican fare that was oh-so-good; nachos, quesadillas and shrimp aguachile. Their dinner menu looks fantastic too, but since that pool at the top of the hill kept luring us home, we never quite made it back to O for another meal as we intended.
Matt and I had a magical stay at Villa Amor thanks to the town, the accommodations, and perhaps most importantly the staff. Every single person who works at Villa Amor was a pleasure to spend time with and get to know. They were incredibly attentive, generous and kind, and added so much to our stay. We really can't thank them enough for all they did - we were wildly spoiled by the experience, what a treat!
To learn more about Villa Amor, be sure to visit www.VillaAmor.com, and to see a beautiful wedding recently photographed at Villa Amor, check out this post on What Junebug Loves - Gloria and Kevin's Sayulita Wedding by Jillian Mitchell.
Also, stay tuned for more soon about the Riviera Nayarit region of Mexico, and more wedding destination information as we get closer to the launch of our World's Best Wedding Venues Hotlist!