Playa Escondida

near Sayulita, Pacific Coast, Mexico Book from

Reviewed by Sarah Breaux
Romantic jungle retreat with a private beach and a laid-back vibe, near the surfer town of Sayulita
As soon as we arrived at Playa Escondida, the hidden jungle setting and the sound of waves and birdsong made us feel miles away from civilisation. Indeed, as we headed up a winding path to our colourful casita, we came face-to-face with a wild iguana. Yet this secluded property is only a 10-minute ride from the buzzy surfer town of Sayulita, one of the spots that has put the Riviera Nayarit on the map, and 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta airport (direct flights from London).

It's the kind of resort where you could contentedly spend all day swinging in a hammock, sipping tangy margaritas and watching pelicans out at sea. There are 29 spacious rooms and villas but you'd never know it thanks to the acres of land. Some are camouflaged by giant ferns and palm trees, others face apart from each other along the beautiful shoreline. Privacy is paramount and it's generally adults only. Should you feel restless, Sayulita's beach is excellent for both novice and experienced surfers and there are great restaurants and bars if you fancy a night out. Very special.

Highs

  • Set on a west-facing, private beach: gorgeous sunsets and the sound of waves lulling you to sleep
  • Cool, quirky rooms. All are very spacious and decorated in bright rustic-chic style; most have outdoor space
  • Delicious food and drinks at reasonable prices (Mexican spicing and ocean-fresh seafood by candlelight)
  • Lovely, helpful staff who always smile
  • Lots of activities on offer (ziplining, horse riding, whale watching) but perfect for chilling out, too

Lows

  • Mosquitoes at dawn and dusk so insect spray is a must (all rooms have nets). There can also be scorpions
  • Rates don't include breakfast, but they are very reasonable for what you get
  • Lots of winding paths and steps; won't suit those with mobility issues
  • No children under 5, and older kids only allowed during school holidays (a high for most guests)
  • No in-room WiFi and only some rooms have air con (although most have open-air walls, so ventilation isn't an issue)

Best time to go

We recommend November-May, the dry season. November to February is coolest (mid 60s at night to mid 80s by day); March to May is a touch warmer (high 60s to high 80s). In May, you might see the annual land crab migration, an amazing spectacle. January and February is whale-watching season. June-October is the rainy season, but bursts of rain are interspersed with sunny spells, so it's by no means a bad time to come.

Our top tips

Don’t miss Sayulita’s Friday farmers' market (the Mercado del Pueblo) for fresh, organic food products and artisan handicrafts, including colourful rugs and ceramics.

Great for...

Beach
Honeymoon
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 29
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • No under 5s. Limited dates for older kids
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Templo del Mar, Deseo

Rooms

The 29 colourful casitas, rooms and villas are all unique. Most have ocean views and a private deck; some have a bar area or kitchen. You might want a Jacuzzi or lounge chairs, an outdoor shower, or a hammock might swing it for you. But our advice is, choose a setting and enjoy the surprise. All the rooms we saw were great.

For a beachfront setting, choose a Luna, Sol or Templo del Mar room. All have bright interiors, heavy wood and rattan furnishings and traditional Mexican ceramics. The thatched Beach Villas are a little more understated and share a private pool, so would be ideal for a group wanting to stay together.

The jungle casitas (Ocean View or Tropical View) feel especially private yet are a short walk from the main resort area and beach. We stayed in the funky Studio, which had open-air walls, a balcony bathroom and views of the ocean and jungle.

For a real adventure, opt for the teak Bird Canyon stilted bungalows, which are perfect for bird watchers. Split-level and almost Javanese in style, they are a quarter of a mile from the main area but come with a golf cart to make getting around easy (you can take it to Sayulita, too).

Note that some beds are in a loft bedroom with a ladder leading up. See our Rates page for full details of each room.

Features include:

  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Kitchens in some rooms
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Mosquito net
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

A la carte meals are served in the shady poolside restaurant. For breakfast we went for hearty Mexican options: machaca con huevo (shredded dry beef and eggs), huevos rancheros (ranch-style eggs, with peppers, chillies and cheese) and chilaquiles (corn tortilla); all were beautifully spiced. Western options include omelettes, eggs Benedict, waffles and French toast.

For lunch, try fresh ceviche made with lime, chillies and avocado, or red-hot quesadillas and a cold beer. Pizza, sandwiches and salads are also available.

The extensive dinner menu has all sorts of options, including classic international dishes (Pacific lobster, rack of lamb), gourmet Mexican (seafood casserole with anise and coriander, coconut shrimp) and Italian veggie/vegan meals. If you can still find space, the cinnamon battered bananas with vanilla ice cream are outrageously good.

Drinks and snacks are served at the Terraza bar all day. We discovered that tortilla chips and dips and fried calamari rings are a perfect accompaniment for margaritas.

Some of the rooms have basic kitchens (gas stove, fridge, coffee maker) and seating areas with amazing views. If you're staying a few nights, they're a good way to save money and have a change of scene. There are grocery shops in town, along with cool restaurants and cafés.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Vegan Menu
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Swim in the pool, swing in a hammock or laze on the beach
  • Sayulita is excellent for surfing, and especially good for novices; the hotel can arrange a class or board rental
  • Wind down with a cucumber facial or hot-stone massage in the thatched spa; there's a free morning yoga class, too
  • Take a boat trip to the exotic Marietas Islands (snorkel or dive in clear waters, visit the famous 'hidden beach', and see blue-footed boobies on land)
  • Other organised day trips include jungle ziplining, horse riding on the beach, and humpback whale watching
  • There are great golf courses nearby and you can hire bikes to explore the coastline

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Nightlife
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Whalewatching
  • Wildlife
  • Yoga
  • Ziplining

Kids

This is primarily an adult hotel for R&R. Children are allowed, but there are restrictions: no children under 5 at any time; 6-12 year olds allowed over Christmas, Easter and the school summer holidays only; only 2 children per family. Various peacekeeping policies are in place, too.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Chachalaca and Golondrina each have a sofabed for 1 extra guest (Bird Canyon); Rocosa (Ocean View) and Sol 1 can fit an extra double bed for 2 guests on request; Danzante has 2 double beds (Luna)

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
9/
Service
10/
Value
9/
Overall

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Rates for Playa Escondida