HOLIDAY HUNTER: MEXICO
PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLA SEVITT WAS SWEPT AWAY BY THE SANDY BEACHES OF MEXICO’S COASTAL TOWNS.
Photographer Nicola Sevitt heads to one of her bucket-list destinations to experience the sights, sounds and local delicacies of Mexico’s coast.
WHEN SHE’S NOT busy working in the Country Style office, Nicola Sevitt can often be found planning her next trip. The lifestyle photographer has worked in Sydney and New York, and contributed to publications such as Homelife, The Urban List, Vogue Online and Condé Nast Traveller. Nicola’s trips through Europe, South America, Israel and Mexico, as well as regional Australia, have fuelled her desire to document untold stories, and connect with yet-to-be-discovered artists and makers. Here, she takes us on a tour across Mexico’s coast.
WHY DO LOVE TRAVELLING? Experiencing something new every day really inspires me and it’s the main reason I love to travel. From seeing new landscapes and architecture to tasting local flavours and hearing the sounds of foreign chatter — travelling is truly a feast for the senses. I also love to slow down and soak everything in, which is why I tend to spend more time than recommended in most destinations I visit. Removing yourself from your usual routine and experiencing a new culture without the distractions of everyday life is something I think everyone should do.
WHY MEXICO? I had been dreaming of going there for a long time, so I was thrilled to finally be ticking it off my bucket list. Tulum and Isla Mujeres on the east coast were very much on my radar, however I hadn’t really thought about where else I might go. My boyfriend loves to surf, so I did some of research and came across the tiny town of Sayulita on the west coast. It sounded a little bit like the Mexican version of Byron Bay and turned out to be a colourful little town, full of traditional hole-in-the-wall type eateries, bars and boutique shops. The pace is very slow, and the days revolve around eating, relaxing on the beach with a coconut in hand and surfing. Nearby, there are other towns and beaches to explore, as well as beautiful jungle hikes to do.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE MEMORABLE PARTS OF YOUR TRIP? One day we took some vague directions from a local to a beach near Sayulita, which was an adventure. The path wasn’t clear and we got lost a few times, but after a couple of hours of arguing and attempting to navigate the road, we arrived in paradise: a totally deserted beach, completely untouched. We had it all to ourselves. After five days in Sayulita, we travelled east to enjoy the Caribbean coast. Tulum is much quieter and even slower than Sayulita. I felt completely at peace when we arrived. From our little cabana on the beach, all I could hear was the sound of the wind and the waves. Our days involved waking up slow, eating acai bowls in hammocks, reading on the beach and strolling along the jungle roads, popping into shops and restaurants. We also visited the Cenotes Dos Ojos [swimming holes formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock] and Tulum Ruins, both are must-sees. The history is absolutely fascinating and experiencing the beauty of the cenotes is so special. We spent the last two nights of our trip at Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the coast of Cancun. The water here was the bluest I’ve ever seen. Upon arrival, we hired a pink golf buggy — the best way to explore the island! Everyone on the beach has a beer in hand and at sunset, as the sun finally disappears beyond the horizon, everyone claps. Something I’ve never experienced before and it was so beautiful to witness.
WHERE DID YOU STAY? In Sayulita, we stayed a night at Casa Love hotel before moving on to a gorgeous Airbnb called El Studio, run by a French couple. The studio has a minimalist vibe and is located on top of the owners’ lifestyle store Révolucion del Sueño in the heart of the town, close to cafés, quirky boutiques and the beach. The cactus-filled balcony overlooks the town and is the perfect spot to listen to music and people-watch at night. In Tulum we stayed at one of Coco Tulum Hotel’s rustic cabanas on the beach. It was such a treat to wake up, step outside your room and be on the sand with the ocean right in front of you. Coco Tulum is situated on the >
main street which runs along the back of the beach. The road is dotted with lovely little independent boutiques, bars and restaurants and lush jungle everywhere in between. We could walk everywhere we needed to go.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST THING YOU DID WHEN YOU ARRIVED IN MEXICO? We had travelled from San Francisco and our journey wasn’t exactly straightforward. We took an overnight flight to Mexico City, then had to get another flight to Puerto Vallarta, which we almost missed — I remember running to the plane with no shoes on — and finally a two-hour taxi ride to Sayulita. We were exhausted by the time we arrived but decided it would be a good idea to walk the length of the beach. The feeling of the sand between my toes and the fresh salty breeze was heavenly. It revived me and I was suddenly on Mexico time. WHAT OTHER ADVENTURES DID YOU HAVE? We went on walks through the thick green jungle to deserted beaches, hitchhiked in the back of a ute to a swimming hole and took full advantage of siesta every day. On the west coast we fell asleep to the sound of local music and the noise of the vibrant town, while on the east coast, it was the sound of the ocean and distant voices of people dancing on the beach.
WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR TRIP? The food — exotic fruits, guacamole, tacos, lime, coriander, local seafood and meat, accompanied by a coconut, Pacifico beer or mezcal cocktail. What more could you want?
WHERE ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO VISIT IN MEXICO? I would love to travel to Oaxaca and Mexico City. I’ve always wanted to visit the house-studio of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. DO YOU HAVE ANY TRAVEL TIPS? Plan ahead, but leave room for a bit of spontaneity. Prior to travelling, I do my research and jot down all the great places I come across. I then categorise these into the neighbourhoods or areas. That way, when I arrive, I have a go-to list of cafés, markets and museums that I can refer to. Some may say it’s extreme and geeky, but my boyfriend goes the extra mile and plots these on a Google map! I have to say, it is really helpful. As I mentioned before, I’d rather stay in one place and really get to know it than jump around, so I always plan to stay a little longer than travel guides recommend. Also, if you don’t know any locals, chat to a stranger upon arrival or research blogs and Instagram accounts for insider secrets. Locals always know of the best places! For more information about Nicola, visit nicolasevitt.com or follow @nicolasevitt on Instagram.
NICOLA’S FAVOURITE PLACES TO EAT, DRINK AND VISIT IN MEXICO
• Mary’s Located on the main street that leads up to the town plaza, Mary’s offers traditional Mexican cuisine at its finest. With brightly coloured tablecloths and chairs, this little gem is constantly packed with locals and tourists alike. Enjoy their fresh guacamole, and be sure to order the Tacos de Camarones Mary’s Way (prawn, roasted capsicum, melted cheese and avo). Their giant empanadas are amazing, too. Avenida Revolución 36, Sayulita. • El Itacate Come hungry. On the weekend, this place is bustling. Another little hole-in-the-wall eatery with a few tables on the sidewalk, Itacate boasts Mexican fare with quality meat, seafood and vegetarian ingredients. Their signature dish is the ‘Itacate’ and it’s a must-try. It’s basically a burrito wrapped in fried cheese in place of a tortilla. Put your name down with the owner, grab a Pacifico and enjoy the ambience of the vibrant street scene and live music while you wait for your table. Calle Jose Mariscal 42, Sayulita. • Revolución Del Sueño A boutique filled with handmade homewares, cushions, clothing and a range of colourful artisanal goods. Run by Parisians Nico and Léa Del Sueño (owners of the El Studio Airbnb), this store has something for everyone. Calle Manuel Navarrete 55, Sayulita. Follow @revoluciondelsueno • Evoke the Spirit A boutique that focuses on traditional Mexican handicrafts, designed with a modern edge. The store sells textiles, wall hangings and decorative skulls. Jose Mariscal 12A, Sayulita; evokethespirit.com • Posada Margherita Hotel and Italian Restaurant This was one of my favourite spots, overlooking the beach. A charming setting for lunch or dinner, this restaurant serves up grilled fish and delicious pasta. I ordered one of their specials — homemade tagliatelle with tomato, basil and fresh lobster and it was one of the best pastas I’ve eaten. Carretera Tulum-boca Paila, Tulum; posadamargherita.com • Hartwood A really special place, and probably the most popular restaurant in Tulum, all the cooking here is done in a wood-burning oven and grill over fire. Hartwood focuses on local and sustainable ingredients and the food is exquisite. Getting a table is almost impossible — try to book a month in advance (when their reservations open), or just turn up and be prepared to wait with a cocktail in hand. Remember to take insect repellent! Carretera Tulum-boca Paila, Tulum; hartwoodtulum.com • Gitanos A good place for drinks, this mezcal bar is surrounded by jungle and has a great vibe. Check out their live music on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, and make sure you get the Gitano Margherita! Beach Road, Tulum; gitanotulum.com
“All I could hear was the sound of the wind and the waves.”
CLOCKWISE, FROM LEFT The view overlooking Sayulita Beach from Casa Love hotel; Tulum Beach is known for its clear water and white sand; deck chairs outside Posada Marghertia Hotel and Italian Restaurant. FACING PAGE, CLOCKWISE, FROM FAR LEFT Casa Love hotel; the shoreline beneath the Tulum Ruins; day beds and palm trees on Isla Mujeres.