It’s the stuff of legends: a path through the jungle to a secret, secluded beach hiding on the shores of Western Mexico; mineral-rich clay tucked between the rocks that will return your skin to its youthful, baby-soft glow; crystal clear waters to wash the sunbaked mud off your body.
I almost didn’t write this post because A) I sort of hate to deprive you of the adventure of finding the secret clay beach yourself, and B) I deeply hope this spot remains shrouded in a bit of mystery (and out of the eyes of heaps of tourists, resorts, developers . . . eek). But if you’re willing to make the trek into the jungle to find this clay beach, you probably already value the untouched beauty of the place and will do your best to keep it that way (that means please don’t leave your trash behind). And if you are making this trek, and you’re keen to avoid some of the mishaps I faced when trying to find it, I’ve provided all the details about how to get here and tips for the journey in this blog post (read on!).
The clay beach really is something of a myth around Sayulita in the Nayarit region of Mexico's Pacific Coast. There’s almost nothing online about it, and after asking tons of locals, it became apparent that most people living in the area have never even heard of the beach. But I’m here to tell you that it does, in fact, exist, and is even more wonderfully magical than you could imagine, albeit requiring a heavy dose of work to find.
I dragged Brandon, a Sayulita resident, with me on this “wild goose chase,” and I’d highly recommend bringing a companion if you make the trek yourself because, as this post makes very clear, it’s quite easy to get lost. Our journey first started by driving a few towns north of Sayulita into Lo de Marcos which, rumor had it, served as the access point to the clay beach. After a couple of failed attempts to get information from the tourism company in town (the employees of which had never heard of a clay beach in the area), we headed to the beach to chat with the locals. Although no one spoke English, we were able to get the name of a different town, Las Lomas, where we should instead begin the search.
Hopping back on the road, we drove south and turned onto a nameless dirt road leading into Las Lomas. From here, we continued to drive down an unruly, steep road, making our best guesses when we’d hit unidentified forks, and ultimately ending at beachside Punta Monterrey Resort about half an hour later.
This was definitely not the right beach. It was beautiful, mind you, and still rather isolated and empty save for the few guests staying at the resort, but it wasn’t the elusive clay beach we’d heard about. Pulling up the satellite view on Google Maps (oh, the wonders of modern technology), we could see that Monterrey Beach shouldered another smaller, seemingly uninhabited beach to the south, hidden behind a thick wall of jungle and rock.
After some disagreement about whether or not to scale the rocky cliff and do our best to avoid the crashing waves and certain death (or, at least, I was certain about it; Brandon was much more optimistic), we were saved when we crossed paths with a local Sayulitan whom Brandon knew from town. Whew. Certain Death Plan averted.
This guy was the first person we found who actually been to the clay beach (hope rekindled!), but told us that we had missed the road a while back. He said to turn around, pass the goats, and then turn right at the fork. We remembered the fork and definitely remembered the goats, and considering this was (believe it or not) the most detailed set of directions we had gotten so far, we felt confident about our next attempt.
Confidence short-lived, these directions led us to another steep, unruly dirt road that dead-ended at the trees, with a narrow walking path leading deeper into the jungle. Thankfully, just as we prepared to explore that route, a man (who I assume must live right there in the jungle) stopped us from our second Certain Death Plan and pleaded with us, in Spanish, to not continue on lest we meet a deeply unpleasant fate of “muchas serpientes.” I sure didn’t need a translator for that one. As if that wasn’t enough convincing for me, he also repeatedly pantomimed being stung by wasps – another unfortunate outcome should los serpientes not kill us first.
Fine. We wouldn’t take this death path. But where the heck was this beach?? Despite our efforts to pantomime rubbing mud all over our bodies, the Jungle Man appeared to have never heard of such a beach, but decided to call up his English-speaking son to see if he could help us out.
To my dismay, Jungle Man’s son said we would need to return to Punta Monterrey and either scale the rocks to the neighboring beach or swim around them (the former plan being Brandon’s initial crazy idea; the latter plan being, somehow, even more insane considering the overpowering current and huge waves that would definitely send our bodies crashing into the jagged rocky wall).
It was at this point that Brandon dubbed the whole thing a “wild goose chase” and we considered that perhaps the beach didn’t exist after all. But I’m generally of the belief that the minute you give up a search like this is the minute right before you are about to find it. So we decided to return to Monterrey Beach and try our luck scaling the rocks.
We drove past the fork a third time, past the goats, down the steep dirt path toward Monterrey Beach, toward the beach for one last attempt. But this time, on the way, we noticed a narrow, overgrown path leading into the jungle to the left. It was calling to us. My gut told me that this little jungle path would take us to the beach, albeit with slightly less confidence that it was far enough out of the path of los serpientes and killer wasps. Still a better option than the rocky cliff, I decided.
Emerging out of that rugged jungle walk onto the shores of the clay beach was one of the more rewarding ends to an adventure I’ve had. Not only because we had finally reached this mythic destination after two hours of wrong turns, bad directions, getting lost, and dead ends, but also because the beach far surpassed any fantasy I had in my head of what we'd find there.
The secret clay beach is large, made particularly so by the fact that there is no one and nothing else there. Perhaps a hundred feet of soft white sands stretch from the wall of jungle on one side, toward the crystal clear waters on the other, for the length of a football field. We decided that even if there was no magical healing clay, the beach itself would be worth it.
Of course, a place this pristine and stunning and hidden wasn’t going to let us down. At the far end of the beach, where another wall of rock hugged the shore, sat a small hole filled with grey clay, spotted with blueish white crystallized minerals, and made damp by spring water seeping in from the earth below. This was it – the legendary clay beach right in front of us, finally.
There really isn't any way to replicate the kind of soul-filling greatness of that afternoon. We spent hours slathering the slippery, white-grey clay on our bodies, lying in the sun as the heat baked it into our skin, listening to the turquoise waves crash onto the white deserted shores around us, slipping into the crystal clear water to rinse off the clay and reveal silkily soft skin underneath. The stuff of legends, for sure, and one of my best adventures & favorite beaches in the world.
Want to make the trek yourself? Here are some more-or-less descriptive directions about how to find the secret clay beach in Nayarit, Mexico:
Head in the direction of Las Lomas, north of Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta. Turn into the town on the main road. Tip: Bring either a heavy duty vehicle, preferably with four wheel drive (especially if it’s rainy season), or a bike that can handle the steep and rocky dirt roads.
Drive toward the ocean. Keep driving when the road stops being a real road and now is a questionable unpaved dirt path. Drive a little longer. Tip: I know you think you’re lost already, but you’re not. Keep driving.
When you get to a major fork in the road with two signs, turn right. If you pass the goats you’re going in the right direction. If you come to an orchid forest with killer snakes and wasps, you went the wrong way.
Somewhere between the fork and the Punta Monterrey resort, you’ll see an overgrown path to your left, leading into the jungle and sloping slightly downward. Opposite the path there is a small patch of dirt where you can park your car or bike. Tip: It’s technically possible to ride a bike down the path but it would be tricky. I recommend just walking it.
Walk down the jungle path. When you pass the abandoned outhouses, turn right at the fork. Keep walking along the clearest path you can find. Tip: Don’t worry about bringing serious shoes for this. We did it barefoot, which was definitely painful, but possible. Sandals or flip flops would be fine, too.
Eventually, you’ll come to a set of stone stairs leading down to the beach. Hallelujah! You made it. Bask in your victory and soak in the view for a few minutes.
Walk to the opposite side of the beach. Look for a small hole in the ground, likely with a small puddle of water at the bottom and surrounded by a light grey muddy substance. Dig in, scooping out small ball of clay; pick out the rocks and continue to moisten the clay as you rub it onto your skin – head to toe. Tip: Seriously, cover yourself. Feet, bum, face, hair – all of it. You’ll be happy you did.
Lay out in the sun and let the clay bake into your skin for a long while. When you’re ready, jump into the ocean and rinse it all off to reveal your new baby-soft skin.
Don’t leave anything behind. No trash. Nada. Don’t you dare.