Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Retire in Sayulita, Mexico? What About in Puerto Vallarta? Or La Manzanilla?

Evaluating 3 of Our Favorite Beach Towns in Mexico

Sayulita Beach on a Quiet Day
Sayulita, Nayarit
      Sayulita is a small beach town on the Pacific Ocean, in the heart of the Riviera Nayarit. Not just another Mexican village, Sayulita is unique in so many ways, a one-of-a-kind pueblo. Some call it quaint. Others say it is a surfing town with a wonderful bay and beach that became a tourist attraction. One bumper sticker we saw lately may have summed it up with "Keep Sayulita Strange". Jon and I liken it to our home town of Ashland, Oregon, where the visitors and residents are a diverse international collection, the dress-code is casual to funky, there are many art and jewelry galleries and little shops selling eclectic clothing and souvenirs, plus a great selection of restaurants from hot dog stands to upscale, upstairs eateries with a view of the plaza. Sayulita differs from Ashland in that the hippies have traded their skateboards for surf boards, much of the art and jewelry is created by the indigenous people, Huichol, and the streets are cobblestone, lined with taco and burrito stands, surf shops, fruit stands, and juice vendors. Life moves at a slower pace in Sayulita, people are mellow, and if a visitor gets annoyed because of slow service, it is helpful to remember that this is not “gringolandia”.
New Pueblo Magico Sign in Sayulita's Plaza

     Sayulita's popularity as a tourist destination in the Riviera Nayarit is growing each year. One article recently called it the "Crown Jewel" of the area. In 2015, Sayulita was awarded the sought-after distinction of Pueblo Mágico (Magical Village), a program led by Mexico's Secretariat of Tourism. The purpose is to promote a series of towns around the country that offer visitors a "magical" experience and to recognize places that have “certain characteristics that make them unique”. Each person would describe those “certain characteristics that makes Sayulita unique” in a different way, depending on how and where they choose to spend their time there. Sayulita has so much to do, to see, to hear, and to taste, it must be experienced for a week or two to begin to get a feel for its energy. It takes living there for at least six months to get to know the real Sayulita. I think of Sayulita as a town of many colors.
One Colorful Street in Sayulita

     Sayulita started as a fisherman’s village in the early 1900’s and became an ejido (community owned and managed land) in 1941.It was discovered as an off-the-beaten path surfers’ paradise in the 1960’s and wanderers from north of the border began gathering there. In the late 1900’s, Sayulita became a popular place for many North Americans and Europeans to build their second homes. Quite a few Americans and Canadians have chosen to become expats and move there permanently. The population is about 6000, but the number of people in Sayulita at any one time fluctuates greatly depending on the month, the Mexican holiday season, and how many tourists have arrived, with Semana Santa being the busiest two weeks of the year.
Esto Es Mexico: This is Mexico, This is Sayulita!

     We have spent time in Sayulita during all months of the year except September and October and find that with each season comes a different atmosphere, but always vivid colors, the musical sounds of Mexico, and interesting, sometimes bizarre sights in this charming village. For years, we traveled to Sayulita in our motorhome and often stayed for months at a time at the Sayulita Trailer Park, located right on the beach. We fell in love with this quirky pueblo, returning again and again. There are so many reasons that we enjoy Sayulita, and they all revolve around the basic premise of healthy living. We began to envision purchasing a brick-and-mortar home in Sayulita and living there full-time. It was time to start our “Pros and Cons” list for living in Sayulita.

Here are some of the things we like about Sayulita:
1.      Sayulita is a small town that has almost everything we need within walking distance. We find we walk so much more when we are in Sayulita. We walk a half mile each way to local shops for produce, meat, fish, and supplies. We walk to Zumba and Yoga class. We walk to go out to dinner and home again. Walking daily is the basis for a healthy way of life and Sayulita is a perfect place to do that!
2. Sayulita is a beach town on the Pacific Ocean. The sandy, clean beach is ideal for long or short walks, the bay on the Pacific Ocean wonderful for swimming, the waves great for surfing and boogie boarding, and the bay calm enough for Stand Up Paddleboarding. The water is comfortably warm year around. There are even lifeguards posted at several places along the beach and sometimes patrolling on surfboards! That is an uncommon luxury for a small beach town.
Sayulita is a Great Place for Stand Up Paddleboard
3.  There are over 100 restaurants to choose from in Sayulita, from taco stands to classy restaurants overlooking the ocean. There is not a single fast-food restaurant in this town—meals are prepared to order from fresh ingredients, great for healthy eating. Naturally, there is an abundance of good taco, burrito, and sandwich shops. In addition, the variety of restaurants serving more upscale meals is diverse. There are numerous nice places specializing in fresh Seafood, fine cuts of steak and Arrachera, tasty, fresh salads, sushi, Italian food and, of course, very good pizza. Because Sayulita is a popular tourist locale, it supports an unusually large number of very good restaurants for such a small village, and the prices are reasonable. The wine and beer selection is also good, which is not always the case in small Mexican towns. Yes, we could be happy with the restaurant selection and cost of dining out in Sayulita if we chose to retire there! Some of our favorite restaurants are listed in my blog post which can be viewed by clicking HERE . In the year since I wrote that post, we have discovered many more wonderful places to dine. I’ll soon write about ten more of our favorite restaurants in my blog "Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico"!
River Cafe in Sayulita, a New Favorite of Ours

4.   The climate in Sayulita is great for us--345 days of sunshine per year! The warm, mostly dry winter weather with lots of sunshine brings the North Americans south to this sub-tropical climate, with average high temperatures from 80°F to 86°F. Summer is called the "rainy season", but still has lots of sunshine during the daytime. The heat and humidity of July keeps most North American tourists home, but brings Mexican families from inland to cool off in the ocean. We have grown accustomed to the hot, somewhat humid summer weather, as long as we have an air conditioner to cool the bedroom at night for sleep. High temperatures in July and August average 88°F, occasionally reaching 97°F, good days to cool off in the ocean. Those are also good months to take a trip to the mountains of Mexico to cool off, or in our case, go visit family in Oregon. Rainfall averages about 52 inches per year, with the rainy season generally beginning in June and the heaviest rainfall occurring from July through September. Often the rainstorms seem to come during the evening or night, washing the plants, the streets, and the air, leaving the sky a fresh, clear blue by morning.
5.  Sayulita is a very exercise-focused town. In addition to classes on surfing and Stand Up Paddleboarding, there are plenty of exercise class options in town to keep us healthy. Zumba is my favorite exercise and there are several class options in Sayulita. We regularly attend Micki’s Zumba and Zumba Toning classes when we are in town. See my blog posts: “SAYULITA: ZUMBA WITH MICKI CUNNINGHAM” by clicking HERE and “ZUMBA WITH GENOVEVA IN SAYULITA, MX” HERE. Yoga classes are abundant in Sayulita. We have enjoyed Yoga classes taught by Micki Cunningham and by Jim Gallas. Posts about both can be found on my blog:  www.HealthyLivingandTravelinginMexico.blogspot.com. Other fitness classes in town include Pilates, TRX, Power Ropes, and Salsa dancing, and information about these classes can be found at: http://www.sayulitalife.com/sayulita-yoga-fitness .
Zumba Class with Micki in Sayulita

Yoga with Jim Gallas at Mexifit in Sayulita

6. Sayulita is an environmentally conscious town. 
·         It has a recycling depot for glass and plastic run by the organization, Sayulimpia.
·         Water and sewer quality is monitored and reported by ProSayulita, a donation funded organization that works to improve the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in and around Sayulita. 
·         Free trash pickup is provided twice weekly by Sayulimpia, funded by ProSayulita, helping keep the town clean and attractive. Read more about ProSayulita and their work at http://www.prosayulita.org/environment .
·         A current movement in Sayulita is to discontinue the use of straws and Styrofoam containers by restaurants, bars, and other food venders. ChocoBanana, a favorite restaurant downtown, is the leader in serving all to-go food and drinks in biodegradable containers. A very good article written by 12 year old Sara Moore titled “The Turtle and the Straw” and posted at http://www.sayulitalife.com/news/detail/516 explains the importance of eliminating the use of straws, called popotes in Spanish. Several restaurants serve all drinks without straws. We now practice ordering our drinks “sin popotes, porfavor” (without a straw, please).
·         Reusable shopping bags are sold as souvenirs at many shops in town and are gradually becoming used more instead of plastic bags. To the cashier at the tiendas, I say “tengo una bolsa” (I have a bag) as I give her my reusable shopping bag, and I no longer get a puzzled look in return that says “Why?” 
·         There is even a solar-power panel company in Sayulita, and several hotels have "Gone Green" by installing them!
·         Sayulita is the first town we’ve been to in Mexico where there are almost as many electric golf carts driven by residents and tourists as there are cars and motorcycles, helping improve the air quality in the area. Bicycle riding and walking are even more common than driving in town, reducing air pollution significantly.
Change is slow, but Sayulita seems more progressive than most small towns in the “Going Green in Mexico” movement. 
Electric Golf Carts are Popular for Hauling Surf Boards to the Beach
7.   The residents and visitors are a remarkable mixture of Mexicans, Indigenous people, North Americans, Europeans, and Asians. People in Sayulita are friendly, helpful, and mellow, giving us a welcome feeling.An International population of people of all age groups makes Sayulita very interesting, with enough gringos to make us feel comfortable as we stumble to learn the Spanish language, and enough Mexican Nationals to make us know we are in real Mexico. The Costa Verde International School (CVIS) is a wonderful place for children and adults from all over the world to come together to learn from each other, creating a bilingual community.
8.  Shopping for groceries and supplies in Sayulita is fun and convenient, small town Mexican-style. Downtown cobblestone streets are lined with tiendas (little stores) each specializing in a different food or product. 
·         Fresh produce with low prices can be found at produce stands, several tiendas, mini-supermarkets, and, our favorite, produce trucks that stop at the front door of homes.
·         Fresh fish and other seafood can be purchased from the pescadería (fish market) or directly from the fisherman as they beach their boats after a fishing trip.
·         There are two excellent meat markets with a good supply of beef, pork, and chicken for reasonable prices.
·         At least three mini-super markets, Mi Super-Tiendita, Don Rudolfos, and Alas Blanca, and several dry goods stores in town provide most of what we need.
·         The Friday Market is open weekly during high season with many merchants selling a wonderful variety of produce, food, jewelry, clothing, and more. We look forward to buying fresh, organic, sanitized salad greens, all kinds of nuts and dried fruit, organic cheese, eggs, Greek yogurt, home-made Salad dressings, pasta sauces, and other exotic creations at the Sayulita Friday Market. We always finish with lunch, something different every week from one of the many vendors including the quesadilla man and his mama, the La Esperanza salad stand, the quiche table, the sushi booth, among others. Enjoying lunch while sitting in the shade, listening to a band play Mexican rock ‘n’ roll, and chatting with friends we haven’t seen all week is a perfect way to spend a Friday afternoon in Sayulita.
·         Many specialty foods, deli items, and items we start to crave after ten months away from the United States can be found in Sayulita. Though it may seem trivial to some, we were thrilled to find Tillamook Cheddar Cheese imported from Oregon, Campbell’s cream soups for cooking, Triscuits and Breton crackers that we buy in the U.S., and Prego spaghetti sauce for those days when I’m too lazy to make my sauce from scratch.
·         Panino’s panadería (bread store) is our favorite place to buy fresh baked whole-grain bread and drool over the yeasty aroma of sweet, frosted cinnamon rolls. 
·         A French bakery specializes in quiche available by the slice and various pastries, while the one next door bakes empanadas with fillings such as tasty chicken mole, beef and mushrooms, and various vegetables with cheese, both great for to-go lunches. 
·         The Soup Lady, a North American, makes and sells a variety of savory soups in her home. 
·         The popular Cake Lady sells her carrot cake with lots of cream cheese frosting, chocolate cake, banana cake, and more every afternoon and evening from a table set up across from the plaza. Each generous slice is only 20 pesos (just over $1 U.S.).
·         The Tamale Lady sells her warm, yummy creations for only 25 pesos each (about $1.30 each) as she walks down the beach. 
·         We also like to pick up an order of lean, scrumptious taco meat and fixings from Carnitas Prieto’s or flavorsome roasted chicken from La Pechuga Pollo Rosticería to go for lunch or dinner at home—I love having a delicious meal on our deck that I didn’t have to cook! 
          The opportunities are endless for purchasing or preparing healthy meals while living in Sayulita, and all within walking distance of the homes in town.
That's a Grocery Store You Won't Forget! Alas Blancas Tienda

9.      Supermarkets such as Mega, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, and Home Depot are a 25 to 40 minute bus ride away in Bucerias and Puerto Vallarta, if we need supplies we can’t find in Sayulita. Costco, Staples, Office Depot and Liverpool (a department store similar to a large Macy’s) are also in Puerto Vallarta.
10.     San Pancho, a tranquil beachfront village, one of our favorites, is just 5 miles north with amenities including Entreamigos, La Patrona (a world class polo club), and Los Huertas Golf Course. Cultural events abound there including music festivals, art shows, Circo de los Niños, comedy shows, and more. See my blog post about retiring in San Pancho by clicking HERE
11.      The turtle release program at the Campamento Tortuguero Sayulita is a blast to participate in! Watching the baby turtles being released around sunset, adopting a turtle nest, or just walking by the turtle camp to see how many nests are incubating, it is all fun and for a good cause, helping preserve the Olive Ridley sea turtle population. To read more about the Sayulita Turtle Program go to http://www.sayulitalife.com/sayulita-turtle-camp.
Baby Turtle Release around Sunset

12.      Field of Dreams (Campo de Ensuenos) Golf Course is about 14 miles north of Sayulita on Hwy 200, near Lo de Marcos. We are beginner golfers and this course is just our speed. The price is right, too, at less than $30 per day including pull cart and club rental. More upscale golf courses are located a just few miles south of Sayulita in Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta.
13.      There are so many fun outings and tours available in Sayulita. These are especially fun activities when family comes to town to visit. For more information, see http://www.sayulitalife.com/. Here are just a few of the exciting adventures:
·         Bird watching with Vidal Prado in Sayulita or with Luis Morales in San Pancho 
·         Whale watching and cruising on the Chica Locca 
·         Hiking with MexiTreks
·         Horseback riding, Zip-line through the Sayulita Canopy, Quad Riding Tours, Sport Fishing and more with MiChiparrita
Whale Watching on the Chica Locca with Our Daughter & Family

14.  Sayulita is a large enough town that it has most of the services we need for day to day life. One of my favorites is the lavandería where we drop our dirty laundry off one day and pick it up clean and neatly folded the next day, for about 60 pesos ($3 U.S.) per load. Jon’s favorite places to shop in town are the ferreterías, the hardware stores, of which there are three or four in town. There are also two veterinarians, multiple golf cart rentals and sales companies, good plumbers and electricians, an air conditioning company, two paint stores, a welding shop, and just about anything else we need in town.  The trick is learning to how to find a service you need, either by asking the locals who to call or where to find it, because chances are someone in town does it or has it.
Jon Loves to Shop at Hardware Stores in Sayulita

I Love Picking Up Our Clean Laundry Here Twice a Week!

15.      Spanish Classes are available in at least two locations in town. I promised myself that when we retired and moved to Mexico, I was going to take Spanish lessons. It was time to get serious about learning more than how to order dinner and drinks in Spanish at restaurants!
16. We feel safe in Sayulita, whether walking around town during the daytime or after dark. Sayulita has a fire department, ambulance service, and a 24/7 police department with patrols downtown and in other popular tourist areas. As in any place we visit in the world, after dark, we avoid walking in isolated areas of town or the beach. A good practice in any Mexican town, we are careful not to wear expensive jewelry, flash large amounts of money, or otherwise give the appearance of wealth, so as not to become a target for theft.
17.      Sayulita is on the bus route that runs from Puerto Vallarta to Lo de Marco. It is convenient and inexpensive to travel by bus to these cities plus those between including La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Bucerias, or Mezcales, where we would find services not available in the smaller town of Sayulita. Puerto Vallarta’s Romantic Zone is only about a 50 to 60 minute bus ride away, if we are in the mood for an evening or a weekend in the big city. We can hop the bus in Sayulita and ride to Puerto Vallarta for a one-way fare of 50 pesos each (about $3 US). Bella, our miniature dachshund, loves going on a bus ride with us and eagerly climbs into her pet carrier when it is time to board the bus. Sayulita even has a bus depot with cushioned seats and a roof for shade or a rainy day!
Catching the Sayulita Bus to Puerto Vallarta is Convenient

18.   The Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport in Puerto Vallarta is only 24 miles away, about a 40 to 50 minute taxi ride from central Sayulita, depending on traffic. That is about as far away from the airport as we want to live. In addition, when we want to fly home to see family, the flights to Oregon are only 6 ½ hours long, plus one layover. 
Bella, Our Dachshund, can Handle This Flight!

19.  Health care is available in the area. Sayulita has an Urgent Care Clinic with an ambulance. Five miles north is the San Pancho Hospital General. There are three dentists’ offices and from our experience, we recommend “Dental Office Sayulita”. In addition, there are at least seven pharmacies in downtown Sayulita, some with a doctor’s clinic next door. Many larger medical centers are located in nearby Puerto Vallarta.
20.  Gardening, one of my favorite hobbies, would be a real treat in this sub-tropical climate, with the colorful flowering hibiscus, birds of paradise, orchids, and many other flowers that grow here. Gardens in town are lush and green with ferns, banana and papaya trees, palm trees, and cacti. There is a plant nursery in town with everything I would need within a bicycle-ride away.
Bicycling to the Sayulita Nursery--My Favorite Kind of Shopping

21.   Sayulita has pretty little plaza, with a typical Mexican gazebo surrounded by palm trees and landscaping. The entrance to the plaza, with its archway painted in Riviera Nayarit colors, is a bit more colorful and modern-looking than many, but seems fitting for this young village. The centro (downtown) area has recently been given a cleaner look by having the power lines put underground and the power poles removed, a benefit of the Pueblo Magico program.
Sayulita Plaza

22.      It is easy to find a taxi in Sayulita if we decided we wanted to take a day trip to Punta Mita, San Pancho, Rincón de Guayabitos, or somewhere else in the Riviera Nayarit. This is important to us since we sold our cars when we decided to retire in Mexico. Taxis are easiest to find near the plaza or across from the River Café.
23.   Sayulita is a casual town, where dressing up means men might upgrade from their sleeveless t-shirt to a button-up, short-sleeved surf-town shirt and women might don the one floral, flowing dress they own and add some simple beads and earrings. But that would probably only be for the once yearly Pro-Sayulita Fiesta. Every day wear tends towards bathing suits, shorts, summer tops, and flip-flops. Our kind of town!

Here are some of the things that made us hesitate about moving to Sayulita:

1.      The cost of real estate in Sayulita is relatively high for Mexico. Land and homes are in high demand in this area. If we decided to purchase a home here, we would have to shop for a small home (casita) and a low price in order to live in this desirable town on our limited budget. Renting a furnished home is an option, but monthly rent is generally high also.
2.  There are no banks in Sayulita. There are ATMs, but we have read that the security of these is often compromised, so we would have to go to the nearest bank in Bucerias, 13 miles south and a 30 minute bus ride each way.
3.   Sayulita is a tourist town that gets very busy at certain times of the year. During high season and holidays, the music, festivals, and fireworks may be loud downtown and last into the early morning hours. If we lived here, we would want a house in a barrio, a Mexican neighborhood a few blocks from centro, where it would be more quiet and we could experience real Mexico (including the dogs barking at night and the roosters crowing at all times).
4.  At times, Sayulita is a dusty village. Many side streets are simply bare dirt, dust that makes its way down to the cobblestone streets of the village and the few paved streets leading into town. Each morning homeowners are outside sweeping the street in front of their houses and business owners sweep the sidewalk and street in front of their stores or restaurants to minimize dust. When the rainy season starts, the bare dirt streets become rivers of sludge and leave potholes and ruts full of muddy water. If we lived here, we would want to choose a house on a cobblestone road.
5.  The water supply is sometimes sporadic during the dry season. At times, the city water supply lines are turned off, either to conserve water or due to a lack of water supply in the town. Therefore, it would be important to live in a house with a large underground holding tank for a reserve of fresh city water in addition to the tinacos (water tanks) on the roof for the gravity-fed water into the home.

     By now, after thoroughly reviewing our “Pros and Cons” list for Sayulita, we realized that we love this lively village! We could definitely envision living there. Sayulita and Mazatlán were our top two choices at this point. What about Puerto Vallarta and La Manzanilla? Did we even need to write a “Pros and Cons” list for these two places?

     Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco is a beautiful old city, with its Romantic Zone and revitalized Malecón (seaside boardwalk). We enjoy a walk along the gorgeous Malecón (seaside boardwalk), viewing the imaginative bronze sculptures situated along the ocean, and finishing the evening dining at a fine restaurant. But, Puerto Vallarta is a big city, too big for us to choose as our home. We would rather keep it as a special place for a perfect sophisticated get-away.
Romantic Bronze Sculpture on Puerto Vallarta Malecon

     La Manzanilla, Jalisco is a sweet, quiet village of about 2000 people. It is located on the Bay of Tenacatita on the Pacific Ocean, with a long, flat stretch of clean beach. While we envisioned living there at one time, we now felt it is too small for us, lacking enough of the amenities we were looking for. In addition, the nearest big city is Manzanillo and we would prefer to be close to Puerto Vallarta, wherever we decided to settle.
     How would we decide between our top two choices, Mazatlán and Sayulita? It was time to view real estate listings in both cities and see which way we were swayed.
Beautiful Sayulita Sunset

     The eBook Living in Mexico LESSONS LEARNED: Healthy Living in Mexico #3 is now available on Amazon worldwide! Take a look by clicking: HERE

     Join my Readers List to receive my Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico Monthly Newsletter by clicking HERE.

     Take a look at the first eBook in the "Healthy Living in Mexico" series available worldwide on Amazon by clicking this link:  https://www.amazon.com/Healthy-Living-Traveling-Mexico-Sunshine-ebook/dp/B00R6NTBKO


  1. Hi Terry. Enjoyed this Sayulita blog so much. It's very interesting and you did a nice job writing it. MOM

    1. Thank you. I thought you might like to see all of the photos. They help visualize what the village is like.

  2. hello Terry . this post is so much enjoyable . i read this full . thanks for this . i am happy for find out this .

    1. Thank you for reading my blog and commenting on it, Harris. I am glad you enjoyed it.

  3. wow! this is such a good post and well thinking . you are so nice stuff Terry .thanks a lot .

  4. wonder informative post! Thanks

  5. Replies
    1. Thank you, rolekkyle, for reading my blog and for your complimentary comment!

  6. well written Terry . I'm a fan of your blog . It just awesome and enjoyable . I'm really happy for find out this .

  7. Hi Terry! Just found your blog, doing a Sayulita search. I've always wanted to retire in Mexico, starting a more serious search now.... planning to spend Dec - Jan, if covid doesn't prevent traveling. Love your photos and reading about Sayulita. Others have said it's ruined now, with all the tourists, and I should look for a "quieter" place. Are there "quieter" places to stay in/around Sayulita? Thinking of checking out VRBO, to look for a house for those 2 months. I am a 61 yr. old traveling solo. Thanks for any recc's you can share with me!

  8. This was so informative!! I’m going to PV next week, largely alone, little older-this looks like perhaps a softer place to spend some time. I’ll be sure to visit.

    How do I subscribe to your blogs? Cheers, Meg

  9. This was so informative!! I’m going to PV next week, largely alone, little older-this looks like perhaps a softer place to spend some time. I’ll be sure to visit.

    How do I subscribe to your blogs? Cheers, Meg

  10. You know "Cancun Airport Transportation", is one of the best private transfer companies in the city of Cancun and offers luxury transfers, private and even in Limousines at incredible prices.

    The company covers almost all the territory of the state of Quitana Roo and its rates are among the lowest in the market so you can not stay out of the transfer experience offered by Cancun Transfer.

    And if you want to know a little more information click here:

    how far is secrets playa mujeres from cancun airport