Sayulita beach sunset

A Slice Of Life in Sayulita

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The morning starts with an explosion. I don’t need to look at my phone to know it’s 4am.


The sound echoes through streets and off buildings, setting off the dogs, chicken, and geese over the road in a raucous farmyard chorus.


The blasts continue for several more minutes, but I’m not concerned. These unwelcome interruptions to my slumber are just fireworks. They’ve  been going off every morning for a week now, calling the faithful to church in Sayulita’s town square. There will be a huge celebration on December 12 for Our Lady of Guadalupe,  and this is just the beginning.

I leave the pious to their prayers, roll over and drift back to sleep.

I’m woken again a few hours later. The sun is up, and one of the gas trucks is slowly grinding its way up the hill.There are several such vendors around town, each truck with its own jingle played at maximum volume. “Venda venda, venda gas” sings the disembodied voice every few seconds.

Sayulita vendor

It’s a simple yet effective message.

Waiting for the water in the shower to heat up, I do my regular bathroom bug check. There aren’t many of them, thanks perhaps to the tiny geckos that scamper away when they sense me coming, but with dengue common in this area it’s worth checking. Nothing today except a couple of harmless little moth-like things. Excellent.

I ran out of body wash a couple of months ago and haven’t been able to find more in any of the shops. Even the shampoo bottle is empty. I guess it’s just going to be a soap kind of day.

It’s the start of winter here in Mexico, which everyone seems grateful for. I arrived three months ago, and the combination of stifling heat and heavy afternoon showers didn’t encourage spending much time outside. Although it still gets fairly warm during the day (around 27C/80F), it’s cool enough for jeans in the evening and I haven’t looked at the air-conditioner in weeks.

Sayulita view

With seemingly endless sunshine and blue skies this time of year, it’s not hard to see why December and January are peak tourist season in coastal Mexico. Sayulita was a ghost town when I got here, most restaurants and bars still closed for the summer snooze, but things are very different now.

As I head out for breakfast I call a greeting to Antonio, the apartment caretaker. He speaks little English and I speak equal Spanish, so we play charades for a minute as I try to explain that I’ve left my laundry beside the office upstairs. We eventually come to some sort of understanding, although what about is hard to tell. I may have clean clothes in the morning. I may have just purchased a donkey for the swimming pool. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

There are plenty of places that do a good breakfast around here, but I’ve settled on a shortlist.

Salsa at Yeikame

Yeikame is run by a sweet local family, who always take the time to speak to me in slow, kindergarten Spanish. The chilaquiles are particularly great, and a bargain at 45 pesos ($3.50) for a large plate of food and a selection of innocent-looking salsas that will blow your head off.

El Espresso is a more tourist-oriented place, with a wider menu, higher prices and better coffee. Today, though, I’m headed for Yah-Yah. They serve a salmon bagel that’s really kind of wonderful, especially when I pile it high with jalepenos. Anywhere that has spicy peppers as its main condiment is just fine by me. The staff are lovely, the coffee is strong and it’s an excellent place to work for a few hours.

And so I do.

Emerging blinking in the sunlight a few hours later, I skip across the cobbled main street in front of an advancing golf cart. These motorised buggies seem to be popular amongst a certain kind of tourist, the rattle of the wheels on cobblestones often drowned out by shrieking conversations. There must be some appeal to them, I guess, but I haven’t found it yet.

BBQ chicken

I’ve just finished digesting breakfast, so obviously it’s time for lunch. This choice is easy, the smell of barbeque wafting tantalisingly into my nostrils from half a block away as I wander towards home. In an alleyway under the shade of a tarpaulin sits a long charcoal grill that was, once upon a time, a metal barrel. Dozens of chickens sizzle on top, turned and moved around with the choreographed ease that comes from years of practice. As a regular customer I get an hola and a smile, but I don’t get to jump the queue.

And there’s always a queue.

That’s not really a surprise when I can buy half a chicken, tortillas, rice, coleslaw and salsa for 60 pesos (under $5).

The best thing about a beach town is, unsurprisingly, going to the beach, and I walk down there mid-afternoon. While Mexico’s Pacific Coast doesn’t have the crystal-clear waters and white sand of the Caribbean side, it does have waves and fewer resorts. I don’t really surf, but I still prefer my coastline to have a bit of life to it.

Sayulita beach

Taking a cue from the locals I head to the western end, finding a quiet spot amongst the fishing boats. There are no umbrellas or beach chairs here – but there are no trinket sellers either. With the influx of tourists comes an influx of vendors, many of whom come from as far as Mexico City this time of year in the hope of making extra pesos selling souvenirs. While I don’t begrudge them a living, there are only so many times I can refuse a wristband, pipe, or donut while trying to read my book.

The cooler winter temperatures mean I can spend a couple of hours out there, alternating between the sand and surf. Frigates and other sea birds wheel and dive, grabbing a meal between the surfers and paddleboarders in the bay. The beach, like the town, is busy but not yet excessively so, and I feel the relaxation creeping in. I’ve worked a lot of hours this week, and needed this little break.

Kicking sand from my feet as I trudge back towards home, I hear the unmistakable sound of hooves on cobblestones from further up the hill. Knowing what’s coming, I stand to one side as two modern-day cowboys pass by with a slow wave.

Horse on the beach

These guys trot past my house a couple of times a day, a reminder of the sleepy village that Sayulita once was. I suspect that these horses are actually used to cart tourists around the nearby beaches and trails rather than providing daily transportation for the owners, but let’s not spoil the illusion.

There have been a few blogging friends in town while I’ve been here, and tonight seems as good as any other to grab a few drinks. Happy hour at the corner bar on the end of my street starts at 5pm, and we’re perched there as the clock ticks over. There are only a few, mostly empty, seats inside, but an old expat befriends us and spends half an hour boasting of his ability to do absolutely nothing each and every day. It’s a talent, that’s for sure.

Free beer

Bidding him farewell three Coronas later, we walk the ten metres to Monchis. Infamous around town for its oversized ‘Bulldog’ (a margarita the size of my head with an upside-down beer in it), it’s a good place to chill out and watch the action in the plaza. There’s always something going on, but today more than most.

Around 7pm a parade rounds the square. First come the kids, dressed in white with long feathers in their hair. One guy bashes on a large drum, a tuba player following him. A large flatdeck truck rolls past, a virginal-looking young woman standing silently, dressed as the Virgin Mary while a small group of children sit singing as her feet.

It’s all a noisy, fun affair as the line wends its way through the streets to the church, bookending the celebrations that started with those early morning fireworks.

I finish the evening by gorging myself on delicious 15 peso tamales from a street vendor. One was never going to be enough. Two probably should have been… but that didn’t stop me going for a third.

Full, drunk and happy, I call it a night and head for home.

It’s been a good day.

Let’s do it all again tomorrow.

PS: Since first writing this post, I’ve been asked many times where I stayed in Sayulita The answer is Villas Vista Sayulita — we rented a room there for three months, and were very happy with it. 

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  1. Hi Dave, Great post! I just stumbled upon your website from an article posted to Reddit (your break up letter with the corporate world), and saw a Sayulita link at the bottom of the page. Living in Sayulita at the moment I had to click. Pretty accurate average day in town! Glad I found your blog.

  2. Dave-you are making me homesick. While I have only been to Sayulita twice, I am getting my life together to move there for retirement….and yes, to learn to surf. My goal—Pro Am Champion by age 70! I love this place-wish I had found it sooner. Nice.