Sayulita, Nayarit

RivieranayaritmapSayulita, Nayarit

A Village with Two Faces: Sayulita 

By Tara A. Spears


For the last decade, the Pacific coast village of Sayulita has been having an identity crisis. Should it be a mecca for long hair surfers or follow in the steps of Puerto Vallarta and entice a wealthy international tourist?  Finally in 2012, it seems the conflict is resolved, with the village of 2,300 residents investing in a huge entrance sign that is visible from busy highway 200. Sayulita 1   

The elaborate sign is but a bow on the other town improvements: cobblestone paved streets-replacing the previous dirt roads; the beach lined with uniform lounge chairs and shade umbrellas-no more half-naked passed out Rastas sleeping with their backpacks on the sand; upscale ‘arte’ shops and restaurants line the paved streets-no more tacquera carts.  Beer is now $30 pesos and mixed drinks (such as rum and coke) are $70 pesos- definitely out of the surfer price range.  On a recent trip to the town, the biggest change I noticed was the flavor of the crowd: no more panhandling or singing for food long-hair, free spirit types and the people out in the water on boards had pale skin and professionally trimmed hair, wearing $80 US swimsuits. A quick internet search for accommodations yields lots of villas and upscale bungalows, even a luxury hotel- no more $10 a night deals.

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History: Originally the primary staples of this town were coconuts, fish, and seafood. In the 1500s, the area was inhabited by semi-nomadic Cuyuteco Aztec Indians, and was only established in the 1940s by five families who migrated from other areas of Nayarit state to maintain the land. During Spanish rule, the administrator built a hacienda and home on Nanzal Hill and a beach house on the cliff below overlooking the Pacific Ocean. After the Mexican revolution, the land was designated as communal land (“ejido”) and assigned to the five families.

The town was named “Sayulita” by the land administrator from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word, “Sayula” meaning “place of flies or mosquitoes.”  In the first half of the twentieth century the village adhered to a simple lifestyle, with the inhabitants following the ways of the Cora and Huichol Indians. Along came the 1960s when word got out about the consistent wave breaks at this point in the Pacific Ocean. By word of mouth among the adventurous, Sayulita began to draw surfers from faraway places who claimed the town as a favorite surf spot. Not long afterwards, Highway 200 was built which made traveling to remote Riviera Nayarit easier, and brought in more surfers, travelers, and residents to this beautiful cove with its surrounding tropical rainforests. Visiting Sayulita was a very affordable, laid back vacation to a remote paradise. Presently the village showcases a town square with bandstand.  

Surfing, Sayulita style:

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The first foreigner surfers came to Sayulita because of the year-round warm water and consistent waves. To this day, the Sayulita surfbreaks and waves have fulfilled the tropical surf dreams of beginner to advanced surfers from all over the world. There is a proliferation of surf schools geared to the yuppy who wishes to try surfing, with private lessons running about $100 US each. In addition to the day rentals, there are several surf-camp options available that offer weeklong packages including different accommodation options, weeklong equipment hire, surf instruction in Sayulita, guided surf trips to other breaks in surrounding areas plus airport transportation.  There are two surf spots in Sayulita; a right (long board) break in front of the village and a left (faster) break in front of the campground. Surfboard rentals can be found all along the beach. To further develop Sayulita’s surf mystic, the village has held a ‘Stand Up & Long Board Surf contest’ in early March for the last three years.

Surfing isn’t all there is to do in Sayulita. If you’re into being outdoors, you’ll be happy here hiking trails, snorkeling, horseback riding, mountain biking, and fishing.  After a day at the beach, there are several charming clothing shops, art galleries, and unique bars from which to enjoy the tropical sunsets or just people watch. Strolling around the village is a pleasure as the architecture is a blend of Caribbean pastels and Mexican colonial styles accented by lush tropical vegetation. While not for everyone, Sayulita is a special place.

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Sayulita Accommodations

Sayulits Hotels

Sayulita RV and Camping Park – Sayulita, Nayarit




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