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Sayulita is a funky mixture of easy going California surf culture, a dose of traditional Mexican heritage, a sprinkle of outdoorsy, affluent American tourists, and a sub-culture of Mexican artisans, traveling musicians, and backpackers. Well to do retirees from the U.S., Canada and Europe also enter into the mix, some of whom live in nearby Puerto Vallarta and other surrounding villages such as Punta de Mita and San Francisco (aka San Pancho). Sayulita features a beautiful clean beach infront of town with consistent surf breaks and a modest level of foreign tourists.
The locals in Sayulita are warm and seemingly appreciative of the foreign influence. The overall vibe of the place is reminiscent of Southern Cal in the 60s and 70s. Fine dining, live jazz, traditional Mexican music and even hip hop and break dancing all thrive here in small doses. Well removed from the highway traffic, the air fills with musical notes, children’s laughter and birds singing and squawking amongst the surrounding vegetation.
Sayulita is not as neatly pruned as more established beach resort towns, which lends to its charm. Stray (but friendly) dogs roam the town and ramshackle housing blends eccentrically with elegant boutique hotels. Espresso bars, taco stands, and cafes serving vegan wraps and organic burritos all compete successfully for tourist dollars. Sayulita is a fusion like none other.
Like most of Mexico, tourism in Sayulita peaks in the winter months of December – April. Most tourists only stay for a few days, but there exists a core group of expats who live here for at least six months per year. The whole area feels very safe… the area in and around is about as safe as it gets in Mexico.
Real estate is reasonably priced, with many properties reduced from the high levels reached in 2007. Sayulita real estate tends to track the California real estate market to some degree and this is why prices have been dropping for the past couple of years (there are a lot of California license plates found around town). Nice two bedroom homes on the hills surrounding the town with ocean views start at $300,000. A more modest two bedroom home centrally located near the town without the views can be found for under $200,000.
There are quite a few good restaurants with decent wine selection. Overall the village offers a great balance of surf, dining, social ambiance but still quiet with hardly any traffic.
The small size of the Sayulita community makes it easy to meet people and make friends. Everyone from retired financial planners to surf-hippies, to 30-something escapees seem to dwell in harmony along with peaceful Mexican families. Gone are pesky street vendors, timeshare pushers, greedy taxi drivers and other annoyances you might find in Puerto Vallarta. Located just 40 minutes from Puerto Vallarta international airport and all of the amenities provided by a large resort city, Sayulita is a world of its own.
Retirees will be hard pressed to find a more attractive place to spend the winter in terms of value, amenities, convenience, health care, safety, climate, and cost of living. It’s draw backs would be the hot and steamy summers, at times making the afternoons unbearable without air conditioning.
The affects of package tourism can be felt in the heart of Puerto Vallarta (pesky street vendors, crowded beaches, etc.) but this is largely absent in Punta de Mita and north toward Sayulita. The area offers something for everyone and, combined with its convenient access, scores big points as one of the top retirement destinations worldwide.