Trying to find a place like Sayulita – fifteen years ago.

Although I am loathe to write two ‘whiny’ posts in a row, I feel compelled by a recent email conversation I had with Stephen of Castles Made of Sand.

It began when I searched ‘places like Sayulita.’ Now, why would I search that? Because my love affair with Sayulita has ended? No, not quite, but if I review my reasons for moving to Mexico for the winter:

  1. Surf all day ’eryday – Completely possible in Sayulita, with additional breaks on the inside of Bahia de Banderas the area attracts both south and north swells. BUT, during the winter months the surf is crawling with awful people like me. Bloody tourists. Currently it is spring break and the situation is especially bad but why drive three days to surf with as many people as I would in LA? In fact, where I usually surf at El Porto at least there is a little space to share. I surfed a beautiful right reef break yesterday with 50 other people. My wife was hit in the face with a SUP. People are yelling at each other all the time (I’m guilty of this myself). We need to find something a little less populated, or popular.
  2. Learn Spanish – We’ve been taking classes at Costa Verde in Sayulita for two months and our Spanish has definitely improved but due to this being a tourist haven for so long it’s difficult to find local people who are interested in speaking with you in Spanish. It sometimes feels as though they resent me for even trying, because their English is so good. Basically we need somewhere that gringos are very definitely in the minority, a tough ask on the Mexican pacific coast. If I were committed to learning Spanish and didn’t have to abandon reason 1 for living in Mexico, I could move to the mountains and be the only gringo for miles. Surfing is a more restrictive lifestyle than most people think.
  3. Slow down, get chiiiiilllllllllll, MEX-the-fuck-out – It’s been years since I’ve lived somewhere small and big city life was getting to me. Sayulita has the best of both worlds, as it’s a small town populated by big city desertees who bought all their fancy food cravings and wants of safety, cleanliness and appreciation of all things cultural and artsy. Sure it’s busy, but really I’m talking about Sayulita being too good. I wanted to rough it a little, really get involved with Mexican culture and Sayulita is at best a family-oriented beach vacation town and at worst a gringo colony.

As we can see, when I compare my intentions against the experience I am having in Sayulita, I think it might be time to try somewhere like Sayulita, but not Sayulita.

Copyright - If I close my eyes and use my pretendings, this could be a photo I took of Jo-Roxy surfing solo.
Copyright – If I close my eyes and use my pretendings, this could be a photo I took of Jo-Roxy surfing solo.

In my search I came across this post and it mentioned a bunch of little towns a couple of hours south of Sayulita on the other side of Puerto Vallarta. I narrowed my research to La Manzanilla and Barra de Navidad. I scoured surf forecasting site for breaks in the area, spent hours looking at google maps (maps takes a little bit to load down here), and eventually came across the blog Castles Made of Sand written by Stephen Nussbaum. Stephen has traveled extensively along the Pacific Coast, all the way from San Diego to Guatemala. His site is littered with images of empty waves and small village life. I contacted him with a few queries about the area around La Manzanilla. Here is the abbreviated response:

La Manzanilla is a cool little town, great vibe and some expats around but no waves. There are some areas not too far north but the main town is in the south side of a pretty protected bay. I would check out Arroyo Seco which has two fun bays that both get really good. Not sure what sort of accommodation you’re after but there’s not much there.
If you want a more established place Barra Navidad has a full on town and fun reef wave right out front (but super tidal). The town of Melaque about 15 minutes north also has a right point that works when there’s a solid pulse.

I further informed him of where I was, what I wanted and he made a suggestion that as of this writing has changed my plans for the next couple of months.

To be honest, you’re not going to find another place that has the balance of sayulita in terms of good waves/ amenities/ access to amenities/ safety/ good food/ expat support. But that all comes at a price of convenience= crowds. The question is which one of those are you willing to sacrifice? I think barra navidad covers a lot of that but it is lacking on the wave front… It’s a pretty solid haul from where you are now but you might want to check out Saladita down towards Xtapa. The town is pretty small but I don’t think it will stay that way for much longer. It’s got a Sayulita vibe with a lot of artsy Americans owning property and the left point out front is insanely long consistent wave.

The plan was to add an additional two months on our time here in Sayulita, but instead we are going on a road trip to visit Sadalita in May. Most of the waves in the area are lefts and need a south swell, so I’m going to have to learn to turn left on my surfboard but that is a small price to pay to hopefully find what I am looking for here in Mexico.

2 thoughts on “Trying to find a place like Sayulita – fifteen years ago.”

    1. Hey Nathan, I’ve just returned from a three month stint in the Saladita area. The wave a Saladita is perfect, in a similar way Sayulita is perfect. Great for beginners, consistent, and crowded with a snarly pack of longboarders. I ended up living in Troncones and surfing a spot named Boca. The surf was consistent and making the 40-minute drive to The Ranch was always worth it. However, Troncones fails on one key point. It was never a town. It sprang up around hotels and gringo castles. The town lacks a square or other social focal point, it lacks the feeling of the residents having created a culture. It’s beautiful, there are great restaurants, and there is a brilliant community. It just feels like a gringo colony with attached service village.

      But I did find what I was looking for. It’s in El Salvador.

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