Sayulita: Dirt roads, beach characters, and San Pancho

Taking our trip one day at a time has allowed us to fold in a bunch of unexpected experiences often thanks to a stranger’s suggestion. In Mandy’s line of work as a hair stylist, there was plenty of recommendations, and Sayulita was on our list to visit. Chic boho beach town? Ya that doesn’t sound like us at all right?

I think we look happy.

Similar to Pai in Northern Thailand, this town was brimming with ex-pats and seemed easy to get stuck in. Our week here flew by in some ways, yet dragged gloriously along at the same time.

Vegan sushi on the beach??? Yes please.

The town of Sayulita is bursting at the seams with tourism, growing exponentially in the past 5-10 years. Just north of Puerta Vallarta by an hour, it is a short bus ride away from the main tourist hub, and the secret is definitely out about Sayulita.

Not pictured here everyone who is taking a selfie under these flags.

The bus ticket from Mazatlán unfortunately went past Sayulita and dropped us in Puerta Vallarta. We had heard you can ask the bus driver to let you off earlier at Sayulita and that sounded like a plan. However, learning how to speak Spanish as we travel through Mexico has been an experience, and sometimes, I clam up when it comes to actually using the language on real people. Annoyingly, 30 minutes after one of these experiences, I start saying three different ways I could have said the thing I couldn’t come up, silently shaking my head. I am trying to get over these nerves but its tough! So for whatever reason I didn’t ask to get off early so we ended up hopping onto the 1 hour bus back north out of Puerta Vallarta to Sayulita with our packs in our laps. As we got off the bus and walked down the dirt paths/roads towards our apartment a familiar feeling creeped in. That small town, dirt road, good vibe feeling we often caught in our travels in Costa Rica. We were in love.

Sayulita is a big surfing town and we could see why as we lounged on the beach each day. Occasionally, we would run down to the shore to cool off and soak our bones in the ocean, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t great most of our stay. That didn’t stop the surfers though as the waves were perfect. For us, this made great people watching.

Also there are strays everywhere. All have collars. The people of Sayulita responded to an ultimatum from the city to put down any dogs without a collar, by collaring all the strays.

The beach was packed and there were a lot of folks trying to sell us a wide range of goods. For anyone that has done a little bit of traveling, this is commonplace in most high-density tourist locations. In our experience, it truly seems like some of these folks are just looking to talk to anyone. Working sales in my past and training people how to sell, this was the number one hurdle for new employees. How to persevere when all you hear is “No,” and in some cases experience down right nastiness in response to your sales pitch. To have someone actually treat you like a human instead of an annoying billboard feels pretty good.

Maybe that is why I struggle saying no to people or not striking up a conversation. It would be one thing if it was just me, but its not. Both Mandy and I are terrible at saying no to people. End result? We ended up talking for hours with two different vendors and one fellow man walking his dog, learned about three different life stories, and came away with a couple mementos. In every instance we were blessed with gifts.

We jammed with a local whose gift was music. A hollowed-out orange which makes some rimshot style noises and his guitar made for a jam session on the beach. Another man approached with a typewriter. He was from Germany and was traveling the world, his gift was poetry. From him we received a unique poem that spoke to our sense of adventure.

Why not? It was a good jam session

Lastly, in San Pancho or San Francisco (apparently the town has two names) we shared a couple beers on the street with a man named Indio. He was a jack of all trades who is living in San Pancho running security for some of the big mansions on the hill overlooking San Pancho. Additionally he is the town dog whisperer and as we sat on the street several folks stopped by with their dogs to chum it up with Indio. Indio shared his story of being a Native American, then military, and now retired in Mexico. An incredible life story, and one that spoke to the unique perspective of living in Yuma, Arizona where his ancestors lived on both sides of the border. Certainly a stark reminder that borders are modern creations, and an institution that has not always been present.

San Pancho is often characterized as what Sayulita was like before tourism exploded. The town is full of character, and left us with approximately zero dull moments. If staying in Sayulita, hopping up to San Pancho for a little day trip is a great idea, just prepare for a bit of good weird.

Our advice? Talk to strangers. It is amazing what you learn and what you share. I will leave you with a snippet from our German friend, Maurice’s poem.

Pirates we are. Fighting for a new world order. Respecting the rules of nature. Our law is in the wind of change. Pirates we are. Welcome everywhere. Welcome nowhere. Our homeland is the nomadsland.” Maurice Muijer

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