Does the Sayulita lifestyle fit you? Get to know why this pueblo magico is not for everyone
Thank you so much for being here and for following my journey! I actually get this question a lot so it’s about time to write an article about it. Thank you for the idea! This blog thrives on reader questions so I appreciate you reaching out.
I lived in Sayulita for two years and while there are many pros and cons (based on my personal experience, I cannot speak for everyone), I realized how important it is to share what kind of life you will be expecting in Sayulita especially if you haven’t visited before. Most people test the waters by doing a one-week visit but I don’t think that’s enough to let you decide if you should live in Sayulita or make it your digital nomad base.
In this article, I will give you my honest opinion (and experience) about the lifestyle in Sayulita along with personal anecdotes from 2 years of my life there. I hope these items help with your decision. But most of all, like many other destinations in the world, Sayulita, I strongly feel, is not for everyone.
If you have any questions that wasn’t answered in this post, you can always send me a message on Instagram. Good luck and may the force be with you!
P.S. All the beautiful photos in this post are from @sayulitasocial. Make sure to follow them on Instagram as I no longer live in Sayulita. Xx
#1: Expect Internet challenges
I know this is a bad item to be on top of the list but this is also the main reason why I left Sayulita. I feel like this is a very important point as most readers of this blog are digital nomads and expats. Well, Internet, I repeat this over and over again, is a little challenging but if you really want to make it work (as I did in the 2 years I worked there), then that’s up to you. The only problem I found here is that I seemed to be working less and less because I did not have patience with the slow Internet.
I did find some creative ways in solving my Sayulita Internet problems. If you read my article about being a digital nomad in Sayulita, you will see that some things will work for you depending on your Internet needs. If high-speed Internet is not required in your daily tasks, then it can definitely work for you.
#2: If you love the great outdoors, then this is the place for you
Sayulita might be a small town but you’d be surprised how many outdoor activities are available here. Just inside the pueblo, there are already 4 beautiful hidden beaches that are within walking distance. You can go for a quick run in the peaceful jungle every morning or do a sunset hike with your pets. The jungle terrain is also fit for biking. If you want to climb a mountain, then Cerro del Mono is nearby.
Because of its rich outdoor adventures, you don’t need to pay for any tours or activities – there are a lot of free things to do in Sayulita! Surfing is also one of the factors that draw digital nomads and expats to the area. The waves in Sayulita are for learners so if you are a beginner surfer, you can enjoy riding the small waves here. People who live it (we call us Sayuleros) might be drinking all night long but you will see everyone the following morning surfing, hiking, running, or doing yoga. I guess we just made that work so well altogether.
#3: Quiet? It doesn't work in Sayulita. Or anywhere in Mexico
A blog reader from France once asked booked a digital nomad consultation with me. He wanted to move to Mexico and listed the following as his pre-requisites for his dream digital nomad base: (1) must be quiet (2) must have beautiful girls (3) must have fast internet (4) must have outdoor adventures. I was sorry to break it to him but if you’re looking to live in Sayulita, only items #2 and #4 tick. Sayulita is a party town so forget about quiet. There will be house parties everywhere, mostly until the wee hours of the morning or until they please. I don’t mean any offense but I find it funny that Americans and Canadians choose to live in Sayulita but keep calling the police whenever there are loud parties at 4:00 AM.
I tell them, “honey, this is Mexico and this is the culture of the Sayulita lifestyle.”
Then they’d respond, “back in Canada/America, you can’t do that, you can’t do this blah blah blah…”
I tell them again, “then go back there and don’t live here.” I think one of the wrong things we do as expats are imposing what we are used to in our first-world countries to Mexico. Mexico does not adjust to us, especially Sayulita that has a government so autonomous they don’t even need to comply with the state rules. You want to live here? Then this is what you get.
Mexicans are voracious partiers. They love to drink. They love to have fun. You can definitely make the Mexicans hate you by calling the police on them or you can just do what I did – adjust and immerse. After a while, it will become white noise. Oh hey, it’s not only just the parties. There are also loud jungle bird hums (the chacalaca for example), the rooster’s crow, the whirring motorcycles on the highway that don’t seem to end, the morning call for bread, the blaring gas truck jingle every 9:00 am, and many more.
Seriously… with time, you’ll get used to it. But I do know a lot of people who, even through the years, continued to complain about it. Funny when I moved to Nuevo Vallarta, in a private subdivision that’s so quiet, I actually miss all the Sayulita noise. It was weird not to have it around.
#4: Are you fit for over-familiarization?
When I first came to Sayulita in 2018, I was actually very happy to know how easy it is to make friends in town. In just a week, I found myself waving at the churros man, exchanging hugs with the local señora at the bakery, going to dinners with expats I just met. There was a strong sense of belongingness in a town I barely knew. Everyone goes to the same bars, does the same afternoon routines, shares the same co-working spaces – you’ll literally walk around town and know everyone even without trying.
But as the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. In Sayulita, you will know a person or a situation very well you cannot avoid it. Gossip will come to you even if you don’t want it. Your privacy will be breached no matter how much you try to be private. I’ve also seen a lot of friendships break up in this town and yet they continue living here because, well… it’s Sayulita. It’s a town that’s hard to leave.
In the fall of 2020, I fell into a great depression. I was very unhappy and I did not know what’s the root of that unhappiness. Then I realized, it’s not me. I kept wanting to love Sayulita as my home base but it wasn’t working for me. I needed my privacy. I needed to be foolish without the whole world knowing. I needed a break from the hi’s and hello’s during my short walk from my house to the coffee shop.
For many, the 24/7 socialization works but if you plan to move to Sayulita, then you need to consider if you are fit for the non-privacy. It honestly works well for a lot of people I know but check if it will for you.
#5: Hyperactive nightlife... you decide if that's a pro or a con
Since most of the people who come to town are young professionals and digital nomads (between 27 – 45 years old), the Sayulita nightlife is one to watch. There is a party every single day, I swear, if you live here, you won’t be able to resist. It seems obligatory even if you tell yourself “tonight, I am only going to have one beer.”
Lie. Once you are out, you are out. For a long time, I struggled to resist the nightlife but since I work very hard (I really do), my brain is wired to reward myself with “one drink” at the end of the day or a sunset beer that extends to dinner in town and again extends to a few cocktails. After a few hours, you realize it’s 1:00 in the morning and you’re still out drinking.
It’s not the alcohol. It’s not you. It’s the people around you. The vibe is so good that time flies when you are with these people. I’ve seen new digital nomads and expats come here with a sudden change of behavior after just a week. At the beginning of their journey, their routines are pretty healthy, they sleep early, they wake up early, they work hard. Then they fall off the wagon because the community is hard not to love. Newcomers somehow fall in line with the “default” behavior.
I am not speaking for everyone. I know a lot of people in Sayulita who are not into the nightlife scene. I am only speaking about me (and the people around me) who always tells herself “just one drink” then caves after she sees that all her friends are out. But I also know some who said they are not into the nightlife and all they want in Sayulita is to live healthily but after a while joins the bandwagon. If you can’t beat them, join them. It takes a lot of responsibility and willpower to be on track so I am very impressed with those who have kept a consistent, clean record. There are a few, I tell you.
One of my girlfriends told me that moving to Nuevo Vallarta is a bad idea and that I will always come back to Sayulita. “Nuevo Vallarta is boring. There are no parties there.” Some even told me that it’s not Sayulita but it’s me. I told them, well, if it’s me, look around you and who among us is capable of not caving? Then we find out there’s 1 out of 10.
#6: But if you want to live in Sayulita healthily, that's pretty doable too
In item #2, I mentioned how people drink all night and still manage to go to their respective yoga classes the following morning. Isn’t that ironic? Personally, I feel like this is the reward system I keep telling myself. I can make up for this through yoga and pilates tomorrow. While we are surrounded by the greatest nightlife in the state, we also have sound, robust, and consistent holistic activities. I cannot count how many yoga teachers are living in Sayulita and they all offer different types of yoga. There’s also a fully-equipped gym. There’s a pilates studio.
The thing that makes the wellness community in Sayulita very unique is that it’s a collaboration of people from all over the world. They come here and introduce whatever it is they are doing because it fits the Sayulita lifestyle. I sht you not, I have met people with health careers I’ve never heard of before – sound bather, men’s behavior coach, reiki master, herbalist, and many more. There is a place for everyone at Sayulita’s table especially when it comes to health and wellness. Whatever it is that you do, it will definitely work here.
Mexico is also known to be a meat-eating country but Sayulita prides itself on the many vegan/vegetarian cafes and restaurants. I was vegan when I first came here and did not expect that it will be easy. I thought it’s going to be challenging. There’s even a superfoods store where you can buy all sorts of healthy stuff!
#7: Who's here? Americans? Canadians? Families with kids? Solo travelers? Digital nomads? Well.... EVERYONE.
When I lived in Tel Aviv, 90% of the people there are young professionals. In Hong Kong, sort of the same. In South America, a lot of young backpackers. In Africa, a little mix of luxury travelers. But I have not been to a place where you can see every single type of person but Sayulita. Stand in the plaza at the center and observe. You will see kids skating around the park. Across the park is a bar where the 30-somethings get drunk at noon. Well, mom and dad could be there too, having a drink or two.
Young, old, Canadians, Americans, Europeans, Latinos – literally everyone is here. I’ve lived abroad for the last 14 years of my life and I’ve never seen a community so diverse. I must warn you though, the percentage of Americans and Canadians and really high. I’m not making that sound so bad but for the American readers of this blog, that actually seems important. There is a strong sense of inclusivity and a deep desire to be part of a community here. That, I tell everyone over and over, is something worth mentioning about Sayulita. It’s what makes it unique.
#8: Mañana habit and the slow grind culture
The mañana habit is something the Mexicans inherited from the Spaniards. Mañana means tomorrow and you will often hear this from everyone in Sayulita. This lifestyle plays it day by day and nobody sets things in stone. Everyone plays it by ear unless it’s a fixed date like a birthday. People here go with the connection and the flow: if we will connect, we will connect.
It worked well for me in the beginning because I honestly don’t want anything planned. I base it on how I feel at the moment because I don’t want to be a flaker. I don’t say yes to dinners on Friday when it’s just a Monday right now. I don’t know, maybe Friday, I will feel like shit and just decide to stay in bed and cuddle my dogs. If I decide to have a sunset drink after a long day at work, I can simply go to the bar without calling/texting anyone because someone I know will be there. That never fails.
What did not work for me with this day-by-day lifestyle is the difficulty in business transactions. Even big companies here use the term mañana rampantly I don’t even know what to believe in anymore. As someone who works in a fast-paced environment (believe me, I am a force of nature in the workspace), running at 140 km per hour while everyone is at 40 made me tired. It was really hard to keep up. Yup, since I was the one at the faster speed, I needed to keep up. Not them. Of course, this is only important if you want to work with companies/people in Sayulita.
Oh, well, I take that back. Not really. It does apply to everyone. You see, Friday noon is already a weekend here. If you run out of gas (for your stove or heater) on a Friday, nobody will come until Monday. If you need something repaired on a Saturday, I hate to break it to you but nobody will come. If your car broke down on a Sunday, Mr. Mechanic can definitely not be bothered because he is already drunk at noon with his family.
This is funny because this behavior is not only portrayed by Mexicans but the foreigners live this way, too! They’ve somehow adapted to this trend. “It’s a weekend. No one is allowed to bother me. Or better yet, no one will.” You simply just don’t try to do business or anything important on weekends.
#9: Supermarkets - they don't exist
There are no groceries in Sayulita. How the hell am I supposed to know that if I am new in town? When I first came to Sayulita, I had a weekly run to Puerto Vallarta where all the big supermarkets are (Mega, Walmart, La Comer, Costco). For people living in Sayulita, going to Puerto Vallarta is quite an excursion. We hate it. They hate it. Even if it’s just a 40-minute drive, it is regarded as tedious. The city’s too loud. Wait, what, I need to wear shoes to go to PV?! Anyway, it’s a lot of work.
I diligently did these grocery runs because I thought I was saving more money. The cost of living in Sayulita is slightly higher than PV mainly because everything we consume is imported from the nearby cities. Vegetables will be a dollar more. Gourmet prices are double. So the mentality is to do one trip to Costco and stock up. That didn’t work well for me since the town has a big eating-out culture. Mind you, there are many good restaurants in Sayulita.
Additionally, storing large amounts of food in this humid weather is not ideal. For example, I bought a kilo of potatoes in PV for $20 USD less (than what I would spend in Sayulita). Since I stocked them up, they all went bad because of the weather and of course, because I was always out. The moment I realized I’ve been throwing a lot of stocked rotten food, I stopped doing the grocery trips to PV and just decided what I ate day by day. I did not have anything in my fridge which I honestly prefer than throwing food.
There are many mini-stores in Sayulita that are complete. It just seems incomplete because these places are small but when you come to think about it, they also have everything even if it’s slightly more expensive. I buy my ingredients as I think of it. This way, I do not waste anything, especially when impromptu dinner dates with girlfriends happen a lot.
#10: Your pets will love Sayulita
I should’ve included this in item #7 because I’ve never been to a place where dogs are super welcome. The moment you sit at the restaurant, the waiters will automatically give a large bowl of water to your dog. On the beach, you can let them loose and I feel that this is important because Playa del Carmen beaches do not allow unleashed dogs. And oh, please don’t ever think of stealing or picking up dogs on the streets because all of them have owners. They are just roaming free. They certainly know how to go home. Apart from that, we have environmental warriors who take care of our animals, not only the pet dogs but also iguanas, birds, etc. If you see roadkill (most common are iguanas), please volunteer to bring them to Ser Su Voz. All of us do it.
I’ve lived in Mexico City, Puerto Escondido, Puerto Vallarta, and other Mexican towns/cities and the feeling of dog-friendliness is way stronger in Sayulita.
Now that we were at the animal subject, please note that Sayulita is in the jungle so expect raccoons, geckos, and even scorpions to be inside your house. As someone who grew up in the jungles of the Philippines, I am so used to this but I’ve seen a lot of foreigners who freak out and accidentally smack these animals with their Havaianas. Please, don’t do that. When I was young, my mother told me that the gecko lives in our house because we are good people. Animals come to your house for a reason. Meaning, they feel safe with you so don’t hurt them and just let them be.
You’ll get used to co-existing with them, I swear.
Well, for now, these are the things about Sayulita lifestyle that I feel important but I will update this when an idea comes to mind. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment box below and I will try my best to answer them! Thank you for reading and let me know if you ever end up here. But be quick because I am moving to Mexico City this fall!
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