Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sayulita: It's What White People Like

Mexico has many charms, but once in a while a white person wants their dose of sand, sun and culture to be comfortably diluted by familiarity. They want to go to a place built by and for them. Sayulita is such a place.

A rambling of sun-soaked cobblestone and dirt streets tucked between the Pacific and tropical Sierra Madre Mountains are what make up the charming Mexican beach town of Sayulita. A magical hybrid of bohemian-gypsy-beach style welcomes its visitors. Sayulita attracts a “diverse” white crowd of surfers, backpackers, hippies and hipsters, Hollywood stars, families and bachelorettes.

Eight years ago, when Carter and I first visited Sayulita, we couldn't spend ten dollars. What I mean to say is, there was nothing there. No expat-owned MTV cribs-style mansions, no galleries stocked with Mexican handicrafts, no jewelry or silver shops, no restaurants selling time under umbrellas on the beach. Described as a super-chill Mexican fishing village, it was a perfect destination for us. We couldn’t wait to kick back on the then desolate beach.

Times have changed. A feature in Travel + Leisure, a mention in Food and Wine, cheap real estate and killer surf, plus the close proximity to Puerto Vallarta International Airport have turned this once quiet typical fishing village into a vacation vortex that satisfies the needs of traveling white people. Things you will not find anywhere else in Mexico have been woven into the local fabric of Sayulita in order to provide the comforts and demands of fantasy vacation-land. Here are a few luxuries you will find that make white people love Sayulita.

Burritos- Judging by the line of sunburnt gringos wrapping around the sidewalk bar of Revolution Burritos, white people love burritos! The owners of Revolution Burritos know their clientele well and are serving up what the flip-flopped masses are craving. These are American-style burritos: large and packed with more ingredients than a plato mixto at Chevy’s.

Fish Tacos- Mexicans love fish and they love tacos, but you will never hear of a fish taco outside of Baja. Local businesses have figured out that if you put some fish in a tortilla with a bit of cabbage and some sauce you can charge five times the amount you could for the same ingredients, deconstructed. And God bless them.

Margaritas- Toasting with a sweet-limey tequila slurpee is synonymous with vacation in Mexico. The first margarita was created by a white person, served in a round of funny shaped glasses, as a way to thank his white friends for the blender they gave him as a wedding present. If you want to mix with the gente, get hip with the people’s margarita.

Learning to surf –Surfing is just about the coolest extreme activity to most white people, and if they can’t afford to learn in Hawaii, there is always mainland Mexico. When we first visited, we had to rent our surfboards from who we believe was the missing member of the Dog-town and Z-boys crew-- the guy who escaped from prison and was thought to be somewhere in Mexico. Well, we found him sketchy as all hell and living in Sayulita. Back then, it was already a well known surf spot, but was still waiting to draw the surge of tourism that would sprout the large and lucrative surf board rental businesses that now dominate the beach. And dominate they do – there are about a dozen board sellers up and down the sandy bay. On a heavy day, tourists have their pick of gigantic sponge beginner boards. The waves are usually gentle, which allows most people to go out for a few hours and stand up and then say they “surfed” on vacation. Thankfully, most of the locals are used to the crowds and play “Frogger”, dodging their way through the brilliantly white masses.

“English Spoken Here”- There is no better place than the bars and restaurants of Sayulita to bust out your two years of high school Spanish. Faltering and stammering, or simply not even trying is welcomed with a smile, just like your American dollars.

Coffee- White people do not travel all the way to the passport stamp of their favorite dark-drip at Starbucks to have a mug of Nescafe put in front of them. Around the central plaza of Sayulita, organic Mexican brews are poured into disposable cups with lids and little burn-free belts—this you will not find outside of a Starbucks in Mexico. When served up with Wi-Fi the white thumbs-up is extra enthusiastic.

White people like to get back to their bohemian roots- They like let their inner boho-freak flag fly to the beat of the Mexican drum circles, drink and dance into the wee hours at a place called the Buddha Bar (every beach-side bohemian enclave has one), buy Indian imports (the connection here is unknown, but seems to be pervasive in such towns around the world) and they love to OM with the tides at the foreign owned yoga studios.

White people also like to feel rich – even if they are not. In Sayulita, tourists can rent gigantic haciendas built and owned by foreigners with infinity pools and views to match for the price of a windowless hotel room in New York City. With the pesos you've saved, you can let it rip, buying tequila shots (with lime and salt of course) for all your new friends at fire-sale prices, and tons of kitschy Mexican crafts to bring back home.

White people love Sayulita!


  1. Classic Ash, you're best post yet.

    - Colin

  2. Funny! Is this an homage to Stuff White People Like:
    White people like brunch. LOL.

    As you can see from my blog I love Sayulita, but it's true a lot of Mexico is becoming a bit like Southern California lite, without the astronomical prices. When I'm in Sayulita I hang out with the Mexicans -- they like it there too (educated, friendly, comparatively wealthy from our tourist dollars). Seems like a win-win for everyone in Sayulita!

  3. Never read your posts before so wasn't sure what to expect. While I think you nailed a pretty small nail on the head, I hope you also explored outside the tiny centre of the pueblo, just a block or two away from the plaza, and saw that honest-to-goodness real live Mexicans still live and work and play in Sayulita. Mexicans like it too.

  4. I'm a white girl..I dont like jammed-pack burritos, nor fish inside of tacos (but the mahi mahi is good in anything), dont drink coffee, would rather have tequila than a margarita, dont really want to "feel" rich and am trying very hard to learn spanish... more than three words. We stay in the jungle a couple of kms out of town where chachalacas squawk and the beach is empty. A little visit into town for groceries, then back to jungle life. Your brush is a bit big - not all white people are exactly the same. We will go to Sayulita one more time before looking for something that hasn't quite boomed so touristy - any suggestions?

  5. We are leaving for a week in Sayulita on Aug 7. My experience in preparing for the trip is that there is nothing "cheap" there. My wife ("white" but from Venezuela) can't understand why so many Mexicans cross the border to the US for better paying jobs. It seems like, at the prices we are paying, they should be making a killing.

  6. I was really hoping this blog post would have provided some recommendations on more authentic restaurants and interesting activities in Sayulita. Your post is funny, but it sounds like you could have provided some ideas on how to avoid typical-American and experience authentic-Mexico. I thought that was why everyone was going to Sayulita...

  7. Just having got back from Sayulita, I hope no one takes this post as meaning that there is no authenticity in Sayulita. While I was there, I ate at the taco stands frequented by the locals (for breakfast), drank tequila with fresca/ squirt, surfed, watched crazy off-season thunderstorms, made my own coffee from ground coffee made by a local Nayarit company, ate chips made by a local Nayarit company, swam around the Marietas Islands, and our little skills in Spanish were a life saver (the more touristy places speak perfect english, but a few blocks out from the center and you'll be unable to communicate if you don't know a little).

    This post really makes it seem like Sayulita isn't authentic, but go during the off-season, study a little spanish and bring an adventurous spirit and you'll be experiencing authentic mexico in no time.

    1. Maybe YOU should write a blog post about Sayulita. It might actually be helpful and less racist. Sorry, Smash and Sniff, but this post comes across super hipster-whiney-I-liked-it-before-it-was-cool. Get over yourself. Cool places in the world get discovered and end up being visited and loved by many. And I really don't think over-stuffed burritos is something to complain about when it comes to a Mexican beach-town. If you want total and complete authenticity, go to the Amazon basin in Peru (where, you might be surprised to know, I was born. Even though I'm white.) and eat rat/monkey with the indigenous communities and try to avoid the 13-year-old "policia" carrying machine guns. Oh yeah, and there are vampire bats carrying rabies and you forgot your bug net for sleeping under. Or maybe over-stuffed burritos are sounding more palatable to you now?

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