Mexican fishing village retains rugged charm

10:00 PM
PDT on Saturday, April 14, 2007
The Denver Post

SAYULITA, MEXICO – Legend holds that those who drink the water in this whimsical fishing-village-turned-surf-hideaway will fall prey to the region’s siren song, assuring not only several return trips but a lifetime spent snaring others under Sayulita’s salty spell.

Wedged between dense jungle and the Pacific Ocean, this once-humble village has become the sandy metropolis of Nayarit, the coastal state north of bustling Puerto Vallarta.

That’s not to say that 3,000-resident Sayulita is anything like its sprawling, resort-rich neighbor to the south. It’s just that Sayulita’s four square blocks of beachfront fun ranks as the largest village among Nayarit’s bounty of not-quite-remote but lonely oceanfront hamlets.

Villa Amor overlooks the bay at Sayulita, Mexico. The village’s hotels are cozy and affordable.

Sayulita’s fishing economy slowly began to give way to tourism in the mid-1960s.

In the 1970s the government, as part of a nationwide urbanization effort, erected a town square in Sayulita and flanked it with new buildings. Still, the village spent three decades off the beaten path of barefoot tourists, happily hiding in the shadows of the big-box hotels emerging in Puerto Vallarta.

The quiet villages of Nayarit have always been popular with Mexican vacationers from Guadalajara and Mexico City, but among others, word of the region’s treasures rarely trickled beyond the secretive sect of vagabond surfers.

But, as with every hidden paradise, word spread. Outside Magazine in the late ’90s whispered to its half-million subscribers that Sayulita was top-shelf for anyone seeking a southern tropical getaway sans doorman.

Bulldozers started forging farther up the jungled ridges above the surf, clearing roads for palatial homes for outsiders. Cobblestone avenues in Nayarit’s Sayulita, Punta Mita, San Francisco and even Lo de Marcos now host plenty of real estate offices.

Despite its “discovery,” Sayulita remains rootsy with delicious food, comfy and affordable hotels, lodges and homes, and a mostly happy-to-see-you local population.

It remains the more rough-hewn, adventuresome alternative to Puerto Vallarta — a perfect place for the folks more apt to name the scurrying sand crabs living in the bathroom and feed the geckos on the porch.

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