Growth and tourism transform laid-back Mexican town into premium tourist destination
SAYULITA, Mexico — Bookended by seaside rocks that protrude into the warm Pacific Ocean, the relatively small Playa de los Muertos, or Beach of the Dead, features gentle waves, pelicans diving for fish and sunbathers lying on the sand. Vendors sell beer and grilled fish-on-a-stick, and two locals climb a palm tree to fetch coconuts. Just beyond the laidback beach is a peninsula that hosts a new and posh 62-property development, highlighting that Sayulita, once a tranquil fishing village, continues to grow into one of Mexico’s top tourism and retirement destinations. The town was featured in an offshoot of ABC’s popular reality series The Bachelor: Paradise, though one local who watched the filming thought it was a telenovela. “Every time I’ve said it can’t get bigger, it does,” said Jody Meacham of New Jersey after finishing a surfing session on Sayulita’s main beach. Meacham has been visiting Sayulita for 25 years, back when there were “more burros than cars.”
‘‘I still love it. I come back every year,” he said. Located about 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast, Sayulita presents an alternative to the towering all-inclusive resorts that line the beaches south of it. However, all types of destinations in this part of Mexico are seeing bolstered tourist numbers. Direct flights from major Canadian and U.S. cities have increased here. Passenger counts, both international and domestic, have risen as well. In December, the federal Mexican tourism department named Sayulita a “pueblo magico” or “magic town,” positioning the town as the crown jewel of the Nayarit Riviera, the coastline of its home state. The naming comes with the promise of federal money for upgrades, which residents say are needed. The town has grown to about 5,000 residents, plus the scores of visitors that cycle through. Sewage and electricity services have had a hard time keeping up with the growth. “It’s bursting at the seams, the infrastructure,” said Richard Brassard, an architect, who first visited Sayulita around 1970 after a friend read about it in a surfing book.
A woman walks down a decorated street in Sayulita. The former fishing town on the
Pacific Ocean coast has matured into a top travel and retirement destination.
Jody Meacham of New Jersey emerges from an evening surfing session at the main beach in Sayulita, which is a 45-minute drive north of Puerto Vallarta.