I never did get to try one of those infamous fish tacos when I was in Sayulita last year. I tried. It was closed. But I did take this picture. It borders the town square. There didn't seem to be a pattern of when things were open in Sayulita. I think people close when they feel like it. But that was ok too. This place makes the news. A lot. My attraction to it was for the web cam. Although ... my mouth did water reading the description of the scrumptious fish tacos. Here's the link:
Once you're on the home page, go to "The Camera." If you are so inclined (and I hope you are!) check it out. You will get to see what life is like in this charming place. It would be out of the ordinary if you don't see a dog wandering by. Anywho, this web cam became a meeting place for my friend John and I before I visted there. He would announce when he would be making an appearance, and I would watch as he walked by and waved to me. There was a travel article published about it recently in The Globe and Mail.
MEXICO: GENTLE WAVES, GENTRIFIED PLEASURES AND THE TASTIEST FISH TACOS ON THE PACIFIC COAST
The hippie vibe lingers
A surfer's paradise, the town of Sayulita also offers creature comforts for anyone looking for deep relaxation
Special to The Globe and Mail
January 26, 2008
SAYULITA, MEXICO -- Mark Albert Holt always craved fame, not fortune. He never really achieved either in Hollywood, where he worked behind the scenes in a series of horror flicks with such titles as Hellraiser and Warlock.
But he eventually made a name for himself after drifting down the Pacific coast a decade ago and stumbling upon Sayulita, then a grungy Mexican village with rutted roads, barely 100 phone lines and no more than 20 vehicles. Only fishermen and a sprinkling of expatriates populated the town in Nayarit state, 40 kilometres north of Puerto Vallarta. Surfers and hippies were the main visitors.
Holt, a friendly, unassuming man with a salt-and-pepper goatee, married into a local family and in 2001 opened the most basic of Mexican businesses, a fish taco stand, which featured just two tables on a road running past the town square.
He didn't just open any taco stand, though. Holt took locally caught dorado, dipped it in a perfectly spiced batter, served the fried fish in the softest handmade tortillas imaginable, then garnished his creations with cabbage, chilies and an original mango salsa. Holt humbly describes his
Print Edition - Section Front
tacos as "an authentic taste
of Baja on the [Mexican] mainland."
Others have been quick to heap on the praise, and Holt's Sayulita Fish Taco restaurant became truly famous when Lonely Planet lauded him for making some of the "tastiest fish tacos" on the Pacific coast.
Similarly, Sayulita's reputation has grown over the past decade as a mix of hippies, yuppies and fashionistas have descended on the town. The influx has produced an unusual kind of place, where guests at a beachfront campground do yoga on a patio surrounded by Winnebagos, where a jewellery store sits next to a taco stand dishing up tripe tacos and where the local bread vendor sells artisanal crusty loaves from the back of a beat-up pickup.
Nowadays, beachgoers can also nosh on slices of broccoli-shrimp pizza made in wood-fired ovens. A cozy lounge mixes $8 lychee martinis. And black Tahitian pearls are sold at Pachamama, a boutique credited with attracting a rather stylish crowd to Sayulita. (An attractive Pachamama employee, speaking in a Valley Girl accent, happily points out, "There are a lot of pretty people in this town - not to be vain.")
Real-estate development has mushroomed as well, as tourists snap up pieces of paradise - often impulsively purchasing properties within days of arriving in town.
With the flurry of activity, Holt says that "when you come into town, you feel the energy of it."
In many ways, Sayulita still resembles a typical coastal pueblo, where packs of stray dogs roam the dusty streets, locals fete the Virgin of Guadalupe by releasing noisy bottle rockets in the predawn hours and men ride through town on horseback while clutching cans of Modelo beer.
But the expat community, composed of an eclectic bunch of characters who give Sayulita its real charm and are known throughout the area by their first names, has opened a series of landmark businesses.
Take, for example, Thies, a personable German fellow who often roams his impossibly tidy Sayulita Trailer Park and Bungalows in shorts, suspenders and white tube socks. He opened the park 25 years ago after purchasing two acres on the beach. In a sign of Sayulita's burgeoning appeal, developers have been making him increasingly sweet offers to sell.
Or Tracey, a gregarious blond English woman and the owner of Chocobanana, a breakfast spot in the town square often jammed with surfers. Her story is legendary: Tracey arrived in town after being fired from a cruise ship job in Puerto Vallarta for exposing an environmental offence in the early 1990s, and made a living hawking chocolate-covered bananas on the beach. She later founded Chocobanana, which flourished along with the town.
When Thies and Tracey arrived, land was cheap, a trip to the airport in Puerto Vallarta took more than two hours and the municipal police would pass through town only in the early evening.
Those days began to disappear with the opening of an improved coastal highway in the late 1990s. The construction of a Four Seasons resort on a spectacular peninsula in nearby Punta de Mita also began attracting more affluent tourists, who started making day trips into Sayulita.
The change sweeping over the town - the first bank machines arrived recently - is also affecting other parts of Nayarit, a thinly populated state better known for tobacco production, a remote island of shrimpers where the locals traverse the streets in canoes during the rainy season and Huichol Indians carrying out peyote-induced rituals in dry, mountainous regions.
Nayarit's coast never enjoyed the same fanfare as Puerto Vallarta, the setting for the John Huston film The Night of the Iguana and more recently the scene of a gay tourism boom.
But the state government hopes to change that with development plans for new resorts, golf courses and marinas in an area dubbed the "Riviera Nayarit."
The area stretches north from Puerto Vallarta and includes the all-inclusive resorts of Nuevo Vallarta, a massive new marina in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and, of course, Sayulita. It ends at San Blas, a town renowned for its mangroves, ferocious mosquitoes and three local fishermen who were rescued on the other side of the planet after supposedly being lost at sea for nine months in 2006. San Blas also once boasted a legendary surf pipe, but for unknown reasons it stopped producing great waves earlier this decade.
Though Sayulita is not known for big waves, it has produced several champion surfers. Surf instructor Fernando Stalla says it's "the perfect place to learn how to surf," with gentle waves crashing over a third of the bay, which has a sand bottom - ideal for avoiding injuries.
For now, it's also the ideal place for experiencing a slice of the real Mexico without giving up too many creature comforts. And a great place to feast on fantastic fish tacos.
Pack your bags
Sayulita is located 40 kilometres north of Puerto Vallarta Airport. A taxi from the airport runs about $30, although a Sayulita-bound bus picks up passengers across the freeway for only $2.
Where to stay
Sayulita Trailer Park & Bungalows Calle Miramar; +52-329-390-2750. Perhaps the classiest campground/RV park on the coast.
Petit Hotel d'Hafa
Revolucion 55; ww.sayulitalife.com/hafa. Centrally located boutique hotel with a great rooftop patio; $40-$85 a night.
Where to eat
Chocobanana On the town square; the business selling the famous frozen treats has evolved into a popular open-air breakfast spot that boasts great coffee, baked goods and, of course, chocolate-covered bananas.
Rollie's Revolucion 58; nobody tears into a fluffy pancake quite like Rollie Dick, a friendly former principal from northern California who operates Sayulita's other great breakfast restaurant. Also open in the evening.
Sayulita Fish Taco On the south side of the town square; Mexicans advise eating at a busy taco stand, and this place is as busy as they come.
Sandrita's Bakery Calle Miramar, inside English-language bookstore; great scones, muffins and pies baked by Sandrita, a young Canadian expat.
Sandrita's Bakery didn't exist when I was there. I must drop by there this time around. To this day, I view the web cam. It takes me to another world. And I like it.
Soon I will be there. And I won't miss trying one of those fish tacos this time!
Peace and light,