Beach of the Dead & Our Mexican Bungalow

After a rocky first week in Mexico, things are finally falling into place. Noe likes his new school in the jungle, and it looks like we’re well on our way to securing long-term housing here in Sayulita.

Which left only one thing to do on our first Saturday in town. Head to the beach!

It is HOT this week in Sayulita. And when I say hot, I mean nasty hot. We’re use to hot, having spent the last four years in Southeast Asia, and always prefer to be too hot than too cold.

The tropics generally suit us in that way. But this week’s been brutal at times.

It could be that the autumn weather in the Pacific Northwest made us soft. It could also be that our place right now doesn’t have AC in the bedrooms at night. Or, it could just be really hot and humid.

Fortunately, we now live on the beach! And spend our days walking around in bathing suits and tops so that any moment, we can jump into the refreshing waters of the Pacific if the feeling strikes us.

At least, that’s the idea. Up until now, we’ve been so focused on finding a place to live that we haven’t had much time for that.

But that all changes today.

It’s 10am and we’re already feeling the heat and hearing the ocean call us. We’ve just finished breakfast and have decided to bypass the main beach (which is packed at the moment), and see if we can find the semi-hidden Playa de Los Muertos (Beach of the Dead).

Los Muertos is rumored to have the best swimming conditions for kids in town, and we’re excited to find out for ourselves if that’s true.

We trace the coastline along Calle Pescadores, past the imposing Villa Amor resort complex until we come upon a pink archway.

Cresting a small dirt hill, we come upon the town cemetery amidst the jungle on the left.

We’re close.

Following the dirt track, we take a right, and are greeted by blue waters and palm fringed sands.

Playa de Los Muertos!

Playa de Los Muertos (Beach of the Dead)

Arriving early on a Saturday, Playa de Los Muertos manages to surpass our expectations.

The waters are calm and clear, the surf is gentle, the sand is soft. And best of all, there are only a smattering of beachgoers here. For now.

Bookended by the lush Punta Sayulita (Sayulita Point) to the south, and a rocky outcropping to the north, Los Muertos is the most protected cove in the area; not ideal for surfing and bodyboarding (which keeps most of the town away), but perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and lazing in the shadow of palms.

Exactly my kind of beach!

It’s been a while since the boys have done any real swimming, and years since Noe’s actually gotten to swim in the ocean, so we’re taking things easy today.

We’ve visited plenty of beaches in the past few years, but for various reasons they couldn’t swim in Penang or Kep, and didn’t do any swimming on the Oregon Coast.

This will be Riley’s very first time swimming for reals in the ocean.

As his dad, I’m both embarrassed and heartbroken by this fact. But it’s not like we haven’t tried.

We had a week-long getaway booked on a beautiful island off the Cambodian coast last April, but our trip got canceled at the last minute due to a bad virus making the rounds.

So, here we are.

Our time having the beach mostly to ourselves is fleeting, and by 11am, the cove is filling up.

A week into our time here and we’re still uneasy about the number of casual day trippers and tourists wandering about seemingly oblivious to current crisis.

Mexico has been one of the countries hardest hit by COVID in the world, but you’d never know it in Sayulita.

40 minutes to the south in Puerto Vallarta, it’s a whole other story, mainly due to the fact that Jalisco (that state) is at a higher threat level (orange) than Nayarit (this state), which is currently yellow.

Mexico uses a stop-light system to not only indicate where each state is at in terms of cases, risks, and hospital capacity, but also to give people a clearer indication of what the response may look like.

For example, if a state is downgraded from yellow to orange status, they know that all non-essential businesses will be required to operate with 30% of their staff. All restrictions are the same across the board for each color level, no matter which state you are in.

All this to say, once restrictions were loosened in Nayarit (about two weeks ago), it pushed an influx of visitors into our neck of the woods — Mexican day trippers tired of the more severe restrictions in Jalisco (home to both Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara), and casual tourists from north of the border who would have otherwise headed to Puerto Vallarta, but instead decided to visit the beaches of Nayarit due to the restrictions in PV.

Mexico is also seeing an influx of foreign visitors (particularly from the U.S.) largely owing to two other factors: Few popular overseas vacation destinations are open to short-term American visitors at the moment; and Mexico does not currently require a COVID-19 test or quarantine for international arrivals.

That’s, of course, in addition to Mexico’s neighboring proximity and relatively low cost.

On some level, when we decided to move down here, I guess we thought Covid would keep most casual travelers away. It’s pretty clear that’s not going to be the case.

So, yeah, lots more people around than we anticipated.

Fortunately, life is lived outdoors here, and the weather is conducive to that. Plenty of opportunities to have fun in the sun at a safe distance from others.

If the water gets a bit crowded, we just wait until it thins out a bit. And it usually does.

So, how would we rate our first beach morning in Sayulita? On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it an 11. The water was warm and calm, and the boys loved every minute. I know Lori and I did too.

It’s lunchtime now, which means almost nap time, so time to start heading back. And just in the nick of time, it seems.

Brutally hot and humid weather in the morning in the tropics almost always brings a thunderstorm later in the day. Looks like one’s brewing as we speak.

Moving Day | Our Mexican Bungalow in Sayulita

Sunday is moving day! Our little apartment has treated us well for the past week, but we’re excited to get settled and unpack our luggage.

The past few nights have been a bit interesting. A couple nights ago, a big storm came through, leaving us without power for most of the night, which meant a pretty brutal night’s sleep.

There’s one AC unit in the living room and ceiling fans in the bedrooms, and our room didn’t have windows, so it was fairly uncomfortable before then. Losing power made it almost torturous.

This morning, found ourselves awakened by the boys a whole hour earlier than usual. The sun seemed to have risen a lot earlier than usually.

This is weird.

7am and the sun is up. Yesterday the sun didn’t rise until 8.

Of course, there has to be only one explanation. A time change. We look it up, and sure enough, there had been one. We were totally clueless. We hadn’t read or heard anything, and the time change is a couple of weeks ahead of the time change north of the border.

Fortunately, our only commitment for the day is to check out of our Airbnb and move our stuff up the road to our new place. And that isn’t until noon.

After breakfast, Lori takes the boys for an outing while I finish packing and tidying up. A short while later, the taxi van rolls up to ferry us and our stuff the 550 meters to our new place.

Casa dulce casa! (Home sweet home!)

After 2.5 months of living out of suitcases, it’s so nice to be able to unpack and settle in somewhere that we know we won’t be leaving anytime soon. At least, that’s the plan. If Cambodia taught us anything, it’s that all of that can change on a dime.

But we’re better positioned here in Mexico to adjust our lifestyle as needed. Our income streams are location-independent, and relatively speaking for a family of four, we really don’t have a lot of stuff tying us down to one location.

One concession we may have to make is some sort of vehicle. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

On arrival, we still haven’t decided what we’re going to do with the boys. The house has two bedrooms. We always hoped that by ages two and four, the boys would be able to share a room. Unfortunately, we’re just not there yet.

So, we’re going to have to get creative.

At first, we thought we might be able to turn the utility room or small nook near the entry way into a room for one of the boys.

Today, as we’re standing here sweating our butts off, it’s clear that that’s not going to be possible, since the only functional AC units in the house are in each of the two bedrooms. It cools down some at night, but not a lot, and the boys still nap in the heat of the day.

What we’ve ultimately decided is that Riley will continue to sleep in his travel crib in the smaller room. Noe will take his naps in our room, and we’ll put him down at night in our room. Later, when we start getting ready for bed, we’ll transfer him to the bed in the smaller room.

We’re not sure how that’s going to work, but it’s our best option at the moment. Fingers crossed.

The entire house is done in a traditional Mexican revival style, which we were immediately drawn to. For its size, the house has a lot of character.

The most striking feature in the entire house is the massive brick cupola (brick dome roof) above the main living area of the house.

And yes, that is an AC unit. Unfortunately, it no longer works and there are no plans to replace it. Needless to say, one of our first acquisitions will be a very large fan for this room.

I’m not sure if it’s to deter critters from taking up residence, discourage mould from growing, or make the lives of parents with young children even more challenging, but open shelved kitchens in these parts seem to be a common feature.

Regardless, the kitchen seems very functional, and I’m excited to use the brand new gas oven and range.

Main bath.

The house has an interesting history. In the early 2000s, a Canadian developer bought a large plot of land along the river and built three houses in succession, investing more money in each new house than the one before.

Ours is the middle of the two houses. We’re not sure if he intended on making the entire property one large resort complex (you could originally walk between all of them), or had planned all along to partition the parcel.

However, before the houses were complete, he sold them to three individual owners, Each owner finished them in their own unique way. Currently, one house is owned by a Canadian couple, one house owned by a Brit, and our house is owned by an American.

The two houses flanking this one were upgraded and turned into something akin to luxury rentals. Ours has largely remained the owner’s personal vacation home, with short rental stints over the years.

Master bedroom. A second bathroom is off to the right.

The boys’ bedroom. And that’s aluminum foil on the walls.

The room has three glass block windows that face the shared driveway with a very bright security light.

A week or two after moving in, I got the bright idea to cover the windows with foil, which seemed to do the trick at first.

But every time we open the door or turn on the fan, it makes a fairly loud rattling sound that’s enough to wake the boys.

I’ll have to see what other building materials I have laying around in the kitchen.

This is the sitting area off of the entry way that we considered trying to convert into a third bedroom.

Another great feature of this house is the back yard. A nice tiled patio and lots of green grass.

We’ve got high concrete walls on each side of the house, and the property goes all the way to the river (a thatched fence runs the length of the property line along the river). We haven’t decided yet if abutting the river is a bonus or a liability. We’ll find out in rainy season.

All moved in, we head out for a leisurely stroll to central beach. We find a nice little perch in a toes-in-the-sand bar serving cerveza artisanal (regional craft beer), and take in the sights and sounds of our adoptive Mexican home.

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