The Digital Nomads Guide to Living and Working in México Part 3: Beach Edition.
The Digital Nomads Guide to Living and Working in México Part 3: Beach Edition
Living that beach life in Sayulita, Puerto Escondido, and Tulum
Living in a small beachtown is like living within a mathematical equation. You’ll have your constants where the only variables that change are the people you interact with on the day to day, and the weather. If neither of those change then you’ll always be left with A+B=Friday nights at Camarons. This may not hold true for every beachtown in the world, but look where you are; we’re talking about Mexican beachtown’s. In particular we’re talking about Sayulita, Nayarit; Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca; and Tulum, Quintana Roo.
Some other constants to watch out for are: dealing with the shittiest ISP in the country (Telmex), which will kindly provide outages when you’re uploading some sweet puppy belly gifs; Aussie surfers who try to battle you with shot-taking contests; and an endless supply of Italian restaurants which I can only contribute to the amount of Europeans that vacation these spots. In Sayulita alone there are about 354 in a town of 600. I kid, of course, but as that old adage goes, ‘When on the Mexican coast eat as the Romans do.’ Or something to that effect. Let’s begin with my most recent 3 month stint, Sayulita, or as anyone who’s lived there calls it: Sayu.
To give you a bit of background on Sayulita, it’s basically the quintessential Mexican beach town. You’ll find that most businesses cater to foreigners that visit or live there. The latter comprise most of the golf cart population. It has one national bank, and a few ATMs that find themselves without cash on busy holiday weekends. Two cash exchanging places that I know of, and no international banking presence to speak of. If you’re staying in the center you’ll find that the beach is no more than 5–10 mins away walking with its fairly warm waters. Drug stores sell you drugs without scripts, unlike most other towns and cities. You can find the illicit kind under a bridge where the office desk is set under a tarp. For real. You’ll want to buy a small fan at Wal-Mart. It’s a nice enough place.
WHERE: An hour north of Puerto Vallarta’s international airport nestled within Nayarits jungle is where it lies; where year round temps range in the 80s (25c.)
GETTING IN: Whether you come on land or air you’ll be able to make your way to Sayulita fairly easy and safely.
Bus: From Guadalajara to Sayulita you have the option of taking an early morning bus from 2 stations that take you directly to Sayulitas entrance. Prices generally stay in the 500 pesos range via Vallarta Plus.
Plane: One can fly into Puerto Vallarta on a variety of airlines, be it international or national. Once at the airport you can cross the street via a land bridge that’ll take you to a bus stop where you can board a bus straight to Sayulita with a one way ticket costing you 40 pesos. Or if you’re feeling Rockerfeller you can get an Uber that’ll be in the neighborhood of 300 pesos.
BlaBlaCar: This is something I’ve been favoring lately. If you’re coming from any major city you’ll likely find a driver that’ll get to Sayulita or PV. This holds mostly true if you’re traveling from GDL and don’t want to shell out the 500+ to get there. I’ve gotten BlaBla’s from Guadalajara with a price tag of 250 pesos and it takes about 20% less time getting there than a regular bus.
INTERNET- AT&T and Telmex/Telcel have become the duopoly in comms here so if you’ve read my first guide you should be set with that non-neutral mobile data. One thing to note is that if you’re on Telcel and staying for quite some time you’ll probably notice an outage or two during your stay.
COWORKING- There’s one option in Sayulita and it’s Sayulita CoWork which will cost you $250/day to hang your ethernets in some A/C cooled workspace. [I’ve heard from Big Wes that there’s a DigiNomad hostel opening up soon, and the local Starbucks is opening within 2 months time of this publication. Will update once either of those happen.]
LODGING- Long-term rentals are hard to come by unless you’re going for a 6+ month stay, but in the interim I suggest Airbnb (1,500/night ave) or, my favorite, hostels. In particular Lush where you can talk to Big Wes and see if you can get a deal on a private. In my 3 months I basically stayed there during daylight hours, but their internet was always on point along with the vibe.
Monthly rentals for studios and rooms start at $2,000 pesos if you can find the ideal candidate.
GETTING AROUND- Don’t be an asshole and get a golf cart like a double knee replacement. Walk. Everything is 5 mins away. Unless you need real things like a mini fan, then take that local bus to Wal-Mart in PV.
Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
Puerto, as it’s colloquially known, is a step up compared to Sayu. It’s bigger than Sayulitas quaint beach town feel. You’ll find yourself split between two beaches, Zicatela and La Punta. Buses farry people down its main drag shouldering it’s crescent blue beaches that entertain the most novice of surfers. Within spitting distance it holds other beaches, which in my opinion, are better than what Puerto offers. Mazunte and Zipolite are my jam. Its major supermarket, Super Ché, is where everyone goes to shop. Puertos pulque, surf, and sun are its hallmarks. It’s your ideal midsized beach town.
Where: Puerto is about 7 hours via a windy and, in my opinion, terrifying road through mountainous terrain that bus drivers mistake for tokyo drifting highways.
Bus: From Oaxaca City (wah-ha-ka si-tee) or Mexico City you can find regular bus routes provided by ADO. Prices vary depending on route, but if you’re trying to get there on the cheap from Mexico City on an overnight you’ll have to venture to a metro station that’s a bit seedy. Comment to know more.
Plane: Flying into Puerto is as easy as going to VivaAerobus — Mexico’s budget airline, or Interjet and booking it. I’d choose Interjet just because they offer free drink service and aren’t always 2 hours late.
INTERNET- Same as Sayulita.
COWORKING- None to speak of.
LODGING- This is where Puerto shines. Long term rentals are as easy to find as walking down any neighborhood street and calling. Studios or apartments aren’t as expensive as Sayu either. Your usual choices of Airbnb and hostels are on the ready to receive you, but don’t depend on their wi-fi to exceed 10 megs.
GETTING AROUND- Taxi and buses are the main staples. A taxi from Zicatela to La Punta won’t run you more than 30 pesos. Its buses on the main drag won’t exceed 10. Walking, depending on where you’re staying and where you’re going, can be feasible, but not encouraged if the humidity and heat are too intense.
You’re probably asking why I even included this town if it doesn’t offer too much, but if you’re in Mexico for an extended period of time you’ll come to find out that Oaxaca state is the place you’ll want to die in. Its food is probably the best in the country, and its sights are on par with anything else in the country. If you could spend an entire month in one state and still want more I’d recommend this state above all else. It offers everything you’ll ever want, or need, at affordable prices. [I’ll update this part when I eventually write the Guide to Nomading in Oaxaca. Stay tuned.]
Tulum, Quintana Roo
Tulum, Tulum, Tulum. You have to be a sociopath to not hear how great that name sounds. I think of that scientists mantra when talking to Jerome, but not as cool. Anywho, Tulum is probably the best beachtown in México in my opinion. It offers everything Sayu can offer, but with major city amenities. Namely banks. Multinational banks are represented in this slice of heaven. Cheap long term housing is a guarantee with that sweet A/C. Shopping is given in the way of Chedraui and others. Fairly major cities are only a bus ride away. Great coffee and an evenly shitty ISP give this great town my nod.
WHERE: Two hours south of Cancúns Mexican Caribbean is where this Mayan paradise lays its head. In other words take a bus or cab from Cancún/Playa del Carmen International and you’re there. If on a budget keep reading.
Plane: Let’s not drag this out. Same applies to Playa and Cancún as Sayu or Pto. Oh, and the Cancún airport has lounges so if you’re about that card life you’ll want to fly into there.
Bus: Cancún or Playa del Carmen will offer ADO rides from the airport for as low as 50 pesos.
INTERNET- Same as Sayulita.
LODGING- Tulum is a bit tricky with that accommodation. You can definitely find studios for short term for less than 5,000 pesos a month with A/C, but that means you’ll have to work for it. Since the NYTs named Tulum a place to see Airbnb rates have inflated. You could go for a hostel in the interim, but expect a >5 meg connection. Look for a studio.
GETTING AROUND- Bikes are the main mode of transportation here. You can rent a bike on the daily/weekly/monthly, but it’s best you buy one for >50 USD.
It isn’t hard to define what makes Tulum different from the rest. The town is about 30 mins away on foot from the beach and hotels, which separates you from the tourists. The main square has a split currency that ranges from dollars to euros. In my 5 months stint there I made quite a few friends. Namely Ruben who’s a bartender at CoCo Tulum, Sandro who's the owner of the best foodstand in front of the Chedruaí (Guadalajaritas), and Richard who owns a great boutique hotel [Teetotum] that caters to those who work online.
If you have the money I’d still recommend you stay inland since staying on the beach means you have to deal with a ton of mosquitos and spotty wifi at best. The beaches, cenotes, and nearby towns only add to the majesty of this somewhat known town.
If this piece made you smirk in mild amusement then please comment and do me a solid by following me. There’s more to come and I don’t want you to miss out!
Check out part uno here: The Digital Nomads Guide to México Part 1