Oct 14 2016

Will you please tell us your names and a little bit about yourselves?

We’re David and Michael, or Michael and David (depending on whom you ask). The name of our property is Xocotla (pronounced "show-coat-la"). It's an indigenous Nahuatl word meaning "where the fruit trees are plentiful". We spend the winter months in Sayulita and the summer months in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, where we own a Bed & Breakfast, called Pelham House. Prior to that Michael was a florist and owned his own very successful business in Ottawa for 25 years, while I worked mainly in the arts and for non-profit organizations. I’m originally from Nova Scotia, but also grew up in England and then Ottawa. Michael grew up in Montreal, but moved to Ottawa to go to university. We met about 25 years ago in Ottawa and our lives took off from there.

What is it about Sayulita that made you want to buy a vacation rental here?

We’d been looking for property in different parts, different coasts, of Mexico for several years before landing on the shores of Sayulita. Back in 2001 was the first time we visited. We’d come down for five weeks and had arranged to stay in an apartment above a local family’s house. Before coming down we’d been in touch with a local realtor and we had several ideas of what we were looking for. We completely fell in love with the little, peaceful village that Sayulita was back then. We knew right away that we loved Sayulita and we just needed to know that Sayulita loved us back. Our first clue was finding a horseshoe on the road to what became our land. That, and the people, who were (and are) open and welcoming, warm and friendly. We just had to live here!

How long after your first visit to Sayulita did you purchase your house/lot?

Back in 2001, we didn’t have a lot of money. We climbed just about every hill in town looking for vacant land or a small house to buy. We were considering one place, which was unfinished, but it just wasn’t right for us. (We’re really glad to see that the new owner has done a great job of turning it into a wonderful little rental property.) At the end of the very first week of our very first visit to Sayulita, we signed our lives, and our hearts, away on a piece of vacant land with a gorgeous view. Six months later, our realtor phoned us up in Ottawa to give us the news that the adjoining property was for sale, so we bought that right away, making a very good-sized lot.

Will you share one of your classic "you won't believe this" stories about building your home? 

After two years of refilling our bank account, we started building on the vacant lot. We’d found our wonderful architect, Jose Enrique del Valle, through our realtor and his wife, who had hired him as their architect. He has a quirky sense of style, which we loved. Our Spanish was pretty rusty back then so we were relieved that he spoke excellent English. We had many, many ideas and photos of what we wanted; he put our ideas, and his, on paper and made it all come to life. The property was difficult to build on, as it’s a pretty steep hill, but that also gave us ocean views from three of the four apartments.  

“You won’t believe this,” but when we, and our first guests, moved in, the toilets all had hot water in them, not cold. We thought of opening a spa and using the toilets for facials!  

How long have you owned your home in Sayulita?

We bought the land in 2001 and we moved in in January 2005, so we’ve owned the land for 16 years and owned the house for almost 12. We had bought Ejido land and we regularized the property a couple of years ago.  

Can you share with us some of the changes you have seen around town?

Oh gosh, there have been so many changes, it’s hard to fathom. Of course, the most obvious change would be the number of tourists and travelers who now come to Sayulita. People who were here before and now return 10 years later are really surprised by that. But beyond that, I think the thing that strikes us the most is how the town is thinking and acting more globally, in terms of food, water, garbage, sustainability, and so on. When we first came, there was no real garbage removal and no recycling at all. People burned their garbage, including plastics, which could create serious breathing problems. Now, that is banned in Sayulita. Groups such as Pro-Sayulita, Eco Sayulita and JXMP have been formed and are working so very hard to change the way people think and act in that regard. The weekly farmer’s market, Mercado del Pueblo, is a great resource for local, organic produce. Stray dogs and cats, as well as owned pets, are better taken care of, thanks to the tireless work of SayulitAnimals and their frequent free spay/neuter clinics as well as other programs. A small, amateur theatre group, Live Theater Sayulita, was formed six years ago, presenting short plays and productions with all profits going to aid local charities, schools, and more. The town is busier, there’s more to see and do in the area, but the heart and soul of the people continue to grow with the town. That’s a beautiful thing.

What in particular made you decide on this property rather than other listings available at the time?

We chose our property primarily for the view and the proximity to the plaza and the main beach. We decided before even looking that we would not have a vehicle in Mexico. No car, no golf cart, just our feet in town and the bus up and down the coast, so being centrally located was vital. And the two giant higuera blanca trees that provide such a beautiful canopy over much of our land really sealed the deal. As our wise architect said:  “You can get sun anywhere in Sayulita, but shade is a precious commodity.”

How would you describe the neighborhood your vacation rental is in?

We live in an area called Gringo Hill. Back when it was just an undeveloped hill with a cross at the top, it was known as Calvario. That's still how it's known in town records. It’s residential and quiet, though just a 3-minute walk to the plaza. Our property faces up the coast, so we generally don’t get noise from bars on the plaza. There are only a couple of multi-unit properties on the hill, which is nice. We watch the horses being led down to the beach in the morning and back home to their ranch in the evening. It's a lovely sight. A lot of people have lived here for years and years. The neighbors are very friendly and we look out for each other.  

Who is the most interesting guest you have hosted at your home? 

It’s almost impossible to come up with a guest who hasn’t proved to be “interesting” in one way or another, but some really stand out. One middle-aged American couple stayed with us a few years ago and booked for about five weeks. They spent their entire “vacation” painting bright murals on the walls of the primary school. It was their gift to the children and the community. We’ve become very good friends with them, and they return yearly with other similar projects in mind. There was a young Canadian couple who came just a few days after the devastating flooding in 2010. I wrote to tell them how the bridge had been destroyed, the beach was like a mudslide, homes were lost, and so on. I told them that they could cancel their reservation if they wanted. Their reply? “Well, I guess we’ll just have to bring jeans and work boots instead of bathing suits and flip-flops.” Those two couples really stand out in our minds as showing the spirit of the people who live in and visit Sayulita.

What are your favorite things to recommend your guests do while in Sayulita?

Wow, there’s so much that we do recommend to our guests that it’s hard to narrow it down. Surfing, sailing, eating, and drinking always top the list. Added to that would be hikes through the hills and up the coast. Horseback riding and zip-lining are great for small groups of family or friends staying with us. Volunteering with SayulitAnimals as a dog walker or going to help out at the recycling center are great activities for the right people.  Really, there’s so much to do that we also have to remind our guests that “doing nothing” is an activity too!

What do you feel sets your house apart from other vacation rentals in Sayulita?

I think that’s the toughest question you’ve asked! We get a lot of repeat guests, and I think that says a lot. We’ve become friends with a lot of our guests over the years. There’s a real sense of calm about Xocotla. Our proximity to town is often remarked upon, while still being quiet. We have a good-sized property and we added over 4,000 plants and a sprinkler system and that’s created a kind of untamed jungle environment. That, combined with our huge trees and stands of bamboo, make it feel very private, like an oasis.  Our heated, two-level pool with waterfall is very popular. It even has a sunken bench where you can sit in a little grotto with a drink. As several guests have said over the years:  “You guys thought of everything!”

What advice do you have for someone searching for a home/land in Sayulita?

Check all the neighborhoods, climb all the hills, walk all the roads, talk to people you meet while wandering around. If you can, come down at different times of the year, stay in different areas for a week or more to get a feel for the place and see what suits you best. I know it’s not the sensible advice you might be thinking of, but if you find a property and you fall in love with it, buy it. We all know your head should rule your heart, but every now and then, the heart just knows. It did for us and it hasn’t let us down.