It’s not easy to find an apartment in Sayulita, Mexico, at least not in October. This came as a pretty big surprise. We thought we had come prepared: we’d done the research, read every blog post we could find and even gotten some first hand advice. Our friends Dave and Lauren had arrived just two weeks before us and had found a suitable apartment in less than an hour, from the first rental agency they spoke to.
So we figured it would be no problem. After all we’re not really that picky, we just wanted a one bedroom apartment with wifi and a kitchen, preferably for around $600 a month. No frills, just somewhere comfortable enough for us to live and work for the next 6 months.
We were wrong. Something happened in those two weeks between Dave and Lauren’s arrival and ours. All the good apartments in town were seemingly snatched up. The two days of apartment hunting that followed were two of the worst travel days I have experienced anywhere. Two long days of wandering around in thick steamy tropical heat, asking every random person we came across if they knew of any apartments for rent.
We must have looked at a dozen apartments, all off in some way, or unavailable for more than a month or two (many places have already been booked over the Christmas holidays). Unfortunately in my panic I forgot to take pictures of any of the apartments we saw, however, here are some of the highlights of our ridiculous apartment search.
We met Roberto, a fast talking older guy from California, on Craigslist. He’d bought land in Sayulita 25 years ago he told us, and although he spent most of his time in Bangkok now, he still made a tidy profit renting out rooms in his self-designed apartment complex.
The apartments were gorgeous: big kitchens, ocean views and interesting details. They were all out of our price range except one: the tiny studio “garden apartment” which was basically a cave carved out of the bottom of the building. The kitchen was a tiny tabletop gas burner, and the furniture was sparse and uncomfortable. Roberto never stopped talking the entire time we were there, about the commercialism of Sayulita, the dishonesty of his tenants and other tangents. The whole thing gave me a bad, bad feeling.
For days Roberto would call us offering complex and terrible deals:
“You can stay in the big apartment for $500 this month, then $1200 next month.”
“You can have the small apartment for $500 a month, but A/C will cost an extra $150 a month.”
“Only $1000 a month for the big apartment if you pay the entire 6 months up front” (ha! Let me just go grab that extra $6000 I have lying around).
The waiter at Chilly Willy’s taco bar suggested we check out a place called “Longboard Heaven” that had some rooms to rent. Located high up on “Gringo Hill,” we had to knock for several minutes before finally a thirty-something, shirtless guy answered the door. We were hit with intense waves of marijuana smoke as he introduced himself as the owner’s nephew, who sometimes crashed at the pad.
He showed us two apartments, one with an outdoor kitchen (which I mean, just seems like a great way to start a cockroach colony) and the one he was currently inhabiting which was actually quite nice with a stunning view of the ocean. Take away the stench of weed and the overflow of DJ equipment and it might be workable- until he told us the price: $1200 a month, higher once we hit peak season.
The Most Beautiful Apartment in the World
The front desk guy at our hostel started to make inquiries around town for us. He introduced us to a slight woman who took us to see her husband’s apartment complex, even though it was a bit out of our price range. We could tell when we walked in that the place was a palace: three stories tall with a sunken living room, full kitchen, two bedrooms, washer/dryer and most magical of all: a private roof top swimming pool. More stuff than we needed for sure, but our greedy eyes widened as we took in each detail.
At $1000 a month it was way more than we’d anticipated spending, but maybe we could make it work- take on a roommate? Lock ourselves inside all day to work? Stop eating completely? We told her we were seriously interested. She called back and told us that actually, the rent was $1300 a month, and we’d have to move out for two weeks in December because the place was already rented out then. This jolted us out of our luxury trance and we wisely walked away.
The Room with No Walls
It was so hot out- the kind of hot where you could chug two gatorades and still feel vaguely dehydrated. We were ready to call it a day, but our hostel helper knew of one more spot we had to check out, an apartment owned by the manager of the tequila bar down the street. “This one is cheap!” he promised us.
Mona had us hop in her car and drove up the road a surprisingly long way. The town of Sayulita is pretty small so a 10-15 minute drive is already pretty far out of town. My spirits sunk. She pulled into a driveway off the highway and lead us across a lawn, up a rickety metal staircase, across a roof and down a hallway, before we reached a door. Inside was what I can only describe as an open air patio that someone had covered with a roof and shoved some furniture inside. It was a bedroom in the sense that it had a bed in it, but there were no walls, a hard concrete floor and a terrifying looking shower. The room was entirely exposed to the elements.
Mona looked at us expectantly, “Only 3000 pesos” (~$230), which still seemed a little steep I thought, for basically camping on someone’s roof. Forget the distance, the lack of a/c, wifi or you know, WALLS, the mosquitos alone would drive a monk to suicide.
This last one was just too demoralizing, even for usually optimistic me. We’d been looking for two full days, in a town of just over 5000 people. Everyone simply told us “You should have gotten here earlier.” Had all the apartments between $300 and $1200 really been taken already? That seemed hard to believe, but it felt like we had talked to literally everyone in town at this point.
I’d sweated out all my body fluids and my stomach was making ominous noises due to a bad quesadilla. I hadn’t even been to the beach yet! As we lay, exhausted, in our sweaty hostel room, while a live guitar concert raged loudly outside both of us started to simultaneously freak out. We’d totally screwed up, that much was clear, and now what the hell were we supposed to do?
Mike’s family had already booked tickets to come visit us in December, and at this point it looked like we might be camping on the beach by then. Maybe we’d made a mistake coming to Mexico.
I did not sleep well that night.