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Cuyutlan – home away from home

After deciding on Mexico for the winter, the next question was where in Mexico?  There is no doubt it is a very large country with many beautiful areas.   We were looking for 2 things from our experience:   1) learn spanish by living as close to the local culture as (comfortably) possible and 2) learn to surf.

When looking for good surf in Mexico, the place that tops out all recommendations is a town near Puerto Vallarta called Sayulita.   Although it looks great initially, it turns out Sayulita was just not quiet mexican enough for us.  It has very much been “discovered” by americans, and not only are the prices really incredible ($2000/mth for a 2bedroom bungalow, 10 min from the beach!), but we were also concerned it would be too english for our spanish goals.

Continuing our (internet) search further down the coast (300km south of Puerto Vallarta), we finally settled upon Cuyutlan and so far are super happy with our pick.

It is an old Mexican tourist town of 1200 people of which about 200 are expats (people from Canada/USA) who live here in the winter.  Otherwise, it is virtually unknown to the outside world.   From within Mexico it is a well known beach destination and until about 1970′s, this was “the” vacation place for local Mexican city-dwellers.   Then cars/highways came in vogue -replacing the train- and other towns took over.

I wouldn’t say Cuyutlan is forgotten, but it is definitely quiet for a town run on tourism.  The 15 or so hotels here are fully booked for 2 weeks in April during the school holidays and a few weekends, but otherwise remain open -yet nearly empty – the rest of the year.   During the weekends, we are told they might get a couple of bookings…or not.

But this is what is so great here.  It is a real live Mexican town.  At any point when walking down the main street, there are people out walking, biking or scootering along.   There is an elementary school, daycare and high school.  A police station, a health care centre, library, pharmacy, hardware store, internet café, video rentals and about 5 convenience stores  (with a surprising amount of items in very small sqftage).  And of course there are restaurants – about 100 of them if you count each roadside/beachside stand/bar and each hotel.   There isn’t much variety in the restaurants however — it is pretty much tacos, fish, fish tacos, seafood, tacos, eggs, juice, tacos, hamburgers, tacos and well you get the picture.

As for tourist attractions,  El Tortugario is definitely worth the visit and there is also a museum dedicated to the mining (harvesting?) of salt.

Then there is the beach.   As we’ve mentioned in other posts (Our beautiful Black Beach), the beach is really beautiful.  Miles and miles (40km?) of soft dark sand beach that outside of the 1km strip in town is pretty much deserted.   And we can surf here.   We’ve been taking lessons with a local surfer for the past couple of weeks.   The waves are rough and although we can catch them, we can’t stand up yet.  However, I assume it will come at some point!

A few other reasons on why Cuyutlan was a good choice for us:

  1. Small enough that we can get to know people and after 4 weeks here – we are starting to see familiar faces and chat in our developing spanish.
  2. SAFE - according to the locals “nothing” every happens in Cuyutlan and it is perfectly safe day or night.  After a few weeks here, I am lead to believe it is true.
  3. Near a big cities and airports - Manzanillo is just 30km away and Colima 50km.  Together they have everything we could ever need including an international airport.
  4. Spanish – except for the 200 expats, about 99% of the population speaks nearly no english.  Great for learning!
  5. Level - no hills to/from town!  Some of the oceanfront towns are seriously in the cliffs.   Our ocean-level town/house makes for easy biking to get around.
  6. Easy access - the highway that passes right by Cuyutlan to the above mentioned cities is a beautiful road that is easy to travel.
  7. Affordable - because Cuyutlan is so quiet, housing is really not expensive.  For example, we rent our 2007 built 4-bdrm, 3 bath, beachfront house with pool for $600 USD a month.  A smaller 1-2 bedroom home in town easily rents between $100-$300 USD per month.
  8. Clean - from what we have seen of other small towns, this one seems pretty clean.  I guess because it is tourist orientated, it doesn’t have that grimy feel of some other places.

If any of you out there are dreaming of retirement real-estate, oceanfront lots here are sold for under $50,000 and there are ocean front properties in the range of $100,000-$200,000!   For those of you who know us well, let me answer that question….no we are NOT buying!   We are here to rest, get away from our life for a bit and regain perspective on what is next.  Not to buy…no matter how tempting the offers.

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The Malecon (cement boardwalk) that runs about 1km down the beach. This is a particularly busy day! Often it is empty.

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The main street is generally quiet and looks like this, but almost always has of people out walking/biking.

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The bikers were in town this day for a “meeting” (i.e. drinking).

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A little shop next to the beach that rents bodyboards and surf boards.

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Our surf instructor Carlos and his (quebecoise!) girlfriend Myriam. The beach hotel is the “san rafael”. It looks nice.

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The fenix hotel where we often hang out for a (slightly) faster wifi connection and a decent happy hour.

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The kiddy pools set up along the beach so the kids can safely play in the water while the parents relax on the chairs.

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The beach view of the restaurants. Each restaurants rents the chairs in front for $2 each for the day including an umbrella, small table and bar service. Not a bad deal at all.   Most days the beach looks like this (not many people!).

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And a busier day…apparently it is like this about 30 days a year.

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Apparently the angle of the sand will now start levelling out and in a few weeks the umbrellas will be about at the same level as the ocean…and it will become very shallow with good swimming.

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Not us yet! But hopefully soon…there are almost always surfers in the outer waves here.


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Enjoying one of the 30 ocean front beach bars.

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The local school looks super clean and had this display for the day of the dead.

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This tourist map shows the town and the surrounding area. Our house is just next to “El Tortugario” (4km outside of the town). Armeria is where we do our bigger grocery shopping.

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And a good night from the beach chairs.