Retire in Guadalajara,
Retire to Lake Chapala &
San Miguel de Allende
Live in Mexican Pacific Coast
Joel’s Review & Comments
Page 4: (Sayulita, Mexico)
La Vida Cheapo, AARP Continued….
By Barry Golson,
We won't tarry long in
Puerto Vallarta here because we didn't tarry long there.
Guidebooks extol its blend of old-Mexican charm and jet-set
beach glamour. There's a large, active American retirement
community in Puerto Vallarta, an international airport 20
minutes from downtown, and plenty of the amenities that spring
up around a modern resort. Still, there's a touch of Las Vegas
to Puerto Vallarta. It's a matter of taste, I suppose, but
after four days we decide to move up the coast, where we hear
life is a little less frantic.
We wander some 25 miles north of Puerto Vallarta to the
village of San Francisco, known to locals as San Pancho. There,
we are the guests of Bill Kirkwood and Barbara
Ex-Silicon Valley fast trackers who'd vacationed in the
region for two decades, Bill, 54, and Barbara, 52, moved
permanently to San Pancho two years ago along with another
couple, their close friends John Levens, 56, and Judi
MacGregor-Levens, 55. Together, the couples built Casa
Obelisco, a striking 5,300-square-foot open-terrace
Mediterranean house with a mosaic dome perched above a splendid
beach. The two families live in separate wings and this year
began to rent out extra bedrooms as a bed-and-breakfast. While
there, Thia and I luxuriate in the canopied beds, checking our
shoes in the morning for scorpions.
Bill and Barbara's tales about house building, making new
friends, and adapting to Mexico's what-will-be mentality are
upbeat and cheery. But outspoken Barbara, the kind of gal who'd
give you the straight dope about anything (including her
"terrific" $3,500 face-lift in Mexico), faults a "certain
lawlessness" in her adopted country. Though they always feel
personally safe, she says, fighting the mordida (bribes) system
is useless. Despite ostensible reforms under President Vicente
Fox, traffic cops must still be paid off. "Taxes are absurdly
low, and so is a policeman's pay," Barbara explains. "How else
can they make ends meet?"
They say many friends come to visit, look at properties, and
get the itch. "Then, at the last minute, they back down," says
Barbara while fixing an adios sunset drink for us on their
rooftop. "Why? Fear of the unknown. In the States, you know
there's always a fix; here, it's often fix-it-yourself. You've
got to have that spirit."
Which brings us to the final leg of our own quest. A couple
of miles south of San Pancho, 40 minutes north of Puerto
Vallarta, lies the village of Sayulita, estimated population
1,500. Thia and I stumble upon it while in search of an early
breakfast one Sunday morning during our stay at Casa
At first, Sayulita seems a slightly grungy place, with no
paved roads and with chickens and dogs running loose. But
strolling down to its gently curved beach, sitting down to
watch pelicans dive-bomb for their breakfast in the surf, we
know we've found someplace special. The village, ringed by soft
hills, has no traffic lights, paved roads, or ATMs—and just one
grocery store worthy of the name. (There are, however, three
We quickly get advice from fellow
beachcombers: "You have to go to Rollie's." We are
directed past the little town plaza near the beach, up a
dirt street just past the butcher shop. Across the street,
beneath a plain awning, is Rollie's, the town's leading
breakfast establishment. The place is packed, and there's
a line out the door.
Proprietor Rollie Dick, a crinkly-eyed gent of 64, runs the
short-order grill; his wife, Jeanne, 59, waits on tables. From
time to time Rollie strolls out to sing for the patrons and
waltz a delighted lady customer around the tables.
The amateur-theater ham from Salinas, California, is
Sayulita's biggest booster and its gringo godfather. After
closing time at noon, in the Dicks' apartment above the
restaurant, Rollie explains how a retired school principal
(Rollie) and a teacher (Jeanne) landed in this tiny town beside
It happened, he says, while they were on a vacation five
years ago. They fell in love with Sayulita, and before leaving,
Rollie asked the woman they were staying with to contact them
if a property that matched their limited resources came on the
market. Like so many others approaching retirement, Rollie had
toyed with the idea of opening a restaurant. When word came
that a building was available in Sayulita, the Dicks decided to
take the chance.
The Dicks paid $50,000 in cash for a three-story building
with a welding shop on the ground floor that Rollie converted
into the restaurant. "You had to have vision," he says. "Plus,
property taxes are only $32 a year." He lived there for nearly
two years on his own, understanding little Spanish, waiting for
Jeanne to retire and join him.
Later in the afternoon, on a stroll through
town, Rollie expands on How Things Are Done Down Here.
"There is, absolutely, a mentality here of living in the
now, not worrying too much about the future. And you know
what? It's wonderful! We made the decision that we were
going to live here as guests of Mexico and do things their
The next day, Thia and I go looking for a piece of land of
our own in Sayulita.
True, we set out merely to chronicle our journey, not to put
down a stake. We're not retiring yet. But what can I say? We
found a lovely little parcel above the village. We paid cash
for it and got some papers in return.
Will we build there? Will we become expatriates? Will it all
turn out all right? That's another story.
Pacific Coast Villages scorecard
Charm 10 (those sunsets!);
Shopping 1 (but both villages are within 30 miles of Puerto
Medical facilities 2 (but again, there's Puerto Vallarta);
Other Americans 7 (laid-back, quirky);
Wow factor—that surf, for beginners and hot dogs alike.
Thia's review: "Ideally, it would be four months here, four in
San Miguel, four in New England."
Barry's review: "Three words—que sera, sera."
Barry Golson is the former executive editor of Playboy and TV
Guide and former editor-in-chief of Yahoo! Internet Life.
Next: Joel’s Comments and Review of the AARP Mexico
Retirement Article, "La Vida Cheapo"
Page 1: Retire in Guadalajara,
Page 2: Retire to Lake Chapala
Page 3: San Miguel de Allende
Page 4: Live in Mexican Pacific Coast
Page 5: Joel’s Review & Comments
Back to the first page: Guadalajara, Mexico Retirement, AARP
Magazine, "La Vida Cheapo"
Page 4 of 5
Casa Preciosa Side Bar Notes:
Chester Allen a writer for the The Olympian recently
did an article about Sayulita, a surfers paradise
on the Mexican Pacific ocean.
Lake Chapala if you are thinking about retirement in
Casa Preciosa is situated on the north shores of Lake
Chapala, Mexico and is available for adventurous travels that
want the comforts of ome. Take a look at what this Ajijic Vacation Rental
Home has to offer.