Sayulita, Mexico: A 35mm Film Photo Essay

Photographer/Writer: Jamie Oosterhuis  |  Date: 12/2016|  Camera: Pentax ME Super  | Film Type: 200 & 400

Sayulita: A Surfer's Village

The smouldering sun and a wall of heat hit you as soon as you step your foot off the plane onto the tarmac. You could see the lush green forests from the sky as you descended onto the landing strip and cannot wait to explore the quaint village of Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico. While you have never been south of the border, you've heard stories about 24/7 sunshine and warm ocean waters and you hope this trip meets your expectations.

After a 40 minute, muggy bus ride through cities and jungles, you arrive on a dirt road where your extended family greets you and shows you the way to their gracious home. Casa Om, a contemporary, tropical, 4-bedroom house with a top floor yoga studio, is situated about two kilometers from Sayulita’s centre. After adventuring around the home and feeling more comfortable than you have in the last few months, you know in your heart this will be an amazing trip.

Bret, taking you down the path to Casa Om. From the bus drop-off to the home, there is a bridge that hovers over a mountain creek which flows downward to the ocean. The sun is setting on your skin and every leaf on every passing tree seems magical.

The road in which Casa Om sits on is complete dirt, much like many of the other roads in Sayulita’s country side. The home follows suit of many other traditional houses – the walls are created with adobe, a mud product made from clay-based soil, and the roof is thatched with straw or long grasses.


You adventure that evening with your loved ones as the sun creeps behind the horizon and finally takes rest there. Flags of peace create a canopy over every street in Sayulita and the sounds of quick Spanish bounce off the buildings. The best part of the night is the churros you get to chow down on from the nicest street vendor you’ve ever met.


Up to this point in your life you have never had copious amounts of sand fill your bathing suit or accidentally swallowed a mouthful of salty water. On the first night, you run as fast you can into the ocean as the waves break upon the beach and realize the water is much warmer than the tales you hear (depending, of course, where you are in Mexico). Every day of your trip after the first involves a dip in the deep blue.

A lot of time was spent relaxing, reading, writing, and eating. Once you arrived back home you were often asked, “What was your favourite part,” and you knew your instant reply would be “Everything.” Deep down, you knew your favourite part was just to be and listen, breathing in all your surroundings.

On the second night, you were up until the morning hours violently ill. Maybe it was from the water, maybe from the food, maybe from culture shock. The following day was a complete write-off, but on the fourth day you regained your strength – sort of. Your family tells you, “We are all going to San Pancho today, or as the locals like to say, San Francisco! It’s just a short walk. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine!” Seven kilometers through the jungle did not end up being a short walk, but San Pancho was well worth it.

Thriving off juices and salads, you were still ill on the second last day, but endured the smog of the city to adventure through the Sunday Market. Though you walked around the market in circles and made sure you didn’t miss any tables, the best part was the very first stand at the entrance that sold caramelized pecans and other nuts. You loaded up on dried mangos, knowing you would miss the taste of summer once you were home for Christmas the following day.

The red-eye flight home was the definition of bitter-sweet. It is a different lifestyle in a developing country – using bottled water to brush your teeth (which you decided was your first mistake at the beginning of the trip), soaking all the fruits and veggies in Microdyn, having only the options of tacos or burritos or meat on a stick, getting harassed by each and every beach vendor... Near the end of a week trip, you are craving to be in the comforts of your own home, and cannot wait to give your blood family a squeeze. You also knew that you would miss the sun, the beautiful people, the salty ocean waters, the relaxing time by the pool, and the freedom to do whatever you pleased with your days. You knew you would be back soon enough, and blew a kiss to the long sunset over the edge of the earth.



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Jamie O

Jamie is a photographer based in British Columbia, Canada, who mostly works with 35mm film. She is drawn toward the beauty of nature and people, and loves to combine the two together in ways that showcase their uniqueness.