If you ask Barbara Roche where else she would live if she wasn’t living in Sayulita, she’ll tell you absolutely nowhere. “The moment I arrived, I fell in love with this town,” she says.
Once a tiny Mexican backwater, Sayulita gained prominence in the 1960s as a great surf spot with mellow, open-minded residents. It’s now a favorite vacation spot for national and international tourists. The town still boasts awesome waves. But these days you’ll also find organic coffee, delicious international food, and a high volume of digital nomads. Lots of foreigners have been drawn to Sayulita and many have started their own business ventures catering to the resident and visiting North Americans.
Barbara arrived in Sayulita over 10 years ago and she has never looked back. Now she runs one of the town’s more popular vacation property complexes, Villa Amor.
The Villa Amor property is tucked into a hillside just north of Sayulita’s main beach. From the road in front of its villas you can watch the surf instructors guide their pupils out to the first small wave break in the bay in the sparkling sunshine.
With about two-thirds of the property’s 60 villas entrusted to Barbara and her staff, Villa Amor has the feel of a home away from home. Whimsically designed stone staircases lead you through the lush tropical vegetation from villa to villa, each with a view of the turquoise water below and each ranging in amenities and grandeur. The individual owners of each villa entrust the upkeep and maintenance of their homes to the Villa Amor team, and in return make a tidy profit each year from rentals. Owners visit throughout the year, but, when the owners aren’t in Sayulita, guests can enjoy the villas for prices starting at around $120 a night—going up to $1,000 a night.
Barbara discovered the business when she got turned on to Sayulita by a friend after spending time on vacation in Puerto Vallarta since the 1960s. In her first few years exploring the town, she stayed in one of the villas off and on, and when the previous owner decided it was time to move on, she was in the right place at the right time to take over the business.
For Barbara, Sayulita’s open-minded residents and sleepy ambiance drew her in immediately but she admits she would be unhappy without the large local expat community. “I think I would be lonely without the presence of other Americans. I thoroughly enjoy when other owners come down to Villa Amor. I meet wonderful guests. Sometimes I sit in front of the office in the evening and it’s just a passing show of people to talk to.”
Barbara says that a simple trick to discovering a profitable business in Mexico is to find one that is functioning but poorly run. You can judge that both by looking at the numbers and having a first-person experience interacting with the business, its staff, and its owner, says Barbara. “When I stayed here in the past, I would go to the front desk and say, ‘my villa doesn’t have water, my villa doesn’t have electricity,’ and they would say it was a problem from town. When I took over, I learned that was never the case,” she says. By improving a turnkey business, she was able to create profit from the get-go.