San Pancho: A Little Slice of Paradise
Published Nov 4, 2008 - (Updated Aug 30, 2013)
Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Fall/Winter 2008 issue.
Deserted powdery white beaches and a traditional small-town feel await you at San Francisco, affectionately known as San Pancho. Located in the state of Nayarit, about an hour north of Vallarta along Highway 200 — away from the high-energy experience of nearby Puerto Vallarta — this beautiful town invites rest and relaxation. Swim, surf, shop or simply do nothing, while getting relaxed and recharged.
The average annual temperature is a pleasant 27°C (81°F). Rainy season stretches from June to October and is the hottest and most humid time of the year. From November to May, the air is a perfect temperature to enjoy being outdoors.
Members of the indigenous group Tatuan de Nayars were the first inhabitants of this area, numbering more than 100,000. Don Francisco de Cortés explored this area in 1524 and named it San Francisco de Azapan, which later became part of the coconut oil-producing Hacienda de Jaltemba. The settlement continued to grow over the years, and when a new highway connected San Pancho with Vallarta in 1965, the window for tourism opened.
San Pancho is easy to get to from Vallarta by car or bus. Enjoy the scenic drive or catch the Sayulita bus in front of Wal-Mart or across from the airport. From Sayulita take a taxi or local bus to San Pancho.
Tercer Mundo is the main road into town and leads directly from the highway to the beach. Many of the restaurants and shops are dotted along or close to this roadway, making a nice walk for browsing in shops and stopping for a snack or meal along the way. A thriving art community, San Pancho is home to many artisans, whose original jewelry, paintings, sculptures and other works of art are offered for sale at the local galleries, jewelry stores and gift shops located along this small-town avenida.
The main plaza is spacious, and the local streets are lined with many native trees and shrubs exuding a floral symphony of colors, especially during the rainy season. San Pancho presents many cultural events and concerts throughout the year and even has an active polo club. The regional hospital serves the town and surrounding communities.
The EntreAmigos Art and Gift Gallery supports adults with limited resources by providing free instruction and materials to make and sell their creations at the gallery. It is also committed to the education of local children, providing free after-school activities including a library, homework tutoring, a computer center, reading circles and English classes. Donations and the proceeds from EntreAmigos help provide uniforms, backpacks, school supplies and even hot school lunches to local children in need.
San Pancho’s uncrowded beach is an oasis for beach lovers and nurtures the feeling that you’ve escaped from the real world to your own private slice of paradise. Beach amenities include newly constructed showers and changing rooms. Since the town is located on open water outside of the sheltered Banderas Bay, the surf may be a bit rough for swimming at certain times of the day but provides ideal conditions for surfing, sea kayaking and other water sports.
The plaza at the beach is a tasteful blend of art, culture, modern conveniences, and the always-popular beach restaurant/bars make this a prime location to spend the entire day — from sunrise to after sunset. It is flanked by a beautiful multi-scene mural, which tells the history of San Pancho through a series of boldly colored, hand-painted images created by Israel Medina Topete, Miguel Vallajan and Jesús Camarena Lozano. It is also home to an impressive statue of San Francisco, the patron saint of this picturesque town.
With its proximity to Vallarta, San Pancho makes a fabulous day or overnight trip, weekend getaway or entire vacation. It is also becoming a popular site for destination weddings. Come see what you’ve been missing!
- Mar Plata: A lovely place for dinner with a great view, located just past Costa Azul on the right side.
- Café del Mar Cocina Tropical: A funky restaurant and bar.
- Ceci Bon Café: Fabulous breakfast and lunch with Internet.
- Los Tacos con Eva: Typical Mexican evening street food at its best.
- Maria’s Restaurant-Bar: Breakfasts and healthy light lunches.
- Ola Rica: Famous for their ribs, this local favorite has been around forever.
- San Pancho Café: Chile rellenos are a specialty.
A deluxe bed and breakfast with four unique units, poolside bar, attentive service and a view of the beach. (311) 258-4315
A nicely decorated small hotel with public Jacuzzi and a homey feeling; restaurant re-opening with wholesome natural menu. (311) 258-4155
Costa Azul Adventure Resort
A beachfront resort set in the jungle with a beach club, hotel, restaurant and bar where you can enjoy the facilities at no charge, with a minimum consumption. (311) 258-4120
Inn at San Pancho, Home of the Gata Gorda
Uniquely decorated private units with 360-degree views of mountains and ocean, an ample outdoor pool and beautiful gardens. (311) 258-4190
Unique units with full kitchens, in lush tropical gardens with lovely pool, close to everything. (311) 258-4375
A Diverse Ecosystem
Stroll along the beach toward the estuary for a bit of bird watching, but heed the signs and don’t go swimming, as this body of fresh water is home to the occasional crocodile.
Recicla Parque: The Park of Miracles
Spearheaded by Nicole Swedlow (EntreAmigos), countless volunteers constructed a much-needed park for the local children. The school and community banded together to gather tons of glass, plastic, tires and other materials that otherwise would have ended up in the local dump. Made almost entirely of recycled materials, Recicla Parque has been further enhanced by the planting of numerous trees and shrubs on the grounds.