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Have you heard about San Pancho? does it really live up to the hype? We set out to answer, is San Pancho Mexico worth visiting!
Where is San Pancho?
San Pancho, Mexico is located on Mexico’s Pacific coast in the state of Nayarit. This section of the coastline is known as the Riviera Nayarit. The Riviera Nayarit is quickly developing a reputation as an up-and-coming Mexican beach destination among “in the know” travelers. As Cancun and Tulum reach maximum capacity and people look toward the next “undiscovered destination”, Mexico’s Pacific Coast above the resort city of Puerto Vallarta is throwing its hat in the ring, as the next big thing.
With areas like Punta Mita being carved off for luxury resorts and golf courses, and former surf and hippy Sayulita now dominated by yuppies and weekend weddings for wealthy Americans and Canadians, travelers searching for something new are starting to look further north for something different. They don’t have to look far. San Pancho is a tiny village just seven kilometers north of Sayulita.
Why is San Francisco Called San Pancho?
This tiny town is officially known as San Francisco but most people refer to it by its nickname San Pancho. So why are there two names for this small Mexican beach town?
There is an easy explanation for why we call San Francisco Nayarit, San Pancho Nayarit,
The region was originally named San Francisco by the Spanish conquistadors after St. Francis de Assisi. In Spanish, “Pancho” is the nickname for “Francisco” and thus “San Pancho” is the nickname for San Francisco. With the much larger city of San Franciso, California some 2,000 miles north in the USA, the nickname is also an easy way to differentiate these two very different communities on the Pacific Coast. What’s more, San Pancho suits this tiny laid-back beach town much better.
Top 5 Reasons San Pancho Mexico Is Worth Visiting
Is San Pancho Mexico worth visiting? In our opinion, San Pancho, Nayarit is one of the crowning jewels of the Riviera Nayarit on Mexico’s Pacific Coast and a must-see up-and-coming Mexican destination. Here are the top five reasons we think San Pancho should be top of your list when considering a Mexican beach vacation.
1. It is Still (A Little Bit) Undiscovered
When most people think about the Riviera Nayarit they picture the luxury resort of Punta Mita or the surf town of Sayulita, two destinations that have had their time in the sun but today are a little … played out.
The stunning peninsula at Punta Mita has been given over completely to luxury development and golf courses and is now the exclusive haunt of the rich and famous. Likewise, the once sleepy surf village of Sayulita has been welcoming tourists since the early 1960s when sunburned American surfers ventured down in search of the best surf breaks south of the border. Since then, Sayulita has grown considerably in size, popularity, and fame. Snowbirds, retirees, backpackers, holidaymakers, digital nomads, and just about everything else in between continue to flock in ever-increasing numbers.
What were once sleepy, fishing villages filled with authenticity and charm have become something more designed to appeal to a broader commercial market. So, if you are looking for something that is a little bit more authentic, a little further off the beaten path, that still has the comfort and tourist amenity of a Mexican tourist destination, San Pancho might be just what you are looking for.
2. San Pancho Has the Best Dining on the Riviera Nayarit
There is no denying the fact that Mexican food is delicious. But, in our opinion, the food and restaurants in San Pancho are a cut above and represent some of the best dining options on the Riviera Nayarit. For the last few years, the food scene here has been developing into something special with a number of innovative and exciting restaurants popping up. From street food to authentic Mexican restaurants, to international fusion restaurants and organic vegan brunch spots, the tiny town belies a sophisticated, yet unpretentious dining scene.
Some of our favorite restaurants in San Pancho include:
Arigato Bake and Brew
Specializing in an unlikely trifecta the Japanese and Argentinian influence behind this lomito, sushi, and beer restaurant is hard to miss. Baking their own bread for Argentinian sandwiches known as lomitos, rolling their own fresh sushi, and producing their own (delicious) beer, this cafe with a short menu and laser focus does what it does extremely well. It is also one of the best bars in San Pancho.
Su Pancha Madre
Su Pancha Madre specializes in sopes, small thick, soft tortillas, finished off with toppings a bit more sophisticated than your everyday taco stand. Think mushrooms sauteed in white wine or slow-cooked pork ribs. The owner, Mao, is extremely friendly and does everything to ensure your dining experience is top-notch.
Ikan Cocina Marina
Ikan Cocina Marina offers a more upscale dining option in San Pancho, without being stuffy. Its menu centers around the region’s specialty, seafood. The small portions mean you can sample lots of the menu. For those who cannot choose just what to order, there is a tasting menu of eight courses selected by the chef.
The Dough Joe
The number one spot in San Pancho for breakfast, The Dough Joe specializes in donuts, buttermilk biscuits, and other Southern classics like hashbrowns. The Dough Joe, in our opinion, also has the best coffee in San Pancho, a win-win in our books.
3. San Pancho Nayarit Demands a Relaxing Holiday
Sometimes after returning home from a vacation, you need a vacation. This is not the case with San Pancho. There aren’t many things to do here, but this is EXACTLY why you should come.
The point of a holiday is to get away from it all, relax, rejuvenate and take a break from “life”. San Pancho leaves you no choice. You can start your mornings with yoga, a walk along the deserted beach, or visiting the community gym. During the day, hike in the jungle, swim in the ocean, enjoy a massage or relax on the beach with a book and a margarita. Each evening take in the spectacular sunset from the beach as you send off the day.
Most bars and restaurants in San Pancho are closed by 10 pm and the peaceful town feels quiet and relaxed, without the frantic energy of nearby Sayulita.
4. San Pancho Has Retained Its Community Feel
Once the secret is out on an up-and-coming destination, the tourism industry can grow so fast the ethos of the community fades away and you are left with high-rise hotels, over-priced and watered-down food, and a lack of authentic community.
In San Pancho, however, the locals have worked hard to retain their sense of self, to not sell out to over-tourism. Sure, there is an undeniable influence from the international holidaymakers, ex-pats, retirees, and snowbirds that visit and live in San Pancho, but the town hasn’t forgotten about the community and the people who were there first.
Local shops, restaurants, and vendors all proudly demonstrate their close connection with the vibrant town and the eclectic community.
The Entreamigos Community Center is another of the ways San Pancho promotes and protects its sense of community. The center focuses on providing education, protecting the environment and beauty of San Pancho through sustainable practices, and preserving the community for generations to come.
Local initiatives continue to drive the community aspect of the region by supporting and nurturing alternative projects in education, ecology, healing, gastronomy, art, and sport.
Regular community events like markets, festivals, and performances are another way San Pancho celebrates and retains its sense of community.
The careful curation and protection of the local culture here has led to a clear trend in the kind of people and businesses the community attracts. Those here to join and partake in the passionate and unique community of San Pancho.
5. San Pancho Has Some of the Best Accommodation on the Riviera Nayarit
While you won’t find sprawling luxury hotels or all-inclusive resorts here. If you are searching for some of the best and most innovative boutique hotels, jungle glamping, or beautiful Mexican family homes to rent for a vacation, you have come to the right place.
San Pancho is developing a reputation for boutique, eco-friendly hotels that show off the best of Mexican hospitality.
Pal.Mar Hotel Tropical
A boutique hotel in the heart of San Pancho a couple of minutes’ walk to the beach, Pal.Mar Hotel Tropical is our pick in San Pancho. Beautifully designed with comfort and functionality at the heart of everything they do, the spaces are inviting and comfortable.
Pal.Mar is a hotel with a sustainable focus and a relaxed friendly atmosphere. The self-contained apartments include fully stocked kitchenettes with everything from traditional Mexican crockery to margarita jugs. As well, you have some of the more reliable wif in the area, comfy beds, a/c, in-built water filter, and coffee makers. Wall-to-wall folding doors open up living areas up to the tropical courtyard and small hotel pool.
Pal.Mar is one of our favorite hotels in San Pancho, and it was where we were staying when decided to get married here.
Agua de Luna Boutique Hotel
One of the best accommodation options in San Pancho, Agua de Luna Boutique Hotel is a thoughtfully designed hotel will all the bells and whistles. Modern, clean, comfortable, and with small touches such as robes to lounge about in.
Each room includes air conditioning and a TV, a luxury in San Pancho. Agua de Luna Boutique Hotel has a rooftop pool and terrace perfect for watching the sunset.
Agua de Luna Boutique Hotel is slightly further away from the beach, but as the village is small it is no more than a 7 minute walk.
Hotel Cielo Rojo
Hotel Cielo Rojo meaning Red Sky is another boutique hotel in San Pancho a difference. With elegance and amenities to boot, you will find peace and relaxation while staying at Hotel Cielo Rojo. Beautifully appointed rooms, an organic on-site restaurant boasting some of the best breakfast/lunch options in San Pancho, and also some of the best wifi in San Pancho (which you will need as cell service is limited).
The only drawback of Hotel Cielo Rojo is the lack of a swimming pool, but the beach is a mere 5-minute walk away.
A more budget-friendly option in San Pancho is Casa Cora. A bit further away from but off the main street, Casa Cora is a small and quiet hotel. Nicely decorated and comfortable rooms as well as friendly staff, make Casa Cora a great option.
A small pool exists in the courtyard as well as a hot tub on the top floor of the hotel.
Habitaciones Samy is a great budget-friendly option when staying in San Pancho. Clean and comfortable rooms, all fitted with air conditioning, this basic accommodation will meet all your needs. The owner is extremely helpful and friendly and ensures all your needs are met.
Habitaciones Samy is on the main street in San Pancho and therefore may be a tad noisy in the evenings. Most (if not all) restaurants close down by 10:00/11:00 pm.
There is no swimming pool on the property, but the beach is just a few minutes’ walk away.
Glamping and Cabins
Outside of own, in the jungle to the north of the town, glamping and cabin accommodation can be found for those looking for a retreat into nature.
With dome tents in the jungle, CUPI offers a point of difference for those looking for a glamping experience in San Pancho. To domes perched on wooden platforms offer access to a secret beach, beautiful jungle outlook, and views of the starry night sky. They also include the modern comforts of a hotel room with full bathrooms, television, and air conditioning.
Ecological and healing accommodations the cabins at Aldea are yet another alternative accommodation designed to help visitors get further in touch with nature. Hidden in the dense jungle, above a secluded section of beach, these private, tranquil, and beautiful cabanas promote simplicity and tranquility.
Finally, Airbnb is proving to be a popular accommodation type here, you will find large beautifully appointed family homes perfect for families, and groups.
So, Is San Pancho Mexico Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! San Pancho is one of our favorite destinations on the Riviera Nayarit and in Mexico.
It is a truly special place that anyone looking to experience what the Mexican Pacific Coast is about should consider.
Its natural beauty and low-key and tranquil vibe beckon travelers of all walks of life from near and far. The food scene here will surprise and delight. The quiet uncrowded beach is perfect for a relaxing vacation. The authentic sense of community in the town is charming. The unique accommodation options will appeal to those seeking a boutique and individual experience.
In fact, we love San Pancho so much that we plan to get married here at the end of 2022.
Let us know what you think. Is San Pancho Mexico worth visiting? Have you been and think it is as great as we do? Let us know in the comments below.