Just under an hour outside of Puerto Vallarta on the coast of neighboring state Nayarit rests the tranquil town of San Francisco, more commonly known as San Pancho. San Pancho is a popular destination for both nationals from around the country as well as international visitors from North America and Europe, for its unique setting and range of local activities.
San Pancho is nestled at the scenic meeting point between the shores of the Pacific Ocean and the thick jungle outgrowth that lies behind. In this classically Mexican village, the common lifestyle reflects the traditions and spirit of old world Mexico. You’ll quickly become a local as friendly area residents will welcome you with open arms, showcasing the hospitality that has created thousands of yearly return visitors to this relatively secluded beach town.
Although San Pancho can be reached by taxi, with passage to the locale costing anywhere from 900 to 1400 pesos depending on whether you take a dedicated airport taxi or standard city cab out of Puerto Vallarta, the town can easily be accessed by bus as well. Buses from Puerto Vallarta to San Pancho depart from outside the airport servicing the city, and will be clearly marked with the destination on the windshield for your convenience. Fares for this inexpensive tour of the Riviera Nayarit are set at 40 pesos, or about $2 USD as of December 2016. To expedite your travel process, consider changing your dollars to pesos before embarking on your trip north.
Another regional Puerto Vallarta bus route servicing San Pancho is available from the major public transportation hub a mile north of the city proper, known as the Central Camionera. By taking a short taxi ride from the airport, riders can reach the bus station and purchase a direct ticket to San Pancho costing 45 pesos. Be sure to inform the driver of any bus that you wish to get off in San Pancho. Because of the length of the trip, many travelers save time and money by combining a bus ride to Nayarit’s village of Sayulita before taking a taxi on to San Pancho, and this option has the added advantage of placing visitors still carrying their travel effects as close to their accommodations in San Pancho as possible.
The wide, walkable beaches of San Pancho blend with its lush natural surroundings and sleepy cobblestone streets to create a backdrop reminiscent of Puerto Vallarta in the infancy of the tourism explosion that put it on the list of global travel destinations for good. San Pancho carries a strong influence on community, offering its visitors and full time residents a safe and inviting haven for experiencing the absolute best of Mexican living.
As in many other towns in the Greater Puerto Vallarta area, fresh seafood abounds, and there are a litany of local restaurants specializing in the catch of the day as well as standby Mexican fare and international cuisine options as well. Stunning seaside villas reside amongst cozy cottages and million-dollar homes, creating a diverse community of families, vacationers and long term visitors.
Although San Pancho is not an especially large town, it has a surprisingly rich local culture. It is home to a number of art galleries showcasing the work of renowned artists from the area as well as works that have received global acclaim. There is a strong focus on community events and celebrations. Public activities taking place on or around its single main street are frequent occurrences, with the largest being the yearly San Pancho Music Festival. A daily phenomenon is the gradual daily gathering of most townspeople on the beach just in time to witness the spectacular sunsets for which coastal Mexico is known.
Despite its focus on traditional Mexican living, the town also benefits from many of the modern amenities travelers have come to expect from world class destinations, including a recently renovated hospital exceeding all federal and international standards for quality of services. The area also boasts a thriving community arts center sponsored by the founder of iconic traveling performance troupe Cirque du Soleil along with a prestigious polo club where enthusiasts can take in a game with an afternoon mimosa.
The wildlife in the San Pancho area is also more than worthy of note to incoming visitors considering a move to the Banderas Bay area. Marine life such as whales and turtles are some of the most celebrated residents of the region, and the village is a local nexus of the coordinated sea turtle conservation effort that spans this stretch of the coast. The plant life is also remarkable, and the streets are almost constantly perfumed with the nectar of flowering and fruit bearing trees year round thanks to the ideal growing conditions presented by the unspoiled ecosystem in the area.
Incoming visitors who prize personal connection and small town values are naturally drawn to San Pancho. The small population of the Nayarit beach town means virtually all neighbors are on a first-name basis, and the town is especially receptive to families. Couples with children are also attracted to the fully accredited kindergarten and elementary school incorporating the Montessori method. The area also draws in more than its share of creative community members for its inspiring sights and appreciative audiences.
San Pancho may be on the outskirts of the Banderas Bay area, but residents universally agree that the town is well worth the trip. More than any other village in the area, San Pancho may exemplify what life in a small Mexican beach town with a strong sense of local community can offer for long term visitors to the country. Don’t pass up a chance to experience what makes San Pancho one of the best kept secrets within an hour of the city!