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San Pancho, Riviera Nayarit Travel Guide

San Pancho Summary


  • Small-town, funky vibe
  • Artsy community, with arts and crafts shopping and art galleries
  • Wide, clean beach with fine sand
  • Shady town with cobblestone streets
  • Secluded, tranquil feel, despite its growing popularity
  • Known for its socially responsible ventures
  • Bird sanctuary
  • Day-trip distance to Alta Vista, a fascinating, under-visited archaeological site with natural swimming holes


  • 50-minute drive to the nearest airport
  • Little to no nightlife (a pro for some!)

What It's Like

Also referred to as "San Francisco," San Pancho lies about 40 miles north of Puerto Vallarta airport and offers visitors a unique small-town experience. Nestled between the Sierra Madre Mountains, a lush jungle, and the Pacific Ocean, this area has been labeled one of the next great vacation spots in the area –- but still manages to keep its local culture and traditions.

Whereas other areas such as Nuevo Vallarta have been commercialized, San Pancho is full of traditional Mexican sights, such as roaming roosters and quaint squares. The town itself is shady, with countless flowering vines and trees that create a sense of peaceful seclusion. The wide, clean beach is even more tranquil, with its vivid sunsets and bird-filled estuary. There are a couple of restaurants and bars right on the beach, but they are mostly low-key and quiet.

The town is known for its artistic community, (it’s home to several galleries and great arts and crafts shopping) and its socially responsible ventures, including environmental organizations and a recycling program. One of the most outstanding projects is the Entreamigos Cultural Center, which comprises a library, a computer room, a vegan restaurant, and a shop selling items made from recycled materials. The center offers a wide array of activities and has promoted several cultural initiatives that have put San Pancho in the spotlight.

On the outskirts of the town, there are two attractions worth mentioning: La Patrona Polo Club and Las Huertas golf course. La Patrona is one of the few polo clubs in Mexico, and offers an upscale experience, with a solid outdoor restaurant and lounge, beautiful grounds, and an interesting photo gallery. Las Huertas is a gorgeous, perfectly manicured 9-hole golf course offering beautiful ocean views. It features a pro shop and a small cafeteria with sandwiches and small bites.

Where to Stay

San Pancho is a very small town, so you'll be close to both the beach and the center wherever you stay. Hotels in the actual town tend to be tiny boutiques, and are within easy walking distance of the sea. There are also a couple of larger hotels just outside the center, and they tend to be mid-range; it's worth comparing prices with better located options.

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