A delightful coastal community, a short drive from the sky-scraping, timeshare hotels that line the Puerto Vallarta coastline, lies San Francisco (known locally as San Pancho) in the Riviera Nayarit, Mexico. A short ten-minute drive from lively Sayulita and a 45-minute drive from the Puerto Vallarta airport, san Pancho is the tranquil escape that we’ve all been looking for. When you purchase San Pancho real estate you’ll experience a town lined with cobblestone streets, authentic boutiques, a variety of restaurants from local al pastor taco stands with layers of marinated pork, topped with pineapple, slowly grilled on a spit, (that might rival any restaurant in the area) to a tropical Asian fusion lounge, a fresh, quaint seafood restaurant with contemporary menu whose cute wooden tables spill out onto the street and the best fish tacos we’ve ever had, a predominantly vegetarian bistro serving up Buddha bowls and service out one of the classiest boutique hotels, Organic smoothie shops with acai bowls and wellness products, and of course your beach front dining, with your feet in the sand, salt-rimmed margaritas, ceviche, guacamole and chips to watch the sun sink into the great Pacific. Some might say that there aren’t places on earth left like this.
San Pancho has an old world charm and a community of artists, musicians, entrepreneurs and those who have chose to spend their winters here, soaking up the sun and the culture who make up this special place. They ride their bikes or walk everywhere they go. They stroll the beach at sunrise and watch baby turtles protected by the local turtle sanctuary make their way to their native ocean. They chat with friends at the local coffee shops over local coffee farmer’s lattes, homemade banana bread and savory empanadas.
On any given night, you can expect to hear live music coming from travelers from Argentina, Mexico city or Guadalajara softly strumming guitars and ringing acoustic to the enchanted visitors dining al fresco. The town hums with artists young and old, children running freely, young surfers running barefoot to catch the end of the day, and those with wanderlust strolling the promedade. One can hear multiple languages being spoken on the streets and the businesses are run by people from all over the world. This is not just your average Mexican village, this is melting pot of cultures who all seem to have one thing in common… a desire to savor life and to slow it down a bit.
Every neighborhood in San Pancho has its charm, and most all are walking distance to the downtown shops and dining. Most people find their accommodations through Airbnb rentals looking over the ocean with just enough breeze to keep you comfortable and private chefs at your beck and call. Those looking to elope or have a wedding have a selection of talented florists, caterers, musicians, officiants and photographers to choose from.
For young families, the schools and daycare are easy to join, affordable, and not only provide excellent care for the kids, but also offer healthy meals with an abundance of vegetables spritzed with lime and a sprinkle of salt that the kids eat up like candy. It is refreshing to be a in a place where kids are so valued, where any local is willing to help out or try to get a little one to laugh. The town seems to take care of one another and it seems as though the local people would never hesitate to hold a baby or calm a toddler if to come upon a struggling mom.
Before the arrival of the Spanish, and still somewhat today, the coast of San Pancho and Sayulita and nearby mountainous region known as the Sierra Madre Occidental was populated by the indigenous Cora and Huichol native tribes. You can still see some today in their traditional clothing selling stunning handmade artisan jewelery, baskets, and artwork. San Pancho originally relied on subsistence fishing and some mango and tropical fruit cultivation until the changes made by then-President Luis Echeverría in the 1970s who made it the site of his family vacation retreat. A flow of federal funding to San Pancho followed towards his dream of making San Pancho a “self-sufficient…Third World village” which included the present hospital, the only one that was between Puerto Vallarta and Tepic. Because the president was so invested in the community, he created a solid infrastructure, with a main street called Tercer Mundo (Third world) ending right on the beach and cobblestone streets connecting to it with sidewalks, parking, and abundant flora. All the streets in San Pancho are named after third world countries with noted signs and the grid he created makes it easy to navigate and find everything you are looking for.
Entreamigos is a community education center that is free and open to the public and offers daily classes, workshops and conferences. Approximately 250 children and adults use the facility every day. Parents take their kids there to read, play with trains, Legos, puzzles, run in the indoor soccer field, and outdoor playground.
Entreamigos offers more than 600 classes and workshops in the facility, most of them free of charge. The non-profit organization has a variety of programs that are intended to bridge cultural and economic differences with the intention of increasing educational opportunities, environmental stewardship and collective community responsibility. They offer scholarships to the local kids and some of the successful entrepreneurs in San Pancho are results of that very scholarship program.
The Entreamigos Community Education Center is a multi-use community complex whose principal space is a free lending library with a collection that exceeds 10,000 Spanish and English book titles. There are free computer stations for children’s homework and community use, spaces for sports and exercise, a craft shop, a second-hand store, a small cafe, and a gallery of locally made and upcycled goods. Entreamigos operates a recycling center and daily collects recycling from 70 bins located throughout the community.
Another spectacular feature in San Pancho is the formation of Circo de Niños (Kid’s circus) which was founded in 2011 by Cirque de Soleil’s founding directors, Gilles Ste. Croix and Monique Voyer. Initially conceived as a fundraising idea for Entreamigos, Gilles Ste. Croix offered to oversee a presentation involving about 40 children incorporating elements of his famous Montreal troupe. By autumn 2014, Cirque de Soleil had donated equipment and the Circo de los Niños began rehearsing in the Entreamigos space. An outdoor performance of ¡Órale! was given at the Plaza de San Francisco and the Mayan Palace in the Punta de Mita resort. In March 2015, Circo de los Niños was granted the use of one of the government warehouses on the same property as Entreamigos and performed a four night run of their first Cirque du Soleil like performance before audiences of about 250. The circus performance continues today with tickets selling out immediately and is an absolute marvel to witness. If one has ever seen a Cirque du Soleil show, this children’s circus has the music, the lights, the story, the acrobatics, and the magic of a typical show in Vegas, but with children of the San Pancho community who train all year to perform for their families and tourists alike.
San Pancho is also home to a very popular San Pancho Bird Observatory, a lush golf course and La Patrona Polo and Equestrian Club in which you can watch a live, professional polo match while enjoying an authentic Mexican brunch, bottomless mimosas and that everlasting San Pancho sunshine.
The entire state of Nayarit is located south of the Tropic of Cancer and experiences a tropical, hot and humid, climate, but the winter months have an essence of California weather. From mid October to April, the sunny days boast beach weather of 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit and the nights cool off with the lowest being around 70 degrees just before sunrise. No need for air conditioning in the winter months here, so indoor / outdoor living is the norm.
We invite you to come experience our little town and see all that it has to offer!