San Pancho is located one-hour’s drive from Puerto Vallarta, and just ten minutes North of the surfing town of Sayulita. San Pancho has its own unique charm and feels much less hectic, less touristy, and a bit more expat-y than its sister town of Sayulita.
San Pancho is a very small town, mostly frequented by its residents; expats (typically younger digital nomads) who are keen to live a laid-back life away from the crowds in the big cities. If you sport dreadlocks, love dogs, yoga and sunsets, you hate wearing bras, or support left-wing politics, you will be highly welcomed in San Pancho.
By the way, Pancho is short for Francisco, kind of like Sasha is short for Alexander in Russian. Here you’ll find locals walking barefoot, vendors selling candy on the street and on the beaches, and dogs roaming freely. Dogs own the town of San Pancho, which also means that you need to watch where you step on the sidewalks!
So, what is there to do in San Pancho? Mostly chill, eat, drink coffee, people watch, hang out on the beach, and catch the sunset (one of the most popular things to do in San Pancho!) One thing we loved about San Pancho is its eco-consciousness, from avocado straws to turtle releasing sanctuaries on the beach, to organic farm-to-table eateries. Also, it’s pretty cool to watch cowboys riding down the main city street on horseback!
**FUN FACT** – all the streets in San Pancho are named after developing countries and continents. San Pancho’s main street is called Tercer Mundo, meaning Third World.
San Pancho is located on the Nayarit Coast, which is the huichol art capital of Mexico. Here you’ll find beautifully intricate colorful beaded designs; each piece is made by hand using a needle and natural wax, which acts as glue, to stick the tiny beads usually onto wood or clay. You can find artisan crafts at the local market.
Catch the Sunset
San Pancho is one of the best places to watch the sunset on the Nayarit Coast. Unlike Sayulita, where the mountains are blocking the view, San Pancho has a clear view of the puesta del sol (sunset) right off the beach. Just be careful, because there’s a small river right on the beach, so as soon as the sun sets, the mosquitoes come out in full force!
**INSIDER TIP** – Be sure to carry small monedas (coins) on you and stay after sunset to see all the street performers! From skateboarding breakdancing kids, to fire knife dancers, to jugglers, San Pancho brings the nightly entertainment!
While you’re here, be sure to check out the surfer town of Sayulita, our favorite weekend getaway. Read more here: 12 Best Things To Do in Sayulita.
WHERE TO EAT IN SAN PANCHO
Here’s a list of our 10 favorite places to eat in San Pancho:
- Chichili – all vegan ice cream
- Restaurante Limbo – mixture of vegan, vegetarian and proteins. The fish dishes are outstanding, and the presentation is gorgeous; like fine dining cuisine but in a casual atmosphere with reasonable prices. They only use ingredients that are fresh and in season
- Itzalanyasayan – unique Asian / Mexican fusion. The name comes from the first few letters of the owner’s six children. Try their unique guacamole with pomegranate seeds, pistachios, olives and red onion
- Panaderia Francesa – French bakery owned by two sisters from France
- Su Pancha Madre – food truck
- La Baba del Diablo
- Kokonati – coffee & tea
- Mexicolate – all things cacao!
- Chido Greens – fresh juices & kombucha
- Ikan Cocina Marina
Check out Punta de Mita
Just 30 minutes drive from San Pancho is the beautiful Punta Mita, an area made luxurious when the Four Seasons Punta Mita was built in 1999. For a classy and lavish splurge, book your stay in this beautiful resort.
Enjoy an authentic Italian dinner at Casa Teresa Trattoria, a beautiful restaurant owned and operated by a family from Italy.
For great coffee, a chic space, and healthy bowls, check out El Cafecito de Mita, which won Trip Advisor’s traveler’s choice award in 2020. While you’re here, check out the views from the harbor.
So which is better, Sayulita or San Pancho? They’re both unique in their own ways! However, we prefer to start our weekend in Sayulita with coffee and a surf, and end our day in San Pancho with a stroll through the market, a beautiful sunset, and sun fun night entertainment.
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