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San Pancho Mexico | an essential travel guide

Are you wondering why San Pancho Mexico is becoming more popular among expatriates and long-term travelers? I will tell you all about my trip to San Pancho and how to make the most of your stay in this cool Mexican destination.

Update: traveling to San Pancho, Mexico in 2021 during COVID

  • The local community is encouraging social distancing and the use of masks; please be respectful.
  • Restaurants are open but also encourage take away until the situation improves.
  • Some restaurants and services have been closed for a while and are slowly reopening.

San Pancho is a pretty laid back town on the Riviera Nayarit at only 10 minutes drive from Sayulita, it offers a quieter and more simple lifestyle compared to the busier Sayulita.

I was traveling to the Riviera Nayarit with a friend who joined me for a brief leg of my journey through Latin America and our first stop would have been Sayulita.

We couldn’t wait to get to what we knew to be the coolest place to be on the Riviera Nayarit.

We loved it especially for Sayulita beaches and the great shopping but when we get to see San Pancho we just fall in love.

We had heard before about it and we were really curious to see it and the feedback is, if you are traveling to the west coast of Mexico, San Pancho is a must!

About San Pancho Mexico

San Francisco is the real name of San Pancho, Mexico on the map. We loved San Pancho Beach more than anything because it’s clean, with few people during the day, but everybody gathers there at the end of the day to watch the sunset.

Easily considered the cultural capital of the state of Nayarit, San Pancho is a small quiet village sitting on a tranquil bay just 5 minutes drive from Sayulita. Therefore if you are missing the party life you can still make a quick trip there.

San Pancho town is basically one main road lined with restaurants and small hotels that leads to Playa San Pancho.

Besides a few restaurants at the beach entrance, all the rest is purely free and deserted sand where you can easily walk undisturbed by vendors.

Where is San Pancho Mexico?


When I visited the town of San Pancho, Mexico there were only 2000 thousand people living there, watching over each other, which means that crime is close to zero, cause they would easily catch the fool.

We slept one night in a treehouse close to the beach with no doors and no security. I couldn’t believe that was happening in Mexico.

But life in San Pancho, Mexico, although very tranquil, doesn’t end on the beach, although my pictures only speak about that. (So sorry, I lost the other batch of pictures)

Here below I will tell you what are my favorite things to do in San Francisco, Mexico.


San Pancho Mexico – safety

San Pancho is a very quiet town, small, and not really a favorable territory for major crimes. It’s a small family-oriented community of about 2000 citizens who know each other and look after one another. And when there is something or somebody suspicious they reported to the police immediately, which you could do as well (Call 911). However, as anywhere in the world, episodes of petty theft can occur, so make sure you protect your belonging and use common sense rules. When I was there I slept on a treehouse by the beach which was all open and had no security guards. I am not sure if it’s still the same as it was 2 years ago, but I definitely consider it one of the safest places in Mexico.

How to get to San Pancho

Getting to San Pancho is very easy and straightforward. Assuming that you are flying into Mexico, you should get to Puerto Vallarta international airport and from there you can either get an Uber to take you straight to San Pancho (1-hour drive) or to the Puerto Vallarta Bus station where you can hop on a bus.

However, if you have followed me for a while you would know that my favorite mean of transportation in Mexico is the car. I know, not every area is safe to drive, but in general, driving in Mexico is relatively easy and safe. Just make sure you follow my tips on renting a car for not getting ripped off and you are set up for an amazing vacation.

The surroundings of San Pancho are full of incredible places to visit and secret beaches which you can only reach if you have your own car unless you are happy with hiring a taxi driver all day. I know I wouldn’t.

Driving along the coastline from Puerto Vallarta to San Pancho is a trip in itself. You can choose a different beach and tour every day and fill your vacation with everlasting memories. Otherwise, there are many tours that you can do from San Pancho as well. But you can read on to know more about that.

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When is the best time to travel to San Pancho Nayarit?

It all depends, let me tell you about San Francisco Mexico seasons.

From May through October is the rainy season. It doesn’t mean that it rains all the time, but it’s much more likely to, especially in the afternoons. It’s much hotter, and humid, especially from August through October.

August is high season, while the rest of the months are low season, which means lower hotel rates and fewer people around.

November and Mid December is shoulder season, with fewer people and lower rates too. It’s also less humid and hot, a great time to travel if you like to travel when it’s not crowded.

December through March is high season, with the best climate, hot but not humid and bearable – butt hat means higher rates. However, if you travel to San Pancho from January 7th through February, you’ll get the best weather, fewer people and you might be able to snag a hotel discount.

I would avoid Easter and Christmas weeks, the worst time to travel to San Pancho, Nayarit

San Pancho, Nayarit, festivals

San Pancho Music Festival

From a jamming section among music passionate in the backyard of the founders, it has become a huge event over the years and is now one of the annual highlights of the San Pancho calendar. It has definitely contributed to making San Pancho “The Cultural Heartbeat of the State of Nayarit.” It’s normally held every year in February but for obvious reasons, February 2021 event was suspended. Check out the festival’s official website to stay up to date on the next event.

Circo de los Niños 

Annual fundraising performance. Local children and teens showcase hundreds of hours of training and rehearsal in four jaw-dropping, sell-out evening shows. Tickets are available online.

El Festival de Arte Mujeres Creadoras

(women’s art festival) in San Pancho. Mujeres Creadoras promotes women’s autonomy through art. This festival showcases work produced by local, national, and international artists.

Amazing things to do in San Pancho Nayarit

Hang out on the beach

Playa San Pancho is one of my favorites in the area, it’s clean, safe, and you don’t have vendors asking for you to buy their products every second.

If you wish to use one of the beach chairs available, you can either pay or eat at their respective restaurants. Otherwise, if you wish to lay down in peace and tranquillity, you can walk a little further right or left and enjoy a soothing solitude.

Surf in San Pancho, Mexico

Surfing in San Francisco – Nayarit is great for intermediate or pro surfers with a shortboard. If you are learning, you would be better off on other beaches (more about that soon). You can rent a surfboard in town on the main road just a few steps from the beach.

San Pancho beach almost Sunset
San Pancho beach almost Sunset

Hike to the deserted beach Playa Clavelinas

If you walk past the golf course on Las Palmas road, which will become Las Clavelinas road, you will pass by different hotels, and you will eventually get to playa Clavelinas, a spectacular deserted bay. Great for sunset as well. Further down the road, there is also a beach called El Barro, but I never ventured there. I was told the road is quite hidden and difficult to find. If you feel adventurous, you can go and find it out. Please send me a picture when you find it 🙂

Enjoy the delicious restaurants in San Pancho

It seems so unreal that such a small village with 2000 souls could boast such a variety of restaurants. But that’s for real. You can find every international and local cuisine. I even found a vegan one where I would have lunch every day. Here my list of the best restaurants in San Pancho.


Most people go to San Pancho to eat there. And I understand. I loved this restaurant both for the presentation of the dishes and the taste. They also have vegetarian options.

Read reviews on TripAdvisor

Bistro Organico

This cute little restaurant is located in a beautiful garden, the Hotel Cielo Rojo’s patio, where we stayed for one night.  We had breakfast there and was delicious, with homemade marmalade and freshly made juices. They offer a rich menu with vegan and vegetarian options for lunch as well.

Read reviews on TripAdvisor


Maria’s is another popular one, and sometimes at night, they have live music to entertain their guests.

Read reviews on TripAdvisor

Dolce Amore

If you are longing for some Italian taste in Mexico, this is your place indeed. I haven’t tried it, but it has excellent reviews, and it looked quite cozy, often busy.

Read reviews on TripAdvisor

La Voz de mi Tierra

This was my top favorite not only because it was completely vegan, with delicious desserts included, but also for the great vibes and lovely people that run it. They have a great variety of salads and sandwiches. Breakfast bowls are great too. It’s located on the main road just before reaching the park on the way to the beach.

San Pancho beach day
San Pancho beach day on the nearby bay

Watch the sunset

The sunsets right in front of the beach of San Pancho bay and brings together families and friends that swarm to the beach every day at the same time to admire the colorful show, while surfers try to catch the last waves of the day before it gets dark. A great way to end your day.

Take a tour to Islas Marietas

One of the most spectacular natural rock formations on the water, Isla Marietas, is famous for the Love Beach, which is practically below a crater and you can reach it only by swimming. But it’s not all. The underwater world is just spectacular and still offering great views of the local marine fauna and corals.

The tour is around 140USD but definitely worth it, and this is something that you cannot visit on your own, being a natural park and protected area. On the main road of San Pancho, you will find travel agents to buy the tour.

Give back

The strong sense of community of San Pancho resulted in the cultural center Entre Amigos where volunteers local and foreigners alike work together with kids to keep them occupied in the after-school time with extracurricular activities. You are definitely welcome to join and help, and you can also use their library and free WIFI. It’s a creative and happy space to hang out.

Take a Spanish class

If you are traveling to San Pancho intending to stay for a while, you might consider taking some Spanish classes to get the hang of it or improve your communication. If you are going to travel through South America, it will certainly help. At Entre Amigos they now offer this service at a small cost.

Join yoga classes

Yoga retreats are quite common in the area, and if you are interested in joining one, you can check out this amazing site that lists all the most amazing yoga retreats in the world.

Not enough? Find out all 27 things you can do from San Pancho Nayarit in my dedicated article.

San Pancho sunset

The best San Pancho hotels

These here below are my favorite hotel options in San Pancho.

Hotel Cielo Rojo

I have stayed at the Hotel Cielo Rojo. Although it’s a small property, I found it quite cozy, very stylish, and super clean, with organic amenities and a great restaurant for a healthy breakfast and lunch.

Check rates & availability: or Read reviews on TripAdvisor

Hotel Piedra Luna

If you are looking for a comfortable aparthotel where you can cook your own meal and live like a local, this is the perfect choice for you—spacious spaces and lovely furniture in modern Mexican style and fine touches.

Check rates & availability:

Casa San Pancho

Spectacular property, this is where I would stay when I am back to San Pancho. The cozy little boutique hotel boasts a bright warm color palette and an international feel blending the Asian style with Mexican fine art and architecture. It’s a pleasure to the eyes and comfort for the soul. The peace and tranquillity of the surrounding area with trees and birds will make you company while relaxing by the pool or on the terrace. The kindness of the staff and owner found a lot of praise in the online reviews.

Check rates & availability: or Read reviews on TripAdvisor

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Your Essential Travel Resources

San Pancho in the News: Articles & Blogs |

Tuesday 7th of July 2020

[…] Why San Pancho Is The New Cool Of The Riviera Nayarit […]


Thursday 6th of February 2020

Curious about this treehouse you guys stayed in. Any more info on that?

Isabella Biava

Saturday 8th of February 2020

Hello Kate, I have the feeling they have closed down because I cannot find it anymore on the map and I don't remember the name. it was Iguana something... I didn't include in my suggested hotel list because I wasn't really impressed by the property, except for the location. But you can find many other nicer ones now. I need to go back and check them out again. ;) Enjoy San Pancho.

Bart jacobs

Thursday 2nd of January 2020

Is there tennis available in the area?


Wednesday 8th of January 2020

Uncle Bart?! Are you planning on moving to San Pancho? We will be there at the end of January!

- Jill

Isabella Biava

Friday 3rd of January 2020

Hello Bart, Thanks for writing in. Unfortunately, I wasn't sure, so I did a little research online and found out that there is one private tennis court in San Pancho and that would be Casa Melissa. When the house is vacant, the court is available for hourly rental from 8:00A.M. to 12:00P.M. Here is the source of this information. I hope it helps. Enjoy San Pancho!

Rob Girard

Sunday 29th of December 2019

Hola...though I understand your effort to inform people about travel, we have been going to San Pancho for many years and unfortunately it is already changing in part do to blogs and articles like this. It would seem easy to understand that what you appreciated about San Pancho will change the more articles and blogs are written...just something to consider. We don't want it to become Sayalita...

Isabella Biava

Monday 30th of December 2019

Hello Rob, thanks a lot for your comment. I believe my post will help people like yourself who love peace and quiet to chose San Pancho versus Sayulita and people who love to party and go crazy to choose Sayulita. That is the purpose of my post. At the end of the day, though, the choice to make it another Sauylita, would be on the local business owners and their choices. People won't be able to overcrowd a destination if there are not the infrastructures that they are looking for. That's how I see it, at least. Enjoy San Pancho! And thanks again for reading my posts.

Molly Griffin Mckenna

Wednesday 21st of August 2019

Hello! I am thinking of going to either San Pancho and/or further down the coast more in the Zipolite area, for three months this winter. Could you tell us a bit about when you were there-was it the winter high season of 2019? I have heard San Pancho is becoming more popular, and definitely looking to avoid crowds. Can you also comment on general costs? Is it possible to get by on a budget of 8-10k pesos/month (not including accommodation) there or is it the kind of place where all menus are in English and the prices are pretty high? How would you recommend finding long term accommodation if I am arriving in January? Thanks! Molly

Isabella Biava

Thursday 22nd of August 2019

Hello Molly, thank you for writing in. I do believe you can live on 10K a month if you exclude rent, but it always depends on your standard of leaving. If you go out every night, 10k won't be enough. For a frugal living, that's fine. Zipolite is lovely too but the sea there is rougher so if you are not a surfer it's difficult to find a place where you can actually swim around Zipolite, while in San Pancho there are lovely swimmable areas. When I was in San Pancho it was pretty quiet although it was indeed becoming popular already, and the prices were in MX indeed. As for finding a place to rent, the best thing to do is stay in an hotel for the first week and ask around, while there. Or, if you want to secure your place in advance you might want to check out in facebook groups or sites such as mercado libre. Let me know should you have any further questions.

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