A pretty little town nestled in one of the most beautiful and tranquil bay on the Riviera Nayarit, San Pancho (Nayarit) is a must-visit place if you are in the area. The only risk is that you’ll never want to leave.
Although it has grown quite a lot since the last time I visited, San Pancho Nayarit is still preserving its quaint vibe of a small community town, where everybody knows each other and looks after one another, which makes the level of crime almost down to zero. I remember the first time I went I was staying in a treehouse on the beach and it was all open. The hotel owner replied to our concern, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s safe here.
Well, that to me is the definition of Paradise.
I am sure tourism has grown a lot since then (it was early 2018 back then) and so did the number of residence that was around 1000 at that time. However it still conserve the same laid back vibe and a strong sense of community.
However, the number of hotels and home rentals has grown and so the restaurants and cafe choice, the marketplace selling organic products as well, and the community center Entreamigos has more volunteers to help with all the amazing initiatives to support the local kids and the community in general.
Among the new residents, there is a community of digital nomads that have made their temporary home here, as they found in San Pancho a cool place where to live a comfortable beach life, with little noise, yoga classes, great wifi, great cafes, and healthy products, besides so many activities to be entertained in the free time.
San Pancho Nayarit at a glance
I wrote a full guide on San Pancho Nayarit, but here I wanted to share a brief summary
- Best time of the year to travel to San Pancho – Mid-January – February
- Best hotel in San Pancho – Hotel Casa San Pancho
- Best restaurant in San Pancho – Barracuda
- Best coffee shop in San Pancho – Kokonati
- Best thing to do in San Pancho – Watch the sunset from the beach!
Now, without further ado, here is a list of all the most amazing things to do in San Pancho, Nayarit and in this post I will tell you all that I know about it.
Amazing things to do in San Pancho Nayarit
Hang out on the beach
The first thing that you will want to do in San Pancho is to bask in the sun on that white sand endless beach. Playa San Pancho is in fact a spectacular infinite stretch of beach embraced by the Sierra Madre mountain range with its lush tropical vegetation contrasting the blue ocean creates breathtaking picture-worthy landscapes. You can enjoy long walks while watching surfers trying to ride the difficult waves. In fact, San Pancho beach is not suitable for beginner surfers.
San Pancho beach is one of the cleanest beaches in Mexico and most of all it doesn’t have vendors trying to sell you their goods every 5 minutes. You can just lay down in peace and tranquillity without being disturbed.
Surf in San Pancho, Mexico
As I was mentioning before, San Pancho is considered one of the beaches near Sayulita that are very much appreciated by the surfing community, although not beginners. Surfing in San Pancho is great for intermediate or pro surfers with a shortboard.
You can rent a surfboard in town on the main road just a few steps from the beac
If you want to learn how to surf, this is not the best beach. But you can take a surfing class.
Hike to the deserted beach Playa Clavelinas
Playa Las Clavelinas is located past the golf course on Las Palmas road, lined with beach houses and beautiful hotels. It’s great if you could get there by sunset. 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 🙂
Take a tour to Islas Marietas
The popular Isla Marietas, is one of the most unique natural rock formations in the water. Its so-called love beach is basically a beach below a crater that you can reach only by swimming. Also, the underwater world is just spectacular and still offering great views of the local marine fauna and corals.
I have to say, though, this site has been too exploited, and in order to protect the delicate environment the authority have closed for a while. Now that it’s open again they have raised the price and reduced the number of visitors per day.
In order to visit, you must join an organized tour with an authorized company being a natural park and protected area. The tour costs around 140 USD all worth it, and this is something that you cannot visit on your own. On the main road of San Pancho, you will find travel agents to buy the tour. Or you can prebook the tour.
Dive around the Marieta Islands
This tour is only available for certified divers. You will be exploring the underwater world around these unique rock formations and among a wealth of marine life, you will swim with dolphins, turtles, and manta rays. It’s an unforgettable experience.
The tour departs from Sayulita, which you can reach with a taxi at only 10 minutes drive.
Enjoy the extraordinary International Cuisine in San Pancho
Check out my review on more Restaurants in San Pancho.
Watch the sunset on San Pancho beach
Sunset in San Pancho is a real event. Every day locals and tourists alike gather on the beach to say goodbye to another amazing day while the sky becomes a pink read and yellow backdrop to surfers trying to catch the last waves of the day before it gets dark. An unmissable appointment.
Volunteer at Entre Amigos
The cultural center Entre Amigos was born with the purpose to empower children and offer them a safe space where to gather after school and learn new skills while having fun while offering them the know-how they need to develop their potential with after-school activities. Their work is based on the support of sponsors and volunteers. So, 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. They also organize different communitarian activities such as beach cleaning and found raisings.
Join yoga classes
In San Pancho, there are a couple of yoga centers where you can continue your practice also while on vacation. You can find yoga classes at El Estar yoga center or Pilates San Pancho for Pilates or Acro Yoga classes.
Visit the nearby Sayulita
Sayulita fame goes way back much earlier than San Pancho’s debut in the tourism scene. In fact, only 3 years ago San Pancho wasn’t even on the Map while Sayulita was thriving as the best surfing spot in Mexico and the party town. Sayulita’s amazing beaches and great shops showcasing the unique local artworks make it a great trip and totally worth a visit. It’s only 5 minutes drive from San Pancho. Also, the restaurants in Sayulita offer a variety of choices for every taste and budget.
Explore the nearby beaches
There are amazing beaches along the coast at a short distance from San Pancho, that are indeed worth a visit and not only for surfers. Many of those beaches are enjoyable also by beach lovers who just want to bask in the sun and relax. In my post on Sayulita’s beaches, I talk about all of them. Check it out and make sure you rent a car to make the most of your day.
Take a day tour to Puerto Vallarta
Even if you are not particularly fond of big cities, you will love Puerto Vallarta. Located on the majestic Banderas bay, at only 1-hour drive (or bus ride) from Sayulita, Puerto Vallarta has so much to offer to its visitors. From its charming historical center brimming with local restaurants cafes and art gallery, the green park around Cuale river where you can enjoy the local art and crafts market, the Malecon, to take a stroll along the beach, especially beautiful at sunset, the cool vibes of Zona Romantica and its delicious restaurants and last but not least Playa Muertos. There are so many things to do in Puerto Vallarta but in one day trip, you can get the feel of it and maybe plan for your next vacation.
Explore the fancy Punta Mita
Punta Mita is the fancy corner of the Riviera Nayarit, home to high-end luxury hotels, world-class golf courses, and fancy restaurants. If you are not staying there you can also visit the small town of Punta Mita, also an elegant community with beautiful art galleries, shops, and cafes. There are also many deserted beaches in the area, some particularly loved by surfers but also ideal for some serious tanning business. 😉
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.
Vist the pretty Mexican town of Bucerias
If you have time and always love to explore your surroundings, just like I do, you will love to check out this little Mexican pueblo. Bucerias is located at only 24km (about 16 miles from San Pancho on the way to Puerto Vallarta). Although it hasn’t reached the popularity as San Pancho or Sayulita, Bucerias is a cute charming town that conserves the authentic Mexican feel, with its colorful homes, cobblestone roads, and beautiful endless beaches offering all sorts of watersport. You will also find great local seafood restaurants for a lovely lunch on the beach. Definitely worth checking it out.
Go bird watching on the Estuary
If you look right while on the beach, you will notice a wetland that is almost merging with the ocean. Right there you will have the opportunity for some amazing birth watching with certified guide from the Bird watching and nature conservation association.
“Our “classic” tour offers a great opportunity for both beginners and advanced birders to enjoy and learn about tropical and migratory birds, natural history and culture in the unique mosaic of habitats of San Pancho” Check out their website (English and Spanish)
Check out Lo de Perla Jungle Garden
If Puerto Vallarta Botanical Garden is the biggest in Mexico, do not underestimate the beauty of this unique oasis in the jungle. Lo de Perla Jungle Garden.
It may be smaller but its 3 hours guided tour is full of educational entertainment, with a variety of birds and insects species, trails through a lush tropical vegetation and much more. The tour ends at El Santuario, a nursery with the collection of 70 species of orchids endemic to Nayarit.
Definitely, a unique way to spend half a day. Check out opening hours and more info on the Lo de Perla Jungle Garden website.
Go for a hike
There are plenty of hikes around San Pancho. The most common hike is the one that goes from San Pancho to Sayulita and back. It’s only 5 km for a 1-hour mild pace. Full Disclosure, I didn’t do it. But you can check out this detailed description by a visitor who kindly left his report on TripAdvisor. It’s definitely the best instruction I have found online.
Start off your day with the best coffee in San Pancho
One of the things I love to do the most in life is work from a coffee shop while sipping a creamy double Expresso or a double shots Americano accompanied by a croissant or a piece of banana bread or anything fat and sweet while working on my projects (AKA this blog). In San Pancho, there are many cute places where you can do that.
When I was there there weren’t many coffee spots. I was always in a cute tiny vegan place but it’s not there anymore. However, I have found out three other great spots that I can’t wait to try.
Guests’ favorite is Kokonati close to the beach, with great coffee and pastry and comfortable tables in a cozy ambiance. Cafe’ Mañana is also a great option for excellent expresso and a quiet garden where to hang out. For amazing french pastry and a coffee, you can also check out Cafe Paraiso. Please let me know which one is your favorite.
Join the turtle-project and help the leatherback turtles
Many decades ago, the wild and untouched beaches of the riviera nayarit, including San Pancho beach offered the perfect environment for the reproductive cycle of these fragile creatures. Thousands and thousands of eggs were deposited on the beach and many newborn turtle were making their way back to the sea every year.
With the uncontrolled developement of these coasts the number of indivuduals kept decreasing and “by 1988, pressures from coastal development, poaching, shrimp fishing, and tourism reduced a population of tens of thousands to less than 200 nesting turtles per year.”
“The first conservation effort to protect the marine turtle began in the late eighties. It was then that members of the community became concerned that the local marine turtle population may soon face extinction.”
“In the spring of 1992, the founding members of the Group built the first marine nursery. By June, large-scale protection of Olive Ridley and Leatherback turtle eggs had begun. In 20 years the population of the Olive Ridley has increased from 200 to 1,475 nests.”
There are different ways to contribute to the cause. The easiest one is to donate. Otherwise, they have full-time programs or you can contact them and make an appointment for a visit. Here is the Turtle-Project website.
Check out the artisanal market on Tuesday in Plaza del Sol
Oh wow. It wasn’t there when I was visiting. This town has indeed grown. This lively market is definitely going to delight all your senses. It’s an outburst of colors, flavors, and scents.
You will find incredible handmade products from house wear to clothing, natural medicine, decorative objects, and delicious homemade food. Definitely not to miss. Check out this beautiful video I have found online to see what I am talking about.
Spend a fancy day at La Patrona Polo and Equestrian Club
It’s indeed an awkward surprise to see such a fancy high-end place in the laid-back town of San Francisco Nayarit. It’s like entering a different world, but if you are ready to splurge this is an interesting way to spend a day. The club offers all-inclusive packages where you can enjoy a delicious brunch while watching a polo game (from October 2021) and using the fancy facilities. It’s located just outside San Pancho on the beach. In this club you can take horseback riding classes, or you can join one of their amazing hiking, biking or horseback riding tours.
La Patrona Polo and Equestrian Club has also a sister property on the beach that serves as a beach club. Open from Tuesday through Sunday, for only 400 MXN you can enjoy luxury facility on the beach until after the sun goes down.
Read the reviews on TripAdvisor
Discover San Pancho amazing murals
Scattered around San Pancho you will find amazing art that brightens up the otherwise boring grey walls. Start a art huting gam and let me know what you find.
Some hints: Some amazing graffitis are to be found by Plaza de la Hermandad and others on the lateral streets that lead to the beach.
I look forward to seeing what you have found! 🙂
Don’t miss San Pancho Music Festival (25th-26th-27th February 2022)
It started as a jamming session among a few friends in a home backyard and it becomes a huge annual event that attracts musicians from all over the world. Unfortunately, the 2021 event has been canceled but they are already at work to organize 2022 one. Check out the official music festival website for more information.
Explore Lo de Marco, an hidden gem
Only 7 miles north of San Pancho, Lo de Marco is a small town with a real mexican feel, deserted streets lined with delicious local food lead to a renovated gazebo marking the center of town.
From there to the beach is a breeze. And if you love deserted beaches don’t miss los Venados, Las Minitas el Atracadero as well, besides Lo De Marco beach itself. spectacular wild untouched sand embraced by the lush tropical jungle of the Sierra Madre contrasting the intense blue sky and warm Pacific waters. An amazing way to spend a day on the Riviera Nayarit.
Not staying in San Pancho? take a day tour to San Pancho and Sayulita
If you are not staying in San Pancho, but you would like to take a look, who knows maybe for the next vacation, and you don’t have much time, you can always join a tour from Puerto Vallarta. They will take you to explore San Pancho and Sayulita in one day and you can get an idea of what it’s like.
And that’s it, although there are many more things to do, I let them for you to discover. Please let me know what you did and how you liked it. I would love to hear from you.