SAN FRANCISCO (SAN PANCHO) – RIVIERA NAYARIT
San Francisco, or San Pancho as it is more commonly called, is a unique Mexican village nestled between Sierra Madre mountains, verdant jungles, and white-sand beaches that stretch for miles along the Pacific coast.
Twenty-five miles north of the international airport at Puerto Vallarta, the village of San Pancho is being proclaimed as one of the next great destinations in the so-called Riviera Nayarita, a place where old Mexico fuses with the new. Cowboys in broad-brimmed straw hats trot their horses past absorbed kids clicking on cell phones. An eatery sells tacos to patrons seated in the street on white plastic chairs while, across the way, another offers strumming guitars, cloth napkins, and mahi mahi with Thai peanut sauce. The town beach, deserted most days and devoid of vendors as always, seems to exist only for walkers and sea birds to enjoy. Yet its steep sand banks, rollicking surf, and stunning sunsets are captured in photos posted all over the internet and world.
SAN PANCHO IS REAL
“San Pancho hit a nerve,” most transplants say, when asked why they chose this small town, population 2,500, in which to settle and build. Elaborating, they describe it as a picturesque typical Mexican pueblo, full of welcoming easy smilers, and a community they felt they could quickly become a part of. “It’s real,” they say in high praise. “It’s tranquilo.” Preferable to the bustle of neighboring Sayulita, they often add in a show of civic pride, which they declare a great place to visit, but they wouldn’t want to live there.
Not to imply, however, that there’s nothing to see or do in San Pancho:
*Birding San Pancho (www.birdingsanpancho.com) will take you to the estuary and the capomo fields to search for tropical birds.
*Grupo Ecologico (www.project-tortuga.org) will let you hold baby sea turtles before releasing them at sunset into the sea.
*Tailwinds (www.tailwindoutdoor.com) will take you on a kayak, paddleboard, or hiking trip.
*Diva Tours (www.sayulitanay.com) will arrange for snorkeling at the Marieta Islands.
*Veteran fisherman Pando will take you to the marlin fishing grounds to try your luck.
*Spa Angelical will give you a massage, with or without hot stones.
*Pilates, yoga, zumba—all are on offer in town (www.el-estar.org; www.pilatespaikea.com) — well as golf (www.lashuertasgolf.com) and polo, incredibly enough (www.polovallarta.com).
*Plaza del Sol, across from San Pancho’s only church, offers a farmer’s market every Tuesday plus regular performances on its open-air stage. Highlights are the annual San Pancho music festival in February, heralded children’s Cirque du Soleil in March, San Pancho fiestas patronales in September, Dia de Los Muertos altars in November, and Colectivo San Pancho Christmas art festival in December.
*Entreamigos (www.entreamigos.org.mx) has something for everyone. Kids and adults stream in and out of this community center all day, high season and low. Volunteer opportunities never end, given the number of ongoing and envisioned projects this organization takes on.
verría in the 1970s.
First charmed enough by San Pancho to make it the site of his family vacation mansion, Echeverría then directed a flow of federal funding to San Francisco to build his dream of a “self-sufficient Third World village,” to include a technical university and food processing plant.
While the President’s vision did not come to fruition, since funding ended with his presidential term, the town still benefits today from the cobblestone streets and full-service hospital that resulted from his efforts. Recently designated a cultural center by the state of Nayarit, San Pancho finds its star on the rise once again.