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Continuing with our ‘We miss San Pancho’ theme, here’s the second half of our Fifty four reasons to love San Pancho list…
Please note that most of San Pancho closes for the low, rainy season (from around May-October).
Travel tips and things to do in San Pancho
Tacos at Baja Takeria
Mmmm, Baja Takeria. This modern, livley taco restaurant was a favourite lunch stop for us with tasty grilled vegetable tacos, burritos and quesadillas. The chipotle mayo is excellent.
Delfin salad bar
There’s something wonderfully satisfying about a table of pick-your-own salads and salsas, and Delfin has the best in San Pancho. The traditional taco shop sells a super-cheap variety of Mexican treats like tacos and quesadillas, which you can then fill with your choice from the salad bar. We went there at the very least twice a week, and always wished it were open in the daytime. P.S. Thank you Shannon for the photo.
Tea and Pizza at Darjeeling
Darjeeling was our number one favourite night spot in San Pancho. It’s laid-back vibe embodies the San Pancho spirit and we spent many an evening there enjoying the town’s best pizza, drinking from the extensive tea menu and enjoying live music. As anyone new to Darjeeling is always told, the pizzas are all about the condiments. Oh my, I miss them! Also don’t forget the tea – Carlos is the resident aficionado and his passion is catching. Darjeeling was alo our favourite place to watch the local bands. Thank you Never Ending Voyage for this photo (San Pancho is attracting all the bloggers!)
Amazing music scene
One of the things we miss the most about London when we’re away is the easy access to live music and especially the tours by our favourite bands. The joy of San Pancho is that it seems to be a magnet for amazing artists (remember the Paracho guitar trip?), and the local musicians soon became some of our favourite bands – including the excellent Pantera Fantasma, Dos Bertos y Las Musas, and Selinger and Jess. It was like being able to see Edward Sharpe every week! During the tourist season (November-April) there is live music almost every night of the week in at least one of the bars/restaurants in town. Our favourite venue was Darjeeling’s open-air roof, which managed to be cosy beneath the stars. There is also an open-mic event on Wednesdays at Panchitos. There’s even a San Pancho music festival!
To describe the ibogaine community deserves a post of its own, and it is one I’ll write eventually, but for now here’s a taster. Ibogaine is a plant medicine, originally from Gabon, which has most popularly been used in the western world as a treatment for drug addicts (it takes away the withdrawal symptoms and can also have a positive psychological effect). There are a few ibogaine clinics in San Pancho, mostly catering for Americans who can’t get the treatment in the States (it’s illegal there). Many of the people who have gone through treatment stay on in San Pancho to recuperate, and it’s incredibly inspiring to see people who have made a positive step to change their lives. I could go on and on, but let’s wait for a longer post.
Practicing and teaching yoga was a step change for my hunched-up-over-a-computer-screen body, so I turned to some of the town’s wonderful bodyworkers. Massages in Piel de Miel are wonderful, and Jaime at Orgon Via is magic (seriously, he has a gift).
Brunch at the Polo Club
Yes, that’s right, tiny San Pancho has a polo club – and a very fancy one at that. In fact, a world-class polo training field is also being built just on the edge of town. Not being our usual scene, we weren’t regulars at La Patrona, only going for the occasional night of live music – that is until we discovered the brunch. For 200 pesos, you get an all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet, as well as watch a practice game. We went one Sunday for a celebration, tried a mimosa in every colour, and from then on looked for any excuse to return.
Our beautiful house
It was love at first sight when I found our little house in San Pancho. From the open kitchen to the rose garden, everything was perfect.
Sadly, editing and design work often keep Steve inside, protected from the sun’s glare. I, on the other hand, like to try and be outside as much as possible. My ‘office’ in San Pancho was ideal – on our roof terrace, surrounded by plants and with a view across the jungle. ‘Ideal’ could also be substituted with ‘distracting’, prompting many a mind wander as I dreamed across the trees.
During the whale season (from around November-March), you can often see the magnificent creatures out at sea just by sitting on the beach, which is an awe-inspiring experience. If you want to get closer, you can take whale watching boat trips from Punta Mita, which also go to the beautiful Marietas islands for some snorkelling. Fill a boat with at least five of your friends and you’ll pay around 100-150 pesos each. We went with the Planetary Collective crew and Shannon of A Little Adrift and had an awesome time snorkeling and spotting whales and dolphins.
Escaping to Yelapa
One of the wonderful things about being in Nayarit and so close to Vallarta is that there are tons of amazing places to visit in the nearby area including ruins, reams of stunning beaches, and little towns galore. We were so enamored by San Pancho (as well as busy working) that we didn’t take advantage of this as much as we could have. We did however make it for a weekend in road-less Yelapa for Steve’s birthday, which was a wonderful place to unplug and be immersed in nature. If you go, make sure to stay in Casa Isabel.
Ice cream sundae at Cafe del Mar
This was one of the first places I went to in San Pancho, thirsty for a break from my yoga teacher training course. On our days off, the teachers and I would prop up the bar, treating ourselves to mojitos and wine. Later it became the after-yoga breakfast spot for my class and served the best pastries in town. Sadly, they stopped doing breakfasts after a few months, but we have hopes they’ll start again next year. As an evening bar, Cafe del Mar is a stylish place with good food, and Steve and I would likely have spent a lot more time there if we had the budget to match. Instead, it was strictly for treats only – which would always be the incredible ice-cream sundae, stacked with caramelised nuts and homemade chocolate sauce.
Special occasion dinners at Mar Plata
Mar Plata is the sister of Cafe del Mar and even more so for treats only. It’s the number-one spot for upmarket dining in town, with gorgeous views of the beach and a gourmet menu with enough vegetarian options to please. We went there twice and loved taking in the sunset, and gorging on fine food and drinks.
The waiting cat at Cafe Arte
On quiet nights at Cafe Arte, the resident cat would take up a seat at her favourite table. She had the air of an elegant woman, patiently waiting for her lover to return (or perhaps to just get served). She’s quite the celebrity in town. Cafe Arte is also worth a visit for its food, which includes pizzas and wonderful homemade pasta.
Inspiring words from Pancho Vida
Every day, the folk at Pancho Vida t-shirt shop write a new inspirational quote on the board outside. It was always fun to see what the day’s lesson would be, such as the one above: “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life”. Wise words indeed. The t-shirts are also fun, and Steve is the proud owner of one of their excellent San Pancho Day of the Dead designs.
Breakfast and corn smut at Casa Emilia
Casa Emilia restaurant, a contender for best breakfast in town, was on the corner opposite our house so it was a forever temptation to go there. The menu has a wide selection of vegetarian options including Mexican specials, as well as bagels and omelettes. We recommend trying the huitlacoche (also known as corn smut!) omelette.
Group dinners at Dolce Amor
The local Italian restuarant, Dolce Amore, is the perfect place to go for a group dinner. The pasta dishes and salads are so huge that they need to be shared. It’s also bring your own alcohol, which is great for avoiding any kerfuffle over the bill.
I already dedicated a whole post to the flowers of San Pancho. The photos say it all.
Trees that glow and jungle splendour
I never once got bored of staring at the trees from our roof terrace, and was even more enchanted when taking a walk into the jungle that surrounds San Pancho. The tree above is nicknamed the ‘gringo tree’ due to it’s red and peeling skin!
Calle Tercer Mundo
Despite its number of excellent things, San Pancho is actually very small, and nearly everything is situated along one road – Calle Tercer Mundo. It connects the highway to the beach, and we couldn’t walk down it without bumping into someone we knew.
Something that brings a lot of people to San Pancho is the long-standing turtle conservation project. Volunteers can spend time with the Project Tortuga group, collecting nests and ensuring the babies safe release into the ocean. During the high turtle season (July-December), you can see the turtle release almost every night at sunset. It’s a beautiful sight, but also an eye-opener to the serious plight of turtle survival around the world.
Tailwind jungle lodge
I would never have found San Pancho if it hadn’t been for my yoga teacher training course held at the gorgeous Tailwind Jungle Lodge, so I’m ever thankful to both Drishti and Tailwind. The lodge can also arrange kayaking and stand-up paddle board excursions.
Food by Abigail
The food by our caterer, Abigial, at the yoga course was by far some of the best I tasted in Mexico. Abigial lives in town and is available for private parties.
The mud beach
We didn’t get to the mud beach until our final few weeks in San Pancho, but if we’d have found it earlier, it may have been a regular trip. The two-hour jungle hike from town takes you to the secluded beach with its own supply of nutrient-rich, blue therapeutic mud. We felt like we were in Avatar.
Pool at Los Santos
Colorful and wonderfully kitsch bar, Los Santos, holds the towns only pool table and is a great place to shoot a game or two. It also serves great fried tofu, mushroom burgers and sweet potatoes fries, making it a good spot for an evening out. The murals and decoration is excellent.
Steve and I are both big fans of Huichol art and the jewellery is beautiful. Huichol people sell the art at stands next to the beach at the end of Tercer Mundo, and some also sell around town. For the more up-market end, go to the Huichol art gallery next to the kite shop. Steve had this Tibetan Dream Flag design custom made by Andreas, a man who sells his work around town.
A beach fire is always a good option of an evening in San Pancho, especially when it’s a new moon and the phosphorescence is out. A guitar, some frieds and stars both above and beneath you – magic.
This post is already choc-a-block, and we don’t have photos of the last few things, but they certainly deserve a mention.
Steve was a skater in the past and is always transfixed by the sound of a skateboard and sight of tricks. San Pancho therefore gets plus points for its skatepark, complete with ramp and rails. It’s in the park, also popular with men playing dominoes.
Wine and brownies Thursday
Every Thursday, the lovely people at the Huichol Art shop and gallery give out free brownies and wine, which is a lovely social event. The shop itself has some incredible items including masks from Asia intricately decorated with Huichol beads.
Green smoothie in Marias
It’s crazy we don’t have a photo of of Maria’s as we went there all the time. Steve was a massive fan of the pesto omelette and I loved the green smoothie, filled with delicious veg. It’s also has one of the best internet connections in town.
It is only a little supermarket but I feel as though Indio has to be included as a day in San Pancho isn’t really complete without a trip there for something. It’s a true convenience store with most everything you need. They even had a little Japanese section.
Kite flying on Sundays
Jeremy from Panchitos bar (where they hold the open mic) also runs a kite shop, San Pancho Aire, and on Sundays he takes some of his creations down to the beach for some fun kite flying. It’s a beautiful sight and you’re free to join in. During Easter, the kites were so popular, he nearly sold out the entire store!
This might sound like an odd one, but it’s very unusual for a town as small as San Pancho to have a hospital. For anything major, you’d have to go to Puerto Vallarta, but knowing it is there is reassuring. The hospital was built during a tim when the President of Mexico owned a home in San Pancho and pumped money into the village to show what could be done with a tiny town.
There’s even a book about it!
And finally, if this isn’t enough, there is even a book about San Pancho. Written by local authors, Viva San Pancho includes stories inspired by the town.
Useful information about San Pancho
You can get to San Pancho from Puerto Vallarta by bus. If arriving from the airport, you need to cross to the other side of the highway and catch the bus from there. It costs about 25 pesos. Alternatively, a taxi costs around 500 pesos. The bus travels directly down Highway 200 and you get off at the stop after Sayulita.
There are plenty of places to stay in town including tons of private rentals. The best way is to arrive and ask around, but you’ll need to book during the busy periods over Christmas, New Year and Easter. If you’re on a budget, the new Hostal San Pancho comes recommended. Roberto’s Bungalows and Cielo Rojo offer a next step up, and are again highly recommended (some people call the owner of Roberto’s –Earl – San Pancho’s resident ambassador!). For jungle living, Tailwind is great, and if you want to combine your stay with a surf trip, we heard good things about Surf House San Pancho.
You can buy a local cell phone from the phone shop opposite Entre Amigos.