40 reasons to love San Pancho, Mexico

Last updated on January 12, 2024

Reasons to love San Pancho, Mexico

San Pancho, Mexico was a town that surprised us. A month’s stay easily turned into six months and we almost set down roots there. We loved and love it, and my oh my how much we miss it. In homage to our beloved town, here are some reasons to love the San Francisco you’ve never heard of.

This includes things to do in San Pancho, Mexico and plenty of San Pancho travel tips. Also see our guide to the best restaurants in San Pancho.

Please note that most of San Pancho closes for the low, rainy season (from around May-October).

The best things to do in San Pancho, Mexico

54 reasons to love San Pancho, Mexico

1. San Pancho beach

I never quite got over the beauty of San Pancho beach. Beaches like this are usually filled with people and parasols, but apart from during New Year and Easter, San Pancho was always spacious. The ocean was intimidating so I rarely braved it, but watching the surfers, strolling the sand and marveling at the jungle backdrop more than made up for that. In the final weeks, we discovered phosphorescence, and danced to make stars in the sand.

Since we were last there, there’s regrettably, but somewhat inevitably, been more development along the beachfront. This includes the huge (and ghastly) Punta Paraiso resort, which has taken up some of the public beach – there’s a campaign to have it taken down.

2. The sunsets

Sunset at San Pancho, Mexico

Sunset is the hallmark of a San Pancho day. Everything is arranged before or after it, and locals and travelers alike gather to watch it from the sand, often clapping for the main event.

3. The community

Community in San Pancho, Mexico

Without a doubt, the highlight of San Pancho for Steve and I were the people. It taught us the meaning of community like no other place we’ve been before. If one of us was ill, people would come knocking with remedies; we couldn’t walk down the street without stopping for hellos; and we made friends we imagine we’ll keep forever. This little girl was always on hand with an ‘hola!’ as we passed.

Community in San Pancho, Mexico

Christmas day was a perfect example of our life there…when around 30 people gathered at our house for a pot luck lunch and secret santa. We’d only been there six weeks at that point.

4. The surf

As I said, I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to waves, but San Pancho is a popular surf destination.

One friend Luis runs Santa Madre Surf school, and another friend Natacha runs both surf lessons and ocean confidence training at Animo Surf. The latter is something she started after I left, so I’ll definitely be trying that next time!

Natacha also has a gorgeous voice and does sound healing sessions too.

5. Yoga lessons in the plaza

Dog yoga teacher in San Pancho, Mexico

The opportunity to practice teaching yoga was one of San Pancho’s finest gifts. I loved my four-times-weekly classes and the community that built around them. Visiting dogs were always a highlight.

Fruit for yoga in San Pancho, Mexico

My yoga classes were done by donation. From money to fruit to massages, students gave whatever they could. I wish all of life could be like that.

Although I’m not there now, San Pancho is the type of place that fosters such initiatives, so you’ll likely find something similar.

There are also yoga classes at El Estar and pilates at the pilates studio on Tercer Mundo.

6. Turtles

turtle release in San pancho

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.

7. The cafes and restaurants of San Pancho

For such a small place, San Pancho has an impressive array of wonderful cafes and restaurants. Our favourite cafe is Cafe Mañana. See our full run-down of the best cafes and restaurants in San Pancho.

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8. Entre Amigos community centre

Entre Amigos Cafe and shop in San Pancho, Mexico

Many people cite Entre Amigos as one of the chief reasons San Pancho is so special. It certainly is an amazing place and many visitors come to volunteer there.

Started by an American lady as a simple after-school activity club, it’s now grown to a huge community centre including a library and computers that the local schools use, a creche for babies, a thrift store, and a whole programme of activities for both children and adults – ranging from yoga to language lessons to belly dancing and much more.

Each year they hold an annual fundraiser, which is always a grand event. Last year, one of the original art directors of Cirque du Soleil (who has a home in San Pancho) sent down some Cirque performers who taught the children their tricks. The silks are still up in the centre and circus lessons are among the most popular on the schedule.

And perhaps the most wonderful fact about Entre Amigos deserves its own category…

9. Recycling

Banos at Entre Amigos, San Pancho, Mexico

Not all of Mexico has the infrastructure for recycling, but San Pancho is lucky in that Entre Amigos doubles as the town’s recycling centre. Not only does it collect the town’s recycling and deliver it to larger recycling plants, it also makes use of some of the materials itself.

There are glass, fabric and plastic workshops in the centre that make all sorts of objects that are sold in the centre’s shop. This is also doubles as a way for local people to learn a new trade.

10. Amazing music scene

Music at Darjeeling San pancho

One of the things we missed the most about London when we were away was 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’s 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’s even a San Pancho music festival!

11. Ibogaine community

Lotus flower

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.

12. Bodywork

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).

There are also opportunities to try a temazcal sweat lodge – look our for adverts around town.

13. So many new things to learn

Acro yoga at sunset in San pancho, Mexico

San Pancho seemed to be a magnet for interesting people willing to share and teach their skills. From musicians to African dance specialists to acro yoga teachers, there always seemed to be something new to learn.

While we were there, the town hosted an annual capoeira festival, which featured world-class performance and teaching. We never failed to be surprised by how much San Pancho had to offer!

14. Sayulita

Sayulita

Just ten minutes from San Pancho is Sayulita – a bustling surf town that feels like a city in comparison to its neighbour. With a busy nightlife, boutique shopping and waves suitable for beginners, it attracts many more tourists than San Pancho. We enjoyed having it nearby but were happy to retreat back home. How to get to Sayulita.

15. San Pancho Artisanal Market

On Tuesdays, there’s an artisanal market in on Plaza del Sol selling handmade jewellery and Mexican handicrafts. There are also food stalls, selling meals as well as fresh and specialist ingredients to make your own food at home. There’s live music too.

Sayulita market goodies

When we were in San Pancho, the market there didn’t exist, so we were regulars at the Mercado del Pueblo in Sayuita on Fridays (which still happens now). Filled with yummy organic produce and artisan products, it was the perfect place to spend a Friday morning listening to the live music and eating from the plethora of awesome stalls. A man specialising in Thai vegatables, and another serving cacao shots were favourties.

16. Organic farms

Veg and sunflower at Sayulita organic market

The Sayulita market made us realise that San Pancho is surrounded by a number of organic farms – and Entre Amigos also has a growing organic garden. We made friends with two young farmer girls and arranged to buy a selection of their latest produce every week for just 150 pesos. The picture above is their stall at the market. They even had kale and pak choi – not things you easily find in Mexico.

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17. Cute places to stay

Our house San Pancho Mexico

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. There are lots of similarly charming places to stay.

18. A gorgeous place for digital nomads

Digital nomad San Pancho Mexico

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.

Cafe Mañana and Maria’s were other favourite places to work.

19. Whale watching

At the marietas islands

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.

20. The dogs and cats of San Pancho

Leila on Roof in San Pancho, Mexico

At first, we thought San Pancho was full of stray dogs but soon realised they all had owners. Dogs live a cat’s life there – coming and going as they please. Some of them became great friends. We miss them dearly.

Luna on the balcony in San Pancho, Mexico

We lived above our landlord who had four excellent cats and appeared to host the town’s cat club. One of the visitors seemed outraged by our arrival in his adopted domain. He would always stare us down. We christened him Herman. Perhaps that’s why he hated us.

21. A plethora of excellent creatures

Rhino beetle in San Pancho, Mexico

Being so close to the jungle meant that some of the world’s more unusual creatures often graced our presence, sometimes bringing to mind the pre-historic. We loved the iguanas and this armor-clad beetle.

There are also lots of amazing birds and you can go on dedicated bird watching tours with the San Pancho birding network.

22. Capomo

Capomo Cielo Rojo San pancho, Mexico

Capomo is a wonder-drink and could single-handedly persuade us to live in Mexico. Made from the fruit of the capomo tree (also known as the Maya Nut), it’s a little like coffee minus the caffeine. In fact, it’s good for you with many health-boosting properties, including plenty of magnesium.

23. Escaping to Yelapa

Yelapa bay from casa Isabel

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.

24. Inspiring words from Pancho Vida

PANCHO VIDA SAN PANCHO

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.

25. Flora galore

Moth on a flower Mexico

I already dedicated a whole post to the flowers of San Pancho. The photos say it all.

26. The jungle

Glowing red tree in San pancho jungle

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!

There are a few jungle hikes around San Pancho, including the route from San Pancho to Sayulita, which begins at Hacienda San Pancho.

27. Calle Tercer Mundo

San Pancho Tercer Mundo street

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.

28. Alianza Jaguar Association

The Alianza Jaguar Association is another of the amazing conservation organisations in San Pancho. It’s dedicated to jaguars, helping to conserve their existence through sustainable developments.

29. Tailwind jungle lodge

Savasana at yoga teacher training

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.

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30. The mud beach

Butterfly in the mud San pancho

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 would 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.

31. Discover the local bars

Statue at Los Santos bar

The bars have changed a bit since we were there (our old favourites were Los Santos and Cafe del Mar) but there are still plenty there. Current recommendations from our friends on the ground include La Baba del Diablo mezcal bar, craft beer at Cervecería Artesanal and El Gallo, which hosts salsa and cumbia nights on Fridays.

32. Singing trucks

Fruit truck in San pancho, Mexico

“Human Gods….In Charge.” This is what we liked to believe the gas truck was shouting as he drove around the town. In fact, we made up our own interpretations for all the trucks’ jingles. What could have been an annoyance (they are pretty loud!) was actually a joy. We especially enjoyed buying our produce straight from the farmers’ hands…

Mattress seller van in San Pancho, Mexico

… and spotting some of the more unusual niches, like this excellent mattress truck.

There’s a churros truck that occasionally turns up too.

33. Huichol art

WicholBeadwork

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.

You can also find Huichol art at the eco art walk in downtown San Pancho on Fridays.

34. Beach fires

Beach fire San pancho

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.

35. Skatepark

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.

36. 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.

37. El Indio

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.

38. 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!

39. Hospital

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.

40. 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.

Read the first part of 54 reasons to love San Pancho here.

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.

You can buy a local cell phone from the phone shop opposite Entre Amigos.

45 thoughts on “40 reasons to love San Pancho, Mexico”

  1. Wow, that sounds like such an amazing place to visit, and an impossible place to leave!

    Those sunsets, that beach, the organic produce, yoga for trade!

    Magical!

    Reply
  2. It sounds like such an amazing place, good food, a sense of community, dogs and cake. What more we ask for? I think this has definitely made our list of places to visit.

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  3. As we’ve continued our travels since leaving Goa I have longed to find another place to fall in love with, but have yet to find one. San Pancho truly looks like the kind of place that could steal my heart, and I have added it my must-see list!

    Reply
  4. Well, I’m definitely going to have to take a cab down the street – I’m currently in Sayulita and haven’t made the trek to San Pancho yet, but it sounds lovely!

    For readers who were interested in the Sayulita Friday market: do keep in mind that it closes down (sadly) for the summer around early May and won’t start back up until the season (October perhaps?). Sayulita remains lovely nonetheless. 🙂

    Reply
      • I’m afraid I’m not sure how much of the town closes in the off season. I think it’s quite a seasonal place, so most things shut down / people leave.

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  5. You’re making me nostalgic and I haven’t even left yet! I think one of my favorite photos still is of Nopal watching yoga class. Miss you and hope your European adventures are going strong. I also secretly hope every one of us ends up back here soon 🙂

    Reply
  6. I’m totally going there later this year!! Flying back to Mexico in September and I plan to travel the entire Pacific Coast..but looks like I might get stuck in San Pancho for a while 😉 Totally my cup of tea, thanks so much for opening this place up to me!

    All the best and much love to you both!

    Reply
  7. Love the paragraph ‘a plethora of excellent creatures’ – that little man certainly looks pre historic! Also loving the photos of the organic market, the produce looks delicious 🙂

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  8. I love reading your posts about San Pancho. Dan and I are thinking of heading to Mexico for October and November, and now San Pancho is extremely high on my list! Although I’m not sure about those beetles… That could be a deal breaker 😉 I’m especially interested in going for the yoga though. Is it quite prevalent in San Pancho?

    Reply
    • There’s a yoga studio called El Estar, which teaches a number of classes every day. And you never know, I might be there teaching classes in the plaza 🙂 We’ll see…

      Reply
    • I know! We are so tempted to head straight back to Mexico but Asia is now calling. We leave in two days time! Where are you off to next?

      Reply
  9. Great write-up! I’m planning to spend some months in Mexico between December and April. I’m thinking of splitting the time between Playa del Carmen and San Pancho, would you recommend doing one before the other (even with regards to weather)?

    Reply
    • Hmmm, I can’t speak for Playa del Carmen but the San Pancho weather was great during all that time. If certainly got warmer as time went on. A lot of people say February is their favourite time in San Pancho for the perfect weather (it can be a little cooler around Christmas time). Have an awesome time there.

      Reply
  10. Beautiful job! but, for those who would like to stay in a gorgeous Mediterranean style B & B across the street from the ocean, please check out Casa Obelisco…and please come see us when you return Victoria…
    PS: 2009 ForbesTraveler.com voted us One of the 10 Most Romantic B & B’s in the world

    Reply
  11. Mexico has been on my radar as a place for la long term stop, and you single handedly put San Pancho on the short list. Thank you for your great description of the city and surrounding area!

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  12. Wow! Incredible photos. How could someone not want to visit San Pancho after taking a look at these. The Sayulita Organic Market is especially appealing. Thank you so much for sharing!!

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  13. I’ve been in San Pancho for several weeks volunteering with Project Tortuga and the justice you give this place in your posts warms me so much. From the dogs freely roaming around the streets, the singing trucks, Entre Amigos, and the reverence of the jungle, San Pancho is a jewel of many facets. I’m looking forward to experiencing some of the reasons you listed! Thank you so much for making this post!

    Reply
  14. Question: I have searched and searched but cannot find the hours that Cafe Arte is open. We are in La Penita and wanted to come over to SP on tues, take in a dinner at Cafe Arte but is it open on Tuesday?

    Gracias!

    Reply
    • I’m afraid I’m not in SP at the moment but I’m pretty sure it’s open on Tuesdays. If not, there are plenty of other options in walking distance 🙂

      Reply
  15. Hi! My girlfriend and I love your blog, and San Pancho! We are currently looking for a long-term rental and are having no luck at all…. we were wondering if you had any connections still?? Thank you, any help would be much appreciated!! My email is [email protected].

    Reply
  16. We can’t wait. we spent a week in Sayulita (above the surf shop, last year, the security alarms made it a early wake up call every morning.. and so so loud.), , We explored the surrounding areas and San Pancho really intrigued us, so this year we book a 2 week holiday to san Pancho, and your stories have sent my mind in a flutter … we dont leave for 33 days, yes i am counting down, but so excited to explore San Pacho and all it has to offer..

    Reply
  17. Did you get a chance to visit Rincón de Guayabitos just north of San Pancho? We are trying to decide where we should spend our extra day, Guayabitos or San Pancho.

    Reply
  18. Hi there! I really enjoyed reading this post! My partner and I are thinking about spending some time living in Mexico (maybe ~6 months) and all your information is very helpful in narrowing down out location. I was wondering if the wifi at Cafe Mañana, or other local cafes, is dependable and if it was alright to spend a decent amount of time there working there? Is it common for people to have wifi in their homes? Lastly – I will be getting my 200 YTT and love the idea of donation based classes to connect with the community! Any advice on how you initiated this would be amazing:) Take care and thank you!

    Reply
    • I’m afraid I was in San Pancho more than five years ago and I believe it’s changed quite a bit now. The internet was quite good when I was there, but did go down occasionally. I’m not sure how it’ll be now though – better, hopefully! And I initiated classes just by asking around. Plus I had to get permission from the local council to teach in the public square. Enjoy! We miss it there!

      Reply
  19. Please remove this from the web! It is our favorite place since Sayulita was turned into a tourist trap after 35 years. It is simple minded old Mexico that does not need help exploiting. Please remove it or it will turn into a congested night mare like P.V. and Sayulita.

    Reply

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