Playa San Pancho: Comprehensive Guide (2023 Edition)

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Welcome to San Pancho, a hidden gem nestled along the shores of the Riviera Nayarit in Mexico.


In this blog post, we’ll take you on a journey through the streets of San Pancho. We will share the best things to do, restaurants, accommodations and some practical information to plan your trip with ease.


Where is San Pancho Located?

San Pancho is a small village located on Mexico’s Pacific coast.


It is situated in the state of Nayarit, a tropical wonderland known for its lush landscapes and amazing beaches.


Picture this: you’re in the vibrant city of Puerto Vallarta.


From there, hop in a car and head north for about 45 miles or roughly an hour’s drive along the scenic coast.


And voila! You’ve arrived in the tranquil paradise of San Pancho.

How to get around San Pancho

San Pancho can easily be explored on foot, that way you also get a feel of the local way of life in this small town.


If you are considering leaving the town (which we highly recommend), consider the following options:


By Taxi

Finding a taxi is very easy in San Pancho, they are usually waiting on the side of the road so the moment you leave your accommodation you should have one in sight immediately.


In this area taxi meters aren’t widely used, so be sure to negotiate because starting your journey!


By Bicycle

A more adventurous way of exploring the surroundings is by bicycle.


San Pancho is a very bike-friendly town and there are many rental shops available.


The roads are generally flat, so it’s not too difficult to cycle around and you can explore a lot of nature areas by bicycle!


By Car

After spending time in San Pancho, we wanted to explore the surroundings by visiting other towns in the state of Nayarit.


In our opinion, the best to explore is by renting a car!


With your own set of wheels, you have the freedom to travel at your own pace, not restricted by taxi availability or limited to the routes a bicycle can take. And let’s not forget the comfort and convenience of air-conditioning in these hot temperatures!


Driving around was really easy, the driving style of the locals is laid back so we felt safe driving the car.


How exactly do we rent our cars when travelling?


Every time we travel and consider renting a car, we always use to book our vehicles.


There are a few reasons why:


The process is super simple, their customer service is excellent, they have a large variety of cars to pick from, and their website is easy to use. We particularly value Rental Cars’ open communication with the terms and conditions of the rental agreement so that you are fully aware of what you are obtaining.


So if you’re visiting San Pancho, we highly recommend exploring with a rental car from


We usually set the airport as our pick-up and drop-off point, below you can explore some options.


Nayarit Playas

Things to do in San Pancho

San Pancho beach

Let’s start by stating the obvious, a trip wouldn’t be complete without spending a day at the beach.


This is probably why you came to San Pancho in the first place!


Playa San Pancho is a VERY RELAXING place to spend the day swimming and sunbathing. It’s a long stretch of soft golden sand, and the water is clear and warm.


There are also many beachfront restaurants where you can grab some delicious food and drinks while lounging on their comfortable chairs.


BONUS: the beach usually isn’t very crowded, if it happens to be too crowded for your taste then just walk along the stretch of the beach and you will quickly find a nice spot.


Playa San Pancho

San Pancho Surf

In San Pancho surfing is a popular activity. If you are a beginner, the waves here are PERFECT for your first surfing experience.


Best Surfing Spots in San Pancho:

1. San Pancho Beach: The most obvious choice for surfing is ofcourse the local beach. The waves here are known for their consistency and are perfect for surfers of all skill levels.


2. Lo De Marcos: Just a short drive north of San Pancho, Lo De Marcos is a HIDDEN GEM. This location provides a more serene surfing environment. It’s an excellent spot for beginner and intermediate surfers.


Surfing in Nayarit



Numerous yoga studios and retreat centres in the area provide beginner-level to expert yoga classes. Imagine working on your postures while surrounded by tropical vegetation and the relaxing sound of the ocean. It’s a truly surreal experience that shouldn’t be missed.


Turtle conservation

San Pancho is home to a turtle conservation program that aims to protect and preserve the endangered sea turtles. If you’re lucky, you even get to witness baby turtles being released into the ocean.


Grupo Ecologico de la Costa Verde

In San Pancho, the prominent organization that works tirelessly towards turtle conservation is the Grupo Ecologico de la Costa Verde. This non-profit organization, founded in 1990, is dedicated to the protection and preservation of sea turtles.


They run a highly successful marine turtle protection program, which has significantly boosted the local turtle population.


Visitors to San Pancho often participate in guided night patrols of the beaches, experiencing the mind-blowing moment when hatchlings are released into the sea.


This isn’t just an educational experience but it also raises awareness about the crucial role we play in preserving these creatures for future generations.


Sea turtle Conservation



Live music is a staple in San Pancho’s nightlife scene, with talented musicians showcasing their skills and keeping the energy alive well into the night.


It’s the perfect way to end a day of exploring and unwind with friends or make new ones!


San Pancho Nightlife: Top Picks

  • La Ola Rica: This is a great location if you are looking for a place to grab a bite while enjoying live music. Their cocktail menu is great!


  • El Gallo: Known for its high spirit ambience, live music nights and delicious local cuisine, El Gallo is a favourite among both tourists and locals.


San Pancho Restaurants
La Ola Rica

Festivals and Events

San Pancho hosts several festivals and events throughout the year, making it an exciting destination no matter when you visit.


From music festivals to cultural celebrations, there’s ALWAYS something happening in this vibrant town.


1. San Pancho Circus Festival: This unique event brings together circus performers from all over the world for a week of shows and workshops in San Pancho. It’s an exciting and entertaining experience for all ages.


2. San Pancho Music Festival: This annual festival is a celebration of music and community, featuring both local and international artists. It’s one of the highlights of the year in San Pancho.


3. Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead): A traditional Mexican holiday, this event is celebrated throughout the country, including in San Pancho. It’s a vibrant and colorful celebration of life and death, with parades, altars, and offerings to honor loved ones who have passed away.


4. La Patrona Festival: This festival honors the town’s patron saint with a week-long celebration filled with traditional dances, processions, live music, and delicious food.


Dia de Muertos San Pancho


Whale watching

This is our FAVOURITE activity from everything we have listed!


From December to March, humpback whales pass through the waters of San Pancho on their annual migration.


This is a perfect opportunity for whale watching tours, where you can witness these majestic creatures up close in their natural habitat.


It’s an unforgettable experience that reminds us of the importance of protecting our oceans and the incredible wildlife that calls it home.


Whale watching activity Nayarit playas



San Pancho offers numerous hiking routes that you can explore to explore the natural beauty of this region.


Here are our favourite hiking locations:


1. Cerro de San Pancho: The trek up this hill is quite challenging, but the view is worth it. It’s a great location for an early-morning walk to see sunrise because it offers views of both the town and the Pacific Ocean.


2. Jungle Hike to Sayulita: This is a longer trail that leads to the nearby town of Sayulita via the jungle. It’s a beautiful and shaded route, with an abundance of wildlife.


3. The Las Clavellinas Reserve provides a number of hiking routes through the tropical forest and is just a short drive from San Pancho. To truly appreciate the area’s great biodiversity, a guided trip is advised.


4. Monkey Mountain (Cerro del Mono): This is one of the most popular hikes in the area.


The trail can be challenging, but you’ll be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of the entire coastline. This hike’s difficult terrain makes it best to take a guided tour.


5. Hacienda San Pancho: This area offers a unique hiking experience with its rich landscapes and historical buildings.


Its tranquil setting offers a serene escape from the bustling town, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the area.


The hacienda is also home to a variety of wildlife, making it a fantastic spot for birdwatching and animal sightings.


Jaguar conservation

El Tuito Jaguar Reserve is a conservation project dedicated to the protection and preservation of jaguars in their natural habitat.


Visiting this reserve not only offers the chance to see these magnificent animals up close but also supports the important work of protecting them from extinction.


The reserve offers guided tours and educational programs where visitors can learn about jaguar behaviour and the conservation efforts being made to protect them.


It’s a must-visit for any nature lover or wildlife enthusiast!


Jaguar El Tuito



San Pancho has amazing sunset spots to watch the sunset, here are our top picks!


1. Playa San Pancho: With a clear view of the sky, the town’s main beach is a perfect location to watch the sun set into the Pacific Ocean.


2. Mirador San Pancho: This viewpoint is a little out of town but is totally worth the trip. Its location is in elevation so you get a completely different experience than your usual sunset at the beach.


3. La Patrona Beach Club: With its beachfront location and comfortable loungers, this beach club provides a luxurious setting to watch the sunset. The club also offers delicious cocktails to enjoy as you soak in the panoramic views.


4. Platanitos Beach: A few kilometers north of San Pancho, this secluded beach offers a more peaceful and private experience.


san pancho sunset


San Pancho Market

Every Tuesday, the town comes alive with the vibrant San Pancho Market. This local market offers a variety of artisanal products, fresh produce, and delicious food from vendors all over the region.


It’s a great opportunity to support small businesses and farmers while also immersing yourself in the local culture.


You can find everything from handmade jewellery and clothing to organic fruits and vegetables at the market.


It’s also a great place to try traditional Mexican dishes and snacks.


The San Pancho Market is not just a shopping experience but also a community gathering where visitors can interact with locals and learn about their way of life.


Food in San Pancho


Visit the local Cerveceria

San Pancho is home to a local brewery called Cerveceria San Pancho, where visitors can enjoy delicious craft beer made from locally sourced ingredients.


The brewery offers tours and tastings, giving visitors the opportunity to learn about the brewing process and sample different types of beer.


And if that wasn’t enough!


It’s also a great place to meet locals and other travelers while enjoying a cold one in a relaxed setting. The cerveceria also hosts events and live music, making it a popular spot in the evenings.


Cerveceria San Pancho
Cerveceria San Pancho


San Pancho Hotels

Luxury: Agua de Luna Boutique Hotel


This adults-only hotel offers a luxurious and private experience with its spacious suites and an outdoor pool. It also has a rooftop lounge and bar for cocktails and stunning sunset views.


Mid-Budget: Hotel de Asis

This charming hotel is located in the heart of the town, just a few steps from the beach. Its colourful and comfortable rooms offer a cozy stay at an affordable price.


Budget: Hostel San Pancho

For budget-conscious travellers, Hostel San Pancho offers a friendly and vibrant atmosphere. This backpacker hostel features dormitory-style rooms, a communal kitchen, and a lively common area perfect for meeting fellow travellers. It’s only a short walk from the beach and is surrounded by the town’s lively cafes and restaurants.


In our opinion, is the best option for hotel reservations. By using the filters, you can quickly choose the ideal accommodation, whether it’s a five-star hotel, a cute bed & breakfast, or a cheap hostel.


Check it out for yourself, in the widget below (FYI: San Pancho is also known as San Francisco in Mexico).

San Pancho Restaurants

San Pancho is a foodie’s paradise, with a diverse range of restaurants and cafes serving up delicious dishes from all around the world.


La Ola Rica is a very popular restaurant in town, they have a great menu with seafood and vegetarian options. They offer a beautiful atmosphere, live music, and amazing cocktails.


La Perla: Known for its stunning location right on the beach, La Perla offers a panoramic view of the ocean along with its delicious food. Specializing in seafood, the restaurant serves fresh catches of the day, and their fish tacos are a local favourite!


Mar Plata: This stylish beachfront restaurant serves a fusion of Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines. Featuring a romantic, candlelit setting in the evenings, Mar Plata is the perfect spot for a date night or special occasion.

San Panchi Taqueria - Fish Tacos

The best time to visit San Pancho

San Pancho is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit depends on your preferences and travel goals.


The peak tourist season in San Pancho runs from November to April when the weather is dry and sunny. This is also the high season for whale watching as humpback whales migrate to the warm Pacific waters during this time.


If you prefer to avoid crowds and are looking for a more budget-friendly trip, consider visiting during the low season from May to October.


During this time, you may experience some rain showers, but they tend to be short-lived and followed by clear skies.


This is also the perfect time for surfers as the waves are at their best during the low season.

parrots, bird watching activity nayarit playas

Nearby Attractions

San Pancho is a charming town, but it also serves as an ideal base for exploring the surrounding areas. Here are some nearby attractions worth checking out:


  • Sayulita: Only a short drive, Sayulita is a bustling beach town known for its surf culture and bohemian vibe.


  • Marietas Islands: These picturesque uninhabited islands are a popular spot for snorkelling and birdwatching.


  • Puerto Vallarta: Located just 45 minutes away, this vibrant city offers a mix of cultural attractions, nightlife, and beautiful beaches.


  • Punta Mita: This luxury resort town is renowned for its pristine beaches, world-class golf courses, and upscale dining. It promises a gorgeous getaway for those seeking a luxury experience.


  • Rincon de Guayabitos: A tranquil seaside town, Rincon de Guayabitos is perfect for travelers seeking tranquility, with its calm water, soft sandy beach, and relaxed atmosphere.


  • Yelapa: This secluded coastal village is accessible only by boat, offering a remote escape from the bustling tourist spots. Known for its beautiful waterfall, pristine beaches, and fresh seafood, Yelapa is a hidden gem that offers a unique glimpse into rural coastal life in Mexico.


Sayulita beach

Practical tips for visiting San Pancho

  • The local currency is the Mexican peso, but most establishments also accept US dollars.


  • It’s recommended to carry cash as many places do not accept credit cards.


  • English is widely spoken, but learning some basic Spanish phrases can enhance your experience and interactions with locals.


  • Don’t forget to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen while exploring the town, as the sun can be strong in this tropical climate.


San Pancho Beach


That’s all we have to share about San Pancho.


We hope this guide was helpful and provided you with everything you need to know about this small town.


Once you’ve experienced San Pancho, don’t forget to share your stories and experiences.


Safe travels!

San Pancho Activity


Is San Pancho Mexico Safe?

San Pancho is a relatively safe town, but it’s always important to take precautions while travelling. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid walking alone at night.

Where is San Pancho Mexico?

San Pancho is located on the Pacific coast of Mexico, in the state of Nayarit. It’s about 25 kilometres north of Puerto Vallarta.

How do you get to San Pancho?

The closest airport to San Pancho is Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR). From there, you can take a taxi, or bus or rent a car to San Pancho.

What is the weather like in San Pancho, Mexico?

Weather San Pancho Mexico enjoys a tropical climate with warm temperatures throughout the year. The dry season runs from November to April, offering sunny and dry weather, with temperatures ranging from 70°F to 90°F. The rainy season is from May to October, with occasional afternoon showers and thunderstorms, although the sun usually comes out quickly after. Temperatures during the rainy season range from 80°F to 95°F.

Can you walk from Sayulita to San Pancho?

Yes, you can walk from Sayulita to San Pancho along the beach. It’s about a 7-kilometer (4-mile) walk and takes around 1.5 hours. However, it’s important to check tide times before attempting this as there are some areas where the path may become inaccessible during high tide. So, make sure to plan accordingly.

Is it safe to swim in San Pancho?

Yes, it is generally safe to swim in San Pancho. However, always be cautious and check for any posted warnings before entering the water. The ocean can be unpredictable at times, so use your best judgment when deciding to swim.

Why is San Francisco called San Pancho?

San Francisco is the town’s official name, but locals often refer to it as San Pancho as a nickname. The origin of the nickname is debatable, with some saying it was given by fisherman in reference to Saint Francis of Assisi (San Pancho is a variation of his name). Others say it originated from a local baseball player named Pancho who was well-loved in the community.

Is San Pancho Mexico expensive?

San Pancho is generally more affordable than other popular tourist destinations in Mexico. However, it can still be considered relatively expensive compared to other towns in the area due to its growing popularity and development. Prices for accommodations, food, and activities may vary depending on the season.

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Laura & Alexander

Laura & Alexander

We're two full-time Belgian travellers sharing our experience through our blog. Our aim is to inspire your next travel adventure with our best tips and tricks from every country we visit.

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