About San Pancho
San Francisco (affectionately known to locals as San Pancho) is located on the pristine beach of Riviera Nayarit, Mexico. Exit Mexico’s Highway 200 at the road sign 6 miles (9 km) south of Rincon de Guayabitos, 3 miles (4.5 km) north of Sayulita, and 25 miles (40 km) north of the Puerto Vallarta International Airport.
The main San Pancho beach extends for a half mile on both sides of the town. On average, this Riviera Nayarit beach tends to be less populated. In order to explain the area, the locals usually refer to the north end of the San Pancho beach as the “Costa Azul” side and the south end of the beach as the “pueblo” side. The Costa Azul beachside of San Pancho is the residential area where the majority of the beachfront and ocean view homes are located. The Costa Azul area is a 15 +/- minute walk, along the beach or by cobblestone road, to the San Pancho pueblo. The pueblo side encompasses the majority of San Pancho’s local restaurants and businesses, which tends to be livelier with all of the local hustle and bustle. Nearly all of the pueblo homes are conveniently located nearby the local restaurants and mini-grocery stores.
The San Pancho Riviera Nayarit beach is truly the gem of Mexico. With the close proximity to Sayulita, Puerto Vallarta and other small town beaches, San Pancho offers an experience for all different types of travelers. Whether you are looking for a serene vacation, an activity filled adventure, or a little of both, San Pancho Riviera Nayarit beach has it all.
A Brief History of San Pancho
Luis Echeverria, Mexico’s President from 1970-1976, is well accepted as the founding father and architect of the charming pueblo of San Pancho. President Echeverria so loved it that he continually invented reasons to spend time here – landing his presidential helicopter on the beach at least once a week to pass time sipping coffee and visiting with the local fishermen, farmers, and their families. At the end of his presidency, he decided to exercise his political privilege and authority, and claimed the entire area of San Pancho for his own.
Echeverria set out to shape San Pancho into a model of self-sufficiency that third-world countries everywhere might emulate (hence the name of San Pancho’s main street – Tercer Mundo means “Third World.” Also, all of the other street names in the pueblo are named after third-world countries.
The “homes” that existed in pre-1975 San Pancho were simple grass huts or roughly constructed cinder block houses – all without electricity or running water. Echeverria spent hours outlining his plans to the locals, who had come to admire and trust him, in order to enlist them in helping him to realize his dream. He convinced them to bring friends and families from neighboring towns to help with the labor – and in return, these workers were each given a nice plot of land and a fully furnished house.
The newly recruited workers labored day and night over the next year to lay the cobblestone streets, to install plumbing and electricity, and to build 20-30 modest homes (most of which are still standing today). All of these houses were in the area from the beach to the church and a little east to the hospital. Each house was identical and each came with standard furnishings, much like the old “company towns” of the depression era in the United States.
The houses were built very close to the sidewalk– typical in the Mexican culture – but they had large parcels of land behind them as part of their land grant. As the children grew and married, they constructed their homes in the compound behind their parents’ houses. The San Pancho project also included the building of schools, to include a kindergarten, primary and secondary school. The town plans also included an agricultural university, but it was never finished.
The re-creation of San Pancho also included the construction of a then state-of-the-art teaching hospital (which still serves San Pancho and the surrounding villages). The land surrounding the pueblo was fertile and vast, so acres of fruit orchards were planted in the unused land. Factories were then built to process all that fruit – providing yet another source of income for the new residents. Those factories still stand at the entrance to San Pancho, but are no longer used for their original purpose.
Because fishing was, and still is, the passion of the locals, Echeverria erected a modern fish processing center (still standing, but unused) located just behind the town plaza. This is where the fisherman would bring their day’s catch to clean, display, and sell. Today, restaurant owners from Puerto Vallarta and other villages still flock to San Pancho to buy fish because of its freshness and abundance; however, now they go directly to the fisherman’s homes to make their purchases.
In Mexico, the church is the heart of the community, so early San Pancho settlers built themselves a small church and a town plaza in order to have a place to congregate and celebrate the many events of their lives.
Echeverria had planned to live out his life looking down upon his creation, so he staked out the most beautiful plot of land – the beachfront peninsula that separates Sayulita and San Pancho and built an 87,836 square foot palace with nearly a mile of beachfront.
The town was nearly complete when Echeverria’s 6-year term ended – and he was forced to flee the country. After Echeverria left, his prime property, called President’s Point by the locals, sat deserted for 20 years until an American real estate developer purchased and refurbished it.
San Pancho was left to survive and thrive on its own – and thrive it did!
Modern Day San Pancho
San Pancho is still a relatively undiscovered piece of paradise, hidden along the largely unspoiled coast of the state of Riviera Nayarit, Mexico. This quaint little fishing village has become increasingly popular with visitors from all over the world who come here to enjoy the peaceful setting, sparkling sea, and incredible sunsets. San Pancho is surrounded by a lush palm rain forest, the Sierra Madre mountain range, and the Pacific Ocean, which provides locals with a warm, tropical climate. During late October through May, San Pancho enjoys warm days, but somewhat cooler evenings, and almost no rainfall. June through early October tends to be hot and humid with a sporadic tropical rainfall throughout the day.
Here you can enjoy everything from simple (but delicious) taco cuisine to sophisticated European dining experiences.
San Pancho’s close proximity to Puerto Vallarta allows for quick access to the many amenities it holds as one of Mexico’s most popular tourist beach resort towns. This also means it’s easy to scurry back here at the day’s end to the tranquility that defines San Pancho.