Ten Things to Like About San Pancho
Time’s up! Pencils down. Pass your papers to the front of the class. If you can’t answer the question because you haven’t studied (or visited) San Pancho, I’ll let you sneak a peak at my answers. Here are 10 things I like about San Pancho, whose official name is San Francisco, Nayarit.
1. An interesting history. San Pancho was developed as a company town by former president Luis Echevarría. The controversial politico built the town around a made-to-order mango-processing plant. Echevarrias’s circular, 10-bedroom mansion, now privately owned (and available to rent) has awesome ocean vistas. It perches on the promontory that separates San Pancho from Sayulita, just to the south.
2. Wide, sandy streets with hardly any traffic. Small pickup trucks and cars roll along at a leisurely pace, but many people walk or ride a bike. Built according to blueprint instead of higgledy-piggledy as many small towns develop, San Pancho has straight, gridlike streets similar to those of Santa Rosalia (a copper-mining company town on the Baja peninsula).
3. Until recently, it has “flown under the radar.” San Pancho’s lack of consistently challenging surf makes most surfers continue on to Sayulita or Punta Mita. Mexican families, on the other hand, prefer the calmer, more swimmable water at Lo de Marcos, just to the north, leaving San Pancho in supreme tranquility.
4. Its name. How many places are better known by their nickname than by their official one? Pancho is the nickname for Francisco, which in English is ‘Francis’ or ‘Frank.’
5. Good food. For a small town, San Pancho has more than its share of good restaurants. Even the guy selling massive seafood burritos does a masterful job, and more worldly entrepreneurs elevate their soups, seafood and even pizzas to culinary works of art.
6. Places to get lost. Behind the town, the vibrant jungle awaits exploration on horseback or on foot.
7. Interesting people. Among the ever-expanding ex-pat population are Europeans, Canadians, norteamericanos, and South Americans, too. And it seems like half of the people doing business along the main street, Avenida Tercer Mundo (“Third World Street”), are related. There’s lots of civic pride in this pretty town.
8. A flat, sandy beach. Walk north or south from town (the main street leads straight to the beach from Highway 200) to the headlands at either end of the beach, a distance of a little less than a kilometer each way. Small waves tend to break on shore, and a riptide makes this not the greatest swimming beach, however.
9. Plastic café tables with umbrellas on the sand. This scene is standard along Mexico’s Pacific Coast beaches, but no less welcome for its familiarity. This is a great place to while away the afternoon.
10. Good access to points north and south. Beyond Sayulita, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and Bucerías are just a bit farther down the coast, while Rincón de Guayabitos, Platanitos, and other beautiful beaches lie to the north. Puerto Vallarta is 35 to 45 minutes away, depending on traffic. A new road from Sayulita leads to Punta Mita, making the northernmost point on Banderas Bay just a short car or cab ride away.
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