Our Temporary Home in San Pancho, Mexico

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We came to San Pancho to see our friends Victoria and Steve who raved about this tiny beach town on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. We were enticed by talk of whales and turtles, jungle covered hills and long stretches of empty sand. We stayed because it’s a place full of surprises.

San Pancho (officially called San Francisco) is a sleepy pueblo with one main street and a population of around 2000. But there’s a hospital; a number of excellent restaurants including a gourmet organic bistro; a fancy polo club where you can enjoy mimosas and watch a game over brunch; a community arts centre that received equipment and training from the Cirque de Soleil whose founder has a house here; a turtle conservation project; music festivals during the high season; ibogaine clinics that treat drug addicts with a African plant medicine; a skate park; an excellent multi-lingual folky band that plays every week at a bar serving both excellent pizza and gourmet teas; and the town attracts all sorts of creative, interesting people—surfers, dancers, writers, artists, musicians, yoga teachers, hippies.

San Pancho is unusual because in the 1970s President Echeverría, who had a holiday home here, used this fishing village as a model for his ideal of a self-sufficient village. He invested in the infrastructure constructing a hospital, housing, schools, and cobblestone streets. Now the town attracts a mix of Mexicans, expats, and tourists, but it hasn’t been commercialised, only gets a passing mention in my guidebook, and is much less crowded than the surfer town of Sayulita just 6 km away.

San Pancho food

Tasty eats in San Pancho: hibiscus flower sopes at Bistro Organico, cheese and mushroom quesadilla at Eva’s, veggie taco at Baja Taqueria, and pizza at Darjeeling

San Pancho polo club

Fast and furious polo game at La Patrona polo club

San Pancho, Mexico beach

San Pancho beach

The beach is a long curve of wide golden sand and crashing waves, empty except for the few beach bars near the main entrance. On my morning runs there are only a few other people around—dog walkers, fishermen, people doing yoga. The busiest time of day is sunset when everyone gathers on the beach to watch the sky light up in shades of orange and pink and the sun sink down behind the horizon while pelicans dive for fish.

San Pancho, Mexico beach at sunsetSan Pancho sunsetsWe missed the whale season, but luckily caught the last baby turtle release. It was amazing but heart-rending to see hundreds of tiny turtles getting tossed about by the waves—only a small percentage make it.

San Pancho turtle release

Baby turtles being released on the beach

We arrived in April as the season was winding down and since then it’s been getting quieter and quieter, hotter and hotter. Friends have left, restaurants closed, and the sleepy town has become even sleepier. It suits us though. The peace is just what we need right now as we’re busy working on the new, improved Trail Wallet 2.0 that we hope to release before we leave at the beginning of July.

San Pancho street

Quiet, cobblestone street in San Pancho

San Pancho street

San Pancho is a colourful place full of flowers like these bright pink bourgainvillea

Our Casita

San Pancho casita

The living area of our casita, always open to the elements

Serendipity led us to find the perfect home in San Pancho without even trying. We have been able to sublet a casita from a friend of a friend, a talented photographer who, along with the owner, has created a quirky, colourful and unique home full of Mexican artwork and creative details. It’s open air which means nature is part of the decor—one wall is dominated by the giant bamboo, and when we eat at the table by the window we can gaze down at our garden full of red, pink and purple flowers, cacti and banana plants, and the jungle covered mountains beyond. The breeze keeps the house cool, even when it’s steaming outside in the sun.

The kitchen and Simon's desk

The kitchen and Simon’s desk

The garden of our San Pancho casita

The garden of our casita. The sign says “The princess who fell from the sky”

The garden is home to birds, butterflies and squirrels. The birds are our daily soundtrack, before the crickets take over at night. The range of sounds is quite amazing—birds don’t just chirp, they chuckle and chortle, screech and squawk, and in the case of the chachalaca create a chainsaw-like cacophony. A hummingbird loves the red flowers of the tree next to the hammock so as I read I hear the rapid beating of its wings as it flies furiously from one nectar filled blossom to another, sounding like a miniature plane about to take off.

San Pancho casita terrace

The upstairs terrace of our casita with fresh mint and rosemary plants

San Pancho flowers

Some of the flowers in our garden

We are 10 minutes walk out of town, up a steep hill but it’s a wonderfully tranquil retreat…except when our neighbours play their music. This is Mexico, and Mexico is never truly quiet. We try to embrace it as much as possible but after two months of the same Mexican ballads played over and over again (with Gangnan Style thrown in for some diversity), it can make us a little crazy. Still, most of the time we feel incredibly lucky to live in such a special place.

San Pancho cat

As a bonus our casita comes with an adopted cat

San Pancho has been a very different experience from Playa del Carmen, the other Mexican beach town where we lived for three months at the beginning of the year. San Pancho doesn’t have the turquoise sea and white sands of the Caribbean, it doesn’t have Playa’s supermarkets, cinema, wide variety of restaurants, transport links, and fast internet. It does have a completely different vibe, slow and relaxed; a small, friendly community that means you are guaranteed to meet someone you know every time you walk into town; an alternative arts scene; and you are immersed in nature surrounded by jungly hills. Right now, it’s just what we need.

Update: It’s also very affordable—we’ve written a detailed post about our cost of living of in San Pancho

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51 Comments (6 pingbacks)

  1. Hello! Thanks for sharing such nice tips and your cool never ending voyage. This article it’s particularly of my interest because my partner and I are moving to San Pancho this February for 3 or 4 months. Once we’re not there, it’s more complicated to rent a place, specially due to the actual high season. So I’m wondering if you still have the contact of your beauuuutiful casita or maybe tips where I can find a place to rent. Many thanks. Keep “voyaging” 🙂

    Reply

    • It’s definitely much cheaper to rent a place once you arrive – just ask around in shops and restaurants and look for signs. February is high season though so you may struggle. I doubt the casita is available but you could try emailing jimgardner90@yahoo.com

      Good luck!

      Reply

  2. We spent a week in San Pancho about 8 years ago. It makes me happy to hear it hasn’t changed . Such a wonderful time we had. My favorite memory ishow the air smelled sweet at night like mangos. We rented a house there up above the costal axial resort area we enjoyed driving up and down the coast from here to Puerto Vallarta all the small towns along the coast are nice retreat from big commercialized beach resort areas. Most defiantly want to return one day

    Reply

  3. So excited to read about your time there. My grandmother was born there and I’m looking for more info. I couldn’t believe her records said San Francisco , Mexico! Never heard of it before then.

    Reply

  4. We are thinking of checking out both Puerto Escondido and San Pancho for long term 4 -5 month stints, but we are also interested in the area a little further north like Ricon de Quayabitos. Diid you explore that area? If so, what were you impressions & how does the area compare to SP?

    Thank you in advance for your responses.

    Reply

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