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

51 Comments

  1. I retire in November and been dreaming of finding a place like this for us to live for 6 months of the year (November to April) on a pension of $3,600/Month. Nothing like tranquility after 35 years of working and raising 3 kids.

    Reply ↓

  2. Hi…I just ran across your article abot San Pancho.
    I am currently living near P.V. and am looking for an appartment/ casita for next Jan.( 2016) for 4 months.
    Are you still living there and do you have any leads?
    You suggested that I just go look, but it would be nice to have a connection.
    Also considering Sayulita.
    I am single, retired and adventurous with a budget. ;)
    Any words of wisdom ?
    Thank you….Michelle

    Reply ↓

    • Hi Michelle,
      I’m wondering if you found a place to stay in San Pancho earlier this year. I’m also single, retired and adventurous with a budget…am in Rincon de Guayabitos now, going to San Pancho tomorrow. Love this area. Marilyn

      Reply ↓

  3. Hey Guys!

    We’re in San Pancho now and I’m wondering if you can tell us the name of the place that you stayed in? Or if you have a contact number for them? It turns out it’s the start of high season and we’re really struggling to find a place!

    Cheers :)

    Reply ↓

    • Yeah, this is a difficult time of year. I don’t know if our place is available but you could try emailing: [email protected]. It’s his house and I’m not sure if he’s living in it or renting it out at the moment. Good luck!

      Reply ↓

  4. Hi, I am a photographer and my wife and I will be spending 10 days in San Pancho starting Dec 27th. I was wondering if you have any recommendations for interesting photo sites. I like old ruins, birds, junk cars, old rusty crusty things and of course beautiful scenics. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

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  5. Hi, Nice blog! My husband and 9 month old babe and I are coming to San Pacho from Vancouver BC for 5 weeks starting Dec 9th. I’m looking for an appt for us to rent. I’ve checked VRBO, and unsurprisingly everything is booked up for the XMas week. Hmm. I know we’re late. I’m wondering if you have ideas of low key places we could stay or how to find them (I’m open to homestays, camping, whatever, but would prefer an appt just for ease with the babe). Thanks a lot :-)
    Steph

    Reply ↓

    • Xmas is going to be difficult. You could try contacting places on http://www.sanpancholife.com/

      We usually recommend just turning up and asking around but that’s probably not the best idea at this time of year, with a baby and for a relatively short stay.

      Good luck with it!

      Reply ↓

  6. Your site is great! We’re hoping to go to a smaller town on the beach, we’re in our 60s and would love a small, quaint place on the beach or very near. We will not have a car and like to use the bus. We may start in Sayulita and want to progress N. to San Pancho and Chacala. Maybe even as far as San Blas.
    Any recommendations, thanks in advance.

    Reply ↓

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