The history of San Pancho —as this town is lovingly called— is read on the walls of a compound near the beach; it is shared with images painted in acrylics, with colorful personalities and sprinkled across landscapes of this destination, considered the “cultural capital” of the state of Nayarit, thanks to the numerous initiatives carried out here to promote culture and education.
In the early part of the last century, San Pancho was a sleepy fishing village named after the patron saint, San Francisco. For many years, a handful of families fished, raised livestock and harvested fruit and coconut oil palms here.
In the 70’s, the President of Mexico, Luis Echeverria, took a special interest in the town. The story goes that he adopted San Pancho as a development model for third word countries. As a result, funds were poured into the village that at the time did not even have electricity. New wide roads, housing, schools, a fishing museum and new hospital were built.
Recent years has seen an increase in foreigners making their home here. A co-founder of Cirque de Soleil helped the community build Entre Amigos, a community centre that features a library (with hammocks), recycling centre and artists gallery. They also launched Circo de Los Ninos, a high level training and performance circus school for children. The school provides a high level of education that culminates in a starry annual performance that never ceases to amaze.
Unlike towns to the south, San Pancho developed slowly as a genuine alternative to the mass-market holiday options. The town has been successful in attracting an international population who love it’s laid back vibe, beautiful beach and wide variety of restaurants. There is live music at various restaurants most nights of the week in high season (November to May).
There are soccer matches most weekends and knockabouts each evening at The Unidad Deportivo Alvaro Jacome field on the main street into town and volleyball on the beach beside La Perla restaurant.
Surfing is one of the most popular water activities in San Pancho for more experienced surfers and regional competitions are held throughout the year.
San Pancho is home to the architectural award winning La Patrona Polo Club. Their stated goal is to promote polo and other equestrian activities at the highest level. Located in a small valley, divided by a creek and surrounded by palm groves and virgin jungle, the owners place a strong emphasis on sustainability and respect for the environment.
The restaurant is open for Sunday brunch and dinners during high season (November – May) and features Mexican and international haute cuisine. They have created a true showcase for art, culture, and the game of polo. We’ve never seen such well cared for and beautiful horses.
In 1991, concerned that the local marine turtle population was soon facing extinction, a major conservation effort was launched to protect them.
In 1992, the founding members of the group built the first turtle-hatching nursery. Other ongoing actions carried out by the organization include
- Environmental Protection
- Environmental Education
- Ecological Record Gathering
In 16 years, the local turtle population has increased from 72 to 661 nesting females. These efforts have reduced the negative effects of growing tourism and development, allowing for the San Pancho beaches to retain a large part of what makes them so magical!