While trendy Sayulita and ever popular Puerta Vallarta are in the limelight, it’s sleepy but hip little San Pancho (San Francisco) Nayarit Mexico around the point from Punta Mita one bay away from Sayulita and in the lee of the Sierra de Valajo that is leading the Mexican Riviera in sustainability efforts.
The town itself is small and charming. Powerful waves crash on the north end of the beach, but the furthermost southern cove is popular with swimmers although everywhere on this coast, one must be wary of the undertow.
In 1992, the Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde, A.C. created the first marine turtle nursery for Olive Ridley and Leatherback turtles on the coast to combat the pressure on the local marine turtle population from human impacts on their nesting habitat. Poaching, tourism, and development had reduced the population to two hundred nesting turtles on the beaches yearly, sparking concerns of potential extinction. The founders, along with volunteers, protect nests in the now several nurseries; many of those left behind are removed by poachers. Because of their efforts, poachers remove 6% of the nests, an impressive decrease from the 95% poaching rate of the 1980s. Since those first years of the project, the nesting turtles have dramatically increased in number, and the Group recorded 1,165 nests in 2013.
San Pancho is also home to entreamigos, a community learning center for local children and families. Entreamigos began as arts and crafts classes on the street in front of a store for local art, a one-woman operation by Nicole Swedlow. It now occupies a sustainably renovated warehouse and its offerings include a library, a computer lab, a recycling program, a re-sale shop, an organic community garden, eco-design workshops, arts, sports, and other community events and programs.
We love the Hotel Cielo Rojo, a charming boutique establishment that draws on the ecological and artistic sensibility of the town with antiques and traditional textiles. Hotel Cielo Rojo has a fabulous chef and has declared itself a non-GMO zone and innovator in serving wonderful locally sourced fruits, veggies, fish, and meats. Their sheltered patio restaurant, Bistro Organic, is the spot for the discerning to dine morning to night. The three restaurants on the beach at the foot of the main streets are quite good, and the huachinanago fried with mojo de aho fresh tortillas and beans is not to be missed.
So if a trip to old Mexico sounds appealing, be sure to check out San Pancho and its many charms.
“Enjoy in a timeless paradise” – San Pancho slogan