In the near two years that we’ve lived here, we’ve been able to do most of the things I list below. And I’m excited to add more as we continue to immerse ourselves in this wonderful Mexican town. Please enjoy this ultimate San Pancho bucket list! 🙂
Ultimate Bucket List for Things to Do in San Pancho
Where to Stay
There are a handful of boutique hotels in San Pancho that place you minutes from the beach and the heart of the town center. Hotel Cielo Rojo comes to mind immediately for its original, Mexican-style atmosphere and special Bistro Organico – its on-site bistro featuring sustainable food. But in truth, there are lots to choose from and the list is growing every couple of months!
Here is my comprehensive ultimate guide to hotels in the area with the best original, best modern, and best eco-friendly places to stay (Click here to read!).
Check out my in-depth hotel guides:
- Staying at the Marii Hotel Costero in San Pancho
- My Experience Staying at the PAL.MAR Hotel Tropical
- Checking in at the Eco + Chic Maraica Hotel in San Pancho
- A Look Inside Aldea Bamboo
Here are my top recommendations for things to do in San Pancho, Mexico (for short or long trips)!
1. Tour Entreamigos Community Center
Entreamigos is a community center that really embodies the spirit of San Pancho. Without it, this town would not be the same. It’s the reason we came to San Pancho and it’s the beating heart of the town! Volunteering or simply touring the center is the best thing to do in San Pancho.
Entreamigos Community Center – The 2020 motto is “Dreams without Borders”
Its foundational pillars revolve around education, the community, and sustainability. Because of their passionate efforts, San Pancho is making long-lasting positive impacts on the local environment and the community.
If you don’t have time to volunteer for a few hours, at least walk in and take a little tour! You will come out the other end feeling inspired and enlightened!
2. Spend the day at San Pancho beach
The beach in San Pancho offers a day of rest and rejuvenation. Over the years it has become more populated, but it remains small and keeps its wonderful local feel!
When we arrived last year in 2018, a construction project was underway. Now, when you visit the beach, you’ll see the “Punta Paraiso” building staring blatantly back at you. It’s hideous and this town has protested whole-heartedly to have it removed (because it is robbing the town of public beach and is putting at risk the turtles who lay their nests here).
When you visit the beach please keep this community-driven and environment-first consciousness alive! Please avoid using plastic straws, styrofoam cups, etc., and dispose of your trash properly. 🙂 If there is one thing NOT to do in San Pancho, it’s to leave your waste behind!
There are two restaurants at the entrance of the beach – the “one on the left” and the “one on the right”. Up until recently, Paul and I would always, always eat and drink at the one on the left (La Perla). Unfortunately, now you cannot use a beach lounge chair without spending a minimum of 200 pesos. Before, you could come and chill, just order a Corona and some chips. But now they’re getting greedy so we don’t go there anymore. You can still order drinks and food without a minimum charge at the tables and it’s nice to enjoy a drink while watching the sun go down over the Pacific.
3. Hit the waves! Go surfing at San Pancho Beach
San Pancho’s waves can be rough and kind of intimidating sometimes, but despite this, you’ll see a handful of surfers at almost every sunset! You can rent boards easily from the main street or directly on the beach. The price will vary but I think we paid around 200 pesos.
Surfing Tip: If you’re a beginner, walk all the way to the left of the beach and surf there. The waves tend to be smaller and gentle. It’s where we first tried surfing! I was able to stand up 3-4 times. :p
4. Eat authentic Mexican tacos
San Pancho is bursting full of local stands and restaurants serving up fresh, authentic tacos. There are several places to try tacos at – make sure you try one of each!
Our go-to taco place: Los Arbolitos! Other local Mexican taco places in San Pancho that are delicious are La Loncheria, Evan’s Tacos, El Gallo, Victor’s Taco…and more!
Also Read: 20+ Best Restaurants in San Pancho, Nayarit
5. Hike in the jungle
For those of you who like to go on hikes – San Pancho has got several hikes you can do! The first and probably most popular is the hike from San Pancho to Sayulita via the jungle and the beaches.
Take the trail at Hacienda San Pancho and follow it into the jungle. The hike comes out a beach in between Sayulita and San Pancho, where you can spend a couple of hours before rejoining the trail that ends in Sayulita. This hike will take a little over an hour to complete!
There’s another hike in San Pancho that takes you to a Buddha statue. It’s a little more challenging and will take around 2 hours.
6. Tour the Lo de Perla jungle garden
Touring the Lo de Perla jungle garden has been on our San Pancho bucket list ever since we moved here! We have only heard amazing reports about it! You get to tour the jungle’s exotic plant life including an array of magical orchids. The tour lasts for several hours and makes a great day activity to do with family or friends.
7. Go bird watching at the estuary
There is a goldmine opportunity to partake in some bird watching in San Pancho. The estuary on the beach hosts a diverse variety of birds and other wildlife which you can learn about first-hand from a local guide. We have not yet taken the tour but it’s a must-do thing to do in San Pancho you shouldn’t miss out on! I have the guide’s contact number – send me an email if you wish to get in touch for a tour!
8. Take a yoga or pilates class
San Pancho is brimming with yoga and pilates instructors, Reiki therapists, and so much more. Join a class at El Estar or head over to the Pilates studio on Tercer Mundo for a pilates or aerial yoga class. Expect to pay around 150 pesos for a walk-in class.
9. Wake up with fresh coffee
Coffee-lovers rejoice! You can get a fresh cup of roasted coffee in San Pancho! Our favorite two coffee shops to get coffee and work are Kokonati and Café Mañana. Kokonati is near the beach and whips up fresh coffee, cakes, and delicious homemade empanadas while Café Mañana offers a relaxing garden setting with homemade egg biscuits and in-house roasted coffee.
10. Watch the sunset over the Pacific ocean (one of the best things to do in San Pancho!)
The sunsets in San Pancho are some of the best we’ve ever seen! If you’re only in San Pancho for one night, don’t miss out on the sunset! Sunsets here are simply magical.
The sunsets are all different, some are blazing orange and red, while others are all the shades of the rainbow. Some folks will go every single night to the sunset! We go almost every night – but we’ve ended up missing a few here and there!
Watching the sunset in San Pancho is one of the best things to do here whether it’s for a short or long-term trip.
11. Volunteer at the turtle rescue center
If you’re here during the turtle season, don’t miss out on the chance to help release baby turtles into the ocean. We volunteered with friends back in November and counted freshly-hatched turtles from their sandboxes. The work Frank and his team of volunteers do is amazing!
Frank’s efforts over the years have resulted in the release of over 1 MILLION turtles from the San Pancho beach.
12. Grab a craft beer at La Cerveceria
La Cerveceria in San Pancho is THE place to go for craft beer. They’ve got a quaint little casita-style building on a cobbled-stone street with a bar and outdoor tables and most of the time they’ve got local musicians playing live music.
The vibe is cozy and warm and is quite a popular place for drinks among friends or colleagues. Don’t forget to try their cheese and charcuterie plates, or their fries! What more can you ask for?
13. Movie night with Ciné San Pancho
A friend started up movie nights in San Pancho called Ciné San Pancho. If you’re in town when there’s a showing, you must go! The films they feature usually are documentaries that send a strong message. The last showing we watched was Before The Flood.
The movies will be screened either in the Bodega Teatro or in the local park, in which case, bring mosquito repellent!
14. Taste the best churros in the world
I don’t know the name of the couple, nor do I have their number, BUT, there is a couple who come to San Pancho (apparently during the week in the evenings before sunset) and sell churros from the back of their truck.
The husband shoots the churro batter with his churro-gun into the boiling oil while the wife handles the money and takes care of sugar-coating your piping-hot churro.
They are the BEST churros I, or anyone I’ve spoken to in this town, has ever tasted! And they only cost 10 pesos each! Uh-mazing.
15. Listen to live music at Open Mic on Tuesdays
Listening to live music in San Pancho is another best thing to do! (There are lots, haha). You can listen to live music at almost every restaurant in San Pancho, but the live music everyone goes to on Tuesday nights is to “open mic” at La Buena Vida!
You’ll want to go early to grab a table, especially if you’re going to dine on yummy dishes and pizzas first. If you stick around San Pancho for a couple of days, you’ll likely hear someone mentioning going to open mic or la Buena Vida at some point!
16. Go horseback riding on the beach
Another bucket list item of mine to do in San Pancho – horseback riding! You can either catch the “horseman” (as I call him as we haven’t been introduced) usually exercising his horses on the beach in hopes of catching some customers (haha, like me). I’ll be back to update as soon as we’ve tested it out!
17. Watch a local San Pancho soccer match
The soccer field (or football field for some) is where you can go and watch local teams compete in a good ole soccer match. The games rack up quite the crowd and are a fun way to immerse yourself in the local life here in San Pancho.
18. Shop at the outdoor artisanal market on Tuesdays
If you’re in San Pancho on a Tuesday, don’t miss out on the local artisanal market on the Plaza del Sol from 10-2 pm. You can buy handmade jewelry, Mexican handicrafts, listen to live music (again), eat quesadillas, pizza, arepas, stock up on organic produce and beauty products, and so much more!
19. Go salsa dancing at El Gallo
San Pancho isn’t big as Sayulita or Puerto Vallarta, but there’s still the opportunity to try a little salsa dancing! Every Friday night, El Gallo restaurant features live salsa and cumbia music. They often have guest artists come to play, too. Enjoy a glass of pulque, mezcal, or a refreshing beer and dance the night away under the stars. Like with the market, la Buena Vida, the sunsets, and the community center, El Gallo is another “San Pancho staple” you shouldn’t miss out on.
20. Rent a bike and cruise around town
If you have little time in San Pancho and want to get around quicker, consider renting a bike for the day! You can rent a bike for around 200 pesos/day at La Santa Madre surf shop right next to Kokonati on Tercer Mundo near the beach. Riding around San Pancho is a fun thing to do, especially on a clear da
21. Share a bottle of Mezcal at La Baba del Diablo
Also known simply as La Mezcaleria – La Baba del Diablo is a little hole-in-the-wall pub serving primarily mezcal. Mezcal is a popular Mexican spirit made from the agave plant, the same plant that makes tequila.
Sharing a bottle among friends might seem like a lot, but in the end, everyone gets a fair share of mezcal shots at a cheaper rate than if you were to buy single shots. It comes served with fresh orange slices and three different types of salts!
22. Relax in La Parque de la Hermandad
There’s a local park that’s quite hidden just off the main street in San Pancho called Parque de la Hermandad. Otherwise known as the “skate park” because of its small skate ramp, this park is usually frequented by locals having lunch at the nearby taco stand and their kids playing off on the outdoor gym equipment.
The park is shaded by both palm trees and leafy trees and has a wall of colorful mural paintings. It’s a great place to enjoy a picnic! This park is also the official taxi stand, so go here if you need a cab.
23. Splurge on international cuisine
Are you taco-ed out? No worries, San Pancho’s got your back. When it comes to international cuisine, San Pancho just might surprise you as it did us! Dine on gourmet seafood, delicious kinds of pasta, and pizzas (even lasagna), gelato ice creams, grilled barbecue, and more! The only thing we are really missing here in San Pancho is some good sushi.
Also Read: 20+ Best Restaurants in San Pancho, Nayarit
24. Play pool (and video games!!) in a local bar
The bar’s name I don’t know, but if you go to the Nueva Galicia street (the first street on the right as you enter San Pancho), you’ll find a local bar that’s half-open, with several pool tables and a bar.
The bar owner also has 2-3 TV screens set up with Xbox’s and games like GTA, Call of Duty, and such so if you’re ever in a playing mood with friends, this bar is where to go! Plus it only costs 20 pesos/hour to play.
25. Visit the Alianza Jaguar association
The Alianza Jaguar association is another wonderful organization based in San Pancho. Its mission is to promote the conservation of the jaguar by overseeing sustainable development in line with human activities and rural communities, etc. You can learn more about them here or by visiting them in person!
26. Play beach volleyball
Bring your own volleyball to the beach to play some good old fashioned beach volleyball! There might already be a team playing that you can go ask to join, too. The San Pancho beach is pretty big, you can join a volleyball game at one of the set-up nets, or take your own ball or game and head to a quieter part of the beach to play.
27. SUP Paddleboarding
If surfing isn’t quite your sport, then why not try paddleboarding instead? There are lots of paddleboarders who come here to enjoy a row out past the waves and watch the sunset.
28. Eat brunch while watching a Polo match
One of the first activities we did when we moved to San Pancho was attending a Polo match at this random, fancy Polo club tucked away from downtown San Pancho at La Patrona Polo Club.
It was an all-inclusive brunch/sports match and it really felt like we weren’t in a small Mexican town anymore, but somewhere off on a rich resort. The experience was kinda weird as Polo matches aren’t our usual go-to sports event. Nonetheless, we had fun pretending to live the high life and explore another side of San Pancho we weren’t aware of!
29. Try your hand at circus arts at Circo de Los Niños
San Pancho is full of talent, which is on full-display at Circo de Los Niños San Pancho. More than just a building, it is a circus arts school that grew out of a circus social project in 2011, when the co-founder of the world-famous Cirque du Soleil set up a fundraiser for the youth and children of San Pancho.
Today the Circo de Los Niños is alive and well, with over 140 children participating in learning the circus arts as a way to empower the local and visiting community. But if you think the Circo is only for children – think again! Classes for adults are also available in both the Bodega Dance and Bodega Circo spaces.
I personally have been taking aerial silk classes for the past few months with my wonderful teacher, Ita. 🙂
Watch our aerial silks performance from last year! (I’m on the left dressed as Tinkerbell for the Literature Week Festival in San Pancho hosted by Entreamigos).
30. Stroll down the Eco-Art Walk on Fridays
On Fridays in San Pancho, you can stroll around downtown and shop on the street from local artists who are proudly selling their work on display for the Eco-Art Walk San Pancho. You can find anything from handmade jewelry, to paintings, poetry, sculptures, to even handmade pet collars made with the region’s indigenous Huichol art!
31. Take a Spanish lesson or music lesson
With so many bilinguals here and internationals floating about in San Pancho, there are lots of opportunities to find a friend to practice your Spanish (or another language) skills with. You will most likely come across a flyer or post on Facebook about Spanish or English classes, and maybe even some piano or guitar lessons.
If you’re ever in the area and want to brush up your French, I’ll be free in exchange for Spanish lessons!
32. Play basketball, enjoy a picnic or event in La Plaza del Sol
La Plaza del Sol is where many parties and events are held. But even during its moments of peace and quiet, you can go and enjoy the plaza nonetheless.
Celebrating for Saint Francis festival (after whom the town is named – San Francisco)!
The trees and benches offer the perfect setting for a quaint picnic. It’s also the home of an outdoor basketball court, which is often being used for a friendly competitive game!
33. Go to an Art Exhibition in La Galeria
Right next to the old location of the Baba del Diablo in San Pancho sits a small but cozy art gallery where you can go and support local artists’ work on display. The last time we went was for a friend of a friend’s photography exhibition of the sky and sea photographs. Plus, sushi and cacao water were also served! La Galeria makes a great first pit-stop on your way to the Mezcaleria. 😉
34. Attend one of San Pancho’s international festivals
Believe it or not, this tiny town on the coast of Nayarit has lots of fun festivals with international praise. The San Pancho International Music Festival is one such event you should try to attend while visiting San Pancho! Among the music festival are the cultural festival, Day of the Dead, día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, and plenty of local festivals to enjoy throughout the year.
35. Take a day trip to Sayulita or Puerto Vallarta
It’s one of the Mexican government’s pueblo magico’s and as such, attracts quite the international and local crowd. With that said, Sayulita is way more populated and crowded compared to San Pancho which remains quite local for now (although that’s expected to grow!).
Similarly, you can take a day trip from San Pancho to the capital of Jalisco – Puerto Vallarta (often referred to as the gateway to the lovely Riviera Nayarit!). Downtown PV is quite charming with its Zona Romantica, long sea-side boardwalk, and trendy squares and parks.
36. Play golf in San Pancho
The San Pancho golf course has been permanently closed as of December 2019. (Special thanks to Andrew who pointed this out!)
San Pancho has so many surprises! Did you know they had a gorgeous 18-hole golf course? It is well-kept and maintained and offers up a round of fun on a nice day! Some people say playing golf in San Pancho is one of the best things you can do, but I never really liked golf and would prefer to be out in the town hanging with the locals! This leads me to the next thing to do…
37. Rent a golf cart for the day
San Pancho is growing, but its streets remain very local and are paved with traditional cobblestone. It’s easy to walk around everywhere and get a sense of life here, but if you want to explore the remoter parts of town like near the Maraica or the mezcal bar, having a golf cart is handy. You can rent them in town for around $40-50 USD per day, I think!
38. Discover all the art murals in San Pancho
One of my favorite free activities to do in San Pancho is marveling at all the art murals scattered around town. There are at least a dozen in the Parque de la Hermandad and another dozen along the path that leads to the right side of the beach. Can you find them all!?
39. Volunteer at river & beach clean-ups
On Saturday mornings, a team of volunteers will usually set out to clean up all the plastic trash and waste polluting the town’s river that empties out into the ocean. Usually, this team is led by the Entreamigos community center, but sometimes, folks and locals in the town will host their own river/beach clean-ups.
Sure, it’s not your ideal “vacation” thing to do in San Pancho, but it GREATLY helps to keep this community one of the most sustainable in the Riviera Nayarit, not to mention probably all of Mexico!
40. Experience a Temazacal ceremony (sweat lodge)
In short, the ceremony is a mind-body-spirit cleansing with traditional Mesoamerican customs. You enter into a small closed dome, where volcanic rocks are placed in a hole in the ground. Water is poured over the top, creating immense amounts of steam. The ceremony endures for four stages – or doors – and is an experience of the senses. Feel free to reach out in the comments or send me an email if you want to learn more!
Ultimate Bucket List for Things to Do in San Pancho Mexico
Wow! Thanks for making it to the end of this article with me! Let me just finish off by saying that this is only the beginning of all there is to do in San Pancho! While Paul and I haven’t crossed off all of the items on this list, we’re getting pretty close to it and will definitely have it all completed by the time we head off to our next destination.
Are you adding San Pancho to your bucket list? If you have already visited, tell me, what was your favorite thing about San Pancho?
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