San Pancho is a sleepy little hamlet twenty-five miles north of the bustle and attendant hustle of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Those 25 miles may as well be a world away, as San Francisco (known locally as San Pancho) moves at its own leisurely pace. There are a few beachfront restaurants and numerous curio shops so the inveterate tourist need not fear complete isolation.
There are, however, no jumping hot spots so those seeking more than a place to relax completely with feet up and non-stop cervezas (beers) to quench the tropical heat may as well stay in Vallarta and leave this tropical nirvana to those wishing to enjoy its unpretentious charms.
When first I stayed in this idyll, I rented a small home off the Internet. Initially, I was wary of blindly sending a check to reserve my dates but there was no need to fear. Within days, I heard from the lovely couple from Oklahoma who owned this piece of paradise and my reservation was set. I arranged for my flight and at the appointed date, I was on my way.
Interestingly enough, I was living in San Francisco, CA, at the time. The irony of flying out of a major metropolitan area to my vacation spot with the same name was not lost on me. In fact, it would become a useful conversation piece as I met others who had somehow wandered into this paradise.
The house sat on a little hill, poised above the beach. I arrived at night and upon settling in and wishing the homeward bound couple a fond farewell, I wandered down the hill to a beachfront restaurant that was located a short stroll from my new digs. After conversing with a waiter, who assured me the town held nothing of interest for what I assumed he thought was just another gringo tourist, I sat back and ordered a plate of locally caught snapper and a tall cold one.
That evening, I vowed to head down the beach the following day and explore the village at my leisure. For the moment, I was content to gaze at the myriad stars, listen to the pounding surf and contemplate my impending introduction to my surroundings. Certainly, the twinkling lights at the opposite end of the beach, held something of interest to one such as me.
For I found out later, one set of those glimmering lights, belonged to the site of a former president’s (of Mexico) vacation home. Perched on a knoll of its own, it was quite unlike the home that I had rented. It was, in fact, palatial, as a former president’s resort should be, I suppose. There were pools and various concomitant outbuildings. This, however, was the only ostentatious structure in the area.
For the most part, the beachfront comprised small vacation homes, like my rental, and apparent family compounds for urban-weary Mexico City families. Some of these sat idle and empty. Others teemed with children who frolicked on the adjacent beach. Meanwhile, their beleaguered parents sought much-needed relaxation on the blindingly white sand.
Subsequent walks throughout the town, unearthed small shops, mom and pop cafes and cantinas, as well as the trappings of any small community: schools, medical clinics and all the various and sundry enterprises that make a town function. Walks along the beach also revealed numerous beachside cafes, cantinas and bars devoted to the principle that a sun-exposed tourist was a thirsty tourist and their particular establishment was the one that held the necessary remedy to whatever ails you.
The beach, itself, already held that particular distinction for me and others like me. The soothing aquamarine waters answered for weary travelers; the stirring vistas refreshed eyes long weary of towering skyscrapers; the breezes blew balmy and cool for bodies too long confined in cramped office cubicles; while the camaraderie that locals and visitors alike offer soothed the collective souls of the gathered south-of-the-border enthusiasts.
© Stephen Alexander 2008
Another visit to small town Mexico