san pancho pleasure
There is few destinations that elicit a drifter spirit quite like Mexico; for Americans at least. From age-old story telling, to music and films it once was portrayed as if a passage of manhood. Such a time may have long past but the experience in which the idea exists can still be found. One that is off the beaten path, of course, yet still perfectly accommodating in an old-soul-sense of vacation. With well kept and personal accommodations immersed within a small community. A fantastic traditional and modern eating scene. And all of it simply navigated by foot on the oceans edge surrounded by lush green jungle. Just an hour taxi north from the Puerto Vallarta airport you arrive in the simple pleasure of San Pancho.
An arrival that can land you beachfront if you choose. But, the experience to be had really comes with one of several boutique hotels just a short walk away. Although the best beach in Mexico, and surely to be enjoyed, the real pleasure to this destination is the community. A small, sleepy cobblestone town that currently rests in harmonious balance between local living and visitor enjoyment. A small cobblestone strip leading to the beachfront hosts a line of fantastic restaurants, bars and shops. But its really the side streets that have small intimate boutique hotels and restaurants intermixed throughout local housing that makes this visit special. And unlike the neighboring community of Salulita, San Pancho stays pleasantly quiet into the evenings. But do expect a rooster in morning. So there's really only one way you should spend your first evening and that's sunset drinks and dinner on the beach.
If you're interest is more dinner focused La Perla is your spot. But just to left with a great open wooden bar and deck you have La Tarraya. It really sets the tone for you're time in San Pancho with live music in the evenings, great views and great local bites alongside their tasty refreshment offerings. Its the sunset spot so plan to frequent. After that pleasure the next pleasure begins with an evening walk back through town to you're chosen hotel. There's some really great boutique choices, fitting to modern style preference, but Hotel Casa San Pancho is the pick. It really just accents you're time in San Pancho in such a traditionally relaxed, yet elegant way. A miniature rust colored fortress with an open-air lobby/balcony area, overlooking a small and enjoyed pool area. Breakfast is prepared on the balcony everyday to enjoy in the open air of the mornings. Although your host will gladly prepare drinks or meals at any time of day. The rooms are simple but pleasantly comfortable, the service is outstanding and all at an unbelievably welcoming price.
The mornings are something special around here. Plan for several cups of coffee and your favorite read to go alongside breakfast. For my first morning around town I did something I've never done before. And I think it says a lot about visiting San Pancho. After breakfast I took a short stroll over to El Estar Yoga Studio and really enjoyed the start to my day. A tranquil hidden garden with an open air mat room behind streetside gated walls. Just one of many quaintly hidden to-do's around town. The rest of the day I spent walking the entirety of every street, which isn't many but every step and view is a pleasure. Finally sitting down for lunch at Bistro Organico on the back patio of the boutique Hotel Cielo Rojo. A perfect pairing for a morning with yoga and another great chance for you're book alongside. Taking my time, I eventually made it back to the hotel where I spent the rest of the day by the pool. Refreshment and book alongside. Locations like this you find yourself thinking and anticipating the next tasty meal.
And I surely was. But before dinner on the strip it was cocktail hour for sunset on the beach back at La Tarraya. And once again a perfect sunset with a freshly made cocktail and some live funky/jazzy music. A very habit forming procedure for sunset around here. Now, San Pancho is a foodies paradise so you're only repeat really should be La Tarraya for sunset, and understandably so. But do absolutely make a point to try the various options during you're time. So for me it was just a short skip back up the street for dinner at Restaurante Limbo. An unforgettable modern take on real traditional Mexican offers. Really a very cool stop, and streetside of course, right on the cobblestone strip. And that's whats unique, rare and outstanding about this visit. The balance. It's a perfect mix of traditional and modern option whether food, accommodation or feel. And maybe that in-itself is not necessarily unique and rare for a great location found around the world. But for Mexico, to find this in such a small, safe and quiet location perched on the ocean is. And residents are proudly doing their best to keep it this way.
The next morning I gladly arose to my balcony breakfast, book alongside, and enjoyed slowly for an hour or two. I couldn't help but think how much it was like a jungle morning breakfast scene, of a drug kingpin, in an 80's flick. Excellent mornings. Then it was on to activity day which could be surfing or hiking north or south. Now looking back I regret not getting out in the waves but I went with the hike north to see more of the area. More of a long walk than a hike and nothing to write home about but surely a day well spent. A remote walk through a canopy jungle with old and new secluded retreats. And some must-see secluded beach stops perfect for a brake. As for swimming its pretty rough around these parts for that. Out and back, with a beach stop, you're looking at a good 3-4hrs and ready for the taco stand and some pool time on return. For my last evening I saved a special little joint tucked away on one of the side streets. Ikan Cocina Marina is sushi style approach to taco's and local dishes. Another modern take on the fresh local cuisine and another unforgettable walk-away in my leather slip ons. That night I finished with a night cap on the balcony and mentally thought through my next couple days in Old Town Puerto Vallarta.
I took my time and thoroughly enjoyed my last breakfast on the balcony before preparing for my afternoon shuttle. A perfect stay and a calming refresher. Then the next thing I knew I was back in my favorite loud and obnoxious city. Old Town Puerto Vallarta. Which is ironic that I enjoy it so much because I'm not there to party nor do I even stay out late. Its just something about the expat living style you can grab for a couple days in the hustle-n-bustle of the seaside town. And it all starts with my return stay at Hotel Posada de Roger. No frills, simple, well kept, great pool at a great price. Expat accommodations at its best. For the next couple days I just settled in and followed a pleasurable routine as If I lived there. Mornings at the cafe, book alongside, at A Page In The Sun. Then a long walk through town before grabbing lunch at Marisma Fish Taco. Then some pool time before a happy hour refreshment at Bar La Playa. And of course dinner, fantastic dinners. Two new finds hidden away with all the personality of Old Town. Jorges Hideaway Shrimp Shack and far off the beaten track Red Cabbage Cafe. Both solid A+ and reserve in advance.
The wonderful drifting days in and around Puerto Vallarta, some of the best you can find. The kind that have you thinking of you're return before you've even left. The expat drifter life.
ProTip: With some extra time take a boat ride out to Yelapa for a night. Shuttle rides are just steps away at the Old Town pier area.
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