Mexico has plenty of vacation activities and tourist attractions, and the sleepy beach town of San Pancho is a surfer’s paradise. Rich in culture, natural beauty, and warm, welcoming people that are full of life, it may not be the first Mexican town that comes to mind when considering a beach vacation with some surf, sand and sun, but once you discover this hideaway, you’ll keep coming back again and again. Officially named San Francisco, locals gave it the nickname of San Pancho, which has stuck.
Located on Banderas Bay along Mexico’s Pacific Coast, this small town appeals primarily to advanced surfers because unlike other surf spots, San Pancho yields challenging waves that make it relatively unknown to the surfer public. That means no crowds, so you pretty much have the ocean to yourself. Even though it’s relatively undiscovered, it’s still easily accessible to tourists – only about a 45-minute drive north of Puerto Vallarta in the Riviera Nayarit.
If you’re an advanced surfer and love to hit the waves, then this is the surf spot for you. It’s located within an hour of over 12 reef breaks, and during rainy season, waves can rise up to 10 feet high. Although beginner and intermediate surfers attempt to surf in San Pancho, it’s best suited for advanced surfers looking for more challenging waves. Skilled surfers are usually the only ones able to master the waves, since they’re temperamental and break over a mix of sand and rocks (the rocks can be dangerous).
Since the waves hit heavy, hollow, and fast, this is not the place for beginners. They break too close to shore and don’t yield a ride that’s long enough for standing up, which makes for treacherous learning. Beginner surfers visiting town should stop by the San Pancho Surf Shop and ask for lessons with Alonso, who will teach them in a safer spot.
Expert surfers know that some of the best surf spots are difficult to find, and most won’t tell, but local guides may be willing to take visitors to other great spots in the area. Some vacation packages include both accommodations and surf tours, making the vacation planning process easier. These packages provide options such as private surf lessons for five days or all-day advanced surfing for eight days. Surf packages vary to cater to anyone’s skill level and preferences.
Shortboards, longboards, and funboards are available in town for rent, and rental fees cover all-day use. No matter where you surf, before you head into the ocean, check out the weather advisories provided at local surf shops. Be careful of the strong undertow in the area and always observe proper safety precautions when surfing.
On your next beach vacation, consider San Pancho, Mexico. The weather is temperate most of the year with a balmy 80 degrees (F) on land and a comfortable mid-70s (F) in the water. If you’re visiting this quiet tourist town and are planning to do some surfing, the waves may not be cooperative, but there are plenty of great surf spots nearby.