About an hour north of the hustle and bustle of Puerto Vallarta's beach resorts and high-rise hotels is the sleepy fishing village of San Francisco, affectionately nicknamed San Pancho by locals. Tucked into a bay that hugs the pristine Pacific coast to the west and the densely forested Sierra Madre mountains to the east, San Pancho is home to 1,600 residents, about half as many dogs and twice as many chickens. San Pancho's more popular and party-centric neighbor, Sayulita, lies just five kilometers south. When the tide is right, you can walk there, scrambling over the rocks that separate the two towns with a proud jut into the Pacific.
Tourism's throng hasn't quite made it to San Pancho yet. There are horseback rides, jungle hikes and boat tours offered, but the town's commerce doesn't reflect much gringofication. There are a couple of mom n' pop supermarkets, a handful of modest restaurants and a "fish shop" that's nothing more than a well-traveled Igloo cooler parked in a local fisherman's back yard. If you're looking for a quick bite, many locals offer homemade tacos, gorditas and other handheld snacks from their patios.
Life here is slow, but it's a loud kind of slow: dogs bark, roosters crow, Mexican music blasts from houses, kids ride squeaky wheeled bikes, locals host parties in the public parks, trucks blast announcements from loudspeakers winched into their truck beds, horses clop along the cobblestones and scooters whiz unmuffled through the streets. But the noise is never hasty or ill-willed; it's all just a raucous reminder of the many ways to slow down and enjoy life.
You'll be seeing a lot more of San Pancho in the coming weeks. Here's just a few of the first looks: