Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is just one of the beautiful towns along the Banderas Bay. Whether you have a week or a year of time to spend in Vallarta, we highly recommend taking a day trip to San Pancho or Sayulita---perhaps both?! All the information is below--happy traveling!
To head to San Pancho from Puerto Vallarta, you can take a taxi, a bus, or an Uber. Since taxi and Uber instructions are fairly easy, here is a bit more detail on taking the bus route. Get yourself to El Central Camionera, or the Central Bus Station. This is located just past the airport in Puerto Vallarta.
Once at the bus station, head to the "Pacifico" counter and purchase tickets for San Pancho. At the time of this post, tickets are 80 pesos per person, one way. Busses leave for San Pancho every 30 minutes so no need to plan much in advance! The quality of the Pacficio bus is surprisingly nice including televisions, air-conditioning, plenty of leg room and a restroom. The bus ride to San Pancho was about 1 hour and 20 minutes total, but it went by relatively fast.
Make sure to tell the driver that you need to get off in San Pancho. This will ensure that he will yell out "San Pancho" whenever you get to the stop. Otherwise you may end up in Tepic!
Once at the bus stop, you will need to carefully walk across the highway and walk straight down the main road for about half a mile before you hit the beach.
Thoughts on San Pancho--
San Pancho is a small surfing town with a very quiet, tranquil feel to it. There are a few restaurants and shops lining the main road. Near the beach you will find 2-3 bigger
restaurants that have tables in the shade and with beach chairs and umbrellas out front of the restaurant. If you are looking to escape the noise of a big city, San Pancho is a perfect place to go. As with Vallarta, the people there seemed very friendly. The beach is beautiful--lots of bigger waves for surfing. The actual beach is HUGE so there is plenty of space to spread out and it is not a very crowded place at all.
If you're looking to spend half a day in San Pancho and then half a day in Sayulita--don't worry--this will be a breeze! Hail a cab off the main highway and ask for Sayulita. Rate is 150 pesos for the 10-15 minute ride. If you're heading to Sayulita from Puerto Vallarta, head to Walmart (located just by the Galerias Mall) and ask the attendant there which bus will take you to Sayulita. Note: These are NOT first class busses. They do not have AC and will make several stops along the way. May be standing room only.
Thoughts on Sayulita--
The town of Sayulita is considered a Pueblo Mágico. A Pueblo Mágico in Mexico is a place with symbolism, legends, history, important events, day-to-day life – in other words, "magic" in its social and cultural manifestations, with great opportunities for tourism. What San Pancho lacked in punching power in the town itself, Sayulita more than made up for it. The streets of Sayulita are lined with beautiful flags, colorfully painted buildings, and all sorts of restaurants and shops bursting with charm. If you are looking to do some souvenir shopping, Sayulita is a great place to do it! There are so many boutique shops with unique clothes, trinkets, and pieces of art. In our opinion, the beach in Sayulita is not the destination. You don't go to the Sayulita for the beach, you go for the art, food, culture, and color! A few other things to note: prices in Sayulita are going to be higher for things like food and souvenirs than in Vallarta. Sayulita is a GREAT place to learn to surf, practice surfing, or just watch the pros all day!
How To Get Back to Vallarta--
There are several different options for making your way back to Vallarta from San Pancho or Sayulita. From San Pancho, you can grab the Pacifico Bus on the main highway back to the bus station in Puerto Vallarta. Rates may vary, but we paid 50 pesos each for this ride back.
From Sayulita, you can catch the Compostela bus or take a cab. Cab rates were 750 pesos the one time we chose that route. The Compostela busses leave about once per hour and cost 45 pesos per person.
Sayulita and San Pancho each have a very different vibe--and both are absolutely great places for a day trip to Vallarta! Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any other questions about these two great places!
Until next time, Have Less. Do More. Be More.