Sayulita and San Pancho on the Riviera Nayarit in Mexico, while just a few miles away from each other, can feel like two different worlds. At least, that’s how it felt to me when I visited both i n 2019 and again at the end of 2022.
This area is rapidly changing. What someone experienced in Sayulita in 2013 is vastly different to how it is now. In a nutshell, Sayulita is more of a built-up party scene with a lot more restaurants and things to do, and San Pancho is the quiet neighbor, though it’s growing steadily, too.
Here’s what to consider when choosing between the two:
Size of Sayulita vs. San Pancho
Neither San Pancho nor Sayulita are big cities by any means, with just a few thousand people each, you will see about half the amount of people in San Pancho versus Sayulita. When we first visited in 2019, we stayed in San Pancho first and then made our way to Sayulita after. I remember being overwhelmed by how much busier Sayulita felt. There were many more golf carts, people on the beach, vacation rentals, and people partying. Still, neither town is anywhere near as big and bustling as Puerto Vallarta, just an hour south.
I found the difference to be jarring, but I like smaller towns when I travel, and had come to appreciate the peace and quiet of San Pancho. At the time, there were just a few other beach houses in the area that we stayed, about a 20-minute walk in the sand away from the main town. When we returned a few weeks ago, in December 2022, there had been a lot more construction and San Pancho had grown.
Still, the beach was relatively quiet, the downtown didn’t have the golf carts zipping around, and the whole area is much, much smaller than Sayulita.
What to do in Sayulita vs. San Pancho
San Pancho has decidedly less to do than Sayulita. Whenever we visit, we go with the express intention of just chilling out.
Both places have nice beaches, though the surf can get a lot bigger and wilder in San Pancho, particularly on the north end of the beach. I usually love swimming in the ocean but didn’t go for it on our most recent visit in San Pancho due to the swell.
Both places are known for surfing as well, though you’ll have less competition for waves in San Pancho.
Both places have yoga, pilates, and various aerial arts you can…