During my stay in Puerta Vallarta, I took another day tour to visit two bohemian villages that still remain authentic, although changing a bit, as tourism becomes their primary economic base. As always, it annoys me when these tour companies make unnecessary stops at shops that take up time (who want to drink tequila at 11 am). In hindsight, I would recommend that you rent a car and drive yourself to these two enchanting villages. Ideally, consider staying there one or two days to be able to enjoy what is a very colorful, laid back habitat for artists, surfers, environmentalists, and anyone who just wants to get away and become part of the culture. I would consider returning to these two communities again, but on my terms as a couple of hours for each is just not enough time. Here is what I liked about each of them:
San Pancho, also known as San Francisco (“Pancho” is the Spanish abbreviation for Francisco) represents a community of 2,500 residents that balloons up a bit during the vacation season. What is amazing about this small charming village is its commitment to preserving the town’s culture, creating a strong sense of community, and respecting the environment. This town has a dozen small community organizations that support community life with a strong push for recycling and protecting the area ecosystem. In some way, it has a bit of a hippie/bohemian style vibe that adds to its quirkiness along with a surfers beach. I would have stayed here for a least half-day to learn about the work of these nonprofit groups and how they are able to sustain themselves.
Next stop to Sayulita is 20 minutes away, crossing over a small woodland area. As you drive into this village’s main corridor, you immediately encounter a very festive carnival vibe, a much larger community with a more robust international tourism presence with so much personality celebrating its Indigenous roots. I just hope it can stay this way.
I love the bohío huts (wooden straw and palm tree roofs) use for lodging and retail. The downtown streets are dressed with colorful festival ribbons of the iconic “Ojo De Dios” (God’s Eye)…there are so many of these Ojos de Dios seemingly watching over and blessing this community. Surprisingly, there is so much shopping and eating to be had and a nightlife of great music I felt deprived of not having enough time.
Omar, our tour guide was kind enough to hang out with me and take me to the best place for eating tacos while answering my questions about Mexico and tourism. Residents in these communities are making less than $800 per month, many make half of this amount and depend on tips to get by as rents are escalating in areas that are not as impoverished. Shared housing among relatives and friends is a common practice. With the continuous expansion of hotels and resorts, the government has made some attempts to provide more housing, but clearly not enough.
Omar guided me to the River Market, where local artisans set up tables and sell handmade jewelry, textiles, and artifacts (much cheaper than in the boutique stores) of which I was happy to leave some of my pesos there. Got a chance to walk by the beach that also draws its fair share of surfers.
Wow, running out of time and feeling a bit cheated that I couldn’t stay here longer or stay the night at one of the funky B&Bs or boutique hotels. Back into the van…. resort living sucks (more on that later), regardless, glad I came.
Photos are of both communities.