DescriptionChristened the “Riviera Nayarit” by Mexico's tourism developer, FONATUR, the string of beach villages along the southern coast of Nayarit state have largely escaped the condo construction evident at places like Punta Mita and Sayulita. Low-key Playa San Francisco (nicknamed “San Pancho”) isn't quite what Puerto Vallarta was like before the big tourist invasion, but it comes close.
From the signed turn-off on Mex. 200, 38 kilometers (23 miles) north of the Puerto Vallarta airport (about a 45-minute drive), the town's cobbled main street leads to a wave-pounded, deep sand beach beloved by surfers. Book-ended by jungly headlands, the long, palm-backed strand is refreshingly crowd free. A pair of palapa restaurants provide fine spots for sunset watching.
You'll find more dining along the drowsy main drag, curiously named Avenida Tercer Mundo (translation: Third World Avenue). Expatriates get their American-style breakfast fix at Maria's, a homey diner that whips up outstanding chorizo-and-potato omelets and pours an eye-opening Bloody Mary (closed Wednesday).
There's a sprinkling of small shops and galleries. And if you're inclined to spend a night or two, a couple of hotels and bed & breakfasts are just north and south of town. The Costa Azul Adventure Resort and Bungalows Lydia are solid choices.
Note: San Francisco has two ATMs. One is located inside the Mini-Super Mary convenience store on the main street. The other machine is at the Costa Azul resort, just north of town. If the ATMs are out of service (common in Mexico), the nearest machine is at the Pemex gas station about 11 kilometers (7 miles) north of town on Mex. 200.