Glossy green leaves and earthenware vases, soft macramé against raw brick, platform beds scattered with patterned throw pillows: adults-only stay Agua de LunaBoutique Hotel knows that sartorial clout is earned by nailing the details. And, they keep racking up points, for decorative screens that shroud the building and keep it cool, wicker Acapulco and swing chairs set on balconies and Huichol embroidery, all of which gives life to Mexican minimalism and adds a flavour of the breezy, beachy San Pancho setting. There’s style and substance here right down to staff who’ll remember your name, a light, bright bistro, and a roof terrace for socialising and Jacuzzi soaking. All in all, this Luna stay is notching up stars.
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One breakfast at Amaryya; GoldSmiths also get a room upgrade (subject to availability)
11am; guests staying later than 11.30am will be charged for another night. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £158.21 (MXN3,800), including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast; a selection of bagels, pastries, sandwiches, smoothies, fruit and Buddha bowls, plus coffee and tea are served at the bistro.
True fact: this palm-lined stretch of coast is a touch more inspiring than a makeshift deskspace or kitchen table, so bring your laptop and embrace digital nomadism in the hotel’s sunny open-air workspace.
At the hotel
Rooftop lounge, communal workspace, golf-cart rental (for a charge), free WiFi. In rooms: TV with Roku streaming, minibar, air-conditioning, ceiling fan, bathrobes, beach towels, and Vervan bath products (made nearby in Guadalajara). Some rooms have a terrace and some a Jacuzzi.
Our favourite rooms
This isn’t patchouli-scented, flower-crown-sporting, necklaces-janglier-than-a-windchime bohemianism; it’s refined and informed by Mexican minimalism. Here a statement handicraft (a macramé hanging, woven basket or piece of colourful Mexican embroidery) takes pride of place; walls are soothingly white or painted in cheery shades from coral to turquoise; and beds are supremely comfortable. Each of the 15 suites is different in style and has something to charm, but Palmeras (suite nine) and Luna (suite 15) each have a terrace with a private Jacuzzi, making them all the more amorous.
The hotel’s a sociable sort with its buzzy lounge space, stop-and-chat bistro and communal workspace, but things get especially effervescent on the rooftop, where there’s a Jacuzzi to bubble away in with a glass wall to maximise the view. It’s shaded under a vaulted bamboo canopy with views of lush coconut trees and the ocean in the distance, making it an excellent sundowner spot. And on the ground floor in a tropical garden, there’s an L’shaped heated saltwater pool to drift along in.
There’s no spa onsite, but you can stretch yourself with yoga classes each weekend on the roof deck.
Ok, so recreating the hotel’s look in extremis might mean a move to Mexico or some serious landscaping, but you’d be surprised at the transportational effect placing a locally made basket or hanging in your home can have. So, save some space for Huichol-made handicrafts.
The hotel will rent you a golf cart for an environmentally friendly way to roam the town.
If your stay here is of the ‘do not disturb’ kind, well, you’re in luck – only over-16s can stay.
There’s a water-treatment plant onsite and the hotel has 160 solar panels, which provide 45 to 50 per cent of energy for the hotel. The hotel is designed to improve air flow and keep things cool in warmer months, for example traditional Mexican design elements such as decorative celosia walls made of hollowed-out bricks. Food is locally sourced and seasonal and the hotel has eco-friendly bath products, cleaning materials and lightbulbs. And, some of the seating is made from recycled plastic.
The views are better on high, so take your drinks on one of the roof terrace’s sofas.
ake a chic chameleon-esque approach with macramé tops and dresses, geometric prints and splashes of bold colour to blend in with the fashion-forward environment.
Café Amaryya bistro is a cheerful, casual hangout spot painted in sunshine yellow, with reach-to-the-heavens ceilings. Head here for pastries, artisanal breads from a bakery in Sayulita, breakfast muffins and fruit bowls, washed down with local tea and coffee or smoothies.
Breakfast runs from 7.30am to 12 noon, lunch till 3pm and then food is served till 10pm.
Agua de Luna Boutique Hotel sits on a charming, cobbled and tree-lined residential street in the centre of freewheeling seaside town San Pancho (AKA San Francisco), just a few-blocks from a Pacific-lapped beach on Mexico’s Nayarit Riviera.
Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport in Puerto Vallarta is the closest to the hotel, just over an hour’s drive away. Direct flights arrive from major cities in Mexico, the United States and Canada, but those travelling from further afield may need to stopover in the States or catch a connecting flight in Mexico City (around a 90-minute journey). The hotel can arrange return transfers for US$150.
San Pancho is a drop-and-flop destination that’s handily sized for exploring on foot. However, it’s just one of the beauty spots strung along the Nayarit Riviera, so heed the call of the coast and plot out a road trip of picturesque playas, thriving marine parks, ancient petroglyphs and more – plus a stop in Puerto Vallarta. Wheels can be acquired at the airport and there’s free parking onsite. From the airport, follow the federal highway 200 to San Pancho.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel is a space where you can take a breather in a living Instagram feed. Aside from weekend yoga classes and restful spells in the pool and Jacuzzi, there’s little to do aside from relax. San Pancho (AKA San Francisco) takes an equally carefree approach to life, but there’s plenty to entertain. A formerly sleepy pueblo where fishing was the main pastime, it’s kept more of its small-town feel than nearby surf spot Sayulita, attracting a community of artistic and holistic sorts, who are passionate activists in conservation, preserving local culture, and, well, spreading the love. See this attitude put to work at spaces such as Project Tortuga, which protects and educates about sea turtles, or Entreamigos Community Centre where you can volunteer your services. Once you’ve done your good deed for the day, hit the beach, which is just three blocks from the hotel. Wild and picturesque, it’s golden sands are set for sunbathing, and the winds blowing in from the Pacific make this an ideal surfing (or kitesurfing and windsurfing) spot. You can also hire a boat for a sailing jaunt along the coast or head out with the local fishermen for a sport-fishing session. Snorkelling is also very rewarding around these parts – famed ocean-enthusiast Jacques Cousteau spent much of his time exploring the waters along the riviera and out to the Marietas Islands, where you might see whales, dolphins, rays and more, depending on the season. Try to arrange a tour to the main island at low tide, so you can experience the ‘hidden beach’, a stretch of sand and aquamarine water secluded in a cenote-style cave. You don’t have to go far for Jumanji-esque jungle adventures, so bring your hiking boots or whizz through the canopy on a zipline – or immerse yourself in the profuse greenery of Lo de Perla garden. And, follow in the gauchos footsteps (or hoofprints) with a riding lesson at the upmarket La Patrona polo club – San Pancho’s most exclusive establishment – where you can also watch matches while brunching at the attached Tierra Tropical Beach Club. And if the hotel’s interiors have inspired you to add some Mexican flavour to your home, trawl the boutiques along the Malecón for Huichol Indian handicrafts or visit the market in Plaza Principal each Tuesday.
Dressed with decorative tiles and hung with star-shaped lanterns, indoor-outdoor eatery Mar Plata is one for lovers. Its menu mixes local and French flavours in dishes such as roasted bone marrow with sautéed corn and pickled mussels, and surf ‘n’ turf charcuterie. Bistro Orgánico has an impressive eco-friendly ethos, sourcing ingredients from local and sustainable sources. Their menu focuses on plant-based and seafood dishes, with dishes such as pepper-leaf quesadillas with pumpkin flowers and green-tomato sauce, or fish from local waters in spicy Oaxacan-style Chintextle paste.
If you can’t face a night of mezcal shots, Cervecería Artesanal San Pancho is an excellent alternative, only serving craft beers from Mexico in stylish surrounds.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this beach-chic boutique stay in sun-magnet San Pancho and shown off their snaps of sea turtles and translated their mellowed-out attitude into their day-to-day, a full account of their coastal break with a spot of activism will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Agua de Luna on the Nayarit Riviera…
Much like Agua de Luna hotel’s lyrical name – which translates to ‘water on the moon’ – the stay itself is a rare and opportune find, set on Mexico’s beach-blessed Nayarit Riviera. It was formerly the holiday home of a young family from Guadalajara who fell in love with San Pancho, a hippie haven with a conscientious heart. The hideaway has a warm, homey feel, so while your suite is impeccably well dressed, you still feel you can rumple up the bedlinen, curl up on an Acapulco chair with a good book, or potter about leaving pool-wet footprints on the cool concrete floors. Easygoing is the prevailing state of mind here, whether you’re hanging out in the rooftop hot tub, committing the sweeping jungly views to memory for later-date pick-me-ups, or drawing out a coffee break in the bistro.
As a resident of San Pancho, the hotel looks and acts the part: its grown-up bohemian accoutrements of macramé hangings, jumbles of printed cushions, wicker baskets, splashes of vivid colour here and a natural-stone feature wall there captures the community’s creativity (artists, musicians, healers and even circus performers have set up home in the town); while it’s eco-friendly practices (solar power, water treatment onsite, and local, seasonal food) chimes with the town’s fervid conservationism. Rooms are also named and styled after the area’s natural elements. You’ll be on first name terms with the staff by the time you leave, and the beautifully designed open spaces encourage you to strike up new friendships; and the hotel’s adults-only so there’ll be no interruptions by tiny pitter-pattering feet. So, while Agua de Luna feels delightfully down to Earth, its dedication to looking sharp, its warm and inviting nature, and its pitch-perfect placement by the coast make staying here an out-of-this-world experience.