San Pancho is just 33 miles from Puerto Vallarta, but I thought it felt a world away.
One of the main reasons I ended up booking San Pancho over Puerto Vallarta is its more diminutive size.
Located 33 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, which has a population of 300,000, San Pancho is a much smaller community with a year-round population of just 3,000.
As the high tourism season starts in November, that number grows to 4,000 with the influx of North Americans who come for the warm, dry winters.
I was one of them, and traveled to San Pancho in November of 2022 with my boyfriend on a direct, three-hour flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport in Puerto Vallarta.
I thought the packed plane had party vibes, and I spotted several bachelorette groups and large families. Sensing this atmosphere, I was once again pleased with my decision to go to San Pancho.
When we landed, we exited to find a somewhat frenzied taxi and ride-share scene. I was glad I booked us a private car through our hotel.
For $160 US dollars roundtrip, we climbed into a waiting SUV to go to the hotel. As the car drove north through Puerto Vallarta on the way to San Pancho, we passed the exact chain outposts I was hoping to avoid on vacation: Starbucks, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Marriott.
We then left the highway for a two-lane road with no streetlights and thick jungle on either side. As we approached San Pancho, I was immediately struck by how the small, intimate enclave contrasted so deeply from it’s much larger neighbor to the south, Puerto Vallarta.