Sancho Pancho Mexican beach town as it is with photos

Sancho Pancho, Mexican beach town as it is with photos

San Pancho is only 33 miles from Puerto Vallarta but I thought it was a world away.

Beach Surfer Dog San Pancho Mexico Travel Freelance Photograph

Surfers and dogs share the sand in San Pancho. Lisa Marion Smith

One of the main reasons I booked San Pancho over Puerto Vallarta is its smaller size.

Located 33 miles north of Puerto Vallarta with a population of 300,000, San Pancho is a much smaller community with a year-round population of just 3,000.

When November peaks for tourism, that number rises to 4,000 with the influx of North Americans who come for the warm, dry winters.

I was one of them and traveled with my boyfriend in November 2022 to San Pancho on a direct 3-hour flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport in Puerto Vallarta.

I thought the packed plane would be in a party mood and I spotted several bachelorette parties and large families. Feeling this vibe, I was once again delighted with my decision to go to San Pancho.

When we landed we got off to find a somewhat hectic taxi and ridesharing scene. I was glad we booked a private car through our hotel.

For $160 round trip, we boarded a waiting SUV to drive to the hotel. As the car headed north through Puerto Vallarta en route to San Pancho, we passed the very outposts of the chain I wanted to avoid on vacation: Starbucks, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Marriott.

Then we left the freeway onto a dual carriageway with no streetlights and dense jungle on either side. As we approached San Pancho, I was immediately struck by how this small, intimate enclave contrasted with its much larger neighbor to the south, Puerto Vallarta.