Out of nowhere, everyone in my neck of the woods this past winter seemed to be going to Puerto Vallarta, with a side trip to Sayulita and even a few straying over to the tiny beach town of San Pancho (as it is known to the locals; San Francisco, if you are checking the map).

I was even sitting in a Cirque du Soleil performance in San Francisco (California) in late January, and overheard–during intermission–an enthusiastic conversation about a recent visit to San Pancho. Since San Pancho is probably only a couple thousand residents strong, it made me reflect once again on the smallness of the world.

There’s a reason these wonderful Mexican beach towns, and especially Puerto Vallarta have become so popular.

La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (The Church of our Lady of Guadalupe) with its bell tower topped with a crown decorated by angels.

Traveling in November was an excellent time of year to visit. The weather was warm, the energy high and several festivals were in swing — a chalk festival and the Festival Gourmet International of which many high-end restaurants were participating with outstanding menus created by guest chefs.


  • Rating: Go again, and again — there’s so much to see and do
  • Price: Affordable (especially with the current rate of exchange)
  • Safe, wide variety of food and activities
  • Improved, but some rustic area (and some lack of garbage collection)

What we liked: The ambiance, history, food, and location.

What we didn’t like: The timeshare people who try and nab you for 20 minutes before you get out of the airport and the sad state of garbage collection. Even though it is apparently free many people don’t seem to have their garbage hauled away.

Tips: While staying in your all inclusive resort might be tempting, you MUST get out and see this wonderful town and try many of the great restaurants. (Here’s a short video: IMG_6894 of a cacophony of birds in a tree in old town.)

The Malecon  is a long beach walk of many shops (some local, some international), restaurants, live music and other interesting things to look at and participate in. Missing this would be sad, especially the works of art installed along the way. Sunday night at 11pm was surprisingly vibrant.

Several fresh salsas and the menu cover.

Fresh salsas, handmade tortillas, and a huge menu make this a great place to eat in old town PV.

Don’t do the all inclusive package at your hotel. With an exchange rate of 20 pesos to the dollar (late 2016), you can get fresh salsa, handmade tortillas, a full meal, and a great margarita for under $10 with tip. I had room service breakfast every day of my stay, cocktails at the bar nightly, and usually a little something during the day to tide me over and my bill for the week at the hotel was only $60. Typically, the all-inclusive packages can run $100 a day.

Where we stayed:

Hotel Sheraton Buganvilias, PV

Villas Susana, San Francisco