I love a day trip from Puerto Vallarta to Yelapa.
Above: Returning from Yelapa in style, with a little extra help. Now, you depart from a new pier in Puerta Vallarta's Old Town romatic zone. Still, nearly all boats from Yelapa board you in the surf, which is part of the fun.
Who could resist such a sublimely beautiful place that takes you back to a Mexico without traffic and excessive noise? A place where you can totally relax?
That no roads reach Yelapa provides a big part of its charm.
Set in a cove, Yelapa offers four distinct areas to explore.
1) Yelapa beach.
2) The south shore. The photo above looks down the beach from the south shore. A short hike from the south shore waterfront takes you to the waterfall described below.
The usually easy-to-wade Rio El Tuito (the Tuito River) separates the south shore from the beach.
However, be cautious during the rainy season. In the photo, you’ll notice a rather robust Rio El Tuito draining into Yelapa Cove after a series of storms. I waded across that day, but with someone very familiar with the crossing.
An 8 to 10 minute walk upstream brings you to a safer option, a pedestrian bridge.
3) The north shore, less populated than the southern one, offers nice views.
4) The “inland village,” the heart of Yelapa, where many locals live, starts immediately in back of the beach clubs and extends quite a ways inland. Although few day-trippers visit, I enjoyed exploring this neighborhood.
Both the north and south shores have docks, but most boats let you off in the surf in front of the beach clubs.
Most visitors come to Yelapa to relax on its beach, but you can be as active as you wish.
Sheltered in a cove, Yelapa seldom experiences very rough surf, unlike so many Mexican Pacific Coast beaches.
In my experience, Yelapa lacks the overly agressive vendors found on some Mexican beaches. Not surprisingly considering where they live, Yelapa vendors tend to be laid back.
Here one had offered the chance to pose with a local iguana.
Domingo seen on the left owns Domingo's, what may be the most popular beach club.
When not extremely busy, this man loves to socialize, often joking with women guests. “What happens in Yelapa stays in Yelapa,” he told one. “But, I am a good Catholic lady,” came the reply, with a laugh. I’ve enjoyed this place.
The beach becomes wider and less crowded north of the beach clubs. On one visit, I enjoyed a simple but pleasant late breakfast on the beach at the Hotel Laguita in that area.
At least leave your beach chair to hike to Cola de Caballo, the closest waterfall. There are other local waterfalls, but this one works well if you have just a day in Yelapa and don’t want to spend much time away from the beach.
Access Cola de Caballo from the south shore, not from along the Rio El Tuito. Its easy-grade trail begins before you reach the main pier.
Any local can point the way to the waterfall. “¿Dónde está la cascada, por favor?" or simply ”¿La casada?”
Although paved, the trail to the falls becomes slippery during the rainy season due to moss. Use care. This shows its initial more "urban" section.
By the way, don’t worry. A tour group packed the trail in the photo above. That’s not the usual experience.
Slippery moss also hinders accessing the awesome swimming pool below the falls. In this case, the woman in the foreground looks worried, but a Vallarta Adventures employee stands ready to help.
You get great views of the waterfall from an adjacent terrace.
Note that Cola de Caballo becomes less impressive as the dry season goes on and may dry up altogether by May or so, until summer rains come. The photos above show the waterfall in September.
“Main Street, Yelapa” runs inland from just behind the beach clubs. Although no cars or trucks make it to Yelapa, some locals use small-motorized carts on this path.
Interestingly, the path shown stays remarkably clean, with recycle bins at the ready as you walk.
Locals and longer-term visitors flock to several cafes and pubs in the village, as well as various stores.
In session, you’ll also see horses and mules at a local school. In lieu of school buses, these bring kids in from local farms.
Locals now include several generations descended from the hippies who settled here during the 1960’s and 70’s. You may notice gringo-looking children chattering in perfect Spanish!
As mentioned, no highways reach Yelapa. You must arrive by boat, either on your own or with a day tour group.
Above: You may be in Mexico, but being at sea still feels cool in midwinter.
Schedules and departure points vary wildly between summer and winter peak season. Please check locally.
Several boats for independent travel leave from the Marina closest to larger Puerto Vallarta resorts, but most leave from adjacent to what remains of a pier at the Los Muertos beach end of Francisca Rodriquez (a street in the Romantic Zone, just south of the Hotel Plaza Los Arcos). You’ll notice several ticket vendor stands there.
Above: This fascinating couple lives on a resort island in U.S. during summer and then spends winter in Mexico. I so wanted to talk more with them, but they, their dog, sleeping bag, and surfboard hopped off at a tiny village on the way to Yelapa. To them, Yelapa, in spite of all its charms, has become “too touristy.”
During summer and until peak season, book each direction in advance and pay for a roundtrip, because so few boats make the trip.
On the other hand, during peak season, it’s usually best to book one-way, without buying a roundtrip ticket. That means you can come back when you wish on whatever boat is available, as long as you don’t wait until too late in the day. Beach clubs will hail a boat for you.
From Los Muertos, expect to pay around 125 pesos one way for the approximately 45-minute to an hour-long trip or 250 pesos roundtrip.
In order to save money, you may be told to take a Boca/Mismaloya or “El Tuito” bus from near the cathedral in Puerto Vallarta to the village of Boca de Tomatlan (see my post Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens for departure details) and then board a boat for Yelapa at Boca’s beach. However, that means not seeing a significant part of the beautiful coastline from the water such as the scenes at Los Arcos above, a shame.
Wear waterproof shoes or sandals with good treads designed to stay on in vigorous surf. Otherwise, you and your delicate camera may slip on a suntan oil slick boat ladder rung and land in the water at Yelapa beach.
Yelapa boats typically let you off and pick you up in the surf. Instead, the group above asked to board at the north shore pier, but the usually small size of Yelapa boats and the large and vigorous ocean swells that day made this quite difficult. The woman had some courage, as the boat level was rapidly changing a lot in relation to the dock.
You saw this lady in the first post photo upon her triumphant return to Puerto Vallarta. She seems to enjoy life immensely.
Vallarta Adventures vessels below are better designed to use Yelapa docks.
Highly rated Vallarta Adventures offers a 7-hour Yelapa tour from the Puerto Vallarta Maritime Terminal (Port of Puerto Vallarta), not to be confused with the marina, as well as from Nuevo Vallarta.
I thoroughly enjoyed this trip.
First stop comes at Majahuitas Cove, an almost completely natural spot with a reef. Vallarta Adventures furnishes kayaks and snorkeling gear, with an option to buy a new mouthpiece for around U.S. $5.00. Because you can roam over a rather large area, lifejackets are required.
Once done at Majahuitas, the open bar opens, as well as a sandwich bar with all the fixings, and the trip continues on to Yelapa, where you have two choices.
At the moment, the Yelapa tour costs U.S. $59 ($49 for children under 12), which I believe is good value. Vallarta Adventures usually offers a "three tours for the price of two" online special, in addition to its usual 15% online booking discount, two discounts I enjoyed.
If boarding at the port, have 20 pesos on hand for an entrance fee prior to going through security.
For this trip, Vallarta Adventures asks that you have at least a moderate level of fitness. Children under 3 are not allowed.
Above: After enjoying three tours, I believe Vallarta Adventures staff will do utterly anything to get a party going, including this everything is not as it seems scene with Emilio, our exceedingly full of mischief tour director in the foreground, and one of his crew on the left.
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