Just one hour from the luxury and excitement of Puerto Vallarta, the village of Yelapa lures day trippers with the promise of rustic charm and exotic seclusion. Yelapa, meaning “gathering place,” was once just a sleepy fishing outpost, but has recently found new life as both an artist retreat and an outdoor recreation destination. As Yelapa has no streets or automobiles, visitors from Puerto Vallarta must reach the village by boat. After arriving, visitors can mingle with the eclectic locals, hike through the mountainous jungle behind the village or simply relax on the beach and enjoy the scenery. With so many possibilities just a short journey away, Yelapa might be the perfect daytrip for Puerto Vallarta visitors in search of an exotic detour.
Prior to the turn of the millennium, the village of Yelapa and its 1,500 residents were truly “off the grid.” The artists, fishermen and other locals not only lived without automobiles, but without electricity and only five community telephones. Now, despite electricity for their small businesses and studios, Yelapa is still a world away as the village remains unreachable by road. Yelapa shares the same shoreline of Banderas Bay with Puerto Vallarta, but the road south from the city turns inward at Boca de Tomatlan. Hence, to reach the village of Yelapa at the south end of Banderas Bay, day trippers must board a small cruise boat in Boca de Tomatlan.
While Yelapa and its untouched surroundings are certainly a sight to behold, the cruise to the village can also be a captivating experience. As the boat moves through the calm, protected waters of the bay, passengers are treated to an array of picture-perfect sights, both in the water and on land. On the trip to Yelapa passengers will have no trouble spotting schools of tropical fish, while the return voyage often provides incredible sunset views across Banderas Bay. When admiring the diverse landscape of the coastline, it is possible to spot everything from lush tropical rainforests and rugged mountains to sprawling mansions owned by Hollywood elite.
After reaching Yelapa, many tourists explore the lush jungles in the mountains behind the village. After passing numerous galleries and studios in Yelapa’s foothills – including the workspaces of many notable painters, sculptors and woodcarvers – hikers will quickly reach a small waterfall and natural swimming pool known as Cascada Cola del Caballo. Those able to spend the entire day in Yelapa will want to descend further into the jungle and visit the remarkable waterfall at Cascada del Catedral. As there are a number of stables and experienced tour guides in the village, horseback riding is another great way to experience Yelapa’s quiet trails.
Back in town, the pace is slow and relaxation is the favorite activity. In the past few years, a number of cafes have popped up in town, many of them near the beach. Nearly all of Yelapa’s eateries provide lounge chairs and shade umbrellas while serving everything from authentic Mexican fare to some truly incredible fresh fruit pies. Additionally, the impeccable ¼ mile beach is lined with beach chairs and hammocks allowing visitors to spend the afternoon in exotic comfort.
To reach Yelapa, travelers must take the Boca de Tomatlan / Mismaloya bus south from Puerto Vallarta. When the bus reaches Boca de Tomatlan, travelers must walk down the beach to a small pier, where cruise tickets are sold before boarding the boat to Yelapa. The cruise leaves from Boca de Tomatlan every day at 11 AM and 4 PM, returning guests to Puerto Vallarta by 5:00 PM. During the high tourism season, it is common for the cruise service to operate additional trips to Yelapa, including early morning departures and later returns. Several tour companies also offer day trips to Yelapa that may include additional destinations along the southern coast Banderas Bay and perks such as meals and recreation opportunities.
If you want to experience the exotic, eclectic side of Mexico, head down the coast from Puerto Vallarta and spend an afternoon in Yelapa.