A tiny old fishing village situated on the coast south of Puerto Vallarta. In this post, I will explain how to visit Yelapa and why I wasn’t blown away like many people were.
Everybody is talking about it as one of the trendiest beaches of the moment in the area, but no matter how hard I try, I really can’t see all the charm advertised.
One of the things that people find fascinating, and that’s probably one of the things that makes it so much in the spotlight, is that you can only reach it by boat. There is a path through the jungle that would lead you there, but it’s quite rough, and you can get through only by quod or horses.
I was also told there is a beautiful hike all the way from Bocas de Tomatlan, but you would need to go with an expert guide to avoid any chance of getting lost.
I was curious to check the place out, and I decided to venture for a one day trip, all excited to finally see that beautiful hidden gem with crystalline waters and pristine beaches.
I was also ready to stay there for the night if it were so beautiful as they described it.
To my utmost surprise, I need to apologize to the Yalapa lovers, but Yelapa didn’t really have the wow effect that I was expecting on me. Probably because I set my expectation too high, I am not sure.
It might seem a little paradox since I actually managed to take great pictures from certain angles.
Here below I will tell you all about my experience and why I didn’t like it. Please though, take it with a grain of salt, as this is just MY experience and my personal opinion, maybe you will love it. I don’t know.
ARRIVING IN YELAPA
The arrival in Yelapa by boat is just a visual ecstasy. As you enter the bay, you can see the emerald and turquoise nuances of the water lapping at the shore and washing over the yellowish sand, all that scenery framed by lush and thick vegetation of the surrounding hills a few colorful buildings.
It looked like a beautiful painting.
However, as I was approaching the beach I started to see more and more details which I didn’t like.
First of all, why is the beach so overstocked with ugly rusty beach chairs, one right beside the other, that nobody is using anyway? Actually, the fact that the beach was almost empty was just a reason for joy to me. But why keeping so many ugly old chairs occupying the otherwise so beautiful beach?
I asked to be dropped off at the pier, on the left side of the beach where I wanted to check out the hotel, located right there.
At that moment I was still excited and I imagined that it would have been a lovely place to stay overnight. I was willing to exceed my daily budget in order to enjoy the location and the beach.
Not a chance. The hotel charged 1200 pesos (60) for a shabby dark room. Such a shame, not for the price, but for the quality of the room.
The hotel boasts an amazing location, right on the cliff and the beach, actually the cleaner part of the beach, where no boat was parked and the water is more transparent. But it definitely needed lots of love and care for deserving that rate.
I wasn’t expecting the luxury of course, but clean and tidy at the very least.
I enquired about the waterfall and I was told it was located right in town on the opposite side of the bay. All right. Off I went towards my destination.
As I walk by the water, I couldn’t help noticing the crystal clear color, so transparent and clean to compete with the Caribbean sea for sure. Such beauty. I couldn’t wait to get into the water after I visited the waterfall. It would have been a short walk.
As I was approaching the other side of the bay where the town is actually built on the hill, and I was passing by the beach chairs that I was mentioning before, the color of the water started to change, to murky and the smell of gasoline was the only scent I could sniff.
As I was getting close to the hill, I found my way through the old decadent buildings up to the main road that would lead me to the waterfall. It was nice to see locals living their life, children coming out of school.
It felt like I was looking at an old painting, sometimes. There were some strategic spots in between interrupted buildings with breathtaking views of the entire bay.
The show was even made more spectacular by the river overflowing into the ocean from the heavy rains of the past days.
YELAPA WATERFALLS AND THE VILLAGE
The village is basically one road that stretches along the river behind the beach up to the hill and down again on the other side (where I didn’t go). There is a deviation on the left where you will get to the waterfall before reaching the other bay. I wouldn’t even call it a hike. It’s a lovely 20 minutes walk, although sometimes it can be muddy, so it’s suggestible to wear snickers or hiking shoes, but not necessary.
Once you get there, it’s a whole disappointment. I understand that it’s the most accessible waterfall and therefore everybody goes there to visit. I am not complaining about it. It’s just that I normally find natural places very mystical, where to sit in silence for a while and let your thoughts take you anywhere you want to be. Well, that’s not exactly what I have found there.
A huge noisy crowd that was, of course rightly, enjoying the refreshing water. Nothing mystical though! 🙂
But what annoyed me the most a guy with a beautiful huge iguana on his shoulder renting it for pictures. Those are the things that I cannot tolerate. Those beautiful animals are wild and have to stay free in their own environment, not enslaved.
I took my picture of the waterfall and run away as fast as I could.
There is another waterfall in Yelapa that is for sure more secluded as you have to walk 2 hours to get there. I didn’t want to venture into the Jungle on my own and I missed it.
You should either go early morning and ask a local if they know a guide that is available or, even better, stay in one of the hotels there, I would suggest Casa Bahia Bonita, as you will be more protected from insects and jungle bugs of all sorts. But I haven’t personally seen it. So I cannot really guarantee for them. There you can ask the hotel to organize a guide for you. or if you are traveling with a companion I think you won’t have an issue hiking together.
It’s a good 2 hours to go and then another 2 to come back. So I was told.
On my way back from the small waterfall, I was excited about my swim and I would have tried one of the restaurants on the beach. I had to make a detour because the river flowing on the sea was becoming heavier and heavier and it was not possible to cross it on the shore.
I followed a group of tourists and their guide who were taking an internal road through the bush and eventually we crossed the river where it was shallower. It was a pleasant walk in a bucolic setting, and very peaceful.
At about 1 pm I was back on the beach. I have been dreaming that transparent water all day while sweating my way around the village and finally the time for a fresh dip has come.
Or that’s what I thought.
I was totally wrong.
When I arrived on the beach the crystal clear water was not crystal, nor clear. It was all murky and not for any sort of organic, marine life or seaweeds. It was dirt from the gasoline used by the countless fishing boat anchored there.
Not to mention the smell.
Some brave swimmer was trying to cool down from the heat in the same water that I am now ranting about. I didn’t even understand how people could possibly enter there.
Maybe I am too spoiled, having lived in the Caribbean for such long time.
I understand that those boats are locals’ only means of making their living, however, I am sure there is a solution not to have them contaminating all the area. It could have been such a beautiful oasis.
Therefore, I decided to leave the beach earlier than expected without my so longed for dip in the water and postpone it for the next beach I would have visited, Playa Colomito, where I had another surprise but I will talk about it on another post.
Before leaving I managed to get my coconut water from a beach vendor and it made my day, fresh and sweet and of course I had it cut and ate the soft reach meat, healthy and satisfying.
I finished up my trip to Yelapa with a good sweet memory.
TIPS TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TRIP TO YELAPA
Ok, rant is over.
Now, all that said, I don’t mean to discourage you from visiting Yelapa, but to tell you what you might find. However, if you follow these few suggestions I am sure you can enjoy the so popular village to the fullest, or at least much better than I did.
- go early, as early as you can. The first boat leave from Boca the Tomatlan at 8 am. If you get that boat, I guarantee, you will have a blast. You will get there by 8.30 and will find the transparent water I have seen, but you will have the time to get to the waterfall before the crowd and come back in time to still enjoy the beautiful clear waters. Check in the section below on how to get there.
- stay overnight. Here is a link to the hotel and apartment options in Yelapa. I have only checked the Hotel Lagunita which I didn’t really like as I have mentioned before. If you stay overnight you might be able to get to the main waterfall situated at about 2 hours hike from town. Make sure you ask around about the path and better if there is a local guide to take you.
- eat and drink the coconut on the beach 🙂
- stay positive and make the most out of your journey. All the negative things I mentioned before were not a complaint at all. They were just personal observations about how I found the place. However, I was extremely happy for having explored it and I would have probably gone back, had I stayed longer in Puerto Vallarta. I love to visit places always with the attentive eye of an explorer, without judging but just observing. And always trying to stay positive.
HOW TO GET TO YELAPA FROM PUERTO VALLARTA
From Puerto Vallarta there are two ways to get to Yelapa
- Get a taxi boat from Playa de los Muertos close to the pier in the Zona Romantica. Here below is the return schedule and price (from Yelapa website)
Otherwise, you can go for the local way and hope on a bus to Boca de Tomatlan, from Calle Basilio with Constitucion. It’s 8 pesos and 30minutes drive. Once in Boca de Tomatlan, you can get your taxi boat. Here below is the return schedule and price.
The difference in price is irrelevant but the ride from Puerto Vallarta could be a bit long.
Remember also that you can hop on and off the water taxi and you don’t have to decide in advance at what time you want to leave the beach.
Sometimes the boat guys would ask you at what time you want to be picked up because they don’t want to miss the ride (meaning the money), but you can always say you don’t know yet. and watch for a boat at the scheduled time.
You can also ask them to drop you off on a next beach along the coast and watch there for a boat to pick you up from there.
When they pass by the beaches along that stretch of coast from Boca de Tomatlan to Yelapa they always keep an eye and see if somebody is waving from the beach to be picked up.
So that’s what I thought about Yelapa! I would love to know what you think in the comments below!
FOR FURTHER READING
- Book your transfers between destinations on the trusted booking platform Bookaway
- Store your bags in the main cities and walk around freely hands and weight free with Bounce
- Check if you need a visa and get help processing it with iVisa
- Never ever leave without
travel insurance. Get complete coverage from World Nomads or long term insurance from Safety Wing
- I find all of my flights on Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, Google flights, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and always remember to compare
- Book your daily tours locally to support local businesses, or if you don’t find any reliable company, or you prefer to book in advance, check out GetYourGuide or Viator. Some of their tours are refundable up to 24h in advance.
- I rent my long and mid-term apartments on VRBO
- Book hotels with Booking.com or Hotels.com
- Compare car rental prices at Auto Europe, Discover Car Rentals
- Check out my travel planning guide if you are planning your trip and feeling overwhelmed