About 20 miles south of bustling Puerto Vallarta is the sleepy little, Mexican village of Yelapa. About a 45-minute speed boat ride away, the water taxi is really your only viable option for getting here since Yelapa is sandwiched in between the jungle and the sea and there are no roads going into village. I hear that a narrow road has been worn through the mountains that 4×4 vehicles can sometimes navigate, but the boat ride is pleasant enough.
I had been to Yelapa about 15 years ago and was really taken by it. In days past (and to a degree even as late as 15 years ago) it was a hippie haven and the likes of Bob Dillan, Dennis Hopper, and other cosmic minded people sought refuge, cheap tequila, and hallucinogens here. On my last visit there was no electricity and one telephone served the entire village of about 1,500. Alas both of those things have changed and the “flower power people” are either gone or dead. If they’re still here they are dropping Viagra instead of acid. Progress. Today it’s mostly visited by day-tripping Americans, Canadians, and a few hardy Europeans. Certainly a different kind of tripping than the old Yelapa.
The village is separated by a river (no bridge) into two distinct areas: Town and La Playa (beach). While the beach is idyllic, it is the town that really captures my imagination. Since there have never been any cars in Yelapa there is no need for streets. Instead it is covered by a maze of meandering lanes where children skitter about and the dogs can’t be bothered to open both eyes as you walk past…much less raise their head. I love walking these lanes as they twist about and rise and fall taking you past typical Mexican casas where family life is mostly lived outdoors. Even the kitchen sink will usually be outside. I like that. “Sorry, can’t do the dishes, it’s raining.” Perfect excuse to me.
You’ll probably want to spend at least an hour or two wandering the “Town” and then you’ll likely head to the Playa. There are now little signs that will direct you there. Sort of. Don’t worry, get lost along the way. That’s the best part. Time means nothing but just keep 4pm in your sights as that is when the last water taxi leaves for PV.
In order to get from Town to La Playa you must ford the river. At first glance it looks somewhat daunting because it appears to be flowing really fast. But just plow through as it’s not bad, not bad at all. The beach, with its smattering of palapa-style establishments is a most relaxing way to spend your afternoon. For the price of a drink you can sit in their umbrella covered beach chairs sipping, reading, snoozing, schmoozing, and looking. One thing I noticed was that the beverages are much colder now that they have electricity. Time your visit around lunchtime and then make an afternoon of it. The seafood is the freshest you’ll find anywhere and be sure to visit the oyster monger with his table set up on the beach. If you’re lucky the “pie lady” will walk by with her day’s confections balanced on her head, all freshly made that morning.
Yelapa is a great way to spend a day when you’re in Puerto Vallarta. I could see the draw of even spending a night and there are two bona fide hotels and a few other private rooms. Reservations may be tricky because most don’t have telephones, but a few people on my water taxi were arriving without prearrangements. They seemed to have no trouble. If you wait for the last boat back to PV like I did, be prepared for what feels like a dangerously over crowded situation. There are two piers in Yelapa. You’ll likely want to arrive at the one in town and depart at the one from the beach.
The ride back was pleasant enough and once I became accustomed of rubbing body parts with my VERY CLOSE neighbors, I didn’t even scream anymore after the third time we became airborne. It was just mostly a whimper and with the boat noise, I don’t think anyone even noticed.