About 30 miles south of downtown Puerto Vallarta rests this idyllic seaside locale, a small fishing village predominantly perched in the peaks along the southernmost cove in the Banderas Bay. Yelapa is popular even among locals for its expansive, undisturbed beaches and crystal clear cerulean waters that are the perfect temperature for snorkeling and sea diving. Countless travelers have discovered Yelapa is an outstanding choice for a day trip, but the secluded town can make an excellent long-term home as well.
Named for an indigenous phrase meaning “where two rivers meet the sea,” Yelapa is perhaps the truest expression of an oasis in the area. Part of the reason Yelapa remains so untouched by the modernization efforts that have taken hold elsewhere in the Banderas Bay area is the location of the village itself, which is most conveniently accessible by boat. There are a few roads that lead to the outer reaches of the territory on which Yelapa is situated, but the water taxis that serve the village offer both a shorter ride and a unique perspective of the coastline surrounding the Puerto Vallarta area.
Reaching Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta is a trip that takes a little under an hour in total, but as anyone who has ever visited can tell you, it’s well worth the trip. To travel to Yelapa from downtown Puerto Vallarta, visitors must first take the orange bus that departs from outside the Oxxo on the corner of Constitucion and Basilio Badillo. At 8.5 pesos, about .50 USD, the fare for this bus is slightly higher than for most city buses to reflect the increased distance of the trip. After arriving in Mismaloya, travelers must then transfer to a water taxi that will provide passage to the village for 150 pesos–less than $10 USD–and he taxi will arrive at the main pier near the beach.
The most important thing for tourists to recognize about Yelapa is that the area is optimized for those who have called it home for generations. Resources such as electricity are limited in most areas, and those looking to experience an overnight stay in this pristine paradise are advised to bring a flashlight for travel in the evening. Cell phone and mobile Internet access are also less than reliable without dedicated solutions.
However, what Yelapa lacks in cutting edge tourist resources, it more than makes up for in natural beauty and unique opportunities. For all intents and purposes, the commute beyond the area begins and ends at the pier, which is directly on the beach to provide an inviting welcome home each day. The area is also home to several rare species of bird and an array of regional flora. From the beach, travelers can take a scenic walk into the village or take a ride on horseback along the trail to town.
Nearby, an array of local restaurants line the beach specializing in seafood delicacies. The area is also known for its baking, with slices of pie for sale across the span of the beach as well as small stands tucked into the hilly streets offering a deliciously distinctive carrot-based bread. Yelapa is also well known for a potent local spirit known as raicilla, which brings a smoky flavor and several other distinctive characteristics to this tequila-like libation.
Yelapa’s inspiring confines contribute to its thriving local creative community as well. Along with their claim to fame as the hideaways for cultural icons such as Bob Dylan, the area is the part or full time home for a litany of internationally recognized visual artists, musicians, and other visionaries. As a result, Yelapa is often the setting for art exhibitions, life musical performances, and more compellingly vibrant reflections on the joy of a life in Yelapa.
The people of Yelapa also take a focus on keeping its picturesque public spaces clean and enjoyable for all visitors, and this attitude is woven into the local culture. Recycling efforts are nearly universal in the area to offset the difficulty in removing waste from the village due to limited road access.
Another of Yelapa’s most endearing characteristics is the sense of community that defines the structure of everyday life in the area. Virtually all businesses, from restaurants to merchandise vendors, are owned by local residents, and the small town feel that results from such a close knit community is evident. Visitors who make Yelapa their home benefit from this familial spirit, giving the village a character all its own.
Yelapa’s relaxed pace and emphasis on simplicity make it an ideal option for travelers looking for a leisurely escape from the modern world. Its extraordinary scenery makes it a natural choice for active and adventurous travelers, offering unique hiking, sightseeing and zip line experiences, and the beautiful beaches are an ideal backdrop for lazy afternoons in the sun. The area is also a popular destination for water sports such as parasailing and scuba diving, as the cove is home to a diverse assortment of undersea life. Connoisseurs of art will also find the creative spirit of many area residents compelling.
Yelapa may not have many of the latest amenities of a major Mexican city like Puerto Vallarta, but its attitude toward enjoying everyday life gives it an appeal all its own. The area won’t excite five star only tourists as a long term home, but for some the isolated yet welcoming village on the southern shores of the Banderas Bay represents the best of the coastal Mexican lifestyle.