Puerto Vallarta is one of the most visitor-friendly destinations in Mexico, and a personal favourite of the Travelling Boomer. But besides its great beaches, good restaurants, and spectacular whale and bird watching, PV also has a lot of memorable neighbours — little spots where you can kick back and just enjoy the Mexican sunshine while the waves roll in.
I’ve written about a couple of them here, but there’s another special place just a boat ride from downtown Puerto Vallarta: it’s called Yelapa. Basically, it’s just a little beach town, but its isolation on a dramatic bay on the Pacific coast has let it evolve into a unique destination, a kind of happy, bohemian village unlike anywhere else. If you’re spending some time in PV, a visit to Yelapa is not to be missed.
The best way to reach Yelapa is via the boat launches that leave from a couple of places in town, including the new pier on Los Muertos Beach. The ride out is 20 to 30 minutes, and the views as we cruised along the coastline were interesting, with holiday getaways tucked into the green forest that rises up from the sea — Puerto Vallarta’s version of urban sprawl.
Yelapa itself is located on a beautiful, blue bay with the town on one side and a few hotels and cottages on the other. In the middle is a long, beautiful beach with a row of beach restaurants and beach chairs where you can lie out and catch some rays. My boat ticket included a drink at one of the restaurants, and what goes better with fresh fish tacos than a cerveza?
But just hitting the beach isn’t getting the full value of a visit to Yelapa. There’s a very cool village to explore. Problem is, to get to it you have to wade across the river that meanders through town. There’s some good news, though: the river is about six inches deep, so just drop your sandals and walk across.
The walk up into the village was fairly steep, but it was well worth the climb just to catch a little of the laid-back, post-hippie vibe that seems to rule this little place. Strangers talked to me as if I were an old friend, some spending their winter in town, others just passing through and stopping at one of the hostels or campgrounds that dot the narrow streets.
“Stay for the night,” a girl from Vancouver told me. “They’re playing music down the road. It’ll be great.” I was tempted, but my hotel was paid for in PV and I’d brought nothing but my sandals and a camera.
The village itself is a charming place, with brightly painted buildings, little houses with hibiscus flowers at the door, and here and there a beautiful view of the bay and the little boats moored along the shoreline. At the end of the road, a cluster of houses clings to the cliffside — about as far from civilization as you can get without hacking through the jungle.
There are restaurants and cafes here and there, as well, so if you’re only visiting for the day, you can sit a while and soak in the atmosphere.
Yelapa’s one real tourist attraction is its waterfall, so I joined the other day trippers up the steep path to the place where the water splashed down from the cliff above in a long, beautiful stream. It was a cool, shady retreat from the afternoon heat, and a good place to wade in and get wet.
Along the way, I found a malachite butterfly, one of Puerto Vallarta’s special sights. They look like they’re made of stained glass, and to me, seeing one is good luck — another special moment in a day spent in a special place. There were souvenir peddlers too, but here they didn’t seem as annoying as usual — some of their wares were kind of appealing.
Then back across the river to the beach for those fish tacos and my cerveza, with the ocean breeze cooling the air. I’m told some days the “pie ladies” come by with some fresh slices of dessert, but I must have missed them. Still, was there anywhere else I’d rather be on a hot afternoon in Mexico? As they say around here, a palapa in Yelapa is better than a condo in Redondo.
As we cruised out of the bay, the boat stopped at one of the docks along the shore to pick up a family with their luggage, on their way home from a Yelapa holiday. I envied them — on my next visit to Yelapa, I think I’ll stay.