What can I say?, every time I go to Yelapa I have difficulty leaving
Yelapa (Yeh – La -Pa) was probably first populated by a some Native Americans of the tribe that originated in the ancient circular town of Tenacatitlan, 100 miles north, as they migrated south to eventually form Mexico City and become the Aztec empire.
The word means ‘gathering place’ or ‘meeting place’ and, although it lies on the same latitude as Hawaii, has been likened to Tahiti.
The road south of Puerto Vallarta does not go all the way around the bay but cuts inland at Boca de Tomatlan. To get to Yelapa you must take a boat from Boca de Tomatlan , Los Muertos beach or the beach just south of the Rosita Hotel. Yelapa can also be reached by mountain bike or hiking down from Chacala, high in the mountains behind the village. There are a daily cruise boats that drops tourists off for about two hours.
Best Way to get there
Take the Boca/Mismaloya bus from the Bus Southbound stop on Basilio Badillo (see Map) 8 pesos, when you get off the bus walk down to the beach (use insect repellent on your legs, lots of noseeum’s on this beach), there you will find people waiting for a water taxi and a gentleman selling tickets, better to pay on the boat, to Yelapa 90 pesos.. From Boca de Tomatlan, the water taxi leaves about every 1 hour see Schedule
The Los Muertos water taxi leaves from the pier about every 2 hours from 9:30 AM till 6:00pm, 7 days a week, during high season, there maybe less in Low Season. 160 pesos one way.
Be aware that the last water taxi back to Puerto Vallarta leaves around 5:00 PM (to Boca) – miss it and you stay the night!
Tip: If you want to spend all day and avoid the crowds of tourist who arrive on the large boats around noon, leave boca early, 9 AM, and when you see the tour boats coming – hike up the river, where there’s a nice waterfall and swimming pool, all the tourists will go to the little one behind the village. Time your return to 2:30 PM and the boats will have left.
Yelapa is truly unique. A small village of about 1,500 native residents, now with electricity that arrives by wire and not by solar cell. There used to be only five phones no roads, vehicles, 300 resident/semi-resident Gringos.
Many years ago a few gringos discovered Yelapa and found it to their liking and moved in. In those days there were no brick or cement houses only Palapas, palm frond roofs on four or more posts with maybe some bamboo walls for privacy and a sleeping loft. If you were lucky you had bottled gas, shipped in by panga from Boca de Tomatlan, or just wood to cook on.
NEW! The Internet arrives at the Cafe Bahia, get your e-mail with your coffee or wine, at the pier in town. Open every day, ‘cept Thursdays, 9am – Sunset, Sun 9am-3pm. Homemade Icecream and Yelapa Maps.
Here’s a real nice Blog from an old time resident -Faye Augustine Raicilla Dreams
In the 60’s it was ‘discovered’ by some stars of the music and movie industries. The likes of Bob Dylan, David Crosby ,Steven Stills, Graham Nash, Stevie Wonder, Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Harry Hamlin and Xaviera Hollander (The Happy Hooker), have strolled it’s beach.
Piped water from the river was eventually put in by an American engineer who married the daughter of one of the main families there, forever after called “Pipeline Jim”.
This is also a place where you can find Raicilla, which comes down from stills in the mountains behind the village. The combination of this and other substances with the total lack of lighting, for the footpaths at night, can lead to some very unique experiences!
The fact that the consumption of Raicilla anesthetizes the extremities was demonstrated on my person one night some years ago. Those many years ago the footpaths were composed of rocks and earth which, after several rainy seasons, left the rocks exposed above the packed earth. On the night in question, I was returning from a party, which had mucho Raicilla, to the palapa where I was staying with friends. I did real well,… I thought,… to negotiate the path with the aid of my trusty ‘Yelapa Flashlight’ (see below) and find the palapa and my hammock. When I awoke the next morning I found that my feet, sticking up at the end of the hammock, were covered in blood from hitting the rocks on my way home – though at the time I felt no pain at all.
The Yelapa flashlight is usually made from a Nido (powdered milk) can, supplied with a wire handle often insulated (it was too difficult to draw) and half a candle.
This works much better than a battery flashlight which all seem to have too narrow a beam and are so strong that you loose you night vision.
By the way Nido makes excellent reconstituted milk, you can even make yogurt with it.
Although some sturdy gringos stay there year round, many more arrive at the end of the rainy season, quite often staying six months till the rains start again.
You might be surprised to find croquet field, at which the Hotel holds a tournament every year. Volley ball is popular with the locals, the local girls team is especially tough – I speak from experience. Every Saturday there is a dance at the ‘Disco’, this is actually a bar/restaurant called ‘The Yacht Club’ which many years ago it was. Disco night is to be seen, to be believed, clients who can’t make it home will spend what’s left of the night on the floor.
As mentioned before, the paths in the village and across the hill to the beach are just for feet and burros/horses. Though quite a lot of bicycles now. The paths have been ‘improved’ by cementing which does, at least, stop the degradation in the rainy season. It’s still quite a hike to some places, very healthy. To get from the village to the beach will require (depending on the time of year) wading across the river mouth where it cuts through the beach. Another very entertaining project when returning from the hotel bar in the dark.
Photos: David Johnson
Every February there is a Valentines Fancy Dress Party at the Hotel Lagunita de Yelapa. Last year a couple of snowbird friends of mine Chris and his wife, persuaded me to join them and enter the ‘group’ category. Not having anytime for costume making we got three cooking pots from the kitchen and went as the 3 Potheads….. and won! We won again the next year but I don’t have pictures.
A couple of anecdotes from visitor Paul Hansen
I first discovered Yelapa in 1984. I had gone with my friend Arturo to Puerto Vallarta. I had always wanted to go there since I had seen “Night of the Iguana”. I love the idea of tropical locations. After we’d been in Puerto Vallarta a few days, we took a day trip down the coast to Yelapa. As soon as the boat came around into the little bay of Yelapa, I knew this was MY place! It was so strange, I felt in tune and at home. For me, it is a place where I no longer stop at the boundary of my body… you know… this is Paul, everything outside of Paul is other! In Yelapa, I lose that boundary and start spreading out into the jungle, the sky and the sea and KNOW all of it is me
One time when I was there with Arturo, there was a married couple staying too… stuffy (at first) professors from Boston. They actually dressed for dinner!. The restaurant is just a big palapa… poles with a roof thatched with palm leaves. After eating, they asked us to join them for wine by candlelight (the power was off).
We were having a very adult conversation when we heard a lot of shouting and barking. Suddenly, a bull came charging through the restaurant chased by a pack of dogs and a farmer. The lady professor touched her pearls and quietly said, “We don’t see that sort of thing much in Boston.”
A couple years ago, an English penpal visited me. He was a blue collar type with a lovely sense of humor and very much a city man. When we went down, it was just at the end of the rainy season… not QUITE the end. We were the only tourists staying there. At night, all the natives disappeared back to their homes in the jungle. A huge storm came in. Rain there is like being under a waterfall… Well IT RAINED!! Matter of fact, it rained so hard, the roof of our palapa caved in on us. We had to struggle through that black jungle storm and find a dry palapa. Since I had been there before, I knew where to look. In the morning, when the English man woke, he had an odd expression on his face and said, “Do you know, there is a rather large snake coming in the window?” It was a real live boa constrictor from the jungle Well, we were both delighted! It was not full grown but big enough to be impressive. (about 7 feet) I looked it up when I got home … it was what is called a Rosy Boa. It hung around for about an hour and then wandered back into the jungle. We also had bats living in the bathroom. Being from London, he loved it… very Indiana Jones!