It’s no secret now that many of the nicest beaches and most interesting small towns are found south of Puerto Vallarta. The South Zone of Banderas Bay offers small beautiful beaches and island-like locations you can only access by boat, one of these hidden locations is Yelapa, a small town with beaches, waterfalls, beautiful homes and villas on the edge of the warm Mexican Pacific Ocean. If you feel a need to get away from the city’s noise, people and frenzy this small secluded town might just be what you need.
Yelapa is, as mentioned, a quiet, beautiful place, a small cove surrounded by nature and jungle and bathed by the waves of the bay.
Yelapa Beach, East side facing Lagunita Yelapa Hotel, Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco, Mexico
This small town is just 40 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta (by boat), at the foot of the majestic mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental.
The word Yelapa is of Purepecha origin and means “the place where waters become a pond or come together.”
Artists and writers live to find places like these, the tranquillity and privacy make it the perfect place for many of them and they flock from around the world to get here.
The village is quaint, life is simple, the surrounding beauty irresistible, so much that many have decided to make it their permanent residence, and enjoy the daily inspiration of the sea, the local culture, nature, and mountains.
How to get to Yelapa
If you want to get from Puerto Vallarta to Yelapa the only way is by sea and it is also best that way, if it were an easy car ride, you can be sure it wouldn’t be the same experience anyway.
Beaches south of Puerto Vallarta, Mismaloya, Boca de Tomatlan, Colomitos, Las Caletas, Las Animas, Quimixto, Majahuitas & Yelapa
If you look it up on Google Maps, you’ll be shown a land route, the thing they forget to tell you is that it’s not a viable trip unless you own a Unimog…
It’s a nice boat trip south from Puerto Vallarta, you skirt along the edges of the southern part of the Banderas Bay, passing and sometimes stopping at the small beaches along the way.
Isabel Beach by Yelapa town, Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco, Mexico
How to get to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta
Those that are sea hounds can rent a private boat trip or jump on one of the many water taxis that start off from Playa Los Muertos at the pier (but it’s quite a long trip). The trip by boat to beautiful Yelapa is around 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta and 20-25 minutes from Boca de Tomatlan. Check out the water taxi schedule.
If you’re like me, then you can follow these suggestions. I recommend you take a taxi, uber or one of the cheap and fun local buses to Boca de Tomatlan a small town just 3 miles south of Mismaloya. You can see the land route to Boca below, you can also see it’s 11 miles south of Puerto Vallarta’s Main Square.
From the Malecon to Boca de Tomatlan
Boca is the most popular place to embark on a water taxi (panga) trips that take you south to the isolated and beautiful beaches of the Banderas Bay, these include Las Ánimas, Quimixto, Las Caletas and Majahuitas, Pizota, Corrales and of course Yelapa.
You can catch a bus to Boca de Tomatlan in Puerto Vallarta on the corner of Basilio Badillo and Constitución streets in Old Vallarta (Romantic Zone), the same place and the same buses that go to Mismaloya beach in the south zone. The buses are orange and white and have a sign that says “Boca”, you can always check with the driver. The ticket should be around $0.60 dollars (one-way).
The bus ride to Boca doesn’t take that long from downtown Puerto Vallarta, it’s 11 miles (17km, a 15 to 20-minute car or taxi, 30 minutes in a bus). You’ll follow along the edge of the sea on the road between the jungle hills on your left and the emerald-blue ocean on your right. Local buses run to and from Boca and Mismaloya every day, starting off early around 6:30 AM – 7:00 AM and running at regular intervals until around 10 – 11 PM.
What to do in Yelapa
This place has so many things to enjoy that one day is not enough, especially if you want to really enjoy the beach and really relax, the thick and beautiful jungle is the home to all kinds of creatures, parrots, land crabs, frogs, scorpions, iguanas, many different birds, the El Tuito river and two impressive waterfalls.
Yelapa, Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco, Mexico
Yelapa's main beach from the west side
Birds of Yelapa
Yelapa Pies, famous Chacha recipes from Puerto Vallarta
Yelapa from the hill to the west
There are many available activities to enjoy while in Yelapa if you start getting the itch to do something. You can fish, venture out on a kayak, the waters are great for snorkeling, many scuba operators bring their students to dive here too, swim in the warm calm waters.
Another great option is paragliding for that adrenaline hit, there are a number of experienced operators in Yelapa.
Yelapa’s Main Beach seen from the west, Jalisco, México
For a shorter and less complicated gliding option, you could do some parasailing, in a parachute behind a motorboat. Horseback riding is also popular. You can also stroll over to the village and buy local Mexican crafts and more.
If you prefer even more adventure, Yelapa is great for camping, explore the jungle and hike in the hills.
If you prefer, there are rustic restaurants by the beach where you can enjoy the local fish dishes and seafood.
A local “secret”, are the Yelapa Pies, just delicious, so don’t miss the pie lady that comes down the beach selling them in various flavors. There’s a story behind their existence and were copying it here from the now-closed Puerto Vallarta Forum:
In Hotel Río next to the Cuale River, – you know, the one that also appears in “The Night of the Iguana” – there was a very popular restaurant run by Nacho Vega, Manuelito Azurmendis and his wife Socorro (nicknamed Chacha) and it was Socorro who made some exquisite pies. At some point in time, she’s the person who passed the recipes over to the housewives in Yelapa so that they could bake them and sell them on the beach and help improve their income.
Up to this day, these Chacha Pies or Yelapa Pies are marketed in an artisanal way on the beach, they are widely recognized and one of the attractions at this South Zone beach and can even be found in other parts of the bay.
During the afternoon and night stay put in the same restaurants, but in a more romantic setting, Yelapa doesn’t have much electricity, so candles are the favorite mood makers, plus the moon in the bay will create the perfect and most unforgettable night.
For those that want to take relaxation to a whole new level, there are also options for massages and treatments, one that we can recommend is called Day Spa Verana.
For those who love nature, Yelapa has so much to offer, it is at night where you really notice the abundance and diversity of the local wildlife.
You’ll see a lot of insects, including the flashes of the firefly’s romantic calls, you will see bats flying around eating of the abundant insect population, crabs that come out of their underground caves to find food by the streams and on the beach, birds, crickets, cicadas, toads and frogs that chant incessantly, the sound of the jungle is varied, constant and fascinating.
Spending a night in Yelapa is a prize and an opportunity not to be missed if nature is your thing. Here’s a warning, if you are expecting an insect-free trip, if you want a natural wasteland free from nature and life, if you are scared of ants, if bugs bug you, Yelapa will not be for you.
Yelapa is very romantic at sundown and nighttime, lighting is normally by candlelight, the waves lapping on the beach, the calm and relaxed lifestyle… you can fill in the dots.
How to get the Yelapa Waterfall
A nice and easy activity to enjoy with your family is to visit the Yelapa waterfall close to the town.
La Cascada de Yelapa, Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco, México / Yelapa Waterfall
Access is easy, there is a paved trail that takes you there, it’s not too steep and most children will be able to walk it the whole way. If they can’t you can just help them along the way.
The trip will vary a bit depending on where you disembark in Yelapa.
Yelapa waterfall, how to get there
If you arrive at the main beach or the north pier, you’ll need to walk along the red route A and take the blue route B if you don’t want to walk over the river mouth by the beach. I normally take the red route and wade over the river by the mouth, this may not be an option during the rainy months, so walk over the bridge. In case you go over the river, there are some stairs up from the beach to the town’s sidewalks, shown in orange. If you disembark at the pier in town, the route is C (in green) and then you walk uphill to the waterfall.
Yelapa waterfall in the dry season, a short walk from the town
Where to stay
If you are considering staying the night, there are some small rustic hotels like the Hotel Lagunita Yelapa, where you can have a pleasant and romantic stay, under palapa roofs, mosquito-netted beds, rustic bathrooms, and candlelight.
Hotel Lagunita Yelapa one of the best lodging options in Yelapa, Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco, Mexico
So now you know, if you want a different experience, to be in contact with nature, a place where even cellphones won’t spoil the show, Yelapa is the ideal place. There are trips that include meals and in some cases even diving equipment that starts off from Vallarta, so there is really no reason to miss the opportunity to visit this little piece of hidden Mexican Pacific paradise.