I had never heard of Yelapa. That is until my friend Jes was telling me about an amazing trip he and his wife had gone on a few years ago. He was planning a trip to go back, and as the oncoming Utah winter was knocking on our doorstep, a trip to Mexico in January sounded amazing.
My wife and I arrived in Puerto Vallarta early on a Monday morning and took a taxi from the airport straight to Muelle de Playa Los Muertos, or Dock of the Dead. Kind of an ominous name to catch a boat. Yelapa is 45 - 60 minutes southwest of Puerto Vallarta via water taxi.
We travel a lot and I have found that the easiest way for me to travel is to never check baggage on a plane. I do this for a number of reasons. I always have my belongings with me. I don't have to worry about any lost luggage. Moving about is easy and I don't have to wait for a bag at the baggage claim. Taking taxi's, metro's, public transportation, and even walking is easier if you only have a single bag. The bag of choice for me is a backpack duffel bag. It is easy to carry, it holds a ton of stuff, it is weatherproof and rock solid, and I have never had a stewardess tell me the bag was too large. I have used a duffel bag for trips up to two weeks without any problem. Yes, I am limited on the number of items that I can take, but I look at this as an upside. If I am not carrying a bunch of extra stuff I am able to move around easier, which means I spend more time enjoying the adventure and less time dealing with a bunch of extra stuff that just weighs me down.
We bought round trip tickets from a water taxi store on Francisca Rodriguez street which leads directly to the pier. I had read that there were multiple water taxi companies and that you should only buy a one-way ticket because some companies wouldn't accept the return ticket. The person I bought the tickets from assured me that this was not the case and they all accepted return tickets. I purchased two round trip tickets and we didn't have any problem at all on the return water taxi when we left Yelapa. I actually sat next to a lady on the return trip, and she told me that she takes the water taxi all of the time and never buys a ticket. She just pays the driver in cash. This is just an FYI. I would recommend buying the round trip ticket just to be safe. But this is Mexico and cash always works. A schedule of the water taxi's can be found here.
The water taxi was pretty interesting. It is a small boat with about 5-7 bench seats across. We ended up being on the front row (we boarded last) and I got to see them load supplies for their families or other businesses. They loaded big bags of rice and beans, huge bags of Costco toilet paper, multiple 5-gallon buckets, bags of groceries, and a few toilet seats. At the time it seemed very strange, but then I realized that everything in Yelapa has to be brought in by boat. There are no roads to Yelapa and I think this is one of the reasons Yelapa is so amazing. For a long time it was cut off from the rest of the world. I was told that they barely got electricity a little more than a decade ago.
Arriving in the bay of Yelapa, we were greeted with dozens of brightly colored houses speckling the hillside. It definitely had the feel of a sleepy fishing village whose economy had been bolstered by tourism. We had rented a property, Casas Santa Cruz, which is a group of three palapa-style houses. Our palapa was Casa Sol. It is the largest of the three and closest to the ocean. It is so close to the ocean in fact, that you would sometimes feel the spray from the waves crashing against the rocks below it.
There were seven of us staying in the palapa and the picture above shows us hanging out in the living room. It is wide open, with no walls or windows. Every morning we would sit like this, drinking coffee and watching the ocean. It was so peaceful.
We spent days roaming the many unnamed roads. I say roads, but they are really cobbled paths. There are no cars in Yelapa. Everything is moved via a few 4-wheelers, donkey, horse, bike or just carried. It is a very interesting way of life and so much slower than any city in America.
One day we chartered a fishing boat and Franco took us out to the point of Bahia de Banderas and down the coast of Selva El Tuito. There were tiny little fishing villages along the way and white beaches as far as you could see. Getting further out into the Pacific really makes you remember how insignificant you really are.
We stopped in Los Corrales to go snorkeling. The sea had been very turbulent the day before so the visibility wasn’t that great, but we had the entire inlet to ourselves and a friendly local dog that decided to hang out with us.
We ate lunch at a place in Chimo. Chimo is a tiny little fishing town. So small, that there isn’t even a dock for the boat. The locals come out in a canoe and bring you to shore for a few paso’s each. The restaurant we ate at was amazing. We had platters full of shrimp and fish Ceviche, and they would bring beer by cooler.
On the way back to Yelapa, my friend Jes caught a nice big Mackerel. Franco was nice enough to clean it up for us and then we took it back to our palapa to cook. It was funny to watch and listen to all of the locals ooh and ahh as Jes would walk by carrying his catch. That evening we made a big batch of pico de gallo and guacamole, and grilled the mackerel for fish taco’s. Amazing! Life doesn’t get much better than this.
Exploring Yelapa was amazing. After being there for a few days, you start to recognize the same locals. They were so accepting and inviting of us. They all wanted to know where we were from and how we heard of Yelapa.
Sal with Micheladas Vicky became a regular stop for us as we walked through the town. He made an incredible Michelada style drink with a whole garden of carrot and cucumber slices, peanuts, shrimp and hot sauce.
We found an amazing cemetery at the top of the hill. Many of the grave sites were decorated just like this one and it was obvious a lot of love and devotion was shown to the people who had passed.
The Smuggler 45L duffel was the perfect travel companion. Not only was I able to travel quickly and efficiently, but once we got to Yelapa, it became the perfect bag for carrying our daily supply of towels, extra clothing, sunscreen, water bottles, etc. It also became our grocery and beer hauler as our palapa was a quarter mile from the nearest tienda.
Spending a week this isolated from society was a nice reprieve. It is a very simple life and made me appreciate the things I generally take for granted. Things like consistent running hot water, air conditioning, cell service, WiFi that works, my car, etc. etc. Even missing all of those things, it was an amazing week. If you are looking for a fun getaway, I highly recommend you put Yelapa on your short list.
I took a quick shot of everything that I packed for my trip to Yelapa. Yes, I am a bit of a minimalist when it comes to packing, but you can see that I wasn’t hurting for any necessities. I even had extra room available in my bag, but again, it is so nice to travel without a heavy pack and big bulky luggage.