Yelapa, Mexico - When you are visiting Puerto Vallarta there are certainly a lot of must-dos to add to your vacation itinerary. Snorkeling and zip line tours abound, but lately, eco-conscious visitors and those looking for a taste of authentic Mexican village life are making the quick pilgrimage to a small village just a short boat ride away - to discover Yelapa.
Yelapa is unheard of to many and it’s not even on a roadmap as it is not accessible by road unless you are an avid and skilled hiker or mountain biker. However, it is quickly gaining notoriety as an authentic and eco-conscious travel destination, making it the secret paradise of Vallarta.
Getting to this tiny fishing village is both affordable and an adventure in and of itself. Small boats called pongas leave hourly from Los Muertos beach just at the edge of the Romantic Zone and also a few times a day from the end of the road at El Boca de Tomatlan. Both locations offer water taxi rides for about $8 per person (prices may vary.)
At one time the boat captains used to have to quickly help travelers jump out of the boat upon arrival – timing the jump to coincide with the incoming waves - with all belongings held overhead. Today there are two modern docks that allow visitors to easily unload with a little less drama.
While still authentic in many ways Yelapa is also progressing with the times, which makes it the perfect vacation escape. In the early 1980's they had no electricity or telephones. As nightfall arrived, candles would flicker in every window and the only sounds were distant singing or the noise from passersby chatting on the way home.
Today electricity, phones, and even Internet service are available in this modern day paradise. Most homes still do not have glass windows, but rather just open air arches that let in the fresh air and sunshine.There are still no cars on the roads, which keep this place rustic and simple.
Donkeys are the preferred means of transporting larger items up the mountainside. Today their loads often consist of bricks being used for the building of new homes as more ex-pats find this oasis and build their retreats. still, he activity of the day here remains beach going - with several great places to sit ocean-side, complete with lounge chairs and table service of cold beer and great local food.
One of Yelapa’s most iconic residents is the "Pie Lady." Every day this graceful and talented woman walks the beaches balancing pies stacked several high on her head - offering chocolate, lemon, and fresh coconut flavors. You can buy it by the slice or indulge in a whole pie!
Yelapa also offers scenic and safe hiking to the waterfall or upriver to help burn off the pie. Two must-dos include a stop at the Senor Rodriguez Rosewood factory for a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Senor Rodriguez and his sons have been exquisitely carving Rosewood bowls and other household items for almost a century in this little niche in the hillside. His works are double the price if you can even find them in the shops in town.
Just across the way from the wood shop is the Rodriguez family restaurant named Tacos Y Mas. The Rodriguez daughters, Diki and Livy, are known throughout Yelapa as the village’s best cooks. They now bring there talent to this truly gourmet eatery located on the patio of the family home. The few tables are the most popular in the village so get there early for a seat and order one of their famous and potent specialty margaritas.
Yelapa is not short on adventure either. It is also a world-class destination for paragliding instruction - just look up the hillside and you will see brave souls climbing up in the morning and landing on the beach after a leisurely decent from the cliffs above.
Many lodging options are now available in addition to camping on the beach - which is still a favorite for the backpacker traveler. "Escape Villas" is available to help coordinate your accommodations and itinerary for your holiday in Yelapa, Mexico.