Yelapa de Mi Corazón
We fall in love with some places despite our own prejudices. San Miguel de Allende draws me back in spite of its metro-gringo chic; the Mexican Caribbean sparkles and attracts regardless of its seemingly nonstop development. Some places simply tug at the heart. Yelapa reminds me of a grubby-nosed, freckle-faced redhead kid in my third-grade class. Awfully slow and utterly enchanting.
Beyond the calf-high waves of the immaculate bay, the town climbs along either side of a dirt road currently being upgraded to cement block. Some townsfolk condemn the project, insisting that mud is gentler on their horses’ hooves. Horses and burros are just about the only source of transportation, in addition to walking. Schlepping is a bit of a drag when you’re carrying a week’s worth of laundry or an over-packed suitcase. But a guy on horseback just might offer to carry your bags---and you too---for a small tip. The road for now remains unpaved between the bay’s magnificent point and the village wharf, where water taxis deliver townspeople and all of their supplies. So far, no roads lead to this unrefined village about an hour south of Puerto Vallarta near the southern tip of Banderas Bay.
Most Yelapans are descendants of a few established families. Gringos can’t buy land here, but since the 60s and 70s, a growing number of foreign artists and nature-lovers have built modest homes on locals’ properties. In high season a swelled gringo presence supports cottage kitchens amid the chaotic jungle. Also in winter, the beach scene swells, but it’s no Saint Tropez. Tour boats and water taxis drop people off on the beach, where half a dozen restaurateurs provide the usual beer and chips-with-salsa, fish with rice and yesterday’s tortillas. Canvas sling chairs and plastic chaise lounges share colorful umbrellas, and bathers enjoy the mild, warm sea.
It’s easy to get a water taxi from Mismaloya or Boca de Tomatlan and spend the day or half a day here on the lovely beach. (Once or twice a day in high season, pangas also depart from Puerto Vallarta’s small downtown pier.) If you enjoy a fast ride in a motorized sleigh, the journey is a treat in itself. All along the dramatic coast, cedars crowd palms and cacti down to the rocky, inlet-prone shore.
Beyond a Day on the Bay
A lazy beach day is great; in the rainy season, when water flows freely, a trip to Cola de Caballo Waterfall is an added adventure. A more ambitious, hour-long hike gets you to la Cascada del Catedral, where an awesome pool---and in the rainy season, the pounding waterfall---provides refreshing aqua therapy.
As afternoon wanes, the day-trippers head back to Vallarta. Just beyond the beach, kids in school uniforms cross the foot bridge above the Tuito River; mothers pop in at miniscule groceries for last-minute dinner fixings. The volume of insects ratchets up as the sun goes down and evening fades to black. Burros clomp along the road: dirt today, cement block tomorrow. In Yelapa, it’s all good.
For more things to do as well as hotels and restaurants, check out our Yelapa Travel Guide.