Learn More About
Yelapa is a tiny beach about 30 KM south and west by water from Puerto Vallarta that feels like something out of Fantasy Island. It will make you look for Tatoo and you will want to yell, “the plane, the plane.” It feels like you’re visiting an island, but it is not an island, it is a stretch of incredible beach accessible only by boat only unless you have a serious four wheel drive. It is one of the area’s favorite water taxi or boat-in beaches, lined with great places to eat and sun. You can even get up your nerve and pet one of the tame large iguanas the roam the beach with their trainers posing for pictures with tourists for tips.
The village is a bay within a bay and part of the 7th largest bay in the world, Bahía de Banderas or “Banderas Bay". The only way to access Yelapa is by boat and ferries that offer water taxi services at very affordable prices. You can also, as many people do, choose to do the famous hike, from scenic Boca de Tomatlan to Yelapa which is not for beginners or for people that are not fit because there is a lot climbing.
The local community has refused to permit roads into the town and the residents are very active in preserving their quiet way of life, the residents must get all their supplies by boat and by not creating an easy way into the small paradise town, they have managed to create an incredible oasis for travelers unlike any other. It is a quaint and charming village with friendly people as residents and the people in Yelapa are very real. It has pristine beaches, spectacular mountain views, delicious local food, and adventure.
It is crazy that nearly 150 years ago just four families founded this secluded little fishing village near Puerto Vallarta and today it has grown into a must see destination for millions of travelers from around the world. Yelapa is still fully owned by the locals and is governed by the native community. It is an exotic destination however getting much busier as the secret of this little paradise beach town gets out.
Yelapa was initially settled by four families who came down the mountain from the village of Chacala and started a life of fishing and agriculture. The town name is said to be an old Native American one meaning “where two rivers meet the sea.” About 2,500 Mexicans live is this little town as well as a growing number of foreigners. The four original families still live here and almost everyone is related.
Yelapa is a unique community—”one of the few remaining on Earth where the original inhabitants still reside on, own, and control their own land.” As a Indigenous community, Yelapa is a land grant or reservation legally set aside and protected for its indigenous people. Outsiders may not buy any land but they may long term lease it as many have done and built their own vacation residence here.
The high mountains behind Yelapa have no roads to Yelapa except the trail/dirt road from Chacala, so the only ways to get here are by boat from a nearby tow or water taxi, to hike or ride a horse or mule along the rocky coastal route.
One of the highlights of a visit to Yelapa is the waterfalls, although it has been commercialized all around the falls, the falls themselves are still free to visit. The falls are about a 15-minute hike through town past several cool homes, restaurants and tourist stands. The water is cold and will awaken you but a definite a must see when you visit Yelapa.
In 2001 Yelapa got electricity and phones arrived later than that. For many years there were just a few pay phones and there was no cell service. Before then there were only oil lamps and flashlights and one local pay phone. Water is brought to the village from the rivers. There is a central water system but it doesn’t reach all so many still manage their own water lines. Yelapa is a great place to spend the day and have lunch and it is between Puerto Vallarta and Chimo. The water taxi is about 40 minutes from Vallarta and only 20 minutes from Chimo.