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.
Yelapa in 2001 got electricity and phones arrived later than that. For many years there were just a few payphones 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 directly in the middle between Puerto Vallarta and Chimo. The water taxi is about 40 minutes from Vallarta and only 20 minutes from Chimo.