Discover the best things to do in Yelapa Mexico and the paradise that it is.
Yelapa is Puerto Vallarta’s best beach escape and if the bustling resort city is starting to get a little too much for you, you need to get Yelapa on your radar. Yelapa is a small village that sits on the southern end of Banderas Bay about an hour and a half south of Puerto Vallarta.
This calm, tranquil, postcard-perfect place with its beautiful beach, turquoise water and friendly locals make it one of the best day trips from Puerto Vallarta. The village had a very tight community feel to it and while you visit you’ll have the opportunity to learn about its history and significance before spending hours on the beach.
While Yelapa can be visited as a day trip from Puerto Vallarta, I highly recommend staying just one night to really capture the essence of this magical place.
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HOW TO GET TO YELAPA
There’s only one way to get to Yelapa and that’s by boat; either a private charter/tour or by public boat taxi. Boats depart from Puerto Vallarta and from Boca de Tomatlan.
From Puerto Vallarta: There are private taxis that will take you from Puerto Vallarta straight to Yelapa. You’ll need to get to Los Muertos pier, from where boats leave from 10 am about every hour or so. The last boat back from Yelapa to Puerto Vallarta is at about 3 pm, but make sure to double-check that with your boat captain. The water taxi to Yelapa ticket costs about 400 pesos.
From Boca de Tomatlan: From Boca, the water taxi to Yelapa departs much earlier, from 8 am from the main pier in town. A one-way ticket to Yelapa costs 120 pesos. They depart about every hour but sometimes departures are late. It’s best to just turn up at the pier and wait for the next boat.
The last taxi back to Boca departs at 6 pm, however, we were advised to take the 5 pm or 5.30 pm as the 6 pm taxi always goes full and apparently there have been times where people have been left behind due to lack of space. I can think of worse places to get stuck for the night, however.
To get to Boca de Tomatlan from Puerto Vallarta, you can take an Uber, taxi, private transfer or bus. Uber is the easiest and we found that going out this far Uber was much cheaper than a taxi. If you’re on a budget or not in a hurry then taking the bus is a brilliant option too.
The local bus costs just 10 pesos and will take you all the way from the Zona Romantica in Puerto Vallarta to Boca. The exact departure point for buses to Boca in Puerto Vallarta is outside the OXXO on Calle Constitucion with Highway 200. (It’s marked on Google Maps as ‘Parada de Camiones a Mismaloya’)
There are no real roads or highways in Yelapa, just small stone paths big enough for ATVs to pass. It definitely is a place made for walking and the paths are quite hilly too. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to bring rolling luggage with you. Bring a backpack if you plan on staying for a night or two, especially if your hotel is further from the main pier.
WHERE TO STAY IN YELAPA
Most people come to Yelapa for the day from Puerto Vallarta or Boca de Tomatlan. While there aren’t as many accommodation options as elsewhere on the Jalisco coast, Yelapa does have a few comfortable places to stay if you find yourself wanting to stay the night, and I highly recommend you do.
Verana – One of the most unique stays in the area, this gorgeous slice of luxury is entirely handmade. Located just outside the main town on the hillsides, Verana is the perfect place for a secluded and relaxing retreat.
Stay in one of their unique, wooden casitas, marvel at the ocean views and fall asleep in a hammock to the sound of the ocean. Check rates and availability here.
Casa Berita – Rent a simple yet comfortable holiday home for your time in Yelapa. This is one of the most prominent buildings right on Yelapa beach and you’ll no doubt see this place when exploring. Check availability and book here.
Suites here are spacious yet simple and the balconies offer spectacular views of the beach and bay. The king suites also include kitchens which are perfect for those wanting to stay a little longer. Check availability and book here.
Casa Choco – Lovely, simple, one-bedroom apartments to rent with sea views in the middle of town. Check availability and book here.
WHERE TO EAT
There are quite a few really lovely, relaxed places to eat in Yelapa. Just remember however that everything runs on its own clock and on ‘island time’ meaning that often times cafes, restaurants and businesses will just randomly be closed, even when their opening hours state they should be open.
Here are the best places to eat we found in Yelapa:
Cafe Bahia – A lovely little cafe located just to the right of the main town pier. (if you get off at the second pier that serves town you’ll see it). This is a lovely place to come for a morning coffee, breakfast, brunch or lunch.
They serve a variety of juices, smoothies, coffee, salads, Mexican-style bowls and breakfast. Everything is fresh with a focus on healthy food. There are plenty of veggie and vegan options.
Pollo Bollo– This is meant to be the best restaurant in Yelapa, however, it was closed when we arrived. It serves a wide range of Mexican style plates mostly based around chicken and fish however there is a vegetarian burrito and fajitas on the menu.
Cafe Pacifico– right opposite Pollo Bollo, this is the place to come for a morning or afternoon freshly brewed coffee and a little snack.
Cafe Eclipse– Another great cafe option in the centre of town. They serve a wide range of Mexican-style, hearty dishes and breakfasts. Meals include chilaquiles, eggs with beans, salads, sandwiches etc. Make sure to come early as they tend to close early. It’s more of a breakfast/brunch place.
If you’re spending time on the beach then there are also quite a few beach bars/restaurants to eat at. I didn’t end up eating there, so unfortunately I can recommend any in particular but they are all quite similar.
THINGS TO DO IN YELAPA MEXICO
Visit Yelapa Museum
I bet you didn’t expect a museum to be at the top of the things-to-do list in a paradisical bay town but this museum is quite special. One of the best things about Yelapa is this lovely little, community-built museum where you can learn all about the history of the area, of Yelapa and how the expat community contributed over the years.
Through a series of photographs, you can see how the village looked in the 1960s and 1980s and when the first expats and Western explorers started arriving down to this part of Mexico. You’ll learn about Yelapa and how it started out as a village trading coconut oil and various other coconut-based products to bring income to the locals and how eventually it shifted more towards tourism as North Americans started arriving.
You’ll learn all about the local artists and how they contributed to what Yelapa is today. The town really does have quite a beautiful story.
The museum building is really cool itself and the little courtyard outside is the perfect place to relax during the day when wandering around town.
Spend time on the Beach
Now it’s not really a trip to Yelapa unless you spend time at the beach. The beach here is beautiful- it truly is, in my opinion, the best beach that we found along the Riviera Nayarit. The sand is white and fine and the water is a very cool, dark turquoise/green colour that begs to be jumped into. The water is calm and there are virtually no waves which make it perfect for swimming and paddleboarding.
You’ll see many bars and restaurants along the beach where you can grab a snack and a drink and relax or just lay down your own towel directly on the sand and enjoy the paradisiacal surroundings.
Go for a Stroll Around Town
The main town of Yelapa is so quaint and atmospheric. From the minute you get off onto the pier you’ll be led by the small paths into various corners of town. It’s easy to get lost in Yelapa but that’s really the point.
I highly suggest just taking any path that looks interesting and heading down it for a while. Along your way, you’ll come across local restaurants, coffee shops, local people’s stands selling souvenirs and gifts as well as friendly locals to have conversations with.
There are a number of water sports available for the more adventurous right on the beach in Yelapa. Garcia rentals is the best place we saw for renting out a number of different pieces of equipment from paddleboards to kayaks for a few hours.
Yelapa is the perfect place for SUP- the water is pretty much flat which makes it the ideal place to get started if you’ve never done paddle boarding before. Simply get in the water and paddle away, just be mindful of boats and boat taxis as they zip around the bay pretty often.
Do a Yoga Class
With Yelapa being a small village, there aren’t too many places to do a yoga class in town but if you are craving to flow and connect with others then make sure to try Sky Temple, a local eco-friendly homestay that sometimes hosts yoga classes. When I enquired it didn’t sound like they had a schedule running and classes were being held quite sporadically so you’ll have to head up and check when you arrive.
Alternatively, if you prefer to sign up for a yoga retreat, head to Pura Vida Wellness Centre which holds quite a few different wellness-focused retreats throughout the year. One of the best retreats in Yelapa is a 9-day retreat that focuses on yoga, meditation and hiking in the beautiful surrounding. Read more about it here.
If you’re craving something refreshing and truly Mexican, you’ll need to try ‘micheladas’ at last once when in Mexico. Micheladas are a Mexican drink traditionally made from beer, lime, salt and a mixture of sauces, spices and tomato juice. Nowadays you can find many different versions of them and some even come with beef and shrimp.
One of the best places to try them, in fully local style is Micheladas Vicky and no doubt you’ll see this bar stall as you walk around town. The owner is super friendly and he’ll be able to mix up the drink of your choice while you relax in the shade and maybe even practise some Spanish.
Visit Cascada Pueblo
Yelapa has two waterfalls you can visit during your stay. Cascada Pueblo is the closest one, located just on the edge of town and it takes about 5 minutes to walk to from town.
It’s a nice little, yet fairly high waterfall that gently cascades down the rock face into a small plunge pool below. The water is fairly cold, especially in the winter months so I personally didn’t dare to get in especially so early in the morning.
Around the waterfall, you’ll find a little local cafe where you can buy a drink and many locals have also set up their souvenir stands on the path up to the waterfall.
Getting to Cascada Pueblo is a little confusing. Try to find ‘Micheladas Vicky’ before taking the street that heads upwards. When in doubt just ask the locals, they are more than happy to guide you in the right direction.
Trek to Cascada Cathedral
For a chance to visit another waterfall and combine it will a trek, head to Cascada Cathedral. The trek takes about 1 hour 15 minutes and will take you up into the jungle and into the hills.
The waterfall is pretty small and squat looking but after the sweaty trek to get here there’s nothing better than to jump into the plunge pool and swim around.
Due to how long it takes to get up here, this waterfall is a lot less crowded than Cascada Pueblo so if you like hikes and adventure, definitely make the detour to come up here.
The path to Cascada Cathedral starts on the same path Cascada Pueblo is located on. If you can’t find it then the locals will be more than happy to show you the way.
Grab a Fresh Juice from a Local
There are plenty of cafes in Yelapa selling juice and smoothies but during our time there we found a really special juice stall. Owned by Veronica, a Yelapa local, she recently decided to set up her own fresh juice stall with no menu. You’ll find her on the main road a little further outside town (near ‘Casa Coral 3’ on Google Maps).
She basically has all her fruit set up in front of you and you choose what you’d like to combine. She has everything you need to make a tasty green juice as well as beets, oranges, carrots, ginger and turmeric. Once you pick out the ingredients she’ll juice everything for you. She has some pretty delicious suggestions too if you don’t know what to get.
She also serves all juices in glasses rather than plastic takeaway cups which is so nice to see. Delicious, fresh juice, eco-friendly and local, what more do you need?
Just note that she is not open during the rainy season.
Go Parasailing or Paragliding
While I didn’t quite have the guts to do this myself, we saw a number of people do parasailing and paragliding when in Yelapa and you’ll also no doubt see it when there.
We got talking to the guy that seemed to organise parasailing, who quoted us 700 pesos for two loops around the bay (about 15 minutes). They take off from the beach right next to Chico’s Cantina so I suggest enquiring there.
On the other side of the beach you’ll also find boat-assisted paragliding which looked much more fun yet a little more extreme. Paragliding will take you much higher into the sky and you’ll be able to see the whole of Banderas Bay. Rides are done in tandem unless you know what you’re doing.
Prefer to opt for a tour when in Yelapa? Check out these great options:
Which is your favourite out of all the things to do in Yelapa? Leave your comments and questions below, I’d love to hear from you.
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