Chasing Yelapa Waterfalls: A Guide to a Jungle Gem
Thinking about visiting the beautiful village of Yelapa, Mexico and its gorgeous waterfalls? Here’s the complete guide to the Yelapa Waterfalls and everything you need to know to visit.
The small, tranquil village of Yelapa, Jalisco is one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets. A world away from the bustling resort town of Puerto Vallarta, Yelapa takes you back 50 years, to a rustic, slow life by the sea.
Sitting on the southern end of Banderas Bay, Yelapa is only an hour and a half south of Puerto Vallarta and makes the perfect day trip from Puerto Vallarta or even an overnight trip. It’s the perfect place to escape, to slow down and to enjoy the stunning natural surroundings.
For those looking for a Puerto Vallarta waterfall, Yelapa is the place to visit. Yelapa is home to two gorgeous waterfalls that are a must-see when in town. In this guide find out everything you need to know to visit the Yelapa waterfalls, a true hidden gem on the Puerto Vallarta coastline.
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Where is Yelapa, Mexico?
If this is the first time you’ve ever stumbled across Yelapa you might be asking yourself ‘What is Yelapa?’ Yelapa is a small, fairly traditional fishing village on the Pacific coast in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Yelapa is located not far south of the ever-popular vacation city, Puerto Vallarta.
While located close to Puerto Vallarta, Yelapa wouldn’t be more different. Away from the beachside resorts, the late-night parties and the buzzing beaches, Yelapa is the sort of place you retreat to, to literally do nothing.
The town is surrounded by thick jungle and no roads lead to it- in fact, the only modes of modern transportation here are ATVs and boats.
You’ll find locals living slowly, running small homestays and casual restaurants as well as some of the most beautiful beaches in Jalisco.
Many come to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta on a day trip, but I highly recommend staying at least one night and making the most of the town’s rustic, extremely local feel and a unique opportunity to disconnect.
How to Get to Yelapa
Before we explain how to get to the Yelapa waterfalls, you’ll first need to know how to get to Yelapa town itself. Getting to Yelapa isn’t difficult and there are a few different options to consider, which we’ll outline below.
While Yelapa isn’t an island, the only way in is by boat, either a private charter or a public taxi boat. Most visitors visit from nearby Puerto Vallarta but you can also take a boat from Boca de Tomatlan, another picturesque little town located between Puerto Vallarta and Yelapa.
How to Get to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta
There are boat taxi services that can transport you directly from Puerto Vallarta to Yelapa. When getting to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta, you’ll first need to reach Los Muertos pier in Puerto Vallarta.
From here water taxis to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta leave approximately every hour from 10 am onwards.
The final boat returning from Yelapa to Puerto Vallarta typically departs around 4 pm, but it’s advisable to confirm this timing with your boat operator. The cost for a return water taxi ticket to Yelapa is roughly 400 pesos ($20).
Make sure to confirm with your tour boat operator, which pier in Yelapa you’ll disembark at as there are two on opposite sides of the bay. You want to get dropped off at Embarcadero de Yelapa and NOT Muelle de Yelapa.
Getting off at Muelle de Yelapa will add a long walk along the Yelapa playa in order to get into town and to the waterfall in Yelapa.
How to Get to Yelapa from Boca de Tomatlan
Another option and this is what we did, is to take a boat from Boca de Tomatlan. First, you’ll need to take a bus from Puerto Vallarta to Boca de Tomatlan. Buses depart from the ‘ Parada de Camiones a Mismaloya,’ on Calle Constitucion as soon as they get full. When you arrive in Boca, it’s a short walk down to the pier.
Water taxis to Yelapa set off from the main pier in Boca, commencing at 8 am. A one-way ticket to Yelapa is priced at 120 pesos. Departures occur roughly every hour, but occasionally there might be delays. The recommended approach is to arrive at the pier and await the next available boat.
The final taxi back to Boca leaves at 6 pm, though we were advised to opt for the 5 pm or 5.30 pm departure, as the 6 pm service tends to fill up quickly. The boat captains told us that there have been instances where individuals were left behind due to limited space, though getting stranded in Yelapa for the night doesn’t seem too bad of a scenario.
While taking just one boat from Puerto Vallarta Playa Los Muertos Pier is the easier option of the two, I feel that the boats just don’t leave early enough, especially if you’re heading out for a Yelapa day trip.
This is why we chose the second option, even though it involves having to take a bus and then the boat. This is also the slightly cheaper option of the two.
Not only that, you do get to see a little of another lovely beachside Mexican village, Boca de Tomatlan.
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of working out public transportation to get to Yelapa, you can also take a tour to Yelapa. Here are some of the best day tours to Yelapa available to book right now.
Visiting Yelapa Waterfalls
The Yelapa Falls are some of the best waterfalls near Puerto Vallarta. There are actually two waterfalls in Yelapa. One is right on the outskirts of the town and can be easily visited. The other Yelapa Mexico waterfall is located deep in the jungle are requires a 3 hour+ round trip hike to get to.
You can easily visit both in one day provided you arrive in Yelapa fairly early in the day or stay overnight.
So, how do you get to the Yelapa Waterfalls?
Yelapa Falls (Town)
The waterfall in downtown Yelapa is located right on the edge of town. It’s reachable on foot on a short detour as you explore Yelapa town itself. When walking around you’ll soon begin to notice signs along the main streets with the ‘waterfall’ or ‘Cascada’ written on them, directing you in the right direction.
The waterfall is located here on Google Maps, but as Yelapa’s tiny streets aren’t on Google Maps, it’s pretty much useless, besides seeing its rough location.
Once you get to the main town square, where you’ll find Yelapa Museum simply walk up (away from the ocean) to get to the waterfall. You’ll pass many local houses and cafes, including ‘Micheladas Vicky’ which is a good reference point that you’re going the right way.
When in doubt just ask the locals, they are more than happy to guide you in the right direction.
Once you reach Cascada Pueblo waterfall you’ll see a towering 150-foot waterfall that makes its way down a cliff and into a small plunge pool below. How big the plunge pool will be will depend on the season that you visit.
We visited towards the end of the dry season and the pool was really small- definitely not big enough for actual swimming but still good enough for a cooling dip.
To the right, there’s a little bar where you can buy cold drinks and snacks.
While Yelapa’s other waterfall, the jungle one is the most popular, the small Cascada Pueblo is also worth a visit. It’s a much more impressive waterfall due to its sheer size, so I highly recommend a visit when exploring Yelapa.
Yelapa Waterfalls (Jungle)
The second waterfall in Yelapa is outside the town in the middle of the jungle. To reach the waterfall you’ll need to embark on a jungle hike that’s around 5 miles round trip. You can find the location of Cascada de Yelapa on Google Maps here.
Talking about maps, note that you might not have much cell service in Yelapa or virtually any on this hike. This means it’s a really good idea to download maps for offline use before you depart. Google Maps doesn’t help much, so I recommend downloading the Mexico country map on Maps.me, or using Alltrails.
You can begin the Yelapa Jungle Waterfall hike from town. Once on the main road, Calle Marlin, head east along it. You’ll pass a pedestrian suspension bridge on the left (here) but continue along the road. The road will eventually turn into a path but keep on it.
Soon you’ll reach a small concrete shack where the path navigates through the river- yes you’ll need to cross the river but there’s no bridge. Luckily the water isn’t very deep but you might want to be a little more cautious when doing this hike in or just after the rainy season. Consider that it might even be too difficult to cross.
About a mile further along the trail there’s another river crossing. The trail then winds through the lush Mexican jungle. A little before reaching the waterfall you’ll encounter a fork in the trail- make sure to keep right as this is the point where many hikers get lost.
After the fork you’ll encounter some large boulders you’ll need to climb over to reach the actual waterfall.
The waterfall itself isn’t very high but it’s much more powerful than the one in town. As it sits on the Tuito River you’ll be able to swim in the river too, depending on water levels.
It truly is an idyllic spot right in the middle of the lush jungle. Make sure to bring lots of water and some snacks so you can relax for a while and enjoy the whole area. This spot really is a hidden gem.
Some useful things to note about the Yelapa waterfall hike:
- This Yelapa, Mexico waterfall hike isn’t difficult for someone with decent levels of fitness. There are a few inclines but it’s generally quite a flat path. There is a rock scramble at the end but it’s not technical.
- As the hike involves quite a few river crossings I’d highly recommend wearing the right footwear. Consider wearing hiking sandals, like these Tevas, that’ll allow you to navigate the path and the rivers. Flip flops just don’t work, (trust me, I tried) and hiking shoes would be a pain to keep having to take on and off.
- The hike might differ depending on the season. As we visited at the end of the dry season we had no issue with the water levels. In fact, the water level was really low. If you’re visiting after a really rainy period, you might not be able to do this hike as the river current might be too strong to allow you to cross safely.
Is Yelapa Worth Visiting?
Absolutely, yes! Yelapa was one of my favourite places I visited when living in Puerto Vallarta. There’s just something so traditional, local and authentic about it. There’s a positive vibe everywhere you go. The locals are very friendly and inviting and Yelapa just has a real small town, community feel to it.
There are plenty of great places to eat and the beaches are completely unspoilt. For anyone looking to relax for a while or visit an authentic Mexican beach town, relatively untouched by modern times, this is a great day trip to take.
After visiting for a short time, I would definitely love to come back to Yelapa and spend a week just relaxing, slowing down and maybe even doing a digital detox.
Is Yelapa safe?
Yelapa has a small place and everyone here knows each other. It’s a sleepy village and crime is almost unheard of, especially violent crime. It’s a very safe place to visit.
However, as mentioned previously cell service here is super weak, so you might want to be careful venturing out into the jungle alone. If you get lost, for example, you might not be able to call for help.
To find out where to stay in Yelapa and the best restaurants and cafes in Yelapa, check the full Yelapa Travel Guide.
So, which was your favourite Yelapa waterfall? Leave your comments and questions below, I’d love to hear from you.
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