Mexico’s Most Alluring Beach Town
It’s 9 am on a Sunday morning and as I make my way along the uneven cement sidewalks and little backstreets of the Mexican village of Yelapa, there isn’t a soul in sight. The only sign of life comes when I pass a small convenience store, which is just opening its doors for the day. Even the beautiful golden sand of Yelapa Beach is completely deserted. Surrounded by mountains, there are no roads into Yelapa and the only way to reach the village is by boat from nearby Puerto Vallarta and the first boats haven’t yet arrived.
Related: Check out our post on bird watching in nearby San Blas, Nayarit.
A Quiet Fishing Village
I sometimes wonder what it would be like to step back in time and visit a popular tourist destination before it was developed with hotels, restaurants, shops and tour operators. With more than 2 million visitors annually, the days when Puerto Vallarta was just a quiet fishing village are long gone. These days the closest you can come to discovering the Vallarta of yesteryear is to plan an overnight stay in Yelapa. Though the village gets busy during the middle part of the day with tourists on day trips, in the early morning and late evening it is a little oasis of calm in an otherwise well-traveled part of Mexico. Pristine Yelapa Beach likely resembles the beaches of Puerto Vallarta before Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made the destination famous.
I walk over to the pier to take a closer look at the boats coming and going. Two little boys who look to be about five or six are hand casting off the dock without a parent in site. Every now and then they reel in a fish and put it in a plastic bag with others by their feet. It looks as though they have caught enough to eat for a week and a large pelican is eagerly eyeing the fruits of their labors.
Yelapa Beach All to Myself
After a morning stroll through the nearly deserted village, I take some time to myself on Yelapa Beach. When the first day tour boat arrives, I watch the passengers stumble off the boat. I can’t tell if they are seasick or intoxicated from the free drinks offered on board. Some make their way to the beach and others head straight to Cascade Cola del Caballo, or Horse Tail Waterfail, about a 20-minute hike from the town. There is a pool beneath the falls for swimming and the site is one of the main attractions in the area.
Casa Pericos – Barefoot Luxury Guest House
When the beach starts to get busy, I head back to my accommodation, which is perched on the rocky point of the Bay. Casa Pericos is a four-story barefoot retreat that is just far enough from Yelapa Beach to escape all foot traffic from tourists on day trips. I am staying in the Penthouse Suite, a romantic Indonesian-inspired loft suite with a private bath, a kitchen, a Zen soaking tub and one of the best views anywhere. There are no glass windows and the gentle breeze coupled with the sound of rolling waves lulled me to sleep the previous night.
My Secret Snorkel Spot
I love to snorkel, but I have never found this side of Mexico to be particularly good for that activity. Since the day is warm and the casa has snorkel gear, I decide to give it a go. As I weave my way around the rocks near the guest house, I discover some of the best snorkeling on the Pacific coast of Mexico.
The owners, Blair Shurtleff and Shane Hayward were drawn to this quiet little place and spent several years planning and building Casa Pericos. “There’s something special about Yelapa,” Blair says. “Visitors come here on daytrips and they climb to the waterfall and visit Yelapa Beach and think they’ve seen it, but you can’t really get to know Yelapa until you spend time here.”
Yelapa Beach Night Life
There was a time when Bob Dylan and Timothy Leary had vacation homes in Yelapa. The night life was probably a lot more active in those days. Today there is a cluster of little restaurants and bars, which are busy when the tour boats are in and quieter in the evenings. I spent one evening at one of the little beach bars watching the sunset on Yelapa Beach with the locals.
Two Days and One Regret
I love the peacefulness of Yelapa Beach and the barefoot luxury of Casa Pericos. I’m not sure if I choose really out-of-the-way places or if they choose me. On the last day of my stay, a boat arrives in front of the Casa to whisk my luggage and me back to civilization. As we pull away from the shore, I realize that I have only one regret about Yelapa and Casa Pericos – I should have booked a longer stay.
If You Go:
- It takes about 45-minutes by speed boat to get from Puerto Vallarta to Yelapa. Water taxis go from the pier at Playa de los Muertos several times per day and cost about 350 pesos round trip per person. If you want to book a day tour to Yelapa, there are several companies that offer excursions.
- Casa Pericos has three lofts that can be rented separately or you can rent the entire property, which sleeps 14. Each loft has a fully equipped kitchen, dining area, living room and sleeping area and there is complimentary Wi-Fi, kayaks, snorkel gear and a communal barbecue. Cooking and cleaning services can also be arranged in advance on request. There is no air-conditioning, but there are electric fans that do a good job of circulating the air. This combined with the open layout and the breeze off the ocean made my winter stay comfortable. You need to be able-bodied to stay at Casa Pericos, because there are plenty of steps at the property and it is a 5-minute walk into town along a hiking trail. For more information or reservations, visit the official guest house website. You can find more information about Yelapa on the Puerto Vallarta tourism website.