Yelapa is a hidden paradise easily accessible by boat from Puerto Vallarta. It is a place to turn back time, soak in the sun, and relax.
Located in the state of Jalisco in Mexico, this small fishing village has been a laid-back, peaceful retreat for artists as well as the rich and famous, including Bob Dylan, Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, and Dennis Hopper.
The village’s charm was more than enough to keep us happy.
Relax at Yelapa Beach
While most visitors here have come to relax, the more active can be found snorkelling, diving, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, or swimming in the sea.
And for those who prefer to be outdoors but not directly in the sun, there is a cafe/restaurant option just along the beach and plenty of private deck space offering the relaxed lifestyle visitors and residents seek.
Where to stay …
If you are wondering where to stay, there is no shortage of outstanding choices. In fact, on the day I wrote this page, of the nine accommodations on booking.com, two were rated at 10/10, and five more were superb with ratings above 9 out of 10 (two more were new to the site without any ratings, which left only one sitting at fabulous)
Hike to Cola de Caballo waterfall and swimming hole
While it wasn’t the biggest or most impressive waterfall we have seen, the Cola de Caballo waterfalls are the non-beach-related highlight of Yelapa.
To be honest, we have never been sure if we ended up at the right waterfall, although we did follow a local guide.
Over and over, we heard of the spectacular waterfall and swimming hole just a short walk away. While many called it the Cola de Caballo waterfalls, others simply referred to it as the Yelapa waterfall.
Either way, the 20-minute jungle hike is fairly easy and filled with surprises, including several homes.
A cold water swimming hole in front of the waterfall is the reward for not that much effort to get there. On the hot day that we were there, the waterfall itself was barely a trickle.
Things to know about Yelapa
- One must try – get a pie from the “pie lady” on the beach. She sells to tourists and residents, as well as the local restaurants – that is until she runs out for the day. Flavours range from coconut to chocolate and from sweet cheese to banana.
- There are no cars in Yelapa. In fact, no roads either, just burro paths. Donkeys often provide transit.
- Similarly, there are no street lights, so if you are staying overnight, be sure to bring a torch (flashlight), if your phone doesn’t have one.
- We recommend using insect repellent if you are going to do any hiking.
- There is at least one internet cafe, and I have read that wifi internet is now available, although often spotty.
- If you have them, bring water shoes, especially for the river.
Getting to Yelapa
Found on the southern coast of beautiful Banderas Bay (the world’s 7th largest bay), Yelapa is best accessed via the sea.
Water taxi from Puerto Vallarta
Undisputed, the easiest way to get to Yelapa is by boat. Water taxis and charter boats are available from the Puerto Vallarta marina or Los Muertos beach. The trip takes about 45 minutes.
Once on shore, visitors are on foot, but with no cars in the town, this is the case anyway.
Take a Tour to Yelapa
If we are ever lucky enough to visit this piece of paradise again, we will go on this Yelapa and Majahuitas Beach Adventure. This seven-hour tour sails from Puerto Vallarta to both Yelapa and Majahuitas, offering snorkelling, kayaking, swimming, and the waterfall hike above. It includes continental breakfast, lunch, and an open bar on the sail back to Puerto Vallarta.
Can I arrive via car?
There is now a road that leads to the outskirts of Yelapa, but it is used for commercial purposes. Even the village’s official site recommends avoiding the road and taking a boat. Nothing more needs to be said about it.
Save on your trip with these resources
These are our go-to companies when we travel. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Accommodations: we use Booking.com (hotels) or VRBO (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Campervans or Motorhomes: we use Campstar where Albom Adventures readers get a 3% discount
- Private guides: we love the private guides at Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
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Have you been to Yelapa?
More from the region
We hiked up the river on a trail that goes to a larger waterfall. It’s about a 1.5hr hike. Along the way we stopped at the Jungle Waterfall Cafe, about 30min into the hike. There are signs along the trail. It’s a little place where a family lives, and they serve drinks and food. It was wonderful, with a beautiful garden and view of the river. This was in Dec 2021, so I don’t know if it’s still there, but I’m looking forward to going there again this fall.
Merlinda Little (@pixiedusk)
Those photos are so awesome. Again love this trip =) #WW
Your travel adventures are awesome to me. What a great million memories you all are going to have! I like the alley scene, that does look classic.
I like seeing photos of Mexico. I want to visit but my Partner is not so sure. I’ll convince him one day. Until then I will read blogs. The water would be too cold for me for sure. Living in North Qld. I am used to warm water. 🙂
Yelapa is a tourist trap, not worth it. You get overcharged for a mediocre experience. They will try to increase prices on you since youre a tourist and youre stuck there. Whole thing is a scam, dont get caught up in it.
While I agree that some of the places can be aggressive while the day trippers are there, I think to truly experience the joy of Yelapa you have to stay at overnight at least once. We go every year for multiple weeks. While sitting eating breakfast we see the guides herding the people up to the falls and see their looks as if they are saying ” is this all?” It’s sad they don’t get to experience the laid back atmosphere once the party boats leave.
Lisbeth A Sizelove
So true. We have stayed over night twice and loved both times. It can be an adventure but we lo ex it . We have been going to PurtoVallarta fot over 30 years. Love the climate, the people are nice and helpful, and the food is out of this world. If you get the chance to go , take it.
Love the ‘sneaky peeky’ of the man and steed. Great shot. Looks like a fun place. YAM xx
Looks like my sort of town…thanks for the introduction to it. I had never heard of it before.
It looks amazing! Is it too hard to get there?
Cascia @ The Healthy Moms Mag
Looks like a beautiful place to visit!
Tammi @ My Organized Chaos
So much culture there, i would love to visit someday!!
Robin (Masshole Mommy)
That looks amazing and I can totally see why so many people would frequent that area!
What a lovely looking place, nearest I been to Mexico is a Beef Enchilada heheh! 😉
Have a oolalatastic week 😉
Oh, what a place! I was planning to go to Mexico last February but instead, I visited the Amazon. Now I’m thinking of visiting both, Mexico and Bolivia next year.
Rhonda, I’ve never heard of Yelapa…I love it. It looks like a fun time.
Book me in; I think it looks great, tho celebs …
N J Magas
Oh wow! Beautiful pictures, it looks like it was a great adventure and vacation!
I have been to Mexico several times, and Yelapa is one of my favorite towns, certainly one of the most picturesque.
S. Katherine Anthony
I’ve been to Mexico a couple times already . . . and now I want to go back. It looks cute!!! 😀
I’ve been to Mexico a couple of times. This place looks fantastic!! I’d love to visit.
Yes, I’ve been there. Many years ago.
Have a fabulous day. 🙂
I am not surprised, it is a boaters town. Did you cruise there?
I scrolled through the photos before reading the description. I thought, this looks like my kind of town. Then I saw that it is a place that celebrities have visited which both made me cringe and validated my thought at the same time. Looks like a cool place.
We didn’t see any celebrities, nor did we know they had been there until after we got home.
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Some really funky buildings!