One of Mexico’s most secluded and seductive beach towns is just a short boat ride away from popular Puerto Vallarta. HoneyTrek travel experts, Mike & Anne Howard, reveal Jalisco’s best kept secret in their latest travel guide.
Only accessible by boat or 4×4, Yelapa is happily hidden away from glitzy Puerto Vallarta. While it’s northern Jalisco neighbor was building resorts and state-of-the-art airports, Yelapa was dabbling with the idea of fixed electricity and perfecting its Raicilla moonshine. A sandy beach cove, bountiful sea, and mom-and-pop shops provided everything locals and travelers could need. A few celebs like Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson caught wind of this paradise back in the 60s and kept it their little secret…but word is getting out. And those who seek a laidback vibe with plenty of adventure are slowly trickling into Yelapa, “where the two rivers meet the sea.”
Verana Hotel: The Gem of Yelapa
What initially lured us to this idyllic getaway? Verana. This boutique glamping retreat, perched on the edge of a jungle-covered mountain overlooking the bay, has become the darling of travel magazines and we swooned at first glance. Created by a husband-wife set design team, each room has a unique star quality–ranging from an open-air Mexican palapa to modern tree house—all united by of a love of nature and high style.
Worth the Hike
Like all of our favorite hotel experiences, it begins with an adventure. Most boats from Puerto Vallarta pull up to the beach in town, but Verana has its own pier–jutting out of the sea cliffs. A bellhop (or should we say “mountain porter”), led us to the stairs at the foot of the jungle. The owners built an ambitious half-mile-long stone staircase to the front desk. We thought this was a little crazy as we ascended into the unknown, but when we reached the view and oasis they created, it all made perfect sense.
Breakfast with a View
Every morning, coffee and pastries arrived to the front door of our open-air bungalow…as a little wake-up appetizer before the full-blown breakfast. Each meal we had—from classic mole to tuna tartare with coconut, lime and soy–was incredible and worth taking notes. (Good thing they offer cooking and mixology classes).
With gourmet food, a pool, spa, yoga, and unbeatable views, we could have happily stayed in this love nest forever; though, the charming, biodiverse, and historic Yelapa was calling. Since the 1500s, Yelapa residents have practiced their culture, without outside rule or influence from the Spanish or even Mexico, under a special status as an indigenous community. It’s one of the few regions in the country where locals collectively own the land and still make development decisions as a community. Love it! We wandered the narrow, car-less streets and re-energized with a lemon meringue pie (Yelapa is famous for its homemade pies) on the beach before our hike.
There are two major waterfalls in Yelapa. An easy 20-minute hike from town, Cola de Caballo (Horsetail) Falls has a swimming hole and a café for a laidback afternoon. We stopped there for a quick dip in the impressive 150-foot falls, but had our sights set on the remote Cathedral Falls. This hike is a bit trickier, involving ducking under a cattle gate, fording three rivers, and trusting our gut with the minimal signage. Though after about two miles, we reached a raging waterfall and had a heck of a jungle adventure.
Hiking all day called for spa treatment. We were going to try one of Verana’s massages, but fellow guests tipped us off to the Starlight Bath. The couple was so surprised and dazzled by the experience, they wouldn’t even tell us the details and just insisted we book. Wildly curious but tempering expectations, we entered the open-air spa. The place was a aglow with countless candles, cascading down the walls, lining the cliffs, and surrounding a massage table, bed, and bath filled with flowers. The attendant said “Enjoy the spa…it’s yours until the sun comes up.” We were speechless and still get tongue-tied talking about this utterly romantic experience.
The Magic of Yelapa
We woke up in a state of bliss and sealed it with a morning yoga session. The magic of Yelapa may never wear off.
Puerto Vallarta & Yelapa, Mexico Travel Guide
Fly into Puerto Vallarta: Yelapa may seem remote but great deals and direct flights abound from the States to nearby Puerto Vallarta. See the latest airfares.
Boat to Yelapa: Catch a water taxi from the pier at Playa de los Muertos in PV. There are several daily departures; tickets are around $12. If you’re renting a car, you can also drive to the charming Boca de Tomatlán where Verana can meet you with a charter to their dock.
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
Belmar Vallarta is a vibrant place–from its art-filled spaces to its central locale. Right off the malecón boardwalk and conveniently located near the pier, it’s an ideal hub before and after Yelapa.
Resorts by Pinnacle 220 is a fabulous option for those who like self-catering accommodations with luxurious and modern amenities.
Where to Stay in Yelapa
Verana: A one-of-kind boutique retreat, offering multi-night packages themed around spa, culinary, or adventure experiences, in a secluded and tropical setting over Yelapa.
Lagunita Yelapa, a charming and authentic option on the east end of the Yelapa bay.
Where to Eat
Café Bahia: A beachside charmer with a fresh, healthy, and surprisingly progressive menu—even vegan options!
Pie Ladies: You can’t leave without trying a Yelapa pie. Dueling bakers, Cheggy and Augustina, don’t have shops, but stroll the beaches and cobblestone streets offering their lime, chocolate, coconut and exotic delights. When they find you, just say, “Si, por favor!”
For more info on Yelapa travel, check out the village’s website.
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