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“I’d rather own a palapa in Yelapa than a condo in Redondo.”
The phrase was coined more than a quarter-century ago (by who, exactly, I don’t know), but still rings true today.
Yelapa, Mexico is one of the best hidden beaches in Puerto Vallarta because it’s completely inaccessible by car. Located inside a protected land reservation, the beach and surrounding town are still owned by the indigenous people who settled it, so foreigners, resorts, and giant corporations can’t legally come in and transform the coast for their own profit.
The result is a slow-paced, small-town escape from Puerto Vallarta, which works just fine for me.
I ranked 12 beaches in Puerto Vallarta and Yelapa came out on top because it walks that fine line of being stunningly beautiful while still having the infrastructure you need for a good time, like bars, restaurants, and bathrooms. (A totally secluded beach is all well and good until you run out of beer.) Plus, it’s fun to say out loud.
All in all, Yelapa is the best part of the Puerto Vallarta coast and if you skip it on your trip, you’re a fool. Luckily, this detailed guide covers everything you need to know to discover Yelapa, Mexico, including:
- Where is Yelapa?
- How to get to Yelapa beach (a step-by-step guide)
- What to do at Yelapa Beach
- How to hike to the Yelapa waterfalls (both of them)
- How much does it cost to visit Yelapa? (Our budget breakdown)
- How to get from Yelapa to Puerto Vallarta
- Extra tips for visiting Yelapa, Mexico
And oh-so-much more. Keep reading to plan your trip to Yelapa and spend a relaxing day on the best beach in Puerto Vallarta!
Where is Yelapa?
Yelapa is a small beach town in the state of Jalisco on the pacific coast of Mexico.
The closest major city is Puerto Vallarta, which is located about 1.5 hours north of Yelapa.
The town is inaccessible by road but can be easily reached by regular buses and water taxis from downtown Puerto Vallarta.
How to Get to Yelapa Beach
So, where exactly do you get these buses and water taxis that I keep going on about? Follow these steps to get to Yelapa beach from Puerto Vallarta:
1. Take a bus to Boca de Tomatlan
Catch the bus to Boca de Tomatlan in front of the Oxxo on the corner of Calle Constitucion and Basiilo Badillo in the Zona Romantica neighborhood – click here to find it on Google maps.
The buses cost 10 mxn / .50 usd per person and run pretty much non-stop, so there’s no need to worry about scheduling. (Except, you actually should worry about scheduling because you want to arrive in Boca 10 to 15 minutes before the hour).
2. Take a water taxi from Boca to Yelapa
Catch the water taxi on the Boca dock. Walk down the hill from the bus stop into town and turn right to find the dock (a boat hustler will probably direct you there anyway).
Boats from Boca to Yelapa leave every hour on the hour and cost 90 mxn / 5 usd each way (180 mxn / 10 usd for the round trip). The ride takes about 30 minutes, but it runs past hidden beaches and lush green jungle coastline, so it’s enjoyable.
If you buy a round trip ticket, the captain will tell you the exact times of the returning boats in the late afternoon and early evening, and you can get on whichever one you choose.
Alternate Option: Take a Tour to Yelapa
Going to Yelapa and back on your own with the steps detailed above only costs 11 usd per person – and it’s easy – so I recommend going this route.
What to Do in Yelapa, Mexico
It’s a beach, so it’s pretty easy to fill your time doing absolutely nothing at all. Your boat ticket includes a bed at a restaurant on the beach for free, which is super nice.
We lounged for a bit and then ordered lunch (6 usd for fish tacos and sides, yes please) and then we hiked to the Yelapa waterfall.
Hike is a strong word because the waterfall is an easy 15 to 20-minute walk away, but there is a farther one if you want to push yourself a little more. The walk to the waterfall goes up into the hills, so you get nice views, and it goes through town so you can see that as well.
I recommend doing it before you get too chilled out because it’s a little effort for a lot of nice rewards.
After visiting one or both waterfalls (step-by-step directions for both are below) we passed our time swimming and drinking Coronas in the sun before it was time to head home.
You can also explore Yelapa with a local on this tour that includes a waterfall, viewpoints, local wildlife, and more.
How to Hike to the Yelapa Waterfalls
There are two waterfalls in Yelapa, which is pretty fun. I had hopes to visit both but it was hot and after visiting the close one I was kinda done.
Every single person in Yelapa can tell you how to get to the waterfalls but I’ll include directions below if you suck at speaking Spanish or don’t like socializing (I’ll take one of each, please).
How to get to the close Yelapa waterfall
If you’re standing on the beach and facing the water, look left. Do you see that staircase running up the mountainside next to an orange house? You need to climb that.
Walk down the beach, cross the fresh-water river running into the ocean (this is actually kind of deep and strong at times, so be careful) and then go up the staircase.
It’ll take you to a road, turn left and follow the signs to la cascada (the waterfall). Once you’re in town the walk is only about 10 minutes more and it’s completely on roads or paved trails.
The waterfall is nice but the pool is small, so you’ll probably only want to go in for a few minutes, snap a few pics to say you did it, and then head back to the beach. The whole excursion will take less than an hour.
How to get to the far Yelapa waterfall
Since I was too lazy to hike to the far Yelapa waterfall, I can’t tell you exactly how to get there. But, you can ask anyone who lives and works in Yelapa or follow the directions in this blog post.
Unless you’re a waterfall hunter extraordinaire, walking to the close one will probably be enough for one day 🙂
How much does it cost to visit Yelapa?
This is exactly what we spent on our day trip to Yelapa, Mexico from Puerto Vallarta:
- 40 mxn for two round trip bus tickets from Puerto Vallarta to Boca de Tomatlan
- 360 mxn for two round trip water taxi tickets from Boca de Tomatlan to Yelapa
- 240 mxn for two fish taco meals with rice, beans, and veggies
- 400 mxn on 10 beers (estimated about 40 mxn each, clearly I wasn’t taking notes…)
In total, Dan and I spent 1040 mxn 55 usd on our day trip to Yelapa including all food, beer, transport, and activities (our visit to the waterfall). Obviously, you can do this much cheaper by cutting out the alcohol!
How to Get from Yelapa to Puerto Vallarta
The sun is starting to set and you’re ready to head home. You’re probably sunburned and a little tipsy, but luckily it’s super easy to get from Yelapa to Puerto Vallarta.
Simply walk to the dock at the North end of Yelapa beach (if you’re facing the ocean, that’s your right side) and catch the water taxi back to Boca de Tomatlan at one of the times that the captain told you they’d be arriving (you did remember the times, right?!).
It’s about a 30-minute boat ride back to Boca where you can disembark and walk up the hill to the bus stop on the main highway. Buses come every 10 to 15 minutes – jump on and ride it back to Puerto Vallarta! The ride back again costs 10 mxn / .50 usd each and takes about an hour.
From the PV bus stop in the Zona Romantica neighborhood, you can walk back to your hotel / Airbnb or take a quick Uber ride. Easy peasy.
Extra Travel Tips for Your Day Trip to Yelapa, Mexico
This day trip to Yelapa, Mexico is pretty lowkey.
I don’t have too much more advice for you except to bring cash (you should always have cash on you in Mexico) and hand sanitizer so you can pet the cute beach dogs. In addition, packing a towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, and water is always a good idea as well.
Try to time your bus from Puerto Vallarta to arrive in Boca 10 to 15 minutes before the next boat leaves (they leave every hour on the hour) so you don’t have to waste time waiting there.
If you want to spend a night or two in Yelapa, there are a surprising amount of nice Airbnbs in town (all with beautiful views) or you can book an overnight camping trip for something a little more adventurous.
Ready to go?
Explore unique stays on Airbnb – like this open-air earth house with a private pool or this 66 ft. yacht – and the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan the perfect night, weekend, or long-term stay in Puerto Vallarta.
Finally, join our new Sustainable Hiking Collective on Facebook to connect with the international hiking community, discover new destinations, join virtual trail cleanups, and take part in monthly sustainability challenges!
This article is part of the Puerto Vallarta Hiking Guide. Read the rest below:
Or, plan the rest of your trip with the Mexico Series for 50+ more articles on what to see, do, eat, drink, and discover in the country.
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