Yelapa is a small town on the Bay of Banderas, a 45-minute boat ride southwest of Puerto Vallarta. There is a road through the jungle from the north, but it does not come all the way into town, so for now, the only way to get here is by boat. A local told us it’s probably not much longer before a connecting road reaches town and the place grows more. But it doesn’t yet, and that’s part of Yelapa’s charm for me. It’s still off the heavily beaten path.
That said, it’s not cheap here. Everything is brought by boat, from groceries to natural gas, to flat screen TVs. That makes the price of some goods not native to Yelapa more expensive.
My spouse Tedly booked the Airbnb spot where we are staying several months ago, and back then, there was a short list of available places. It appears to be a tight market perhaps because there are more people coming to Yelapa, and also because there is a limited supply of available beds, but this is just my impression. I have no formal knowledge.
I’m happy at the place where we are staying. It reminds me of my days on ‘the hill’ in Western New York at the edge of the Alleghany National Forest near the Pennsylvania border. Those back roads are where I learned to ride a motorcycle, feed a fire and stoke a wood stove, among other things – not small feats for this Long Island-raised princess whose outdoor experience was the beach off a parking lot and a backyard. Our Yelapa rental is sweet – a screened-in room has a large, king-sized bed, cable TV, fan, dresser, couch, table and chairs. Outside of the screened area is an outdoor kitchen, bathroom, dining area and a day bed, with a private entry near a camping complex. And wifi – there is wifi here that is good enough to write this and post pictures and read news of the insanity happening at home and abroad.
Despite our screened-in sleeping area, I’m covered in bug bites (ants, I think, got me while sleeping). Oh well. I taste divine to the insect world, and at least I don’t have a mosquito virus again. I haven’t shaved my legs, don’t wear a bra and mostly keep my hair in a bun. Oh yeah. It feels so good to ‘drop out’ in a sense, and just – be.
From the beach, we wade through a small river to get to the path to the place we are staying.
When the high tide pushes sand into the mouth of the river, the river rises and if you’re carrying a lot of stuff, it may be easier to take the long way to our place from the beach, which is a twisty stairway up a steep hillside that leads to the main road in and out of the town. The ‘road’ is basically from one Yelapa waterfall to another, with many homes and farms and other sights along the way. Watch where you walk – horses frequent the narrow cobblestone road, and you occasionally have to step out of the way for a passing ATV – there are no cars here. (Compared to our last visit in 2011, quad use has greatly increased.)
The town has no pharmacy. When we asked around for the pharmacy, people told us there weren’t any, but there may be something we need sold by the women in that store. When I asked the store clerks if there were pharmacy supplies, they said it depended on what I needed. They sold a few basic supplies, and I was able to score some ointment for my itchy bug bites. I’m so grateful they had something because even though toothpaste was a little help in a pinch, I spent all of one day trying like mad not to itch my neck and upper back to bloody ribbons.
There are plenty of souvenir stands for tourists coming here on day trips to the main beach and the waterfalls, plenty of small bodegas, two stores with modest but entirely adequate grocery essentials (one is away from the main town on the way to the second waterfall), various other shops and some cafes and restaurants. We had dinner at The Yacht Club where they have good food, plenty of soap to wash your hands, and where they play American classic rock and have Christmas decorations. AAAhhhh, Christmas.
Our first evening here we saw a procession for Los Posadas – nine days of religious observance leading up to Christmas, mostly celebrated by Mexicans and Mexican Americans.
This will be my second holiday season outside the U.S. as an expat. I’m a former news junkie, once publicly objective but now decidedly subjective by declaring the Orange One to be an evil source who encourages the greed that currently drives our country and threatens to transform our democracy to a demagoguery or worse – with a potential doomsday looming in the future of a parallel dimension. None of that matters in Yelapa, not really. Sure, everyone we meet is happy to take our paper money. But, if the world got any crazier and nukes blasted other parts of the world down to glass, people here would adapt to their own world order. Natural gas isn’t really needed, neither are those flat screen TVs or bags of potato chips.
So, yes, maybe this is the real reason why this place is so attractive to me. Because it’s off the heavily beaten path and the people here could get by without any outside help because they have the skills to do so. Unlike this city-life princess who’s led a life of privilege — while having learned to stoke a fire, isn’t sure she can start one.