There are two waterfalls in Yelapa, Mexico. The route to one waterfall is on a cobblestone path. It takes about 10 minutes to get there to once you get through town. This is the waterfall most tourists see – hundreds, if not thousands, each week. The second waterfall is upriver and it’s an hour or 90-minute hike depending on your speed. This is on the road less traveled with way fewer travelers. The route starts as a cobblestone path leading out of town, and eventually turns to a dirt path with some large rocks and easy river crossings.
Make sure you’re on the west side of the river on the path heading towards the pedestrian bridge, and then just keep going on the path past the bridge.
You’ll pass a few homes and a stable or two. A small store that’s not always open. In about 40 minutes or so, you’ll get to the structure pictured below. Behind that small building is the first river crossing.
After this point, you won’t see anymore structures. You’ve got roughly another 30 to 45 minutes left to walk.
The second river crossing is a few minutes away. (The river is never very deep or fast at this part – at least not in the months of December or January, when we have gone.) The path is now all dry, and it’s still well marked and easy to walk. The route follows along a fence nearly all the way to the gate you need to go through to get to the waterfall. You can’t miss the gate, but it doesn’t really open. You have to climb through the area between the fallen tree and the fence.
I don’t really know for sure, but I’m guessing this is there to keep horses out. Tourists who ride horses and mules up to this waterfall have to walk starting at this point.
The last quarter or so of the hike takes on more of a remote feel. You can’t see the power lines that head into Yelapa anymore, although the path is still well-worn and relatively easy. As long as you can walk a few steep inclines and declines and walk over rocks, you’ll make it. The trail disappears when you hit some large rocks, but it’s obvious where you can step. If I can do this, just about anyone can. (I’m not a good rock climber at all.) Then you’ll find stone stairs someone made that will lead you down close to the waterfall.
We have been there a few times over the years, and this was the most crowded I’ve seen it. This time, we never had the place to ourselves at roughly midday. Maybe because it’s high season, or maybe because more people are coming to Yelapa. Our last time in Yelapa in 2011, we also went around midday, and we were alone for most of our couple-hour visit.
Check the depth before you leap off the rocks. Most of the waterfall base is not deep enough and if you do jump, go down close to the rocks, like my spouse.
Swim or walk close to the rocks alongside the base of the falls, and find natural seats in the rock. We each sat on either side and waved to each other with cascading water splashing us silly.
Try to get there when the sun is high in the sky. The water is chilly after awhile, especially if you’re sitting on the natural seats at the base of the falls and everything looks better in bright sunshine anyway.
Bring some snacks and relax. Just enjoy the place, and the moment. We had lunch on a rock in the sun and chilled out so long my hair nearly dried.
Please don’t leave your trash behind. Take it with you. And don’t leave it in the jungle along the path, except for where the locals have hung bags for your garbage. I saw less plastic trash here than at other places in Central America. I hope it stays that way.
I’ve done this hike in flip flops in 2011, but this year I wore sneakers and I was glad I did. Sport sandals are probably best, but I currently don’t have any. To prevent my socks and sneakers from getting wet, instead of hiring a mule, I had my spouse piggy-back me across the each river crossing.
On the walk back, don’t forget to stop and take in the views as they happen. I was too focused on ‘getting there’ and didn’t enjoy the scenery as much as I did on the way back. It’s really beautiful. Another day in paradise.