All photos by Jeff Burgess
The taxi dropped us off and immediately someone was grabbing for my suitcase. I tried to get the driver's attention so I could hand him the fare, but he was already engaged in conversation with someone on the street. I glanced back to see my luggage being carried farther away. I finally yelled at the taxi driver "Senor!". Now I had his attention and he took my money. My suitcase had been carried to the first booth that offered transportation to Yelapa. The Puerto Vallarta humidity was living up to its reputation and I felt stuck. No chance to bargain. We were offered round trip tickets from the Los Muertos Pier for something like $38 for 2. When we told the Charter company that we only wanted to go one way, the price increased to $20 for 2.
Wait a minute! Isn't this Mexico, a place where the deals are supposed to get better, not worse?
Realizing there wasn't much I could do, I chose a silent protest.
Soon I would be in Yelapa and all my frustrations would melt away in the warm Mexican Riviera sun.
The taxi heading to Yelapa was more like a shuttle as it stopped by various Party Boats anchored around the bay. Passengers and supplies were dropped off as taxi continued south to our final destination.
I discovered Yelapa while doing research for the Travel Invasion website and was fascinated by its somewhat primitive lifestyle as well as what the area had to offer for lodging. Typically if you are lucky or smart enough to stay for the night, you will end up sleeping in a Palapa.
At the front desk, my traveling companion Ronna and I were told that our room (#6) would be ready in a little while and that we could leave our bags and go have a drink. I couldn't have thought of a better suggestion! The onsite bar and restaurant is called Tres Amigos. A Pacifico Beer was tasting very refreshing right now.
We dropped our bags and changed into our swim suits. The water looked too inviting to not indulge ourselves.
While changing we realized the side of our Palapa opened to reveal a panoramic view of the water and across the Bay. Somehow the Hotel Lagunita has found a perfect density of units (28 or 29 depending on the time of the year) built into the hillside. A few of the units are more secure offering solid walls, although we personally would have felt let down staying in one of those type of structures.
Heading back to use the bathroom in our dream hut, I began to realize just how sun fried I had gotten over the last few hours. The mirror in the room confirmed my all my fears. I decided it was time to do some exploring around Yelapa. Walking over to the bar to drop off my empty drink glasses, someone approached me and asked if I was Jeff? I immediately realized it was Lucas, the man in charge of running the show at Hotel Lagunita. (He preferred the term Partner)
People like Lucas intrique me for many reasons. The greatest reason is that they possess the nerve, ability or just plain balls to give up the easy life in the States to follow a dream to a much different way of life. Lucas spoke very highly of all the staff of the Lagunita. He came across as being so laid back while describing how on this day he had chosen a shower & nap, over actually attempting to get some things done.
I had read about Pollo Bollo on the Internet although I was going to pass on any food in anticipation of dinner the Lagunita later that evening.
Somehow our request for one chicken taco turned into 2 full chicken dinners with sides of salad, rice and beans. Things quickly started going downhill as I sheepishly picked from the large portions of food. Although the meal tasted great, we were full before our plates were clean. While we were eating, a very sickly looking dog wandered up to our table looking for what I thought might be his last meal. I couldn't help but feed him a few scraps from my plate.
WARNING: CULTURAL LESSON #1 - The owner did not appear to pleased with our generosity to the canine. A disgusted look got us up and out of there in a hurry.
Los Muertos Pier - Puerto Vallarta
Not a Water Taxi
Yelapa is approximately 25 miles south of Puerto Vallarta and is basically only accessible by some form of boat, most likely being a water taxi. The taxis leave from various areas of Puerto Vallarta and areas farther to the south.
Approximately 45 - 50 minutes later after passing a few small waterside villages intermixed with a large dose of gorgeous tropical scenery, we began to sense we were nearing Yelapa
I had read that Yelapa had only approximately 2,000 residents, no cars & very limited electricity. Hippies came and stayed while some famous names such as Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson
& Pee Wee Herman have used it as a hideaway.
After searching the Interent for every possible rental option, I ended up deciding on either the Casa Isabel or the Hotel Lagunita. I liked the idea of Casa Isabel since they offered a selection of 4 different Palapas as well as use of some Kayaks for exploring the water. But on the other hand the Hotel Lagunita had electricity, food and a bar.
I sent off an E-mail to the Casa Isabel although never receiving a response. I tried calling the phone number but my limited Spanish made me think I was calling the liquor store. I gave up on the idea and decided fate was leading me to the Hotel Lagunita. I had this misconception that the Lagunita would be a bit too modern and un-rustic for what I was hoping for. Thank God I was wrong.
The water taxi had finally arrived. They said it was just a short walk to the main desk. Luckily we were assisted to the office by a local who risked a possible hernia dragging some of our over loaded luggage, all in hopes of a small tip.
The moment I had been waiting for was finally here. Our Palapa was ready for inspection. A cobblestone slyle path led from the office winding by various Palapas. Jungle landscape greeted us at every turn. The sign read #6, we were here. A small porch fronted the unit. Upon entering the wicker style door, we were treated to two twin beds, tile floors and simple but effective furniture. A small closet fronted the bath area. There was a fan in the room and a mosquito net for each of the beds. The room had electricty and hot water for the shower and sink. Sunlight filtered through the thatch style palm roof.
Ronna and I spent the next few hours doing nothing but soaking in the scenery. Ronna bought pie from the famous pie lady who carries the pies on her head. Small boys came by in hopes of selling various shells they had collected on the beach. Semi stray dogs played on the beach with one particular Lab mix refusing to keep quiet unless someone was throwing his stick into the water. Para sailing and kayak rentals were offered a few yards down the beach. We watched as day tourists tried to live out their fantasies in the three short hours they would be visiting the area before heading back to Puerto Vallarta. Yelapa at this point could easily be in the running for the definition of paradise. We had the chance to meet a nice family who own the Blue Iguana Inn in Ojai, California. They told us they had been returning to Yelapa every few years, and I was easily beginning to see why.
Lucas told us the way to find the trail which would lead us into the village. We headed back to Unit #6 to change into something more appropriate for the walk. As we headed out over the sand and across the Bay we begin to realize we didn't actually know where we were supposed to go. Using my Spanish skills once again to almost no advantage, a local sensing our frustrations showed us through what looked like swinging doors of an abandoned building. Through the doors we found a flight of weathered concrete stairs heading up. We took the stairs and eventually reached the trail. Now we were headed in the right direction.
The trail into the village is approximately 10 - 15 minutes although feeling like six months in humidity time. Since it was Sunday, most of the businessses were closed. You eventually begin to walk through the local peoples backyards, frontyards and patios. A Yelapan approached and asked if we needed some help. Ronna responded by explaining her desire for a simple chicken taco. The local assured us if we followed him, we would find a great taco. So off we went following a guy whose bathing suit was lowered about 33% down his butt crack. After stopping a few times so he could take a swig from his bottle we were finally led to a patio type restaurant called Pollo Bollo. The
Somehow we got lost heading back down the trail and chose to take the beach/rock route instead. This short trip back turned into a 45 minute ordeal as we got separated on the rocks. While Ronna was pleading for help from a 4 year old, I decided to try to forge ahead and find the trail but instead met up with some local teens more interested in selling me some "Skunky Wunky". I think that's what they called it. I passed on the opportunity as they quickly realized I was desperately trying to find who I had came here with. Finally after crawling back down through some jungle brush , I could see Ronna heading safely back to the Lagunita. She was O.K. and I just wanted a cold beer.
Later that evening as the sun began to set, I met up with Lucas as we discussed the possibility of seeing the Green Flash at sunset. As we stood talking I finally began to see (although just a little bit) the Green Flash. Of course it only lasts for a split second.
We decided to finish off the evening with drinks at the bar. The candle flickered on the table as we discussed all that we had witnessed and experienced that day. Lucas came by for a few words but was soon distracted by the tropical storm that was fast approaching. Within minutes the lights of the resort had darkened.
Lightning began exploding in the sky illuminating the mountainous backdrop. We knew we would soon be headed for our Palapa to escape the rain and finish off a perfect day.
Tres Amigos Bartender
As Ronna and I were heading back to our room, we realized we were being led by one of the resident dogs who appeared to be extremely scared by the thunder. Once we arrived at Unit #6, the dog led us inside and then proceeded to crawl under one of the beds. After a few minutes I got down to look at him hiding out and discovered that we already had another roommate hiding out under the other bed. Somehow another dog had beat us back to our room to take cover from the storm. I thought about my own dogs back home and laughed thinking that even in Yelapa the dogs know I am a sucker.
Ronna and I laid down and let the sound of the storm lull us to sleep. A peaceful way to end a peaceful day.
Yelapa is amazing, and the Hotel Lagunita and all its staff can be highly recommended.
A view of the Bay
Jeff Burgess - Travel Invasion
Take the trail, not the rocks!
Sunset in Yelapa
Ronna looking west
Our camera shy houseguest
Rooftop view from the village
Yelapa Beach View
Some more Yelapa Photographs
Lucas on right