Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Palapa in Yelapa

Yelapa is one of the coolest towns we've come across yet. It is located in the south end of Banderas Bay and accessible only by boat. There are no cars in this town - NONE. We spent three lovely days there last week with my mother-in-law who was here visiting and had a blast.

When you arrive at the anchorage at Yelapa, a panga approaches your boat and brings you to one of its mooring balls for a nightly fee. For all we know, Bully, the panga driver doesn't even 'own' the mooring ball, but just takes your money, attaches your boat to the mooring, and laughs all the way to the bank. Either way, he also gave us free rides to/from shore as this town was no place for a dinghy beach landing (too steep). Bully promised us a ride back to our boat each night but only up to 5 p.m. as he then goes home to his family. One evening, after dark (and well after 5 p.m.), we bumped into him in the 'street' and he said he could take us back to our boat. Apparently, at night, he himself moors his boat out, so he had to send his cousin swimming out to get the panga in order to drive us back to our boat. It is little experiences of Mexican hospitality like this that make Mexico such an incredible place to be. We have found that most will go out of their way for you in an instant.

Back to Yelapa. The town is located at the mouth of a river, and built almost vertically up the mountain. What is so surprising is that there is so much more to the town than you see from the water. You could spend days there exploring and still find new things of interest. The path-streets wind through the town up and down the hillside without much order (or street signs, for that matter - it's one of those "take a right at the house with the three windows" kind of a town). Some of the paths run so steep that even the donkeys that carry heavy loads seem to slip down every few steps. On the steepest of the hillside paths, Harrison was invited by a couple of town boys to sit with them on an upside-down milk crate covered with cardboard and slide down treacherously heading for a huge rock that acted as a ramp to take them airborne. They were slowed down only by hanging onto the branches hanging over the path just before the path takes a sharp twist to the left. Quite a site. There's no way we would have ever permitted Harrison to do this at home, but here, well, it's all part of the experience, no?

There are several good Mexican and seafood restaurants. Thanks to my mother-in-law's keen ability to talk to just about anyone, we befriended Susan, the proprietor of Cafe Bahia right on the shore at the end of a broken down concrete dock. Being an expat, she appreciates good freshly baked bread which she bakes daily along with amazing desserts (like homemade cinnamon ice cream, homemade lime bars, homemade granola, trail mix cookies, etc). In addition, she serves delicious fresh and mostly organic food. We spent two afternoons there, as it was like visiting her and her family at their own home - the waitresses would serve you a cookie and take one for themselves as well. She also provided us with shelter (and pretzels) one evening when it started to rain. They provide internet, but only after 3 p.m. as it is dial-up and they have to turn off their phones to let you have it.
We purchased amazing banana bread and Mexican wedding cookies at a 'bakery' called Brisas which is essentially a bake sale run out of someone's kitchen. This was a great experience going into their home and their colorful large kitchen, and watching the mother of the family cook chile rellenos in a huge skillet over a large old fashioned stove. When we had to use the bathroom, they sent us into their own personal bathroom in their home - toothpaste cap still off the tube and all.

We had another wonderful encounter there as well. Walking down the path along the shore, we came across an American gentleman, John Van Winkle, who invited us up to see his vacation rental where he and his wife, Margy, stay for 2 weeks every year. Up we followed him - at least 250 stairs carved into the rock - to his open air home - no walls - just a roof with the mountain side acted as a back wall. They shower outside in complete privacy in the jungle facing a waterfall. This was certainly heaven on earth. The person who runs the five or so similar rental homes called Casa Isabel is Judy, a lovely classy lady with whom we spent much time chatting as well. Apparently, THE Isabel passed away last year after living in the area for about 40 years and establishing these beautiful homes, while helping the locals and having a romance with the son of the Mexican president. Anyone who spoke of her did so with much admiration and love. The stories were fascinating.

And then the heavens opened up and it rained and rained. We were hoping to stay another day, in order to hike up the river to what is supposed to be a spectacular waterfall but instead headed for Nuevo Vallarta and the comforts of the marina. More on the weather later - it's been weird, to say the least.

And by the way, we never did sit under a palapa while in Yelapa, but what other word do you know that rhymes with palapa???

Signing off until next time,


  1. Great story...Yelapa sounds like a very rustic and interesting place inhabited by laid-back down-to-earth people. How are you ever going to get back to your kind of "civilization" after these amazing experiences?
    How's the home schooling coming along? Any visitors in the horizon...or are you all "visitored" out? Hope you are all feeling well and getting along with each other...
    Florida is nice and sunny but a bit on the cool side - but way warmer than Toronto! We seem to have something to do and/or people to see every day - but still very relaxed. Tomorrow for Shabbat dinner we'll be 8 - Deb's family and the Brotmans...but I won't be baking my own challah.
    Shabbat shalom, happy sailing and lots of love...

  2. Very informative post. Yelapa close to Puerto Vallarta is a nice town worth visiting place, it is a eco friendly destination.It is a very small town, here electricity also come now a days. Yelapa is a straight-forward town here peoples life is simplistic life. Yelapa’s another tourist attraction is Chelly Pay here this lady has been serving delectable pies, from last 20 years. Chelly has become a popular ideal in the town of Yelapa. Don't fail to visit iguana boys, don’t miss to snap some photos with iguana. It is a real Mexican experience. For more details refer Yelapa mexico beach