Mexico: Yelapa beach, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

viva Yelapa Jalisco Mexico

Getting to Yelapa beach, near Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco is like finding the Beach in the movie The Beach, with Leonardo de Caprio and others I can’t recall the name of. Only it’s much easier to find, and when you get there there are less rules, and many more bars and people.

Like the Beach in The Beach though, there are no roads there so you will have to swim out there through shark-infested waters with some French people if you want to visit. Or you can take a local bus down to Boca de Tomatlan from Puerto Vallarta and get on a water taxi from there and go over for the day, and wade across a river and then hike up to some waterfalls and have a nice refreshing swim before you head back to the beach and lounge around on deck chairs while you drink margaritas, and smoke local delicacies while you snack on taquitos and other Mexican delights. If you like, or are too stoned to get back on the water taxi (which are shared boats with around 8 passengers), you can also stay overnight in several hotels located there.

We, my wife (who was then my wife-to-be) and I, went for the bus and water taxi option, and despite also enjoying the smokey delights on offer at the beach, were able (just, and with much-concentrated effort, and a little assistance from the boast people) to get there and back in a day.

Here is my recollection of the events of that day.

At around 6.30 am or something, we woke from our hotel bed in the hills of Concha Chinas around Puerto Vallarta, to a beautiful panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, bathed in sunrise light.

Concha Chinas

We were staying about 11 mins drive south of the Malecon area of Puerto Vallarta. Up a very steep hill.

7.00 am had a coffee and light breaky of a few scoops of muesli, some yogurt, coffee and juice, then got dressed.

7.30 am walked down the very steep hill to the bus stop, slipping several times on the very slippery paths and then having to swap my shoes for my thongs, chancla thongs, not sexy underwear. I probably wasn’t wearing underwear because I had my bathers, traje de bano, on.

7.50 am Got to bus stop across the road from the Conchas Chinas beach area, and waited for the Boca de Tomatlan bus with pesos in hand.

8.05 am Boca de Tomatlan bus came and handed over our pesos. My wife is Mexican so she handled that transaction. If you don’t speak much Spanish just say Boca de Tomatlan??? in a quizzical manner and hopefully they say ‘si‘. Not all buses go to Boca de Tomatlan, but it is south of Puerto Vallarta so at least make sure you’re on the correct side of the road. If you’re staying in Puerto Vallarta town you might be best to ask google about where to get the bus, or maybe someone from an Oxxo (Mexican 7-11 style store but heaps better than 7-11s), but there’s actually a bus stop area near the Oxxo near the Malecon, which I think could be the place to get them there.

From memory, it won’t cost much, around 10-15 pesos should suffice (less than $1 Australian). Bring the exact change though as there’s no guarantee they’ll have much change on the bus (and as a tourist you’ve probably got lots of 100 and 200 pesos notes which nobody wants to change especially on a bus. You might be okay with a 20 peso note, however, but don’t even think about taking a 500!! Don’t chicken out and go for some tourist bus ride, if such one exists, the local bus is fine and really easy to take and it will get you there at a tiny wincy fraction of the cost. Ditto with water taxis from Puerto Vallarta itself, the journey will cost you heaps and heaps more from Puerto Vallarta, rather than going down to Boca de Tomatlan.

But you may like taking long boat rides and looking at the nice coastline and spending more money, so up to you. Otherwise, go down to Boca de Tomatlan, which is quite a nice little place in its own right.

8.30 am arrive at Boca de Tomatlan. You have to keep an eye out for the stop, it is a fair distance south, around 30 minutes from the Conchas Chinas area and probably around 40-45 minutes from the Oxxo near the Malecon area of Puerto Vallarta. The bus stop is also up the hill from the Boca de Tomatlan village area, so you have to get off and walk down, which only takes about 5 minutes. There’s a fair few people going that way so you shouldn’t find any difficulties getting down there.

I’m not going to do exact times or amounts now because it’s boring, and I don’t remember exactly anyway, but to give you a general idea, we got down to Boca de Tomatlan around 8.40 and then my wife sorted out our boat ride while I wandered about the beach and wharf. I think it cost like $15 Aussie dollars each round trip (around 500 pesos for two), which compares to around 1000 pesos from Puerto Vallarta (I don’t remember exactly but it was a lot more!). Of course, if you don’t have a Mexican wife you may pay more, which is why she got me to hide while she did the negotiations. There’s different operators doing the service, I’d just check out their boat first and make sure they have the horsepower to get you there quick. Ideally we’d be living in a world by now where you can get electric boats, but not when we went there.

So we wait around for about half an hour and then we don lifejackets and head off, it takes about another 30 minutes to get there, and you pass several coves and beaches and rainforest. It’s really nice. I’m not going to go into some flowery language about how nice it was. But it is very nice.

Around 30 minutes later we arrive at Yelapa beach and debark. There’s bars and restaurants on the beach and you can hire deck chairs (or whatever they are called – those things you sit on the beach with), or maybe they just come free if you buy something from a place, can’t remember. I feel like we may have paid a small amount. One thing to remember is the beach doubles as a harbour, so be careful where you swim otherwise you may be run over by a boat.

yelapa harbour

But anyway, we didn’t lounge around the beach long like lobos marinos (sealions), no, we got our bearings, asked a few questions and then headed over towards a small village you can see from the harbour which was on the way to some nice waterfalls we found out about from someone. Before we went though a nice old man tried to sell us some things, can’t remember what he had, seemed like tobacco or something, but I said ‘no, but if you had any marijuana I’d buy it.’ And he was, ‘oh! You want marijuana?’ And I said, ‘yes, I want marijuana, I love marijuana, but that first we want to go visit the waterfalls’. And he said ‘ok, meet me back here in a couple of hours and we can arrange it’, or words to that effect, as well as how much do you want? And I was like ‘oh yeah just a little bit’.


So, to get to the waterfalls, you walk towards the village over on the hill. There’s some track, it’s not super difficult to find, basically, there is one way from memory. If you’ve gone the right direction you’ll come to a river with vultures circling overhead or sitting on the banks of the river waiting for you to die so they can eat your dead body. The river is not exactly death-defying, but you will have to wade through it, sometimes around your chest, so you need to have important stuff in a plastic or water-proof thing to get across. On the way across we saw a local woman with a cake on her head wading the other way, so I’d say this is probably the only way to get to the village from the harbour unless they’ve since built a bridge or something.

women with cake in river yelapa

And there really are vultures (spot them on the bank center-left of the photo below).

yelapa vultures and river

To get to the village, we basically had to go through someone’s backyard at some point, but you know, use your intuition and you’ll probably be fine. There was probably a path we missed, but then again the path probably;y went through someone’s backyard. There’s a few signs which point towards the waterfall (cascada in Spanish), and I remember a little girl was manning a little family-run shop along the way so I bought an amazing piña empanada and a drink off of her.

cuale waterfall cascada Yelapa

It’s a pretty hot and steamy area with apparently lots of scorpions – though disappointingly I never came across any, and when I walked around the village trying to find some local men laughed at me for doing so. But scorpions aside, when you get to the waterfall you’ll probably find it nice and refreshing. It’s a pretty popular spot to visit. Along the last stretch, there’s some more little shops selling nick-knacks and snacks. It’s really a very beautiful area, steep cliffs and jungle abound, and the sound of the waterfall is soothing and deafening at the same time. You can have some quiet alone time if you wade over the falls and let the water cascade over your head, and for a while you’ll be nowhere else in the world but there.

yelapa 1

Don’t look at those photo-bombing women in the background, the cool one, my wife is in the foreground. Also I couldn’t find the original picture so I’ve had to resort to using a thumbnail.

So after our foray into the jungle, we headed back across the river, past the vultures, which I think sounds like a good 1980s adventure computer game setting, and back to the harbour. Which is mostly just a bunch of boats docked.

The old man sought us out as we sat down at a table in the shade. Not sure how much weed he actually had available, but ‘just a little bit’ turned out to be maybe quarter of an ounce and he charged around $150 pesos. My wife got me in trouble for not negotiating with him better, but I hadn’t bought weed for around 15 years, and you know, I’d never get a 1/4 ounce for under $10 Australian in Australia, so I was happy, he was happy and once I’d mulled up in my hat and rolled a nice spliff and went down the end of the street to smoke it, we were about to be much happier. I was also assured by the old man that there were no police in Yelapa so we didn’t have to worry – no pasar nada as the Mexicans says, nothing happens. And hey, even Hemmingway wrote about scoring weed in Spain back in the 1920s, so it’s not like a new thing.


So I bought some papers from the bartender, who seemed well equipped for such requests from visitors, then we go down the end of the beach, near a hill I think, which had a hotel or house on top, and smoked the old man by the sea’s weed. And my wife is like, ‘nothing is happening’, and I’m also like, yeah it seems pretty weak I better have some more. And I smoked more and more of the joint and still nothing was happening, and I got down to the roach and still nothing happened so it was, oh well, lesson learnt! Don Juan, the old man weed dealer, as we’d named him, has some pretty shit weed, so we went in and had a bit of a paddle around in the water instead, and then, a few moments later it hit me like a tsunami rolling in. ‘Holey dooley, I’m so fucking super high now’ I said to myself, a little bit terrified as to how stoned I was becoming I’ll admit.

peace yelapa

Initially my wife was also like, ‘I can’t feel anything, but then a few moments later it hit her as well, and then she also realised this Yelapa weed had the kick of a mule, you might not feel it straight away but then pow! You realise some mule has just kicked you in the head and then pooped on your shoes. I had to keep reminding myself not to go too deep into the water trying to hold onto the remanents of my responsibleness as reality started taking a sideward step.

We walked back to the restaurant and sat on our deck chairs on the beach under some sun umbrellas. If anything the effect of the weed was growing stronger and more pronounced. We ordered some beers and mojitos. Not knowing that there can be too much of a good thing, I was slipping in a few bits of buds into cigarettes so I could smoke in the peopled area and discreetly maintain the highness. The best thing about getting high on a beach in Mexico is that you don’t have to go far to get the best munchy food in the world. I feel like we had tacquitos and ceviche, and sweet, sweet and delectable coke. Also some fruit, perhaps some Pina, and then some totopos (corn chips) and guacamole, something cold, an iceblock perhaps, who knows,  but to be sure it was super freakin delicious.

We were giggling and eating and drinking and having such amazingly insightful conversations about life, reggaeton music, food, who knows, things started to get pretty blurry at that point, but we videoed the whole thing.


But as the day wore on I was getting stressed, how were we going to get back to Boca de Tomatlan?  Which boat was ours? What do we do if the boat leaves without us? My wife was all like no pasar nada – nothing happens, it’s all cool.

Anyway by some miracle it did happen and we found our boat. But getting into a boat from a beach is heaps freakin harder than getting into one from a wharf or pier. Which I guess is why they build wharves and piers. The boat guys helped the women on but us men were by ourselves. To me the boat’s edge looked like a mountain bobbing up and down in the ocean, It seemed insurmountable. But somehow I managed to grab the edge and pull myself up, with words of encouragement from the boat people, albeit muffled. My wife tried not to laugh as I stumbled to my seat and triumphantly sat down. Victory over the boat!

The ocean looked very pretty, and the beach looked really pretty and the water looked really pretty and my wife looked really pretty in her life jacket. And the sun was pretty as it started to lower itself from the sky, and then we were on shore, and because getting off a boat on a pier is super easy, and I had mad skills getting on and off boats now, I hardly remember debarking, and no way do I remember the bus back, except there was a pretty rock in the ocean on the way back that some Hollywood actress had once visited.

yelapa sun and moon

Apparently, we walked up the hill, which is a lot steeper on the way up than on the way down, and saw a pretty butterfly (actually we saw that in the morning but I’m just remembering that now – there was also a hummingbird – calibri – in Spanish, by the pool the day before) and we used the key to get into the hotel, and my wife crashed in bed feeling a little ill while I set about rolling more joints on the balcony, and getting hungrier. Of course, because we’d been on a Yelapa adventure all day we hadn’t had time to buy any food. And up in the hills of Conchas Chinas there’s not many restaurants about,  and I was too wasted to work out where they might be anyway, so I was stuck with what we had in the fridge and cupboard which was eggs, fruit juice, muesli, some scotch and cola premixed in a can and yohgurt. So as the sunset over the ocean, I ate bowls of cereal with yogurt and boiled 4 eggs in succession, boiling one, peeling it, eating it and then starting another one. It was the best meal I ever had.

I then watched a film about the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. I remember the nuns at school always used to say, ‘think of the poor kids in Kampuchea’ back in the early 1980s. That’s what the Khmer ROuge called Cambodia.

Tomorrow we were heading to Cuba, so I kept smoking and smoking, barely making much of a dent in Don Juan’s super awesome weed. And on the morrow, we polished off the last of the scotch and cola and muesli for breakfast, jusy like Hemmingway might do in Fiesta, and I had one last joint and we headed to the airport where I remember I had a decent quantity of weed still in my bag, which might land me in a Cuban jail, and I said ‘whoops, better leave that behind’, so I put it under a rubbish bin at the entrance to the airport in the hope someone might find it and Saint Don Juan’s efforts weren’t wasted. I don’t remember much about getting to Cuba, just that my wife had to get a visa in Mexico City when we were changing flights, which was pretty straightforward. And that was Yelapa.

If you want to see my video compilation of the day go to: How to get a bus to Yelapa.

puerto vallarta sunset

*Credit for most of the Yelapa photos goes to my wife :)