Day tripping to Yelapa

We were interested in seeing some of the less developed areas of the coast south of PV and decided to take the bus to Boca de Tomatlan, the last town on the route south. We were up and out the door by 8:30 for the half kilometer walk to Insurgentes and Basillo Badillo and the bus stop. Just as we rolled up, the bus arrived and off we went down the winding coast-hugging road. Almost all the fancy waterside villas along this road seem to be for sale by “Timothy” real estate – is this the only real estate game in town? And what is not for sale is for rent. There are lots of high rise hotels and condo developments south of PV about as far as Mismaloya, famed for the 1960s movie Night of the Iguana with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. After this point the real estate pickings are slim and Boca does not have much in the way of newer accommodation, although a few palatial residences do dot the bay there.

Boca seems to be a town in transition from its earlier incarnation as a fishing village and its not-yet-established identity as a tourist centre. When we arrived there at 9:30 there were a few bodies about and some drunks sleeping off last night’s bender under a restaurant veranda.

Seeing that there wasn’t too much of interest there for us, we decided to keep on heading south, and caught the ten o’clock water taxi to Yelapa, the last stop on Banderas Bay, accessible only by water.

The water taxi was about half-full and the seas were high; seated at the front, I just about got blasted into the air as one huge wave hit us. Luckily, I held my ground, or boat bench, and we were deposited, after a ride of about 40 minutes and three stops at smaller settlements, at the pier at Yelapa.

We crashed at the first shaded restaurant we saw, the Lagunita, for a breakfast burrito and coffee – big and delicious – and spent our time under a palapa on the beach, watching dogs chase seagulls, kids play frizzbe, vendors vend, and iguanas walk.

I had my picture taken with Peter the iguana (he’s very forward – I’d only just met him and already he’s feeling me up …).

In the afternoon parasailers rode the sky, and paragliders swooped down from the surrounding hills. The vendor parade wasn’t as active there as in PV but, for a small burg, there were still quite a few people plying the sand.

As we were driving down the coast, we had noticed what looked like a sewage outflow pipe dumping crap into the ocean. And while on the boat to Yelapa we saw a slick of yellowish-white bubbly crud floating on top of the water along the current all down the shore, ending its run in Yelapa Bay. We weren’t sure whether this was indeed effluent but it did not look very appealing so we didn’t swim – too bad.

After we got back, I read the following account of the foam, which explains the phenomenon (although that pipe is definitely pumping out sewage, so that’s there as well):

In Banderas Bay during February and March you might encounter what looks like stretches of filth and foam along the coastline. It is NOT sewage or filth. Professor Fabio Cupul explains (in the PV Tribune) : A word about ‘Sea Foam’ … For a couple of months, usually February and March, Vallarta has a strange ocean phenomenon which appears as, well, filth floating near the tides of the beaches. This foam is due to the presence in the water of an infinite number of acorn barnacles or sacabocados (animals related to shrimp that live attached to rocks). These organisms shed their skin every time they increase in size. There are also small fragments of plants and animals within it, that complicate matters.

These elements gather along the coastline of the bay and on the surface of the water to form a net that catches small films of sea water as the waves break on the beach, creating a dirty looking color, a situation that makes many think of contamination. A fraction of the material is generated by the acorn barnacles and the rest comes from the mechanism of an action known as upwelling. Cold water, rich in organic matter, upwells from the ocean’s depth to its surface. As the temperature on the bottom is lesser and it receives the waste and offal of plants and animals that live along that area of water, that precipitate and accumulate on the ocean floor, thus enriching it. This results in important economic benefits, maintaining the health of the biological ecosystems. This dirty looking sea foam offers an infallible indication of the beginning and continuation of life within the natural environment.


Yelpapa is hotter and drier than Puerto Vallarta and has a river leading inland to a waterfall, an attraction we did not bother investigating, having seen many over the past several months, most disappointingly small or dried up. After several hours under the palapa enjoying the sun and breeze, we ran across the sand to catch the 3:30 boat back to Boca where the bus was waiting as we climbed the hill to it for our ride back.

For more Yelapa info, click here.

See more pics here.

7 Replies to “Day tripping to Yelapa”

  1. I have a soft spot for places which can only be reached by water. Looks lovely enough and you are very brave to have played with that ‘beast’.

  2. Interesting to see a fishing town in its tourism infancy, I have been to so many that were listed in Lonely Planet and we no longer the hidden gem but big business.

  3. Thanks! Yelapa is still a semi-hidden gem, although who knows for how much longer. That it’s water access only probably means that it’s much less visited than it might be if there were a road in.

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