If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path day trip from Puerto Vallarta, consider visiting the teeny fishing village of Yelapa. The colorful town is known for its rushing waterfalls, pristine beaches, and laid back vibes and offers a totally different perspective of Mexico than Puerto Vallarta’s glitzy beach resorts. If you want to get a glimpse into small town life in Mexico—and enjoy some killer beach time, here’s 5 of the best Yelapa tours from Puerto Vallarta.
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During my husband’s and my first visit to Puerto Vallarta, I KNEW that we had to join a tour to Yelapa.
You see, this small town is quite unique—located between the Sierra Madre Mountains on the east and the Bay of Banderas to the west, it’s completely surrounded on all sides by water or incredibly dense jungle. Given there’s no roads that reach Yelapa, the only way you can get there is by boat (or hypothetically, via a really long hike through the jungle with a local guide, although I can’t find any information online about how’d you actually do this).
Accordingly, unless you have a personal friend with a yacht in Puerto Vallarta (in which case… can you introduce me?), the best way to get there is by joining a Yelapa tour that will take you to the village by boat.
As you can imagine, Yelapa’s remoteness has left the town feeling untouched by time—in fact, there’s no cars in the village and, until recently, there wasn’t even electricity or telephone wires! Instead, you’ll find cobblestone streets, mom-and-pop restaurants with homemade food, stunning beaches, and rushing waterfalls, tucked into the jungle.
Best Yelapa Tours
Length: 6 hours
On this tour, you’ll kick off by boarding a 100 foot mega yacht—kind of an epic way to start the day! As you cruise out into the Bay of Banderas, there’s plenty of comfy chairs to relax on and soak up the sun—or, if the heat gets to be a bit too much, plenty of shade to hang out under.
You’ll first stop at Playa la Piramide, a secluded cove with turquoise water, just south of Puerto Vallarta, for some snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, or simply sunbathing.
From here, you’ll feast on a lunch of fajitas, chips, and salsa (they’re happy to accommodate dietary preferences if you ask ahead of time!) as you cruise to Yelapa. Along the way, you can choose to indulge in the premium open bar or with a massage from the onboard masseuse (yeah, they’re not kidding about this tour being all inclusive!).
Once in Yelapa, you’ll have about three hours to explore the town and its charming cobblestone streets. You can either relax on its pristine beach, with beautiful views of the surrounding bay or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can opt to make the short and easy hike to Cascada Yelapa, right smack dab in the middle of the town.
Here, you’ll find a 150-foot waterfall, cascading down a rocky cliff, into a small plunge pool below—it’s seriously one of my favorite places I’ve ever cooled off in Mexico (and I’ve swam in a LOT of different bodies of water, all over the country!). Or, if you decide you’re enjoying the mega yacht too much, you’re actually welcome to stay aboard and continue taking advantage of the open bar!
This is a group tour (which, in full transparency, can be quite large) and yet, this company excels at making you feel like a VIP, bringing you drinks while you’re in the water and always making sure each guest is having an amazing time. The one caveat I’ll point out is that this Yelapa tour definitely has a party vibe, so if you’re looking for something a bit more chill, you might want to consider one of the other options.
Length: 7 hours
If you’re looking for a tour packed with adventures, this is DEFINITELY it.
As soon as you board the boat, you’ll be able to feast on fruits, pastries, and some much needed coffee for your day’s exploration.
Your first stop of the day will be at a snorkeling spot, with beautiful blue water and lots of tropical fish swimming around.
After enjoying some time amongst your new fish friends, you’ll head to Yelapa, where you’ll have an hour or so to walk to the waterfall, stroll the cobblestone streets of the city, or relax on its white sandy beach.
Finally, you’ll cruise to Majahuetas, a private beach club, about an hour south of Puerto Vallarta, that’s only accessible by boat. Majahuetas is all-inclusive, so you can enjoy the available water activities, like a banana boat (so goofy and yet, SO fun!), and all the fruity cocktails your heart desires—for free.
Additionally, breakfast, lunch, and cocktails are all included in the tour and plentiful. The staff are friendly, attentive, and incredible at making the best of situations—for example, if the visibility at the snorkeling site could be better, they’ll often try to head to an alternative site instead or will suggest that the group spend more time at the beach in Yelapa if the waterfall’s flow isn’t very strong, due to dry weather.
Length: 6 hours
Want something more private? Well, you’re in luck—on this tour, you’ll have your very own boat and captain, with up to eight people in your group!
After cruising through the Bay of Banderas, you’ll arrive in Yelapa, where your guide will personally show you through the city, sharing fascinating nuggets about the village and what it’s like living in the state of Jalisco. You’ll head to the waterfall to enjoy its cool waters (perfect for a hot day!) and then to the beach to soak up the sun.
One of the benefits of going on one of the Yelapa tours with a private guide is that you can customize the tour however you want—wanna head someplace to snorkel? You can totally do that! Would you rather spend more time on the beach? You can totally do that too!
Whether you want someone to stand guard of your stuff while you’re frolicking in the waterfall or your own personal photographer while you’re on the beach, the guides with this company do an awesome job of making sure you’re getting exactly the tour you want. So if you’re traveling with friends or family that may need a bit of extra time or attention, like senior travelers or kiddos, this is a really great option!
Beyond its flexibility, you tend to learn quite a bit more about the town and Jalisco on this intimate tour, as opposed to large group tours, which definitely have more of a lets-take-advantage-of-the-open-bar party vibe.
But if you want a little bit of a party on this tour, not to worry—there’s lots of cold beer, just waiting for you on the boat (plus snacks, water, and soda)!
Length: 5 hours and 30 minutes
If you have a smaller group—or are working with a smaller budget, this more affordable private tour is a great option.
You’ll start off the trip by heading to Los Arcos National Marine Park off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, which is an incredible place to see wildlife, including the iconic blue-footed boobies. While this is an epic place to go bird-watching, you’ll spend your time here snorkeling underwater, where you can see all kinds of tropical fish, sea turtles, and even manta rays.
From here, you’ll head to Yelapa, where you’ll have about two hours to wander around the town to enjoy the waterfall, pop into a restaurant for a fresh lunch with handmade tortillas or some cervezas, or just relax on the warm beach.
Given the lower price point, this tour is a bit more DIY—no masseuse or premium open bar is provided. But you are welcome to bring your own food and drinks to put in the provided ice-cold cooler and enjoy those during the boat ride!
And you’ll still definitely get premium service from the staff. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable about Yelapa, the surrounding area, and the wildlife that you’ll see along the way and go out of their way to make sure you have a spectacular time, whether that’s pausing to watch a pod of dolphins playing in the water or finding the best snorkeling spot around Los Arcos.
Length: 6 hours
On this private tour, you’ll depart from Puerto Vallarta towards Yelapa, first stopping at a snorkeling site with a colorful reef. Here, you can see lots of tropical fish and, if you’re lucky, even some sea turtles!
Afterwards, you’ll cruise the rest of the way to Yelapa, where your guide will give you a tour of the coastline or lead you to the town’s waterfall, sharing interesting information about the village, its history, and the surrounding nature. You’ll have plenty of time to stroll around its cobblestone streets, peeking into stores and getting lunch at a restaurant with fresh and local food, or relaxing on the beach.
Out of all of the Yelapa tours, this one stands out for having guides who are incredibly knowledgeable about the plant- and wildlife of the area and are constantly pointing out interesting creatures you might have missed while snorkeling or sharing interesting information, like the medical properties of a plant found in Yelapa’s jungle, that you’ll pass along the way.
Just be sure to read what’s included in this tour—as compared to some of the other options, it doesn’t come with drinks or meals and you’ll have to pay a $40 docking fee per party (that’s not included in the price of the tickets).
Frequently Asked Questions About Yelapa Tours
Is Yelapa worth visiting?
In my opinion, TOTALLY! But like everything, it really depends.
As mentioned above, Yelapa is kind of stuck in time and, with its sleepy streets, feels like a COMPLETELY different planet than the upscale mega resorts and chain restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. If you like getting a bit off-beaten-path or want to see some of the stunning nature that the state of Jalisco offers, Yelapa and its incredibly lush jungle and beautiful beaches are 100% worth a visit.
That being said, there’s not much to do in Yelapa—there’s a handful of cobblestone streets with shops and restaurants to wander around, two beautiful waterfalls tucked away in the jungle, and a bay, lined with beaches and private clubs that are eager to serve you fruity cocktails. And that’s kind of the beauty of it—it’s the perfect place to just disconnect and soak in the magic of Mexico for a couple of hours.
Most of the Yelapa tours recommended above only give you about three or so hours in the town, so there’s definitely plenty to enjoy here during that period of time. But if you’re expecting anything other than a teeny fishing village with lots of charm and natural beauty, it might not be the right place for you.
How do you get around Yelapa?
Have I mentioned that Yelapa is TEENY?
There’s no cars in Yelapa, but it’s totally not a problem. You can walk pretty much anywhere in the village about half an hour on foot or, if you’re in a hurry, locals get around on ATVs.
If you have mobility issues, there’s usually low impact options for guests on the tours suggested above, like hanging out on Yelapa’s beach, instead of walking uphill, along a cobblestone street, to its waterfall. However, if you have any specific questions or concerns about the accessibility of one of the Yelapa tours, definitely reach out to the tour company directly!
Do you need to go on a tour to visit Yelapa?
As mentioned above, unless you’re lucky enough to have a friend with a boat in Puerto Vallarta, you will need to hire someone to take you to Yelapa.
However, if you’re on a budget or would just prefer to explore solo, you can alternatively water taxi from Playa Los Muertos Pier in Puerto Vallarta to Yelapa, which will cost you roughly around $20 per person roundtrip ticket.
For my shoestring budget traveler friends, you can also take a bus from Puerto Vallarta south to the town of Boca de Tomatlan and then hire a local fisherman to take you from there, which should cost you around $10-$15 (depending on how good your Spanish is!).
On the bright side, water taxis are definitely more affordable than joining any of the Yelapa tours listed above. On the downside, they’re quite literally just a transport service- there won’t be stops for snorkeling, interesting nuggets of information about sea life you pass along the way or the history of Yelapa, and definitely not any kind of massages involved. And after having personally taken some around Puerto Vallarta, they’re usually pretty crowded and uncomfortable.
Accordingly, you evaluate which method of getting to Yelapa makes the most sense for both your budget and the kind of trip you want to have!
How long is the boat ride to Yelapa?
Almost all of the Yelapa tours leave from Puerto Vallarta, which is between a 45 minutes and an hour boat ride north of Yelapa.
Of course, this doesn’t take into account the time you’ll need to cruise to and stop at any of the amazing snorkeling spots along the way!
When is the best time of the year to visit Yelapa?
Puerto Vallarta’s busy season of November through May just so happens to align with its best weather, when the skies are clear and the temperatures are warm but pleasant (with highs in the mid-70s through low 80s).
However, this also happens to be the dry season—which means the Yelapa waterfalls are likely going to be little more than a trickle. So, if you’re a big fan of waterfalls, I’d consider, instead, coming during the rainy season of June through mid-October.
Just note that this is considered this area’s low tourist season, which can mean that many restaurants and shops are closed. Justin and I first visited Puerto Vallarta and Yelapa in October and were shocked at how many businesses were completely closed, due to the lack of tourists!
What should I bring when going on a Yelapa tour?
You don’t need much to enjoy a tour here, but consider bringing along:
- Reef-safe sunscreen
- Swimsuit (I’d recommend wearing this to the tour)
- Water (if not provided on your tour)
- GoPro for snorkeling
- Rainjacket if you’re visiting during the rainy season (for him and for her)
- Plenty of pesos (most of the businesses we visited in Yelapa did not take credit cards)
I hope you have a better idea of which Yelapa tours you’d like to whisk you away to this little slice of sleepy paradise. Do you have any questions about Yelapa? Let us know in the comments below!