Puerto Vallarta – A Palapa in Yelapa Is Better Than a Condo in Redondo*

Puerto Vallarta

High rise condos and resorts along the beach at Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

*True confessions department: I stole this quote from a Yelapa tourism website.

For all of our previous stops on our Panama Canal cruise, we opted for land-based excursions. At Puerto Vallarta, the excursion we chose was called “Yelapa & Majahuitas”. The online brochure promised our choice of snorkeling, kayaking or both at Majahuitas (pronounced Ma-ha-weet-as) and of hiking or hanging out on the beach at Yelapa (pronounced Jel-a-pa). Our last snorkeling adventure was in 2007 in Hawaii. It’s time we got wet again. And we love to hike, so this excursion promised to be ideal. It didn’t disappoint, well, maybe the hike was a bit overblown… more on that later.


On our way to Majahuitas, we passed a replica galleon filled with tourists on another excursion.

Our excursion boat held maybe 30 passengers or so, there were folks of all ages aboard. The two places we visited are only accessible by boat. Majahuitas is a hot snorkeling area along the coast, maybe a one hour boat ride from Puerto Vallarta. Majahuitas, about 40 km south of Puerto Vallarta, is located in the Bay of Banderas, however it is not accessible by automobile. The nearest road, Highway 200, passes inland on a route between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.

Once we arrived at the bay, the snorkeling was fabulous. We saw more ocean wildlife than we saw on our Hawaii cruise by a long way. It didn’t hurt that the tour guides chummed the water with bread. That attracted many small, colorful fish. We also saw a handful of larger fish, and having accidently separated a bit from our group, I happened upon a manta ray swimming maybe 10 feet below me along the bottom. Unfortunately, I have no photos of our snorkeling adventure. I don’t have a waterproof housing for my camera. Next time, I will have a digital camera rated for under water use. It would have been put to very good use.

Many people chose to kayak as well as, or instead of, snorkeling. Once we got back on board, we watched some of the last kayakers getting a few last minutes on the water before having to reboard to head for Yelapa.


Kayakers enjoying the final few minutes of our trip to Majahuitas


A trio of pelicans turned their backs and did their best to ignore our tour boat and all the ruckus caused by the snorkelers and kayakers interloping on their home.

As the snorkelers and kayakers reboarded, one of the tour guides brought on board a companion of the deep. The little fellow was not as attractive as a parrot on his shoulder, but it was certainly unique.


I don’t think his friend ever learned to talk before going back to his watery home

After the show and tell with the baby octopus, we were soon on our way to Yelapa. The bar was open and they served a very good salad and sandwich bar. All refreshments were included in the price of the cruise. A photographer from the ship wandered around taking random photos. At the end of the tour, passengers could purchase a CD with all of the photos taken included.

Less than thirty minutes south of Majahuitas lay the fishing village of Yelapa. Accessible only by water taxi or tour boat, the town promotes itself as a real getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. The only road in or out is used by delivery vehicles mostly. There are no cars in the town. The only personal transportation I saw were burros and a couple of 3-wheel ATVs.

Yalapa Bay

A water taxi in the foreground picks up a passenger. Several restaurants line the beach. Palapas and umbrellas await guest use.

There are many resorts and rooms to rent, some operated by American expats who came, liked the laid back lifestyle and opened their own resorts.  There are few phones and only a few places have Internet access. Pay phones are still a fixture here, and you can expect a difficult experience if you want to send or receive a fax. If you would like a cerveza or margarita, expect to pay with cash. Very few places accept credit cards.

The promised hike on our excursion turned out to be about a kilometer walk through town and up into the hillside through the tropical forest. Of course, many of the residents of the houses we passed by had tables set out with arts, crafts and souvenirs for sale. The town isn’t much for hiding the infrastructure. Their communications and electrical cabling was everywhere. Even water lines were visible running along streets and into the forest beyond.


If you look closely at the bottom of this photo, you’ll see some of the communications infrastructure crossing the creek supported by a metal framework.

As it turned out, our destination was a beautiful waterfall. The trip was worth the walk, though it was mostly uphill and not at all equipped for those with disabilities. We backtracked along the same path we made to the waterfall and spent the rest of our time on the beach awaiting the return of our tour boat.


Here is a glimpse of the waterfall. If you want to see the pool at its base, you’ll have to go there to see for yourself.


As we departed, we got one last look at the beach in the bay at Yelapa. Our stay was not long enough.

We settled in for the hour ride back to our cruise ship at Puerto Vallarta. The crew provided some entertainment, a much shortened version of “Grease”, the musical. Of course, one of the all-male crew had to take the part of Sandy, costume and all. It was pretty cheesy.

Shortly before our arrival back in Puerto Vallarta, the boat suddenly slowed a bit to allow lots of time for passengers to view and photograph a school of dolphin that decided to accompany us back to port. They followed along, sometimes beside us, sometimes surfing our wake for at least twenty minutes. It was a fabulous and fitting end to a great excursion, one of the best on our cruise.

Dolphins at Play

A school of dolphins playfully following our boat.

John Steiner


3 thoughts on “Puerto Vallarta – A Palapa in Yelapa Is Better Than a Condo in Redondo*

  1. Love these pics! We visit PV every winter and always find something new. Yelapa was a favorite spot several years ago. We spent the night in a private home right by the boat landing by the village. Pretty rustic…but great adventure!

    • Sounds like a great time. One of the shortcomings of cruising is that you spend so little time at any one place… but it does give you a taste, and the opportunity to come and visit when you can stay awhile.
      Thanks for reading my blog.

  2. Pingback: Yelapa – Revisited in High Dynamic Range | Journeys with Johnbo

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