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The sunny shores of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, lure lots of vacationers every year, and with so many miles of unspoiled beach to explore, it may take years for most visitors to discover all there is to see.
One corner of coastline that should be on the must-see list is Yelapa, a tiny beachfront community that is a laid-back paradise for lovers of sun and sand. With its unique selection of restaurants, outdoor activities and small hotels, it makes for a great getaway for day trips as well as multi-night visits.
GETTING THEREGetting to Yelapa is part of the fun. It’s possible to arrive by land, but the trip is more enjoyable and efficient by boat, and the approximate 45-minute ride from Los Muertos Pier in downtown Puerto Vallarta is especially scenic. Upon arrival, walking and water taxis are the best way to get around the small bay.
WHERE TO STAYYelapa is dotted with several lovely small hotels, but Casa Pericos is likely the most stylish and impressive of the bunch.
The property describes itself as an “eco barefoot luxury retreat,” and with good reason. Part “Swiss Family Robinson” and part luxury villa, Casa Pericos is perched on a mildly steep hill along the peaceful Pacific Ocean bay. South Pacific decor influences are visible in several places around the property, which has three apartment-style units that are each of a different size but all with a wide-open view of the ocean — no need for windows or air conditioning here.
Great attention to detail is apparent in every aspect of Casa Pericos, from the attractive furnishings to the extensive amenities. I stayed in Vista Romantica, a spacious, open-air apartment with a large bathroom, a full kitchen, a dining table, a living area and two double four-poster beds with mosquito nets.
The furnishings include two comfy cushioned chaise lounges and bamboo floor lamps. Ceiling fans and floor fans help to stir up the fresh ocean breezes and keep the temperature comfortable. For those who simply refuse to disconnect, free Wi-Fi access is available.
Full kitchens at Casa Pericos make it ideal for visitors who’d like to prepare their own meals (small stores are located in town, which is a 10-minute walk along a wonderfully winding waterfront path), and it’s also possible to hire a cook to prepare all meals on-site. Still, guests will likely want to sample the tasty cuisine at the restaurants in town, across the bay and along the main beach (peak winter months are best, since more restaurants are open).
Snorkel gear is available for free use in the warm waters that ripple in front of the property, and there is a Jacuzzi next to one of the bathrooms.
ACTIVITIES TO TRYYelapa is great for lovers of laid-back water sports, sunbathing and outdoor dining.
Popular daytime activities include snorkeling and kayaking in the calm waters of the bay, and the broad beach is perfect for relaxing and swimming. But, visitors should also make time to explore the more inland areas; a 30-minute hike or a quick horseback ride from downtown is a picturesque, 150-foot waterfall.
WHERE TO EATCuisine is a big draw in Yelapa. Aptly nicknamed “pie ladies” sell freshly baked pies on the beach, while a variety of open-air establishments make it easy to savor local flavors while never being more than a few steps from the water.
The hippest new place to hang out is Chicos Yelapa Beach Club, a stylish outdoor venue on the sand that opened in December 2014, where an extensive cocktail menu, visiting DJs and light meals provide just the right combination of good vibes and friendly ambiance.
For larger meals, visitors can head next door to Angelina’s Gardens Beach Club, an open-air restaurant that serves a variety of tasty Mexican dishes beneath a giant, thatch-roof palapa.
Also noteworthy for its cuisine is Eclipse Cafe, which has outdoor seating and serves Mexican cuisine and seafood for breakfast, brunch and lunch. (Its amazing tortilla soup is also served at Casa Pericos.)
Breakfast and brunch are especially good at Cafe Bahia, where fresh fruit plays a big role in the generously proportioned dishes. The restaurant also offers vegan and vegetarian options.