If you’re one of those rare but often delightful ramblers who eschews directions in the quest for spontaneity and surprise, bear in mind that there are zero banks or ATM’s in Yelapa, and just a few restaurants and boat captains take credit cards. BRING ENOUGH PESOS.
Yelapa has incomplete streetlight coverage and there are none at the Point and Casa Isabel, so unless you still have night vision, bring a FLASHLIGHT.
Again, since there are no ATM’s in Yelapa, BRING PESOS, or be prepared for a surprise return trip to Puerto Vallarta to get some.
PESOS and FLASHLIGHT. See ya.
THE MIDDLE WAY
AS FOR THE MONEY, your best bet is to withdraw PESOS from an ATM machine. Many northern cities now have ATM’s which offer peso withdrawal, and all ATM’s in Puerto Vallarta provide pesos at as good a rate as you can hope for. Most have a daily peso withdrawal limit which is the equivalent of US$500.
US dollars are accepted most places in Yelapa but often at poor exchange rates. For a hefty fee, and if you’re spending lavishly, some Yelapa restaurants will give you a peso advance through your credit card.
Nobody here wants Canadian dollars or travelers cheques, though the former can be exchanged on the street in PV at poor rates. The airport has a few ATM’s around the corner to the right once you clear customs and the “Tank”. The money change counter at the airport has the absolute worst rates.
A few big box stores in PV accept US$ at excellent rates. Some banks allow you to get lots of pesos through your Mastercard or Visa. CI Banco and a few other banks will exchange up to US$1,500 cash for pesos (once per month), at reasonable rates, but you need to bring your passport. Best to use a bank ATM.
As of November 2019, the exchange rate has been stable awhile at 18-19 per US$ and 12-14 per Canadian$. Yelapa prices are much lower than up north and 500 pesos will get you a few days worth of groceries for a couple. Restaurant main courses are anywhere between 50 and 250 pesos, beer is 20-35, and mixed drinks 55-90. Yelapa sells almost everything you need, which may be a surprise if you’re accustomed to supermarkets, but is quality challenged in the grains, black tea, coffee and chocolate departments. Fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, shrimp, meat and dairy products look and taste fantastic but are usually not organic. The corn fed chicken is amazing. Carolina’s fridgestocking service Yelapa Connexion adds a popular arrival grace note.
WATER TAXI SCHEDULE
Water taxis leave for Yelapa the pier at Playa de los Muertos in the Zona Romantica, or Old Town, in Puerto Vallarta. The dead minimum daily schedule, which operates from June through November, has departures for Yelapa at 11am, 11:45 am and 5pm. As visitors increase there are more scheduled departures, with full service generally between the third week of November thru the end of April into May, depending.
Puerto Vallarta to Yelapa 10am, 10:30am, 11am, 11:45am (except Sunday), 1 pm, 3pm, 5pm, 6pm
Yelapa to Puerto Vallarta 7:45am (except Sunday), 8:30am, 9:30am, noon, 3:45pm, 4pm
Round trip tickets can be purchased for $350 pesos at the Informacion Turistica (Yelapa water taxi) office, on the left hand side a few doors from the pier up when facing the waterfront. They will store your bags if you’ve time to wander around before your boat leaves, and you will leave them a generous tip. Freelance street vendors also sell tickets.
The water taxi cooperative honors return tickets from all boats on the PV-Yelapa run (Boca boats are not included). Except for rare times of very rough seas, the water taxi captains will let you off at Playa Isabel on request.
Water taxis also leave from Boca de Tomatlan, a 30-40 minute taxi ride from Old Town PV that costs around $300 pesos in the yellow cabs. If your plane arrival time makes it iffy to board the last boat from PV, a taxi ride to Boca to catch the last boat at 6:30 pm is a good option. It’s about a 30 minute watertaxi ride to Yelapa in the slightly smaller boats. The water taxi schedule from Boca is the same year round. No need to buy a ticket - you pay onboard at the end of the trip.
Boca to Yelapa 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am, 11:30am, noon, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, 6:45pm
Yelapa to Boca 7am, 7:45am, 8:30am, 9:30am, 10am, 11:30am, 2:30pm, 3pm, 3:30pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6pm
Our boat driver Sefarino now offers a US$120 pick-you-up-anytime service from a small marina for PV´s fishermen, Los Peines, about 5 minutes south of the airport. An airport taxi driver can drop you at the restaurant La Longa, where Sef will be waiting. He is 67, squat, black-haired, peaceful, and speaks no English. His panga, Karina, will drop you right at Playa Isabel an hour later.
AN EXCRUCIATINGLY DETAILED ACCOUNT (for those who shun travel surprises)
There’s a good chance you will be vacationing for a much needed rest and that departure preparations may be hectic and extensive. Add that to the excitement of travel and the shock of hurling your body through the stratosphere at speeds unprecedented in our evolutionary history…
It’s often a recipe for tired but wired, but hey, the solution is at hand. You’ll soon be relaxing in a seaside tropical garden, nourished in the bosom of mother nature…..
When your jet pulls up to the terminal, the heat will hit you like a wave. You follow the signs and walk to Immigration where they stamp your passport and return a section of the documents you filled out on the plane. Hang on to this paper, as you will need to have it when you leave Mexico, or else pay US$50. Next, stroll down the long corridor to Baggage Claim & Customs. When you’ve recovered your luggage from the turnstile, there are free handcarts which must be surrendered after you make it through the “Tank”.
You may have to put your luggage thru an Xray, and then you will have to press the button on a table at Customs. The purportedly random button in fact has a manual overload, to reflect the judgement of the officials. If the light turns Green, away you go. If the light is Red, you will be directed to another table where they will look thru your luggage. The customs people speak rudimentary English.
Hopefully you’re not bringing anything into Mexico that they care about. It’s okay to bring factory-sealed meats, cheese, candy, teas & coffees, but fruit, vegetables, seeds and weapons are prohibited and will be confiscated, resulting in stern officials, time consuming forms, and possibly fines.
Exit Customs thru the first set of double doors, and suddenly there will be a gauntlet of smiling, very polite people offering all sorts of help, the more aggressive ones advising you to stop. Welcome to the “Tank”. They are timeshare agents and real estate salesmen. Politely refuse their offers with a “No Gracias,” and you will eventually pass thru the last set of doors into the airport terminal, where you must surrender your carts.
Finally, there are booths for the authorized taxi services for the airport, and they will also have very nice English-speaking men in shirts (with the taxi service names) asking if you want a taxi. If you need luggage help they will provide it and deserve a tip. If you don’t they may try to insinuate themselves by opening doors and trunks in hopes of a tip. Welcome to Mexico, where every small niche in the tourist trade is filled with hopeful locals.
It’s approximately a $340 peso taxi ride for 3 people thru PV to the Los Muertos pier (about 1⁄2 hour). Vans cost more and take more passengers. You can pay in US dollars, but the exchange rate is not as good as ATM’s. Don’t freak when they ask you to pay when you get in – the driver has to pay a toll before they leave the airport.
Taxis are pretty loose in PV, and if you want to make a quick stop to change money (or pick up that item you forgot), they will wait for you (just be sure to tip them extra for their time). Make sure you make your desires clear to the man with the nice shirt in the airport.
If you’re traveling light and want to save money, you could exit the terminal, find the pedestrian overpass, cross over the highway and then flag a yellow cab on the street for half to two thirds the cost. The truly budget conscious can catch a city bus for eight pesos on the airport side of the street.
If you want to skip the taxi hustle, Sergio will meet you at the airport (with a sign no less) and drop you at the Los Muertos pier. For 1-3 people it costs US$30 and from 4-7 people US$60. Sergio also offers airport to Boca service for US$50 (1-3 people) and US$85 (4-7 people). He can sell you water taxi round trip tickets for $350 pesos. Contact him at email@example.com. He is a font of information and will store your bags if you’ve time to wander around Old Town.
More Water Taxi Details
Access by water is one of the reasons that Yelapa has remained so special. Over the years the water taxi service has been upgraded and runs regularly 365 days a year. Most water taxis sport one or two outboard engines in the 200 horsepower range. Depending on whether you catch a direct ride, or make some stops, and how rough the sea is, the ride from PV lasts from 45 minutes to an hour plus. The direct boat cuts across the bay, while the milk run hugs the beautiful shore. If you want a smoother ride, try to sit towards the rear of the boat, and watch out for water sometimes under foot. Most importantly, take your time boarding (the boatmen will assist you), and don’t ever put your hands between the boat and docks.
Water taxis leave PV’s “Old Town” from the Beach of the Dead, or Playa de Los Muertos (Plieyah day loes Mwairtoes). The unusual name reflects the traditional Mexican holiday just after Halloween, and is not a macabre comment on safety. Street cabbies all know the phrases “Yelapa Water Taxi” or “Los Muertos Pier”.
The Los Muertos Pier has been completely rebuilt and you will board the water taxi from the far end of it. It’s very pretty at night when it’s all lit up.
Tickets for the water taxi – If it’s your first trip to Yelapa, when you arrive on the street above the pier, you might want to just refuse all the offers of help (and tickets), from the friendly men who will gather at your cab door (No, gracias), and walk to the Yelapa Water Taxi office on the left side of the street.
Ask for Sergio or Roger, both fluent in English, and tell them you are going to Casa Isabel. They can sell you a ticket for the water taxi, answer questions, exchange money, and arrange a porter for your luggage to the boat (if you want). Best of all, they can tell you when you need to be back for the next boat, and you can safely leave your luggage in their office and go out for some food, drink, shopping or money exchange while waiting for the boat. As of April 2018, a roundtrip ticket to Yelapa was 350 pesos.
If you don’t use Sergio or Roger, there are other friendly English-speakers on the plaza in front of the pier that sell water taxi tickets. After that, it’s time to wait till the boat arrives. There are other water taxis & charter boats that use the same dock, so ask around (there are usually others waiting for the boat to Yelapa). You don’t want to get on the wrong boat.
Interestingly, when the Yelapa Water Taxi arrives, it unloads people coming from Yelapa, then often pushes away from the pier and sits off shore to fuel up for some indeterminate period of time before returning to the dock and boarding for the trip to Yelapa. If somewhere along the line, a local does help you with your bags, it is polite to tip them at least 50 pesos a trip (remember, this is how they make a living…).
An alternate way to get to Yelapa is from the small town of Boca de Tomatlan, south of PV. The last water taxi from Boca is 6:30 pm all year round. Budget daytime arrivees can catch a city bus to Old Town, and then another bus to Boca, which has a several restaurants and abundant ice cold beers. A motivated taxi driver can get you from the airport to Boca in 60-70 minutes (costing considerably more than a ride to Los Muertos). From Boca, you don’t need a water taxi ticket, as you will pay for your ride just before the boat makes its first stop in Yelapa.
If you get stuck in Boca, ask a local where the hotels are. You should also be able to charter a boat to Yelapa for US$80-100. The experienced captains have no trouble in the dark. How eager are you?
Remember, for US$120, Sefarino will pick you up anytime from the marina 5 minutes south of the airport, and drop you off right at Playa Isabel an hour later.
Should you be overnighting in PV, many hotels are available online. Hotel Gaviota is our favorite midrange choice (3.6 stars) on a quiet side street from the beach, about four blocks north of the pier, for $800 – 1000 pesos per night. The staff are lovely and the surf sound divine. The very quietest rooms face the inner courtyard instead of the street.
If you make an internet reservation, the Casa Dona Susana has an internet rate of US$74. Another beachside, convenient option is the Hotel Playa Los Arcos in the block just north of the pier, with rooms around US$120. If you miss the last boat, don’t stress, you’re on vacation. There are lots of other hotels in Old Town PV, and there’s a wide selection of good restaurants nearby on Calle Basilio Badillo. Old Town has many gay bars and nightly live entertainment. There are often live bands or musical performances in the park, and aerobics classes at 8am.
Try to let us know when your plane arrives, and which boat you are planning to catch to Yelapa, so we can be on the lookout for you. If something happens with your transportation and you do get stuck in PV, an option is to call us at 322 209 5249 or 322 209 5189. If you don’t arrive by 7pm, we’ll assume we’ll see you tomorrow.
Arriving in Yelapa
Be sure to tell the water taxi driver (or his helper) that you want to get dropped off at Playa Isabel. The captains have amazing capacity to beach safely through the waves. Take off your shoes, roll up your pants, and you’re ready. Shoes wet by salt water smell horrid in short order; rinse and dry well if that happens. Most taxis have ladders, or you ease off over the side. For less athletic souls, hefty deckhands are always there to scoop you in their manly arms and deposit you safely on the shore. Wheee! Live it up ladies, and don’t be shy, merry old gents. It’s way better than falling in the water.
Generally, the boat will make some other stops before Isabel’s (town pier, town beach, etc). If you want, Sipriano or some young lads on the town pier are almost always eager to carry your suitcases to Casa Isabel. Unless the seas are extra rough, water taxis will drop you off at Playa Isabel. Our gate is the first gate to the left from the Playa Isabel dropoff.
Check in time is 3 PM, or earlier if the maid has the room ready. If you arrive earlier, both your bags and you will be fine hanging out at Casa Central. If you want help getting suitcases up the hill, leave the big ones inside the gate and come rustle us up. We appreciate knowing which water taxi you think you will be taking from PV, so we can watch for you. If we don’t hear and you arrive midday, there’s a longshot chance nobody is around. There are maps of Casa Isabel all along our trail, so make yourself comfortable and someone will be with you shortly.
On your arrival, we will orient you to jungle living and things to do around Yelapa. More good news – it’s all written down in our Essential Jungle Etiquette document.
We’re almost always around to answer questions. Our policy is: speak up if you want something.
HAVE YOU REMEMBERED…..? (a checklist for dummies)
- FLASHLIGHT & spare batteries (one flashlight per person)(keep it handy for early evening water taxi rides)
- Sunglasses and sunblock
- Bathing suit and beach towel
- Backpack or comfy carryall
- Water bottle
- Shoes Skip the heels and wingtips think Keens or flipflops or sneakers for hiking around.
- Shorts, shirts, and layers of clothing for warm to hot days and cool or cooler nights
- For wintertime visits, sweats are great morning wear. Bring a pair of long pants, a longsleeved shirt, and a light sweater or jacket for the cooler evenings.
- You’ll likely want a light shell or jacket handy for the water taxi ride. A store by the pier sells garbage bags for your gear and to make a Mexican raincoat if it looks like rain
- Your meds and/or supplements
- Insect repellent (you just never know..)
- Your favorite coffee or tea or chocolate. Customs will likely confiscate grains if they find them.
- We have some snorkeling gear but you may prefer your own.
- Bring books, notebooks, art supplies, MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS……
- THAT’S ALL FOLKS ….. WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR ARRIVAL