Yelapa: My Own Private (Unplugged) Mexico

Around the bend from Puerto Vallarta, senior editor Aislyn Greene found Yelapa—a piña colada–free beach retreat. (Moonshine is a different story.)

No cars, no crowds. That’s what sold me on Yelapa, a small fishing village a one-hour boat ride from Puerto Vallarta. “There’s not even Wi-Fi,” said a friend. I booked a flight the next day.

From Puerto Vallarta’s harbor, I took a water taxi and watched sun-bleached condos dwindle into jungle worthy of a Jurassic Park cameo as we crossed Banderas Bay. Our driver casually dropped me at the pier, near the sand that would be my home for the week. “¿El hotel aquí?” I asked. He pointed at several small huts roofed with palm leaves—Hotel Lagunita’s casitas!—and sped off.

Once I’d settled into my casita—and taken a dip in the freshwater pool—I set out to get the lay of the land. I traversed the beach and its tapestry of sunbathers and fishermen, passed the mouth of the river that flows from the nearby hills, and wandered through the maze of cobblestone streets that make up the town. The entire journey took, oh, about 30 minutes. Yelapa is so tiny, and the people so friendly, it doesn’t take long to discover its secrets. Bob, a vacationing entrepreneur, hiked me upriver, where many Yelapans live, to see La Cascada, the dramatic waterfall nearby. And Zahara, who lived in an open-air palapa near the beach, introduced me to Taquería los Abuelos and blue corn mahi-mahi tacos I wish could be delivered by drone to my office.

There’s an anything-goes quality to Yelapa life, and like Bob Dylan, who took refuge here in the ’60s, I went with it. I went with raicilla, moonshine sold by the shot at beach bars, which made me feel like a helium balloon. I went with the sand I collected in my ears and hair while bodysurfing with local kids. And I most definitely went with the Pie Ladies, who navigate amid beach chairs to sell slices of homemade lemon meringue and chocolate cream.

As for the Wi-Fi, my friend was wrong. My phone did work. Until I dropped it in a waterfall. Oops. But nothing a little raicilla couldn’t fix.

>>Next: 14 More Off-the-Grid Retreats

Aislyn Greene is the associate director of podacsts at AFAR, where she produces the Unpacked by AFAR podcast and hosts AFAR’s Travel Tales podcast. She lives on a houseboat in Sausalito.
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