Yelapa: Robinson Crusoe Meets Jack Kerouac
It's a cove straight out of a tropical fantasy, and only a 45-minute trip by boat from Puerto Vallarta. Yelapa has no cars and one paved (pedestrian-only) road, and it only acquired electricity in the past 10 years. It's accessible only by boat. Its tranquillity, natural beauty, and seclusion make it a popular home for hipsters, artists, writers, and a few expats (looking to escape the stress of the world, or perhaps the law). Yelapa remains casual and friendly -- you're unlikely to ever meet a stranger.
To get there, travel by excursion boat or inexpensive water taxi. You can spend an enjoyable day, but I recommend a longer stay -- it provides a completely different perspective.
Once you're in Yelapa, you can lie in the sun, swim, snorkel, eat fresh grilled seafood at a beachside restaurant, or sample the local moonshine, raicilla. The beach vendors specialize in the most amazing pies you've ever tasted (coconut, lemon, or chocolate). You can tour this tiny town or hike up a river to see one of two waterfalls; the closest to town is about a 5-minute walk straight up from the pier. Note: If you use a local guide, agree on a price before you start out. Horseback riding, guided birding, fishing trips, and paragliding are also available.
For overnight accommodations, local residents frequently rent rooms, and there's also the rustic Hotel Lagunita (www.hotel-lagunita.com; tel. 322/209-5056, -5055). Its 29 cabañas have private bathrooms, and the hotel has electricity, a saltwater pool, massage service, an amiable restaurant and bar, the Barracuda Beach lounge and brick-oven pizza cafe, and a gourmet coffee shop. Though the prices are high for what you get, it is the most accommodating place for most visitors. Double rates run up to $120 during high season and up to $90 in the off season. Special rooms are available for honeymooners, for $135 in high season. MasterCard and Visa are accepted. Lagunita is a popular spot for yoga retreats.
If you wish to splurge, look into staying at Verana (www.verana.com; tel. 866/687-9358 in the U.S., or 322/222-0878).
If you stay over on a Wednesday or Saturday during the winter, don't miss the biweekly dinner-dance at the Yelapa Yacht Club (no phone). Typically tongue-in-cheek for Yelapa, the "yacht club" consists of a cement dance floor and a disco ball, but the DJ spins a great range of tunes, attracting all ages and types. Dinner (80-160 pesos) is a bonus -- the food may be the best anywhere in the bay. The menu changes depending on what's fresh. Ask for directions; it's in the main village, on the beach.