Monday, January 28, 2013

Yelapa Waterfall Hike - With Directions

1-28-13 – Yelapa, Jalisco, MX
Yelapa Mooring Balls

While Yelapa may not be the sleepy, electricity free village without  the “necessities” of our everyday life it used to be a few years ago; (as I have internet access/cell coverage here in the anchorage and there are lights on everywhere and we passed some little houses today with kids watching TV in them)  it is a very cool place to spend a few days.  We are moored about 60 yards off the beach in 116 feet of water, so I’m quite happy to pay for a mooring from Rafael Gonzales who has treated us well with free water taxi rides to and from the beach each day.  Yelapa is a small, picturesque village tucked into a little bay on the South side of Banderas Bay.  It seems to be doing its best to catch up to the increased tourist demand and expectations; and it seems that many people here are doing quite well for themselves working hard to satisfy those demands.  You must remember that everyone knows everyone here.  Rafael, who rented us our mooring ball, was in a panga named Lizeth with two other guys.  These guys, Romeo and Daniel, work at Domingos restaurant, owned by their dad Ramiro and help Rafael fish and rent pangas.  Their dad Ramiro is the one who actually owns the panga Lizeth, named after his daughter.  Daniel the youngest seems to do most of the chauffering of us back and forth.  There have been other examples of this interweaving of work and family throughout our stay whenever we ask who is who and how they know each other.
Elizabeth with a very attentive dog at Domingo's
There are lots of dogs in Yelapa!

The Village area of Yelapa
The start of the river
The waterfall hike was one of the things we wanted to do while in Yelapa.  We hailed our ride in the morning and talked to Ramiro outside of Domingo’s restaurant asking for directions.  He said to get to the waterfall all you had to do was walk thru the village and follow the trail.  You’ll cross the river twice and walk about an hour and a half.  That was it.  How hard could this be?  We should have known it might be a bit more challenging when we found ourselves in someone’s backyard with their clothes drying before finding the trail.  We did find the trail thru the palapas and village and followed it down the river.  We crossed a bridge over the river and carried on up the river.  Was that one river crossing already, or did he actually mean you will be in the river when crossing it?  We carried on thru the little village, commenting on their new underground electrical and transformers placed next to open air houses many with dirt floors.  Passed a cattle gate that was locked with a chain and commented how most of them in Nevada were never locked, you just closed them behind you when you went thru.  We carried on, and on, and on.  We crossed the river, actually in it this time, about four times and the trail sort of ran out near some pretty pathetic “waterfalls”.  You never know.  We were thinking Yosemite here, and they may have been thinking Truckee River.  We had a snack, a little disappointed that it took us two hours to do what most did in apparently one and a half hours, and headed back.
It's obvious the way - right?
We made it back to the strange cattle gate and saw someone exiting from a little square hole in the fencing next to it and looked and there it was.  The sign for the waterfall trail.  We squeezed thru and followed the trail.  It split again and we took the wrong branch until it petered out.  Then we took the correct branch which finally deposited us at the waterfall.  While it may not be Yosemite quality it was a good destination and made for a refreshing swim after all out hiking.  Let’s just say the trip back wasn’t quite as adventurous now that we knew the way.
Elizabeth enjoying the pool

Happy to have made it

So the real directions to the waterfall off the palapa beach (not the one from the little village area to the South):  Once you make your way behind the palapa restaurants head to the left a little and find a path that heads up the river valley.  It will soon turn into a cobble path and after about ¼ mile it will cross the river on a bridge.  Go left after the bridge.  (you are basically following the river upstream)  Keep following the path.  You will cross the river twice more, actually in the river, so bring flip flops or take off your shoes.  After about a mile and a gradual rise you’ll see a conspicuous field on your left that seems out of place.  Just after this on your left is the cattle gate and the wood hole you need to squeeze thru.  It actually says “waterfall” on it.  Follow this trail and stay to the right.  It will deposit you on a rock above the river but below the waterfall.  From there it’s up to you to find your way down to the river and the waterfall.  It’s only another 200 yards but it’s rocky and there isn’t a clear path.  The pool under the waterfall is great for a swim and to cool off before heading back.  So there’s the real directions if anyone needs them.  Definitely worth the trip, and if your worried about it, just stop into Domingos and rent a guide or some horses.  Although part of the fun is finding your way as you walk up a Mexican jungle river valley and the trail gets smaller and smaller until…


  1. I just came across your blog looking for directions to the waterfall and this is just perfect! After a year in La Paz (we meant to stay only a month), we just arrived in La Cruz last week. We haven't yet ventured out of the immediate area but are hoping to do some exploring over the coming weeks. Thanks for all the great info!

    s/v Tie Fighter

  2. Nice little story. I have lived that waterfall hike and probably won't be repeating it anytime soon. We were just as unsure but eventually found our way. My Wife and I try to visit Yelapa every year and the Folks at Dominigos are like Family now, just great people. We were last there about a month before you were and had a great time. First time out to Marietta islands a must see also caught a Mahi Mahi and Dominigos cooked it for us, delicious.

  3. We followed your directions and made it there and back. Loved it, thanks!