HOUR'S BOAT ride and some 25 miles south of Puerto Vallarta, the
remote coastal village of Yelapa, Mexico, calls to mind the kind
of island-paradise postcard that urban dwellers sometimes stick
on a wall at work to contemplate when things get hairy.
It's not an island per se, but since no roads
lead there, meaning no cars, it might as well be. Yelapa's frontier-outpost
feel has faded a bit since electricity was installed three years
ago, putting an end to reveling under the solo glow of the moon
and stumbling home by flashlight.
Still, with its jungle landscape, rudimentary hiking trails, few
phones, rustic seafood restaurants, and the palm-thatched huts that
serve as the only beachfront hotel, the village is the perfect remedy
for a worn-down city soul.
The journey to Yelapa begins at the end of the pier at Puerto Vallarta's
Playa los Muertos, where various motorboat drivers await passengers
– and flirt with the concept of a watery mass-grave by overloading
the boats. On a visit in April, I joined a group of luggage-toting
tourists and local commuters, who work on party boats anchored around
the bay, to be whisked at high speed along Mexico's Pacific Coast
and out to what felt like the middle of the ocean, before veering
inland to Yelapa. En route, a school of dolphins made successive
half-moon leaps in the near distance, evoking a chorus of oohs and
ahhs, which died out as the boat decelerated, then stopped as the
driver killed the motor to fill the gas tank.
The sloshing of water against the boat was now the only sound,
and we stared at the expanse of Banderas Bay's glassy surface, a
scene both mystifying and inspiring to those seeking a slower, more
reflective pace. Then a stingray broke the calm as its fin sliced
through the water a few feet away, eliciting a second round of commotion.
As we closed in on Yelapa, the cluster of palapas (huts) that is
Hotel Lagunita appeared, built into the hillside facing the water
and merging with the lush jungle setting. Connected by a meandering
cobblestone path and sheltered by thatched roofs that let the sun
filter through, the 29 units have electricity, hot water, and, in
some cases, patios with jaw-dropping ocean views. Meals are served
al fresco on the beach at the hotel's Tres Amigos Bar and Grill
– French toast and granola with fresh fruit and yogurt for
breakfast, seafood salads and tacos for lunch, and a variety of
fish and pasta dishes for dinner. With advance notice, the kitchen
can handle the needs of vegetarians and vegans, and desserts are
shipped in daily from a baker in Puerto Vallarta.
Those interested in leaving their hammocks now and again can walk
to the town's center, a 10- to 15-minute stroll from the hotel.
The hotel also hosts at least 10 weeklong yoga retreats fall through
spring. On my visit San Francisco-based instructor Stacey Rosenberg,
who teaches a therapeutic style of hatha yoga called anusara, led
two-hour sessions in the morning and early evening. The saffron-colored
walls and pitched ceiling of the yoga room, which opens onto the
beach, gave it the feel of a rural chapel.
morning a few of us hiked along a dusty path to a waterfall, where
we stripped down and dove in to cool off. Later a local fisherman
took us out to a secluded island inhabited by blue-footed boobies,
a white-and-brown bird with large, appropriately blue feet. Our
guide caught a mackerel and made seviche out of it. Topping it with
salsa and lime juice, we ate it on taco shells right there on the
And then, eventually, it was time to vacate paradise. However,
on the boat ride back to Puerto Vallarta, we got one more respite
– as the shoreline came into view, the motor once again died,
this time owing to mechanical difficulties. Even with a plane to
catch in an hour, I was grateful for the extra minutes to soak up
images of water and sky. I made a pact to slow down my life back
in San Francisco and let those moments of paradise catch up with
by Vanessa Kewley Sharp
Courtesy of the San Francisco Bay Gaurdian