Last Updated on February 2, 2024 by Jason Arbour
The Yelapa water taxi scam came up almost as often as guides to Yelapa. I supposed they might go hand and hand. Honestly, the Yelapa water taxi scam almost kept us from going to Yelapa.
We’re writing this post, so you don’t feel the same way. The Yelapa water taxi shouldn’t be something everyone’s always warned about but never advised that it’s actually a good thing.
To clear up all the confusion we had read about and even were told about heading to Yelapa, and boost your confidence in visiting Yelapa via water taxi, we’re writing this post. It’s a complete guide to Yelapa, with the ins and outs of getting to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta.
Where is Yelapa?
Yelapa is a small coastal town just south of Puerto Vallarta. There are no roads to Yelapa, so you must take the Yelapa water taxi or a tour to get to the town.
Yelapa sits in a small inlet of the Pacific Ocean, with a river running right into the water, separating the beach from the town.
What’s All the Hype About Yelapa?
Clear waters and a gorgeous beach await visitors in Yelapa. However, I think what interests people the most is the fact that Yelapa is only accessible by boat. There are no cars in the town of Yelapa.
With that said, there are quads that run through the streets that are just wide enough for them. More often than not, the “streets” are filled with only people walking!
Watch the wee video below for a better look at Yelapa!
How to Get to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta via Boca de Tomatlan
To get to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta, you should plan for a couple of hours for the journey one way. Thankfully, half of the time you’re on the Yelapa water taxi, while the first part of the trip you’ll be on the local bus.
First, Bus to Boca
In the heart of the Romantic Zone in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll find the bus stop to get to Boca de Tomatlan (coordinates here).
The bus will cost you 10 pesos (50 cents USD) to get from Puerto Vallarta to Boca. This journey will take about 45 minutes, depending on traffic and road construction on the highway. The bus drops you off on the road at the top of Boca de Tomatalan.
Boca Bus Stop to Yelapa Water Taxi Station
From the bus stop in Boca (coordinates here), if you’re hungry, walk on the highway heading south. Just around the corner, you’ll find a small restaurant with the sweetest mom-and-daughter duo cooking up some amazing tacos.
Back to the bus stop, head down the stairs (yes, there are a lot of them) to the very bottom. At the bottom of the stairs hang a right on the first road, directly at the base of the stairs. If you don’t go right at the base, you’ll get lost heading to the beach and restaurants instead of the Yelapa Water Taxi dock.
Continuing down this road, on the left you’ll see a restaurant overlooking the water with a cement pathway leading to a dock just beyond it. See the picture below for the sign above the dock.
The Yelapa Water Taxi Dock
On this dock, just get in line. There will certainly be one. Practice your Spanish with those in line, asking if this is the line for Yelapa, or simply say, “a Yelapa?” (this means, “to Yelapa”).
Those in line will either tell you yes, or point to the “other line” (non-distinguishable) that is actually for Yelapa.
Wait in line until the man running the boat (he’ll approach you), asks if you have a ticket. Say no, and he’ll give you one! The tickets are waterproof tickets, have all the return times, with the boat names on them, and they’re legit.
We bought our tickets round trip, and they wrote that on the ticket themselves, but we’d recommend not doing this, as it really actually stressed us out about it not working, and actually caused confusion with us needing to keep the ticket upon departing the boat in Yelapa.
Just buy one way, and be sure to take a picture of your ticket or note the return times for your trip back!
If someone tries to sell you a ticket where you have to leave the dock, it is not the Yelapa water taxi. The Yelapa water taxi only runs to this dock, not to the shore. You’ll also know it’s the actual water taxi because the boat literally says “water taxi” really big on the side!
How to Get to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta Solely with Yelapa Water Taxi
While the route to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta via Boca is a much cheaper route, it may not be for everyone. If you’d rather not take the local bus down to Boca, you can grab a Yelapa Water Taxi straight from Los Muertos Pier in Puerto Vallarta (coordinates here).
We do not have experience taking this water taxi to Yelapa, so we can’t say much about it. However, I do know there are multiple water taxi/tourist booths in the area where you can ask for information on the Yelapa Water Taxi. We recommend asking a few people before booking, to get an idea of how much it is truly supposed to cost and the details of the journey.
How Much Does The Yelapa Water Taxi Cost?
The Yelapa Water Taxi from Boca costs $120 Mexican Pesos per person one way. Which, at the time of writing is equivalent to $6 USD per person. You will pay the same price for the return ticket, making the total trip there and back $240 pesos, or $12 USD per person. This combined with a 10 peso (.50 USD) bus ticket from Puerto Vallarta to Boca equals $13 USD total per person.
From Puerto Vallarta Mexico to Yelapa, you will pay a higher price for the water taxi, and I’ve read it’s nearly $400 pesos round trip per person, or $20 USD.
How Long is The Water Taxi to Yelapa?
The Yelapa water taxi from Boca de Tomatlan is roughly a 30 minute journey. Keep in mind, getting to Boca from Puerto Vallarta you have another 45 minute bus ride as well.
Getting to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta via water taxi, you can expect the ride to take 45 minutes to one hour.
When Do The Yelapa Water Taxis Leave?
The Yelapa water taxi from Boca is on an hourly schedule. It leaves the dock in Boca every hour on the hour. From Yelapa back to Boca, the water taxis leave every hour, on the half-hour. It’s a quick turnaround from drop off to pick up of the next group of people.
I’ve read that the Yelapa water taxis from Puerto Vallarta leave every two hours, but cannot confirm this, as we took off from Boca.
It’s a good idea to check with the locals before the day you plan to visit Yelapa to see what the current taxi schedule is, as I’m sure it’s different in high season versus low season.
What is the Yelapa Water Taxi Scam?
The big Yelapa water taxi scam… or should I say scams.
**Due to recent comments, I’ll add here that these are things that we personally experienced in our time visiting Yelapa. While they did happen to us, or we heard stories of the round-trip ticket not working.. they aren’t guaranteed to happen to you! And in fact, we hope they do not happen to you, but we want to warn you of them regardless.
The first one you’ll encounter, or hear of, is people saying tickets are sold for round trip when really people then don’t honor the return ticket.
In our experience, we bought round trip tickets and had no problem with using them for return. However, we wouldn’t recommend doing this, as you don’t get a cheaper price, and the entire time in Yelapa we were worried the tickets wouldn’t work to get back to Boca.
The Second Scam
The second scam occurs upon arrival to Yelapa itself. A worker from a restaurant will board the boat, explaining all about Yelapa and how beautiful it is there. They’ll also say you can sit at their chairs for free, use their toilets and showers, and even wifi too because that’s all included in the boat price. This is a scam! They are not included.
Once you sit at the chairs, the workers will come over to offer drinks and food. You must purchase something to sit at the chairs. We were so upset when this happened because we confirmed with the worker 10 times in 10 different ways that we didn’t need to buy anything. Yet, when we were all set up, another worker came by and explained we needed to.
We simply got up and walked away, without buying anything because we were so upset. Avoid the chairs in front of the restaurants, knowing you will have to pay to use them!
Are There Other Scams in Yelapa?
Honestly, the scam pulled on us right off the ship ruined our time in Yelapa. Hence why we’re writing this post! We were so upset about it the rest of the time, that we truly didn’t enjoy Yelapa much because we were so worried other people were going to try and scam us too.
However, this was not the case. Everyone else we encountered in Yelapa was very kind and in our experience, weren’t there to scam the tourists.
Can I Visit Yelapa On A Budget?
Yes, you certainly can! Food and drinks are expensive in Yelapa, as are the chair rentals at the beach, but there’s really no need for any of those things. If you simply pack a cooler with food and bring a water bottle like this with you, your trip to Yelapa will only cost what you pay for transportation.
If you wish to support the locals in Yelapa by eating out, find the restaurants not right on the water. While you’ll be hard-pressed to find $1 USD tacos in Yelapa, there are smaller shops out of people’s homes for food and drinks!
Bring along your own snorkel gear, and have some fun in the water all for free!
Things to do in Yelapa, Mexico
- Hike to Yelapa Waterfall (long hike up the river)
- Hike to Cascada de Yelapa (short hike through town)
- Snorkel (best off the water taxi boat dock on the northern side of the beach)
- Sunbathe (bring a book and an umbrella)
- Get lost in the small side streets and alleys
Can I Hike to Yelapa Waterfall Alone?
There are two different waterfalls in Yelapa. Yelapa Waterfall on Google Maps is up the river and is not as big as the second waterfall in Yelapa. The second waterfall is called, Cascada de Yelapa, which coincidentally translates to Yelapa Waterfall as well.
We did not visit both waterfalls, as we heard that the Yelapa Waterfall (up the river) isn’t that great. However, we did visit Cascada de Yelapa, and it was pretty and a great place for a fresh water dip!
It’s a simple walk through the actual town of Yelapa, and as long as you have it pinned on maps.me or on Google, you’ll be able to find it with no problem. There are also a handful of signs pointing to the waterfall, so that certainly will help too.
We were surprised to see a handful of tours going up to the waterfall. They all went up and came right back down super quickly. We’d advise just walking to the waterfall by yourself. Even if you are traveling solo! It’s really safe and easy to find, and that way you get more time at the falls than you would on a tour.
What to Expect in Yelapa
Yelapa seems to be becoming more of a tourist town. We only went for one day, and maybe if we stayed overnight there, we would have enjoyed it more. However, we found that it really wasn’t worth the entire day trip down to be at that beach if short on time. Yes, the snorkeling was amazing, but there’s also great snorkeling closer to Puerto Vallarta.
In Yelapa, you can expect to hang out on the beach, with lovely sand and the ocean’s bright blue colors in the morning, but the beach gets dirty and full of boats by the afternoon.
There’s a huge turnaround of people here going for the day, so we really would suggest trying to stay overnight if you can. Visit with an open mind, and if you feel like it’s a tourist trap, or not for you, just find a quiet place up the bay to take in the beauty of the place. It truly is a gorgeous beach to see.
Where to Stay in Yelapa Mexico
You will not find any big hotels in Yelapa, but instead, find villas and bed and breakfasts offering stays from luxury to bare essentials. We did not stay overnight in Yelapa, but did walk through some of the more high-end places, and they seemed lovely.
There are many places right on the water in Yelapa to stay, as well as cheaper places more inland. Accommodation in Yelapa ranges from campsites to bungalows, and luxury villas with private pools and oceanfront terraces.
What to Bring to Yelapa
Our Experience With The Yelapa Water Taxi
We were warned by a number of people to not buy the water taxi tickets return trip. Everyone said that it’s a scam when you do that. However, when we actually got to the dock in Boca to leave, the worker didn’t even offer us round trip fair. We were so surprised and caught off guard, that we ended up asking him for it and buying round-trip tickets!
The water taxi on the way to Yelapa was not totally full, but as we traveled down the coast, we made many stops where people got on and off the boat.
On the way back from Yelapa, all the boats from 3:30 pm on were completely full. Even so full that everyone on the dock couldn’t get on the boat. It’s a good thing to keep in mind the last boat of the day, and then try and take a couple of boats before that one, to be sure you don’t get stuck in Yelapa.
Our Time Visiting Yelapa
To be honest, our time in Yelapa was alright. I, Heather, was having an off day from the start, throwing our morning off. One thing after the next kept happening, and honestly, we should have just rescheduled our trip for the next day.
But, hindsight is 20/20 and we went along for the trip. The boat ride was refreshing.. there’s nothing quite like a fresh sea breeze blowing in your face to set you straight!
Fresh sea breeze in the face while cruising down the beautiful Mexican coastline is good for the soul. After wandering around Yelapa, we hiked to the waterfall in town, and up above and beyond it. Then ended up spending hours snorkeling off the rocks near the boat dock. This way we were able to ask multiple boats if our tickets would work and see when the boats started getting super full.
We picnicked on the rocks, almost got knocked out by an iguana falling from the tree above us, got stung by jellyfish, and witnessed some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever experienced!
While Yelapa wasn’t the total dream it’s repeatedly sold for, it still was beautiful!
More on Puerto Vallarta
We spent six weeks in Puerto Vallarta documenting everything from the price of bananas to epic hikes and day trips from the city. Along with our personal favorite thing.. every single taco stand we went to. 🙂 Below, find links to posts we think you may like.. especially if you’ll be visiting the beautiful city of Puerto Vallarta soon!
General Travel Resources
We’ve been traveling pretty regularly since getting married back in 2013. We’ve backpacked for six months in South America, moved to Scotland, traveled Europe in a campervan, and are now traveling in the States in our newest van build. Here are some travel resources we think may help ease stress and finances on your trip abroad.
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