This low-key paradise is a draw for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path Mexico vacation with bohemian charm

Samantha Schoech

After decades of being a timeless throwback, Yelapa has entered the 21st century. Sort of. This tiny, white-sand paradise, set in a secluded bay-within-a-bay, is still roadless and carless with a clock that seems perpetually set to vacation time. Most tourists come on day-tours from Puerto Vallarta, but it’s also a sort of vortex for the hippies, yogis, and artists, who make up the large ex-pat community.

Hotels

If you plan to stay a week or more, consider renting a home or apartment to really get a feel for village life. There are many beautiful and affordable options on Airbnb and VRBO.

Hotel Lagunita. A collection of thatched-roofed cottages along the edge of the water offers spa treatments, yoga classes and lots of lounging opportunities. And the restaurant has the best salads in town. $$.

Casa Garcia. These rental apartments come with well-stocked kitchens, spectacular views, and a prime location between the beach and the village. $$.

Restaurants

Tacos Y Mas. At this super casual restaurant (its all super casual in Yelapa) the white plastic tables are set under the stars. The name of the place says all you need to know about the menu, which is unfailingly delicious, especially when washed down with a house made margarita. $; Ask anyone for directions.

Pollo Bollo. This barbecue joint is a Yelapa institution, frequented by locals and visitors alike. Get a mixed plate of the steak and whatever fish is fresh. Dinner only, Wed-Sat. $; +52 322 209 5027

Things to do

Visit the Islas Marietas. This national island preserve in the Bay of Banderas is a snorkeler’s paradise complete with a secluded beach and a landscape covered with bat caves and nesting blue-footed boobies. Contact Hotel Lagunita hotel-lagunita.com or Garcia Charters garciacharters.com for trip information. $$$$.

Dance the night away. Every Wednesday and Saturday night the Yelapa Yacht Club (a restaurant with nary a yacht in sight) morphs into an open-air dance club with a distinctly laid-back vibe (flip-flops are the fashion statements of choice). Ask anyone for directions.