Belated Honeymoon: Yelapa, Mexico
Yelapa is a located a 40-minute boat ride south of Puerto Vallarta in a small bay. The beach stretches the mouth of the bay with a river that flows (only during the rainy season) along the south end near the town. Along the beach you'll find several restaurants and along the north end Hotel Lagunita (more on that place later). The town, accessible only by boat, is a fishing village but since being discovered by western sun worshipers looking to escape the hustle of PV, Yelapa has quickly embraced tourism. But let's tell you about our trip...
It was a long travel day with 3 transfers over 12 hours. PV greeted us with a warm if not overbearing sunshine and cold margaritas. We stayed at the hotel Playa Los Arcos near the south end of old town PV. Great view off the balcony to the Pacific and the huge bay. We did some parasailing off the beach to get our trip started. At one point we were higher than the 12-story hotel and construction crane. After hanging out at poolside and a few drinks we walked north along the Malecon (the ocean front boardwalk), to El Arrayan, voted best Mexican food in PV.
El Arrayan is a quaint little open restaurant a few blocks inland with fantastic food. Sean had the braised shredded pork with homemade tortillas, and Amber the duck carnitas (WOW!). The beer flowed like wine. Walking back along the Malecon we watched the evening fireworks and enjoyed the street vendors and entertainment.
Early rising at the crack of 10:30 left us little time for breakfast, checkout and cab ride south to the pier, which turned out to be a small beach (no pier) where the Verana boat would pick us up for our two nights at the 'Handmade Hotel'. We were living like rock stars in the most amazing room-The Tea House. Imagine a hotel that appears to grow organically out of the hillside overlooking the entire bay of Yelapa. It seemed like something out of a movie, which was fitting since it was created by two set designers from LA. We had lunch after check in surrounded by humming birds and butterflies, also some of the best aqua fresca ever-cucumber mint. We also had a wonderful couscous with herbs, tomatos and scallops and a fresh ono with a tomato jam. Afterwards we headed to our room and after taking about 50 photos we relaxed by our private plunge pool. Did we forget to mention the Tea House used to be the spa for the hotel?
After basking in the sun we headed down to the bar to mingle with the other guests (who were all pretty young and cool travelers) and initiate ourselves with some tequila tasting-when in Rome...erh Mexico! Wow, we must have tried about 5 or 12 tequila's each as our bartender Chris enthusiasticly poured them. The dining area faced the bay of Yelapa which is beautiful in itself but from the hillside surrounded by drooping trees, flowers, agave and candles everywhere it was stunning. Dinner started with chile rellenos made with a dried chili and tempura batter, very unusual and very good. We also had a cioppino (soup) with fresh seafood from the area and finished it all off with the house made melon and vanilla gelato. After all the food we organized the other guests to pick up our cocktails and start a walking tour to check out each others rooms. Each suite was its own house with a different view and feel.
Day 2 at Verana began with fresh coffee and cookies on our doorstep, a wonderful way to wake up. Just a little something until we can wander down for breakfast which was fantastic as usual. The Migas, a Mexican scramble with fresh tortillas and fixings to make a breakfast burrito were great. The rest of the day was spent between our private plunge pool, the hotel pool, and lunch. Somewhere in between we even did a little yoga session and checked out the library to borrow some magazines and reading material.
At dusk we went to the spa for the couples massage and 'Romance Package'. An hour later we were loose and relaxed feeling like a cooked noodle looks. After changing out of our massage robes into something appropriate for dinner we head down for cocktail hour. Tonight we skip the tequila and opt for margaritas and sangria. Dinner is again a wonderful starting with a fresh tuna tartar, follwed by shrimp and vegtable skewers. We skip desert and hustle back to the spa for our the rest of our Romance Package.
Jorge greets us with some warm tea and shows us what he's prephared. No less than a hundered candles have been lit bringing the stars down to our roofless abode. We have a hot bath with coconut milk and honey scents and a bed in case we want to watch the shooting stars. The Watsu pool is avaliable for us to use as well. The pool used for massage is four feet deep and 98.6 degrees (body temperature). Relaxing in the pool feels like you're floating toward the heavens; completely weightless. Jennifer from the restaurant has brought our deserts, pana cotta with mint leaves and raspberry sauce. The bath is way too hot so we take turns holding eachother in the Watsu pool. We fall asleep in the bed and wake hours later, dizzy and relaxed. We barely make it the 50 yards back to the Tea house.
You sleep so peacefully you forget your room has no walls, exposed on 3 sides to the jungle. The next morning again we are greeted with a pre-breakfast snack of fresh coffee and coffee cake. Breakfast is no less spectacular than any meal we've had here at Verana, and we wish we could stay longer than our two days of luxury. As we leave Verana the bill we pay reminds us that it is all at a price. A price we can't sustain.
The boat takes us the quarter mile to the beach where we head to our next hotel Lagunita. Now in all fairness to Lagunita, it cannot be compared to Verana. Seriously, don't do it. You'll be disappointed. Rustic. One word to describe our room, (the Honeymoon Suite) 4 walls, an uncomfortable bed and closet doors with a pad lock for an entry. The windows had plywood sheets to keep the vermin out in the evenings. I couldn't tell the difference between the honeymoon suite and the other cabanas, other than our view was obstructed by several trees and another house. Luckily we are here for 3 nights.
Seriously disappointed with our room, but willing to make the best of it we headed down to the beach to stroll into town. The beach was littered with water bottles and trash and a recently abandoned refrigerator. Yelapa town was no less an intrigue into how 18th century Mexico must have looked. A single road winds through town and one must be on constant look out to avoid the burro droppings. With no cars, I imagine if one wants to get any work done in Yelapa you better know someone with a burro or a wheelbarrow (see our montage of wheelbarrows) of which there were dozens at work or rest throughout the village.
We searched high and low for the famed 'Pie Lady' of Yelapa. After some time we did finally find her back on the beach selling her little slices of heaven. She is famous for her apple pie, so of course neither of us get it. I miss order and get the banana. Amber the coconut. Both were not delicious, but I eat my whole piece and half of Amber's. Its right about then I begin to feel a bit sick.
2 days of fever, chills, body aches, nausea and diarreah. What can I say, it was a great diet. Amber got the bug as well and we spent much of our day planning nothing that would take us more than 20 feet from a toilet.
On the occasion we did feel up to eating something we would head down to the Lagunita restaurant. Service was not a priority for the wait staff nor was accuracy of the bill or making sure things were clean. One morning I ordered a banana papaya smoothie. I had ordered it the prior day and it was quite good so I thought to get it again. The waiter returns with a plate of bananas and papayas. I ask him for a smoothie, and he returns again with a mug of warm blended bananas and papayas. I head to the bar to cut the middleman out of the transaction and can't seem to get the guy to understand that I'd like the smoothie cold. Someone who speaks english then explains that sometimes they put in ice and sometimes not. With that thrilling explanation I ask for ice and hesitently get upgraded to 'COLD' smoothie. The bar guy takes my warm mug of spun fruit and dumps it into one of the several blenders he has (none of which are clean and in various stages of fruit decomposition), he dumps some ice and water from the bottom of an ice chest filled with other items ranging from fruit and vegtables to bottles of booze and milk. I think I now know where we got sick.
So Yelapa is a cesspool and Lagunita is a health inspection away from being burnt to the ground. How it that we actually have fond memories of the place? The beach was still a beach and quite lovely at that. The water blue. The sun shined all day warm on us and the evenings were cool. PEACEFUL. Yelapa was peaceful, especially at dusk as the sun would set, and the wind shift to your back. We began to fully appreciate the quiet serenity of no cars, no schedule, no hustle, and no bustle. We slowed down to the point of stopping and counted our blessing. When we weren't bent over a toilet that is.
After our third night we were ready to go but would miss the little bay with the appropriate amount of emotion. The water taxi back to PV, docks, loads, leaves. You get on board and do what you can to get out of the way of the guys running the thing. First thing you notice as you rocket off at 20 knotts is that boats are loud. The only thing to drown out the groan of the boats engine is the beat and tennor of the counterfit iPod blasting a remixed version of a copy of a Madonna song in spanish. Followed by the euro culb version of Fergie's latest song, the all bass house remix of the Spice Girls. Riverdance? That was strange. Take the worst cookie cutter, rubber stamped drivel America parades as pop culture audio art, speed it up to 90 beats per minute, translate it into spanish and you got every song on the iPod. Its enough to make my ears vomit. A copy of a knock off, of a reproduction, of a reprint. A 10th gereration fake of a remix. Eurasure's spanish version of 'A little respect', then Gwen Stefani's house party spanish version. 200 watts of speakers arm wrestle 200 horse power boat moters as we speed over the turquoise waters. I can only hope its quieter below the surface and wonder how deep I would need to be to drown out the whole experience.
Little fish swim to avoid bigger fish looking for lunch swimming to avoid bigger fish looking for lunch etc, etc, etc. How far up the food chain does one have to go to not have to worry anymore?
Back on the beach at Puerto Vallarta it is difficult to move with any purpose as you are visually and verbally solicited by dozens of sellers peddeling their wares. Jewelry, sarongs, blankets, hammocks, trinkets, friendship bracelets, and so on and on and... If it isn't sold in PV it probably isn't made in Mexico. Food for sale, drinks to pour, parasailing, tattoos, massages the crowd moves as slowly as the tide.
Me with my pocket full of pesos, I wonder to myself how far up the food chain I am? Clearly I am the hunted. Still its nice, if not annoyingly so to be wanted this much, even if it is only for my money. So much better than the cool ambivolence the Yelapa wait staff treated you with.
Our last night in PV we know where to go for our last meal. Back to El Arrayan for a meal we know will not disappoint. Shrimp as big as your hooked thumb to forefinger, and a beef tenderloin you could cut with your napkin folded origami style. It was just what we wanted. Full bellies we walked back along the Malecon, enjoyed the fireworks from the Pirate ship in the bay and got talked into an overpriced bottle of 'limited' edition Tequilla by an unknown distiler. (BTW all tequilla is made in Jalisco Mexico, where PV is located).
You sleep well here. We wake much too late but have just enough time to grab breakfast at a German restaurant nearby. We order the Kaiser Schmarn, which turns out to be the greatest pancakes ever conceived. Like a thick crepe, cut into wedges and piled into a heap topped with raspberry syrup, it doesn't stand a chance.
The trip is over and after a long day of travel home we are reminded of how blessed we are to live in America. How if it was a coin flip between being born here in the USA or anywhere else, we flipped heads 8 times in a row. As enjoyable and exciting as it always is to explore our planet and other cultures, home just feels right as we slide back into our groove just like a needle over a record.