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By Rhonda Spivak, Jan 2010,

Yelapa, an island  in Mexico straight out of a tropical fantasy is a no more than an hour’s ride by an inexpensive “water taxi” from  the popular  destination of Puerto Vallarta. (On my water taxi I even overheard someone from Manitoba talking about Lake Winnipeg !!)

 With its luscious vegetation, mountainous terrain and secluded beach nestled in a cove,  Yelapa beckons any traveler who wants  to “get away from it all.” There are  excursion boats that enable travelers to visit the island for a day, but for those who want to unplug themselves from the stress of the world, a  longer stay is recommended

In Yelapa, there are no cars and only one paved (pedestrian-only) road—a road which meanders slowly through the mountains, but is not accessible for any disabled traveler.  The villagers of Yelapa got electricity only six years ago, and their simple homes dot the mountainside.    Everyone who strolls through the village is casual and friendly, and some villagers have taken to renting out rooms or simple accommodations.

Over the years the island has become a popular destination for writers, artists, hippies and American ex-pats looking to escape anything and everything.  Visual artists ought to  bring a sketch-pad  along, as it is tempting to it immerse oneself in trying to capture the sweeping  beauty of the spectacular coast.

If you are lucky, on the boat ride to the island, you may be able to see dolphins jumping out of the turquoise blue water- as I did.  The dance of Yelapa’s dolphins is only outdone by the flips and flops of  majestic  humpback whales, who also periodically rise out of the depths of the nearby ocean. These whales, with their unique tails, are likely to make an appearance between mid-November to March, as they have migrated to this area for centuries to bear their calves.

Yelapa’s beach is exquisite- quiet, serene, and loaded with natural beauty. Most people  who arrive to the island relax in the sun, swim or snorkel. The only sign of tacky tourism is a local villager who greets incoming boats with an iguana sitting on his shoulders, asking for money for those who wish to pet it or take photos.  A few restaurants  serve fresh grilled seafood,  but the best beach delicacy is a piece of pie- coconut, lemon or chocolate- served by pie  ladies who balance the pie plates on their heads as they walk the beach. After sampling all of the pies, this traveler preferred the lemon, which was one of the best ever tasted.  

Behind the beach, one can begin exploring the trails in the island, where bird lovers will be overjoyed with the exotic variety of chirping sounds that enliven the lush vegetation.   On my journey, I happened upon a professional photographer who spent hours taking bird portraits. 

 For those who like hiking, there are trails up a river to see one of two waterfalls.  The closest waterfall to town is about a thirty minute walk from the beach. It is also possible to go horse-back riding, fishing, guided birding and paragliding.  

The premiere accommodation in Yelapa  is Verana, with nine rustic yet sophisticated suites  with  private terraces, which  are  lovingly set  into  a hillside with a panoramic view of the mountains and ocean.   The unparalleled connection with nature makes Verena  a magical place to stay. With its relaxing spa and yoga hut, and no telephones or television, it is a place where a traveler may easily loose track of the days of the week.  Each suite is a work of art, designed by owners Heinz Leger, a former film production designer and prop stylist Veronique Lieve.

In addition to local residents who rent rooms, there is also the Hotel Lagunita with 32 cabanas with private bathrooms, restaurant and bar, as well as a gourmet coffee shop, and yoga classes.

The  tranquility and natural beauty of Yelapa overwhelm the senses.  The island is a taste of paradise-one any traveler will want to savour long after returning to civilization.

If you are anywhere near Puerto Vallarta, don’t miss Yelapa.

A version of this article has been previously published in the Canadian Jewish News.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.