Yelapa, so many second chances ending in disappointment

I really like Yelapa; a couple waterfalls, tons of cool artwork around town, beach side chairs and umbrellas, Sasha our adopted stray dog. It has been my most visited place this year, making eight trips bringing lots of friends to enjoy this slice of paradise. I struggled on whether to write this post but after a few bad experiences and hearing problems other cruising friends, I decided it was best to put out there the downsides of visiting Yelapa.

Here are pictures of everyone who hiked to the “far” waterfall, the hike was too much for some friends… And check out the differences from early December until late March, in both the amount of water and the leaves on the trees!

Sadly the downsides relate to the anchorage, specifically the guys who rent the mooring balls (and the mooring balls themselves). Edgar and Bulee are the guys who rush to greet you in Bandaras Bay in an effort to get your business. For a small town it is cut throat between them. The first time we visited, Bulee got to us first but that didn’t stop Edgar from sticking ten feet away for the next 10 minutes while we motored in. Annoying yes, but no biggy.

The last four plus months I tried to give each of them some business going back and forth, which turned out to be a bad idea. But let me back up a bit… On my fifth, or was it my fourth trip, after hanging out on the beach we went up to Edgar to get a ride back to our boat, shockingly he said nope he was done for the day. At 4:00 in the afternoon. Well that would have been nice to know earlier when he saw us sitting at his friend’s restaurant. We waited around and after about half an hour picked up a ride. No big deal, but still an annoyance. On our seventh trip Edgar again blew us off when we asked for a ride, this time at 3:30pm. I begged Bulee for a ride and reluctantly he said yes so long as we used his mooring ball next time. Okay, done.

Our eighth trip was the one that ended future visits to Yelapa. Edgar was pissed that we went with Bulee, but since we promised Bulee our business the next time the decision was made. No problems getting on to a mooring ball, but coming back in the evening I found a boat closer than I would like. Bulee assured me they had a stern anchor so everything seemed alright. During the night I got up a few times and things were still good. Around 3:00am, the winds shift and we are suddenly very close to a boat – like 15 feet away close. And getting closer. I took off the mooring ball bridle and brought the filthy mooring line on to our deck to reduce the scope as much as possible. That gave us enough space that I held off on starting the engine. Two hours later the winds shift again and I was able to get a little sleep.

Around 8:00am we moved over to a different mooring ball (one of Edgar’s) away from the drama. Paddling the kayaks into shore Edgar sped past and wondered why we are on his ball but to says to talk later. Works for me. A enjoyable breakfast at Cafe Bahia and we were off to the “far” waterfall. Around 2:00pm we got back to Fanny’s (Edgar’s friend’s restaurant) and I find out from a server that Edgar is pissed. Like, never been this pissed before upset. Really? What the hell? Long story short he demanded we leave his mooring ball since we used Bulee the night before. I apologize for not using him and explain the drama overnight (with boats on Edgar’s mooring balls) and he laughs and says, “Good, I’m glad you had these problems and didn’t get to sleep. You deserved it.” Seriously? Because I gave your competitor business? Whatever. We headed back to the boat and bashed into 30 knots of wind to make our way to Punta de Mita.

Sadly, we are not the only boats who have had problems.
Our friends on Nellie Jo came when Edgar was on vacation and his brother Ricardo was handling the business. First he overcharged them (typically we pay 250 pesos per night) and then charged them 100 pesos per trip to shore (this has always been included in the price of the mooring ball). I wish that was the worst part. Sadly during the night the winds changed and their boat bashed into a panga on a nearby mooring ball, damaging their wind vane (many of the mooring balls are spaced too close together for boats over 25 feet long). They decided to leave the next morning but no refund was coming from Richardo for the pre-paid two additional nights…

Other friends experienced similar issues with hostility and unsafe mooring balls. We even heard of a mooring line breaking this year, thankfully not resulting in a grounding.

Is it worth a stop? If you have never been then I’d give it a conditional “yes.” BUT make sure you test the mooring balls and are positive there is enough space from other mooring balls/boats. Oh and pick a night when it isn’t rolly. And only pay for one night. And do the “far” waterfall, it is so much better and worth the hike.

I was not happy to find MV Golden Rose in front of us after coming back from a hike. This boat caused extreme season ending damage to our friends on Volare in La Paz last year and damaged our sister boat Moon Drifter (ripping off their bowsprit and causing gelcoat damage) in Barra de Navidad this year. Strong suggestion to get far away from MV Golden Rose!!!


  • Deena April 18, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    Thanks for laying the truth out Chris! NellieJo won’t be going back to Yelapa. There are to many other beautiful anchorages to share with friends and family. They just might have to fly into somewhere other than PV!

    • Chris French April 19, 2018 at 8:41 am

      Very sad, but it is what it is. As you mention there are so many beautiful anchorages it won’t be hard to find an alternative.

  • John M March 29, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Found this post googling for the mooring ball payment in Yelapa. We came in late last night and picked up our own ball. This morning Juan swings by on his panga demanding 500 peso. After lots of back and forth and a call to our local friend, we gave him 200 as a “voluntary tip” and left. We’ve been there twice before, and once with a panga assist who we gladly tipped a couple hundred peso but never had a demand for payment. What is actual protocol?

    • Chris French April 10, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      John, typically a panga (or two) will come out to you as you enter the bay and guide you into one of their mooring balls. I have been paying 250 pesos per night in 2017, 2018, and 2019 – which includes rides to shore (we tip for each ride). Lately (due to issues I listed in my blog posts) we have taken our kayaks into the small beach by the town to eliminate the need for a panga to take us back to our boat.


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