There are two waterfalls in Yelapa, Mexico. The route to one waterfall is on a cobblestone path. It takes about 10 minutes to get there to once you get through town. This is the waterfall most tourists see – hundreds, if not thousands, of people go there each week.
The second waterfall in Yelapa is upriver and it’s an hour to 90-minute walk depending on your speed. This is on the road less traveled. The route starts as a cobblestone path leading out of town, and eventually turns to a dirt path with some large rocks and easy river crossings.
This post shows exactly how to get to the upriver waterfall in Yelapa.
1. Get on the right path out of town
Make sure you’re on the west side of the river on the path heading towards the pedestrian bridge, and then just keep going on the path past the bridge.
You’ll pass a few homes and a stable or two. A small store that’s not always open. Keep walking.
2. First river crossing to upriver waterfall in Yelapa
In about 40 minutes or so, you’ll get to the structure pictured below. Behind that small building is the first river crossing.
After this point, you won’t see anymore structures. You’ve got roughly another 30 to 45 minutes left to walk.
3. The second river crossing
The second river crossing is a few minutes away. (The river is never very deep or fast at this part – at least not in the months of December or January, when we have gone.) The path is now all dry, and it’s still well marked and easy to walk.
4. The fence, the gate, the tree
The route follows along a fence nearly all the way to the gate you need to go through to get to the upriver waterfall in Yelapa. You can’t miss the gate, but it doesn’t really open.
You have to climb through the area between the fallen tree and the fence. In the picture below, Vanna White’s counterpart is pointing the way.
I don’t really know for sure, but I’m guessing this is there to keep horses out. Tourists who ride horses and mules up to this waterfall have to walk starting at this point.
5. Last quarter of the walk feels more remote
The last quarter or so of the hike takes on more of a remote feel. You can’t see the power lines that head into Yelapa anymore, although the path is still well-worn and relatively easy. As long as you can walk a few steep inclines and declines and walk over rocks, you’ll make it.
6. The rocks, stone stairs
The trail to the upriver waterfall in Yelapa disappears when you hit some large rocks, but it’s obvious where you can step. If I can do this, just about anyone can. (I’m not a good rock climber at all.)
Then you’ll find stone stairs someone made that will lead you down close to the waterfall.
We have been there a few times over the years, and what you see in the pictures was the most crowded I’ve seen it. It was the first time we never had the place to ourselves at roughly midday. Maybe because it was high season, or maybe because more people are going to the upriver waterfall in Yelapa — and Yelapa itself.
On previous trips, we also went around midday, and we were alone for a couple of hours.
Check the depth before you leap off the rocks. Most of the waterfall base is not deep enough and if you do jump, go down close to the rocks, like my spouse.
Swim or walk close to the rocks alongside the base of the falls, and find natural seats in the rock. We each sat on either side and waved to each other with cascading water splashing us silly.
Try to get there when the sun is high in the sky. The water is chilly after awhile, especially if you’re sitting on the natural seats at the base of the falls and everything looks better in bright sunshine anyway.
Bring some snacks and relax. Just enjoy the place, and the moment.
Please don’t leave your trash behind. Take it with you. And don’t leave it in the jungle along the path. Locals have hung bags for your garbage. I saw less plastic litter in Yelapa than at other places in Central America. I hope it stays that way.
I’ve done this hike in flip flops I don’t recommend it. Sports sandals are best.
If you’re lucky, you might find a mule for the river crossings back to town.
On the walk back from the upriver waterfall in Yelapa, don’t forget to stop and take in the views as they happen. It’s really beautiful. Another day in paradise.
Other outdoor adventures around the world:
- Caves at Phong Nha are phenomenal, for now
- Banco Chinchorro: an unbelievable reef in the Caribbean
- Living at an ethical elephant camp in northern Thailand
- 7 incredible waterfalls, 4 thrilling cliff jumps, 1 spot in Bali