Yelapa History

A rich history... trapped in time


Yelapa was settled by four main families

It’s an indigenous community still owned and controlled by the founding families

The families originally lived nearly exclusively off the land and the sea

Today tourism is the main industry

Most native Yelapians still garden, farm, or fish


“Kendra & Fernando invited us and our young daughters to bake cookies on X-mas — what an amazing memory.  It was the best “excursion” we had on our trip.”


Yelapa is Owned by the Locals


Yelapa was initially settled by four families who came down the mountain from the village of Chacala and started a life of fishing and agriculture. The town name is said to be an old Native American one meaning “where two rivers meet the sea.” About 1,500 Mexicans live is this little town as well as a growing number of foreigners. The four original families still live here and almost everyone is related.

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Yelapa is a unique community—”one of the few remaining on Birds eye view of the beach and of the river meeting the ocean in Yelapa, Mexico. Earth where the original inhabitants still reside on, own, and control their own land.” As a comunidad indigena, Yelapa is a land grant or reservation legally set aside and protected for its indigenous people. The land is held collectively by the community. Outsiders may not buy any land but they may long term lease it.

The high mountains behind Yelapa have not been crossed by roads, so the only ways to get here are to come by boat from a nearby town, to walk or ride a horse or mule on the long, rocky coastal route, or to come down on the trail/dirt road from Chacala. Taxi boat please!

Modern conveniences are recent. Electricity and phones arrived in 2001. Before then there were only lamps or flashlights and one local pay phone.  Water is brought to the village from the rivers.  There is a central water system but it doesn’t reach all so many still manage their own water lines.

All of this means that the most basic tasks of living – walking, cleaning, cooking, carrying and building, and certainly bringing needed items in – can quickly acquire a new meaning and importance. Yelapa is certainly an escape from the norm. Come see for yourself!

Source: The Yelapa History Project