Puerto Vallarta Marinas, Crocodiles and Yelapa 1.5 – 4.0

Marina Vallarta Area

By Chris Foster. 4/22/19

Marina Vallarta

Wednesday morning we decided to motor over to Marina Vallarta (the downtown marina).   It took about an hour.  There were two huge cruise ships tied up in the outer harbor.

We were assigned a side tie on A Dock.  Alex was noticeably nervous as I decided to take a rare turn at the controls during docking. His anxiety peaked when a large catamaran decided to pass us to port in the narrow fairway just before I started to back in.  As we waited for it to pass, the westerly wind began to push us uncomfortably close to a group of large yachts backed up against the finger across the way on the right side; however when I throttled up the starboard prop the stern responded nicely as it pulled us astern and to port.  A couple of minutes later we were safely tied up without incident (thank goodness, as I just don’t know that I could have stood the shame associated with the look that he would have given me if things had taken another direction).

Croc Waiting For Us To Get Stuck On A Sandbar

Once tied, we immediately put the tender in the water and headed to the entrance of the El Saldo mangrove river over by the navy docks. It was low tide and we were treated to the sight of several Pacific Crocodiles sunning themselves on the muddy riverbanks.  I never cease to be amazed at these prehistoric man-eating creatures roaming freely as they please.

We were hoping to fish the mangrove east of the highway bridge about 100 meters upstream, however signs overhead indicated that we weren’t supposed to go up there.  Now, I’ve never been a particularly good rule follower, but the thought of the navy guys on the docks at the entrance kept us inline, so we headed back to Embajador for a quick bike ride and some light shopping on the malecon ringing the basin.

Goliath Resident PV Crocodile

At the far end we were excited to see the harbor’s most famous inhabitant, Goliath, a 7 or 8 foot croc who hangs out there regularly. One has to wonder what the thing eats, however the boat cleaning divers have told us that he doesn’t bother them.  That said, a video went viral in April 2015 of the croc swimming around with a shopkeeper’s labrador retriever in its mouth. (I’ve not included a link as it’s best not to look.  And – keep your dog on a leash there…)

Numerous iguanas add another layer of curious entertainment to the mix.

When Tony and I got back to the boat, it was “Cheese O’clock,” so we all climbed back into the dingy with a freshly loaded cheese board and Chardonnay in hand to slowly tour around looking at the numerous yachts tied there.

A bottle of wine later it was close to sundown and we ended up back at the river entrance. This time we slid quietly unseen under the bridge and up into the mangroves beyond, with no fishing rods onboard this time.

Notwithstanding its location in near the heart of a large city, this was without a doubt the most beautiful mangrove that I’ve ever explored.  Birds called and flew from everywhere.  The verdant trees grew thicker and closer together as the river narrowed about a kilometer upstream, however the river bottom stayed at a near constant 11 foot depth.  By the time we turned around the vines reached completely over the river in tunnel-like form. Fantastic!

A Flash Mob Erupted In Front of Us During Dinner

That night we enjoyed a fine Italian dinner at a dockside restaurant less than a three minute walk away from the slip.

Bright sunshine greeted us the next morning.  We radioed over to Paradise Village Marina  hoping to get a slip there, however they were full. We were bummed as we had hoped to explore and fish the large Nuevo Vallarta mangrove complex.  Soon we decided instead to head over to Yelapa, a small hillside jungle village a few kilometers to the west known for its beach palapas, cool vibe and waterfalls.


The town holds particular mystique due to its inexcessability by road. Each day boats bring loads of tourists, workers and supplies. A small group of longtime inhabitants who’s families have been members the the coop that controls the land circling the bay still run most everything in town.

The Moorings  In Front of Yelapa

Unfortunately, the bay is open to the westerly swell coming in from the Pacific, so anchoring and landing is difficult.  Well outside the bay a panga approached us offering a mooring ball. We agreed and followed him as he lead us in. Soon another panga arrived carrying another guy offering a different set of mooring balls. We tried over and over to motion and tell him that we had already accepted a ball from the other guy, but he pulled ever closer, acting as if he didn’t even see the other panga. This we learned, this is the ongoing feud of Edgar and Bulee

Anyway, we followed Bulee (the first guy) into his mooring and tied up with his assistance, all the while being closely monitored by Edgar.  However, when we drifted into position behind the mooring ball we were only a few feet from a sailboat tied to the one behind.  Bulee kept telling us to pull in line and that everything was “perfect”, but we weren’t buying it. Too close for comfort.

So, we pulled our line off the mooring and headed across the bay toward one that looked be better situated for a boat of Embajador’s size.  Of course Bulee was now chasing us pointing to another mooring ball way towards back in his field that offered even less sea room than the one before.  We ignored his frantic gesticulations and tied up to Edgar’s ball instead.

Soon afterwards Alex took Tony and I into the beach down toward the main village. (Note, the two piers in town are not good for trying to to as their barnacled supports would rip any tender to shreds in the prominent surge.  Small waves breaking on the beach make it almost impossible to leave a sizable dinghy ashore either.)  We walked up the narrow paths leading to the town waterfall not very far up the hill while Alex headed back to the boat.  The concrete path meanders past many small houses and cafes crudely built into the hillside. This town has so much potential, but the unfinished buildings and unkempt facades detract from the setting.

Tony Takes It All In

On reaching the waterfall surrounded by palms and jungle at the top we could not resist a swim in the small pond below.  Afterwards we enjoyed a cold mexican beer at the adjacent bar and had a good time talking with the bartender, Lope and his family while their happy large dogs played nearby.  This is no doubt another Mexican dog paradise where they roam freely but are very well taken care. (Unlike in the US, there seems to be no competition between dogs when they meet up on the street.)

Yelapa After Dark

Yelapa Yacht Club Scene

Once getting back at the beach we headed over the Yelapa Yacht Club for margaritas and a snack where we met some nice fellow travelers who were staying in a small house that they were renting for a couple of weeks while volunteering to pick up trash on local beaches with an environmental organization. When they suggested that we join them for dinner at a restaurant up the path who were we to refuse?

After dinner they lead us up and down a small path and some steep stairs to the other beach in town where they indicated a Moon Festival was to be held that night. It was located in front of a nicely kept beach bar. A bonfire burned in a pit dug in the sand surrounded by lounges and hip millennials of many nationalities. The bartender, a mexican who referred to himself as Harry, served us drinks and assured us that the band, who’s equipment was set over to the side would be starting up again very shortly. We had a good time hanging out until about 11 PM (the band had still not started playing) when we called Alex to come pick us up from Embajador, stationed just offshore of the scene. Naturally, as soon as we climbed back aboard, the band started playing. We were asleep no doubt well before the action subsided.

Mooring Issues

Alex told us that soon after he returned to the boat that afternoon Edgar had come back by and offered to let us stern tie the boat onto a 2nd mooring in order to keep her facing into the swells. This worked quite well – for a while.

About 5 AM I awoke in my cabin as the boat rolled heavily from side to side. Looking out my porthole I could see the town lights slipping by as the boat began to swing around. When I got upstairs Alex was already on deck looking down into the water with a flashlight where the stern mooring ball hung tightly straight below. Clearly it had let go and we had pulled the 600 or so pound anchor weight around and off of the beach shelf into deeper water. Luckily the bow was still soundly held by the other.

Eventually, we had to cut our line tethered to the stern mooring. (Note to selves: Next time run a line through the mooring loop verses making a loop to loop connection.) We pulled out of the cove just as the sun came up and I headed back downstairs. About an hour later I heard the engines slowing.

Birds were excitedly flying around everywhere as bait was being pushed to the surface by boiling Toro. Tony tossing a line in from the bow and Alex was alternately fishing from the roof of the forward salon and running back inside to drive the boat as the fish moved. Unfortunately the fish didn’t seem interested in the popper that Tony was throwing, but of course Alex hooked up.

Toro / Jack Crevalle

This Part Of The Journey Ends For Me

Sadly, my flight left later that afternoon as my time was up. Tony was to stick around for another couple of days. Alex is to supervise a haul out at the boatyard in order to replace a worn cutlass bearing along with a never ending list of repairs and maintenance items before Ted and his family come back for a trip down the coast to Barra Navidad on April 10.

Bye for now. Follow us as the adventure continues and see other posts @ EmbajadorAdventure.com!

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1 comment

  1. Great log with lots of great ideas for our trip down. I look forward to adding to the List.

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