Spanish Study and Guided Travel in Mexico

spanish teacher in Yelapa and Sayulita, Mexico observes the culture

Changes in Yelapa Dec 2011

 YESI’s Tenth Anniversary People write to ask if I’m still here in Yelapa and teaching Spanish.  Not an odd question given that I started this idea with a few credit cards, a princely mortgage to pay back home,  immediately after 9/11 when  few were willing to fly, in a village with no electricity, phones or  internet!  These were not signs of one who meticulously prepared a business plan for financial backers.I realize that my first hand-painted YESI sign is still with me, while many other fancier ones have gone missing (I’ll flatter myself that they may be collectibles), were chewed or otherwise destroyed by the jungle. We’ve come a long way together! I started out small, pinching every penny; was flying to keep up in the mid-2000’s boom when doing all the work was impossible. Now that things have slowed down, it’s like old times  when there was time to visit friends or read a book on the beach and look like a tourist,  and otherwise enjoy Yelapa.

“We’ve come a long way” seems these days like only the physical distance of the couple hundred meters up the hill where YESI is now located off the main trail.  The tourists climbing up the stairs to look at the coastecomate tree, with big purple flowers on the trunk of the tree, instead of the branches, and the hundred and fifty school children streaming through my outdoor class en route to the primary school above it, all led to YESI moving to a quieter setting uphill. But that sign also reminds me of all the people I’ve met here in classes; students conjugating nouns (“dinero” became “dineramos”, my favorite blooper),  students thrilled in their second week that they’re dreaming about Spanish, translating for the newcomers and having the confidence to converse with their host families.  It brings back memories of the many trips together to the Marietas Islands when exploring the caves was possible; the many, many hikes up to the waterfalls and Eric’s treehouse. I recall the first summer program for families when battling bugs, crabs, and hoping my palapa would stay together  in storms, were new challenges. Like every challenge faced, it’s been  hard at times,  but overall the ten years have been truly marvellous in ways I couldn’t ever have imagined. It’s obviously gratifying to see students learn a language. Not having been a mother, I cherished the fact that I got to experience some part of each student’s development. And I expanded by “family” to include over those ten years, more than five hundred people.  Obviously the community has benefited economically too. I estimate very conservatively, that the approximately five hundred  students spent at least $500 per week in accommodation, meals, gifts and other services, contributing at least $250,000 to Yelapa. Pretty much all I’ve earned has also been spent in the community too.  Can’t imagine a better example of win/win!

Am I still here? Well, where would I ever go from here?  In some wild,wacky way it’s my training program on my path to “bliss”. And if you’re wondering if you too could live in paradise, I only have to say, “Don’t be afraid to dream”.  As they say in Mexico – Todo es posible and  Poco a poco! Everything is possible, Little by little.

This year being a slow year, with little tourism anywhere, I’m going to offer for bookings made in January only, the class prices I offered ten years ago!! I’ve always kept prices low, but this should be a boost to you, hopefully and a boost to YESI and Yelapa.  If you miss this discount period, please ask about couples and seniors discounts.  Please say you read it here, when you write in!   Hope to see you this year.

YESI’s first hand painted sign 2001-2012

YESI class 2004


High Speed Internet – Welcome to the Real World –  Spanish Classes on Skype!!

Internet was only available as dial up until last Febuary 2011. The year prior, only a handful of locals had paid a private server a great deal of set up cost for broadband but thankfully Telmex stepped in. After several months of trying to get the operation of the  system working, it was online for everyone at an affordable price. In fact it became cheaper with the simplest package for phone and internet, than it was for just the phone.  This quickly spread throughout the community. Imagine not having watched any YouTube or even ventured onto Facebook for the last ten years! It was exciting to see how messaging, and catching all forms of video, music, and television had become readily available, and we were now able to check in. The year of 2011 therefore, vanished in those moments when I was doing administrative work many times faster, and therefore doing more of it. If there’s a downside, I guess it was that I didn’t get to clean my house or attend to small errands while waiting to download as in previous years. I was definitely caught in the World Wide Web. I’m learning to control it now that I feel somewhat caught up on the last decade’s cyber-revolution. 

With this little revolution in Yelapa, and knowing not as many people are travelling, I’d like to offer Skype classes to any of my readers who have studied Spanish with me before. I’m  teaching currently a handful of students after they suggestd it.  I realize what a great tool it can be, and how efficiently it can be used. There’s a notepad, it’s long distance communication free, and it can be a group class also. It certainly is much less costly than a trip south, although admittedly a little less fun!  Or if you’d like to communicate otherwise by Skype, please ask for my Skype name.  Hope to hear from you and/or see you on Skype.

Please offer coments, and should you be able to come to Mexico, please check us out by email:

Yelapa English Spanish Institute , or come on a Study Tour with a language coach

or by phone  011 52 322 209 5220.

Muchos Restaurantes!!!

In a little village isolated without a road, only boats bringing in supplies, you can imagine that life would be somewhat restricted.  In the past, restaurants in Yelapa, Mexico had sometimes limited days open, and like the T-shirts “No More Stinking Tacos” seemed apropos by the end of the tourist season. Now there’s a great new slate of restaurants and more variety.  As a wanna-be carnivore, but diet restricted to mostly vegetables, I’m thrilled this means there’s more options than just beans, rice and quesadillas for vegetarians too!  So enjoy this NEW YEAR and all its offerings! Feliz  Año Próspero y Sano 2012!!

A. The Beach  (from north end to south end)  Most have much of the same offerings with prices going down further away from the hotel; fish, seafood and mexican plates. Few outstanding or notables: – Hotel Lagunita (always lots of variety, service to your beach chair), Angelina’s Gardens Elena of the Yacht Club’s  very funky beach restaurant, lots of variety, very comfy local hangout; Marlin (pie lady Chelly manages it, so if Pies are your objective, and she hasn’t found you, track her down here.  Coco’s – only real coconuts for agua de coco on the beach, Vortex Café (bottom of the stairs to the beach, great view of the lagoon and river mouth) – A long list of great healthy smoothies (licuados) and juices (jugos),  and the best chicken soup.

NEW –  Juanito’s  (under new management; only the name remains!) Eduardo and Esperanza of El Norteñita Tortilla Factory are opening with the freshest and best tortillas in Yelapa! Great folks next to paragliding landing area, to open soon.

B. Upriver – The rural Colonia El Paso is always a photographer’s delight and a relaxing day for those combing the river for pools to dip in, birds and animals and country life to watch! Few places to eat; nice scenic spots.

El Manguito – Angélica and Luis are upriver 10 minutes at El Manguito (under the Mango tree), with a great deck over Río Tuito; full fare,all day,  great local river crayfish (langostinos), with lots of vegetables);  Cenaduría Janet (evenings Wed, Sat – Sun), super prices! great grilled chicken, tacos, flautas, sopes), Passion Flower Gardens – April’s American homestyle Mondays (movie/dinner),  and Italian for Thurs (Live music, open mic/dinner). Christina’s Riverview Cafe way upriver; vegetarian fare thoughtfully prepared. Order and dine after going to the waterfalls.

NEW – Yelapa Oasis on the River (Hotel, Café & Bar) – Beautiful parkland on the river- New management, new menu.  Local produce, fresh ingredients, great salads, soups, fish cooked wrapped in banana leaf, etc. New upstairs dining and lounge area.  Live music Wednesdays/ Friday open mic night.  Menu  online ( ) and delivered.

C.  Yelapa Village – There never seems enough restaurants in the village. The new ones are very welcome and add new exciting foods!

Café Bahia – Open 9 to sunset. Susan continues to invent new treats. Creative cocktails (eg. Tamarind margaritas), homemade ice-cream (caramel and pear, double vanilla, chocolate coconut) and sorbet.  Fresh-from-scratch meals. Great breakfasts, lots of friends made at the community table. Sunday brunch (the only Eggs Benny in town), afternoon tapas. Brisa’s Restaurant and Lupis’ Bakery – fresh fish, Chicken Catalina, crisply sautéed fresh veggie sides, big cheesy flan. Best (and only) cinnamon buns and banana bread in town.  The Cascada Restaurant at the village waterfalls, 9 to 5 pm.  No place better for a beer, fish dinner and a plunge in the natural pool. Traditional Mexican. Tacos y Mas – lots of good meat, seafood, fish and chicken tacos for cheap, and feature meal specials at reasonable prices. Very social scene.  Great avocado pie! Pollo Bollo – great barbecued fish, chicken and ribs. Made a pork eater out of me after a twenty year abstinence!

NEW – Next to the Yacht Club, Fabian Lorenzo’s fabulous new Taquería Los Abuelos, (the grandparents)  specializes in seafood tacos, burritos, and Yelapa’s only empanadas and chimichangas. Fabian is the chef at Casa Verana, and a real master of divinely created food. His tacos are awesome. He`s back at his day job, but famous Aunt Aurora (master baker – cake take-outs) and mom, Lusina, are dishing out his concoctions and filling his shoes superbly. Great tastes; best deal in townSmall and homey!

 El Cerrito (the little hill) –Owners Fernando Garcia and Sergio Garcia built a big deck with a fantastic view of the whole village and bay, open to the sea, the sky and stars.  The  “Mexican-infused international food” menu has lots of variety, creative seafood and fish menus, chicken-filled with goat cheese, pesto pasta, tenderloin steak and ribs, salads – even soups – covers the gamut. Reasonable prices for very special meals.

El Cerrito best view of bay and village

This place has a special meaning for me as it was the very first location for the YESI school ten years ago, and I always imagined a patio where they have it.

Sushi Gohan and Cafe Shambala – Since being a mother of two and being town vet isn’t busy enough,  Pamela began her own Cafe Shambala at the side of her home three seasons ago.  Last year’s Friday Sushi nights were a hit and this season friend Roberto opened a Chinese and Japanese restaurant on the garden patio facing the bay, open 4- 12 midnight.  He’s trained by Juan Carlos who had Yelapa’s first Sushi Bar at Las Piratas bar, now closed ten years ago. All in the family! Swing shift to the daytime run of Café Shambala,  with second floor ocean views. Chef Martina’s special sauces on burritos,  great Mexican eggs, Pamela’s muffins and the famous smoothies draw the breakfast and lunch crowds.

Medical Clinic Back on Track

Two years ago the workers were renovating the medical clinic, adding two new consulting rooms, separate washrooms, an indoor waiting room and another outpatient observation room. Their work stopped when the contractor made off with the money in late summer 2010, and they were left unpaid.  The clinic then operated out of the two downstairs rooms normally used as the interning doctor’s residence.  However, a year and some months later someone found some money, and it’s been full steam ahead this fall.  A team of albañiles or masons have been working seven days a week on all the finishing work on the clinic. There’s a mammoth ramp for disabled in wheelchairs, built with three switchbacks. That ramp is going to be every kid-with-wheel’s dream, and backed up by medical experts within meters of their inevitable crashes! Memories of 1998 when the dirt trails were first paved and Band-aids were imported to Yelapa.  The supervisor claims the job will be done for early January. A very nice Christmas gift!

Medical Clinic Renovated, disabled access ramp Dec 2011

Borrachos X Renta – Drunks for Rent!

It’s a very slow year with tourism way down. Some are adjusting with new products for consumption. A few Mexican drinking buddies came up with this novel entertainment idea to liven up your party. David ran ads on the village bulletin board near the hardware store, very near the unofficial outdoor “beer gardens”. He appeared today at Susan’s Cafe Bahia at the pier, with a Telethon Box looking for donations for a worthy cause (disabled children) to which we gave generously. Someone asked how we book his “drunks for hire for your party”.  It’s self explanatory, basically.  He also offers just one drunk  for when you don’t want to be alone and you just want to drink yourself stupid! It’s another first for Yelapa!  I think this could be a booming growth industry if there’s anyone left sober to do the hiring!

A few days later he had raised 1924 pesos for the Telethon, a princely sum given the slow economy and his limited marketing efforts. With this announcement on the bulletin board by Leticia’s store, he wrote “y no olviden rentarnos en sus fiestas navideños! Borrachos x rent. Tel. 209 525$” And don’t forget to rent us for your Christmas parties. Drunks for rent. Tel…..


Another Tree Has Fallen – Ode to the Primavera Tree

Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
~ Kahlil Gibran ~

God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, “Ah!”
~ Joseph Campbell ~

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
~ Joyce Kilmer, “Trees,” 1914 ~

A sad memoriam to the Primavera tree that was felled right at the Yelapa center.  It provided shade, a living community of insects and animals, the most amazing yellow billowing blooms in the otherwise concrete village environmeent, all that is might in a tree and all that is right in the world! It’s being replaced by a tiny building – more concrete on the way to prosperity !

May its spirit and beauty be preserved forever in our collective memories, past and future!  If there’s a way to plant new trees to replace these ancient mothers felled in the name of progress, and to create a more aware new generation, I vow to work at it.  My 2012 pledge!  Help if you can. If you’ve any photos of this tree, by the old basketball court, that blooms in late winter , I’d love a copy, please! I’ll laminate it and post in its place!

The last two primaveras in village at old basketball court/new plaza

I look forward to hearing from you. Check us out at or

Study tours to recommended destinations, and/or others you may interested in going to and need a guide/ language coach:

Or call to Mexico 011 52 322 209 5220

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