The contrast between the high-rise resorts of Puerto Vallarta and your first glimpse of Yelapa couldn’t be greater. Accessible only by water taxi or private boat, the tiny fishing village is little but a rundown pier, a few stores and colorful houses that stagger up the hillside behind the cove. There’s also one of the cleanest beaches I’ve ever seen on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, a couple of restaurants, and a glorious little eco-resort, Hotel Lagunita, dedicated to the adventurous. Kayaks are stacked on the sand, ready at a moment’s notice. Snorkeling equipment, also free to guests, hangs just inside the office door. A small pool, carved into the native rocks, is suspended over the beach with a sunset view.

The small thatched-roof cottages aren’t luxurious, and you need to be comfortable sharing living quarters with nature. (Our room had an unusual sunken tub, in which we discovered a beach crab making himself at home.) But mosquito nets are provided and the food is anything but rough. The crab tacos topped with mango salsa I had at Hotel Lagunita rivalled those I had a few nights later at Puerto Vallarta’s famous La Palapa.

The real beauty of Yelapa happens at night, when the snorkeling day-trippers head out. With nothing between you and the stars but the dim lights of the village, it’s hard to believe the nightlife of Puerto Vallarta is just across the bay.