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How to see Turtles in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

While I was staying at the Hyatt Ziva in Puerto Vallarta I had no clue that one of the best experiences I would have is meeting and caring for the turtles of Estacas Beach! The beach is exclusive to hotel guests and one of the best ways to see turtles in Puerto Vallarta! Read on to find out how to see Turtles in Puerto Vallarta!

Meet Miguel

Miguel is the zoologist based on Playa Las Estacas, the beach in front of the Hyatt Ziva. He is the person who looks after the turtles in the Hyatt Ziva hotel in Puerto Vallarta.

Miguel and myself collecting the baby turtles to be released - how to see Turtles in Puerto Vallarta

He runs a programme that is designed to help high numbers of baby turtles return to the sea from the nest. To give them the best start in life he looks after the eggs and newly hatched baby turtles in a tortugario or turtle nursery.

Tortugario on Las Playas Estacas -  how to see Turtles in Puerto Vallarta
Tortugario on Estacas Beach

The tortugario on Playa Las Estacas is a well established programme. It started in the 1970s by hotel owners Camino Real. The programme has since been continued by the current owners – the Hyatt group.

Meet the Turtles in Puerto Vallarta – How to see Turtles in Puerto Vallarta

The turtles that lay on Playa Las Estacas are Verde Olibo – Green Turtles. 

Baby turtle -  how to see Turtles in Puerto Vallarta
Baby Green Turtle

Because they live in the tropics, these turtles can lay eggs all year round, however, they mainly lay in the warmest months of the year. 

The Little One meeting a turtle for the first time -  how to see Turtles in Puerto Vallarta
The Little One meeting a turtle for the first time

Turtles come to shore in the darkest part of the night to dig and lay their nests. If you know what you are looking for you might be able to see their tracks in the sand the next morning.

Turtles can lay between 50 – 140 eggs in each nest and only 5% of each nest makes it to adulthood as they make great prey for a host of different predators.

The Baby Bum getting up close and personal with the hugely talented artist Corrie Wright
Our little man getting a close encounter with Australian Artist Corrie Wright

Turtle Nursery – how to see Turtles in Puerto Vallarta

Every morning Miguel scours the beach looking for clues and signs of a newly laid nest. 

Turtle nest found on the beach to be rehomed in the turtle nursery -  how to see Turtles in Puerto Vallarta
Nest found on the beach

Once he finds one he carefully digs up the eggs and makes them a new nest in the turtle nursery. 

We were lucky enough to help Miguel re-home one of these nests. We named the nest and wrote up the sign that told Miguel where the nest was, how many eggs there were and when the nest was dug!

The perfectly round eggs are soft and leathery so great care is taken to make sure they make it to their new home safely. 

Soft and leathery freshly laid turtle egg
A freshly laid turtle egg

Hatching Turtles in Puerto Vallarta – How to see Turtles in Puerto Vallarta

The eggs take around 45 days to hatch out of the nest and the baby turtles can take up to 14 hours to make their way from the egg to the surface. 

Freshly hatched turtles making their way to the surface
Turtles just breaking out to the surface after hatching in their nest

It’s hard not to get excited seeing 100+ amazingly cute baby turtles wobbling around the sand! 

It’s even better when Miguel invites you to help gather them up to protect them from the sea birds and prepare them for release! 

Handling the baby turtles with care -  how to see Turtles in Puerto Vallarta
To handle the turtles we had to make sure our hands were covered in sand

Before touching the turtles our hands had to be covered with sand. This was to make sure we didn’t transfer the natural oils from our hands onto the turtles. 

Then it was a case of being very gentle, whilst, of course, cooing over all the babies! 

Releasing the Turtles 

The turtles are released into the sea at 8pm the same night. 

Turtles being released into the sea when after the sun has gone down -  how to see Turtles in Puerto Vallarta
Turtles are released as the sun sets

They are released under the cover of darkness. This gives them the very best start in life. At this time there are less predators about. 

And they let the waves carry them away

The turtles are placed at the edge of the water and scramble into the waves. As they tumble into the break they get towed into the sea.

Then that’s it! The nurseries job is done. Mother Nature takes care of the rest.


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This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Yaya

    Really loved this post! I’m hoping to get to Puerto Vallarta next year 🙂

  2. Amanda Patsey

    This is awesome!! I would love to take the kids here!!!

  3. Jocelyn

    This would be amazing! Great pictures and great opportunity. I have to do this some day!

  4. Sarah Wilson

    This is so cute. I would so love to see the baby turtles – what an amazing experience for everyone.

  5. Margie DQ

    Amazing how little they are! A week with turtles sounds so nice. Never been to Puerto Vallarta.

  6. Candy

    Loved reading this post. Baby turtles are so stinkin cute! Spending a week with them sounds like such an awesome experience 🙂

  7. Nerissa

    What an absolutely incredible experience and something I’ve been wanting to do for ages now! This had motivated me to tick it off my bucket list this year!

  8. Natasha L

    That’s such an interesting experience, I have seen how turtles can be affected by the lights and noise of nearby hotels and clubs. It’s great that there’s a conservation effort happening for them. Perfect activity for the kids!

  9. Life of Nomads

    I absolutely love your pictures!!! Feels like I can hold the cute little turtles myself! We’ve been to so many places in Mexico but haven’t been to Puerto Vallarta yet. Definitely adding it to our list!

  10. Brianna

    This sounds like an amazing experience! It’s great that you can work in supporting conservation efforts while visiting Puerto Vallarta!

  11. Samantha

    What an amazing experience for a child! I have always wanted to see the turtles making their way to the sea, it sounds like being involved in the entire process was even more amazing!

  12. Dylan

    I’ve been wondering how turtle releases work for a while, so thanks for the run-down! I’m glad that people around the world are doing this help bolster sea turtle populations– although I do wonder about the risk involved in (and reason for) handling the hatchlings with bare, sand-dusted hands. I’d be super curious to read more about it!

  13. Ladena

    Can non Hyatt guests go experience the turtle release? We’re there in 3 weeks and I’d love to do this with my kids.

    1. Well Travelled Munchkins

      I don’t think this will be possible as i don’t think you can get on to the beach unless through the hotel. Turtles lay up and down the beaches in Puerto Vallarta as there are signs warning visitors to be mindful

  14. Sujenne Macaay

    The place itself looks lovely. The process of re-nesting and afterwards releasing them into the wild seems invigorating. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience!

  15. Jean

    What a great experience to be involved in. Was there any issue with holding the little baby turtles??

    1. Well Travelled Munchkins

      Miguel only let a couple of people help and we were just one of the lucky ones. We had to ensure our hands were coated in sand so not to rub too much of our natural oils onto them

  16. Jasmine

    I have always wanted to watch the baby turtles make their first trek to sea! But never realized how much went into the process. Must have been a great experience for you and your famiyl.

  17. Liona

    What an incredible experience for you all!

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