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All About Cuyutlan – Mexico

Cuyutlan - Mexico at sunsetAll About Cuyutlan – Mexico

Cuyutlan is a practically unknown, small beach-side village situated on Mexico’s Pacific coast, just 30 km / 18 miles south of the huge cargo port of Manzanillo Bay. To be more accurate, Cuyutlan is actually well-known to local Mexicans from Manzanillo, Colima and other nearby towns. But just about anyone outside of the region has never heard of the tiny place.

Quite surprisingly, for such a small relatively unknown place, Cuyutlan has several important claims to fame. Most prominently is its fine-powdered dark-gray sand beach that stretches for miles and miles in both directions.

volcanic grey sand beach at Cuyutlan MexicoAt the beach end of town, out on the sand, a few dozen Mexican style open-air, palapa-covered seafood restaurants pack the sand. They all offer covered tables for dining, hundreds of side-by-side blue beach chairs with matching umbrellas, and small blue plastic swimming pools for babies and kiddies. Between the crowded restaurants, charming rickety wooden plank walkways lead out onto the hot sand.

The Pacific Ocean at Cuyutlan is safe for swimming, despite its multiple layers of crashing, frothing surf. There’s little to no undertow on the wide, shallow offshore section.

Hotel San Miguel - Cuyutlan - MexicoCuyutlan also has several fairly large, relatively inexpensive hotels, mostly on the town’s main road leading down to the beach. Camping on the beach is also allowed, with a designated camping area on the north edge of town.

With its beach-side seafood restaurants, safe swimming and spacious hotels, it’s not surprising that Cuyutlan is very popular with Mexican families and groups on weekends and holidays. But midweek and off-seaon the whole town and beach is basically deserted.

Cuyutlan has three other points of fame: its salt museum & salt factories, its turtle sanctuary and its so-called rare ‘Green Wave’.

salt warehouse in CuyutlanHistorically, Cuyutlan has been an extremely important salt making town, supplying most of the salt to Mexico. Nowadays, the salt works are still functioning, though the work is seasonal due to weather. When it rains frequently, water salinity is reduced, causing the salt factories to stop production until the weather clears.

The informative and interesting Salt Museum is housed in one of the original wooden salt warehouses, right in the middle of town. Displays and info boards mark important aspects of Cuyutlan’s history and the salt making process. There’s even a whale skeleton on display, remains of a whale that washed ashore in the 1970s.

El Tortugeria - turtle sanctuary - cuyutlanEl Tortugueria, the turtle sanctuary, is situated several km south of town. It’s a long, hot walk to reach it. Otherwise you can try to hitchhike or find a local who will take you out there and back as a taxi service.

The turtle sanctuary has large enclosures for iguanas, turtles and crocodiles. They also allow visitors to release baby turtles into the sea.

Additionally, they run very interesting boat trips through the large inland lagoon, just behind the sanctuary. The lagoon is lined by mangroves, inhabited by an estimated 80 crocodiles, and filled with an estimated 1000 species of water birds. Thousands of migratory birds stop there as well between October and April.

Lash releasing a baby turtle at Cuyutlan A final point of fame for Cuyutlan is its so called Green Wave. Supposedly in April or May a huge 5 ft – 10 ft – 50 ft wave, green in color, arrives to Cuyutlan’s shores. The source of the green color is in debate, but its theorized to be a type of phosphorescence.

Also, the reality of this green wave is in debate. The tale must stem from an actual tsunami that leveled the town in….Soon after that an earthquake hit inland Colima city. Scientists discovered that a shift in the tectonic plates just offshore of Cuyutlan was responsible for both the tsunami and earthquake.

rows of beach umbrellas at sunset - CuyutlanI learned about Cuytlan and its points of fame from my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook. Although slightly concerned that it might be crowded with noisy Mexican vacationers, I risked heading out there, lured by the Salt Museum, El Tortugeria and the miles of volcanic sand beaches.

I wasn’t really taking that much of a risk since I was visiting during low season and mid-week. Quite happily to me, Cuyutlan was basically deserted during my entire 3-day visit.

beach umbrellas against firey sky - CuyutlanI ended up loving Cuyutlan! I stayed in a cute little hotel just one block from the beach, complete with cooling breezes and great coastal views from its second story terrace and hallways.

I took a long walk on the seemingly endless, undeveloped beach. I witnessed one of the most beautiful and longest sunsets of my life. I gained several fantastic evening photos due to the superb light.

sunset at Cuyutlan - MExicoI visited the salt museum and turtle sanctuary. I toured the beautiful inland lagoon. And, best of all, I got to release baby turtles into the sea!

I highly recommend Cuyutlan to anyone traveling to Mexico’s central Pacfiic coast, especially lovers of nature and culture. I wouldn’t be surprised if I head back there myself one day.

You might also want to check out these places on Mexico’s Pacific Coast:

San Blas Beach

Punta Mita Cape

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