Each summer, thousands of sea turtles make their way to the beaches of Puerto Vallarta to lay their eggs in the sand. With the assistance of the Puerto Vallarta Sea Turtle Protection Program, 96% of the eggs are able to hatch, with the baby turtles safely sent into their ocean habitat during the second half of the year. As the annual sea turtle nesting has become an important part of Puerto Vallarta’s culture, this incredible natural event also offers travelers a number of unique entertainment and ecotourism opportunities. While there is certainly much to see and experience in Puerto Vallarta during the summer and fall months, tourists visiting the city during this part of the year can also take part in the excitement created by the Olive Ridley Turtles visiting alongside them.
Prior to the involvement of local environmental groups and the Mexican government, only 40% of the sea turtle eggs were able to hatch each year. Though the Olive Ridley Turtle is one of the most common sea turtle species and found throughout the world’s oceans, the turtle is found on the U.S. Endangered Species List and has come to be protected in coastal regions worldwide. The sea turtle protection efforts, in both Puerto Vallarta and abroad, are further motivated by the fact that the Olive Ridley Turtle faces few threats in the ocean, meaning the human impact on their nesting grounds is the greatest cause for concern. As Puerto Vallarta rests along the shores of the ecologically-diverse Banderas Bay, in addition to being framed by vibrant mountain jungles, the city has long stood as one of the most environmentally conscious communities in Mexico. Additionally, with environmental awareness on the rise worldwide, the ongoing efforts of the Puerto Vallarta community have provided inspiration to coastal communities and resort destinations throughout Mexico and beyond.
As the sea turtle nesting takes place just outside the doors of Puerto Vallarta’s finest resorts, the local hotel industry has also gotten involved in the protection effort. In addition to working with local environmental experts and scientists, many of the resorts host special events during the hatching season of July to December (the largest number of hatchings takes place in November). In the resorts, visitors will be able to find environmental seminars, lectures by renowned marine biologists and festive events celebrating another successful season for the sea turtles.
The most exciting events, however, take place on the adjacent beaches, as visiting families are provided opportunities to interact with the newly hatched turtles and even release them into their ocean habitat. The sea turtle release events on Puerto Vallarta’s beaches are open to all visiting families and always free of charge. During the nighttime releases, both children and adults will be able to hold newly hatched turtles and, working with the assistance of on-site officials, carefully release them in the sand. Local custom calls for attending children to name the young turtles and wish them luck on their journey, while adults can snap photographs prior to the release. Information about the nightly releases can be obtained directly from the resorts each day throughout the hatching season.
Prior to the hatching, resort employees and researchers painstakingly collect the deposited eggs each night and transport them to safe incubation facilities. As the eggs begin to hatch 40-70 days after being laid, officials bring the baby turtles to the beaches immediately, as the turtles must be released within 24 hours. If visiting Puerto Vallarta during the summer or fall months, it is also possible to tour these incubation facilities and witness the remarkable research and care that goes into a successful season for the Olive Ridley Turtle.
Upon witnessing the remarkable preservation program developed to assist the Olive Ridley Turtle, it is easy to see why Puerto Vallarta is recognized as one of the world’s most ecologically conscious travel destinations. Most importantly for tourists, after spending some time amongst the mother turtles and their hatchlings, visitors to the area quickly realize that the Olive Ridley Turtles don’t hamper the fun on Puerto Vallarta’s beaches, but rather add an exciting new element to the city’s already unique experience.