Playa las Tortugas (Turtle Beach, tel. 322/294-1677, toll-free U.S. tel. 800/320-7769, www.playalastortugas.com ) is a petite vacation- retirement community set beneath a magnificent miles-long beachfront palm grove, about 15 miles (24 km) north of the Las Varas turnoff from Highway 200. It’s the life project of developer, builder, and Mexico-lover Robert Hancock, whose dream is that wildlife and people can (and should) be able to coexist.
Indeed, he has helped to bring that reality about. Since its beginning in 1999, the very presence of the workers, staff, residents, and visitors to Robert’s mini-paradise has helped the conservation workers shield thousands of nesting turtles and their hatchlings from poachers and has led to a very viable yearly nesting population of about 2,000 turtles.
His development of mostly mid-sized, two-story individual houses, with lots of grassy space in between, reflects his vision. Turtle Beach has about ten houses, six of which Robert rents part-time for the owners. Although they are all different, the designs—exteriors of muted earth-tone stucco beneath red-tiled roofs, interiors with lots of tile, view balconies, airy vistas, and high ceilings—are variations on a low-key, nature-friendly theme. Sizes vary, but most are modest two- or three-bedroom, two-bath layouts. The completely furnished and equipped rentals begin at about $150/night for two to four adults. Kids stay free with parents.
Besides lazing by the blue pool and soaking in the steaming whirlpool tub, residents and guests can enjoy their choice of beachcombing, good surfing, boogie boarding, fishing, horseback riding, kayaking, and wildlife-watching in the ocean and the adjoining mangrove estuary and lagoon. Other times, visitors can help with turtle conservation efforts at the adjacent turtle preserveand hatchery. To get in on the turtle action, arrive during the August–November 15 nesting season, when visitors are welcome to witness turtle releases around 5 p.m. daily.
Get to Playa las Tortugas from Highway 200 via the signed left (northbound) turnoff just past the gas station at the middle of Las Varas. Continue about eight miles, through Zacualpán town. After another five miles (8 km), pass the Otates village turnoff sign on the right, and continue another quarter mile on the main road to the signed Playa las Tortugas dirt side road, between kilometer markers 21 and 22. Turn left and continue another six miles (10 km) to the Playa las Tortugas entrance gate.