Playa Chalacatepec (chah-lah-kah-tay-PEK) lazes in the tropical sun just six miles from the highway at Km 88. Remarkably few people know of its charms except a handful of local youths, a few fisherfolk, and occasional families who come on Sunday outings, and the resident volunteers of the beachfront Tortuguera Verde Valle (Green Valley Turtle Encampment).
Playa Chalacatepec, with three distinct parts, has something for everyone: on the south side, a wild arrow-straight, miles-long strand with crashing open-ocean breakers; in the middle, a low, wave-tossed rocky point; and on the north, a long, tranquil, curving fine-sand beach. One of the few natural amenities that Playa Chalacatepec lacks is drinking water, however. Bring your own from the town back on the highway.
The north beach, shielded by the point, has gently rolling breakers good for surfing, bodysurfing, and safe swimming. Shells seasonally carpet its gradual white slope, and visitors have even left a pair of palapa shelters. These seem ready-made for camping by night and barbecuing fish by day with all of the driftwood lying around for the taking.
The point, Punta Chalacatepec, which separates the two beaches, is good for pole fishing on its surf-washed flanks and tidepooling in its rocky crevices.
Folks with RVs can pull off and park either along the approach road just above the beach or along tracks (beware of soft spots) downhill in the tall acacia scrub that borders the sand.
Just as you’re entering little José María Morelos (pop. 2,000), 100 feet past the Km 88 marker, turn right at the signed dirt road toward the beach at the corner. (Note the telephone booth.) If you’re planning to camp, stock up with water and groceries at the stores in the town down the road, south.
The road, although steep in spots, is negotiable by passenger cars in good condition and small-to-medium RVs. Owners of big rigs should do a test run. On foot, the road is an easy two-hour hike—much of which probably won’t be necessary because of the many passing farm pickups.
Mark your odometer at the highway. Continue over brushy hills and past fields and pastures, until Mile 5.2 (Km 8.4), where the main road veers right. Instead, continue straight ahead, over the dune, to the beach, at Mile 5.4 (Km 8.7), where the road turns left (south) and parallels the beach. Pass turtle encampment Tortuguera Verde Valle, at Mile 5.9 (Km 9.5). Steer right downhill to Playa Chalacatepec at Mile 6 (Km 9.7).
The present bad news is that a squad of itinerant fisherfolk have junked up the beach; the good news is twofold: Several choice parking sites are available in the high brush bordering the beach (be careful of soft sand) and you may have the good company of the turtle-saving volunteers (most likely during the July–October turtle season), who would probably appreciate any help you can give them.