Cuyutlán is a quiet beach town 22 miles east of Manzanillo. The Museo de la Sal (Salt Museum) and the Tortugario (Turtle Reserve) make this a great side trip for families coming from Guadalajara. This is one of those rare spots where the breathtaking turquoise ocean pounds the surf, three varieties of sea turtles nest, and over 300 species of birds dwell. Yet it has not been bomabarded with tourists!
Although not undiscovered, Cuyutlán is still a quiet town, rich in culture. Salt workers and farmers raise families in small seaside shacks. I loved seeing cows tied out against rickety wooden fences and hens with chicks walking freely, just a few feet from the ocean.
On our travels on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, we have become accustomed to seeing bags of sea salt on roadside stands. The large, coarse grains of sea salt are popular for their distinct flavor, texture and use in gourmet kitchens throughout Mexico. Cuyutlán has produced up to 3,600 tons of hand-harvested sea salt annually.
The unimposing lumber-sided museum is an example of the sea salt warehouses that occupy the area. Because of the recently heavy rains, the actual salt harvesting has come to a standstill in the area. Our children were able to see the remains of salt production in a neighboring warehouse.
On our tour, an 82 year-old man briefly recounted the process and history of salt harvesting, a significant area industry since pre-Hispanic times. This Cuyutlán native noted that he was born the year after a massive tsunami wiped out the area. Brent and I instantly liked this wise and strong man who reminded us of Brent’s father, just a year younger.
(side note: We also enjoyed making a Mexican-Filipino connection. Coconuts indigenous to the Philippines were planted and harvested by Filipino workers in Cuyutlán. We have always said that the coconuts in the Philippines were taller and more hearty than those found in Mexico. Now we understand why. For more cross-Pacific connections, see our article on the 450th anniversary of the Mexico-Philippine Expedition)
This simple but fascinating place makes a good side trip. It’s worth the trip just to stock up on some of the world’s most savory and healthful salt.
Museo de la Sal is open daily 10 am to 6 pm. No admission fee. We suggest a small tip for your guide.
About three miles away from the downtown salt museum, passing a pleasant stretch of private seaside homes, is the home of the Tortugario. This turtle sanctuary shelters a number of Kemp’s Ridley and Black Turtles, as well as a few crocodiles and iguanas.
Each tank held the turtles at a different stage of development. Center volunteers care for the turtles, and educate visitors about the rescue of these endangered creatures. In season, they also assist in releasing turtle hatchlings. For those interested, the center also offers boat tours of the neighboring wetlands. Time did not allow for us to take part.
Although we came before hatchling release season (which our children enjoyed elsewhere in Mexico), everyone enjoyed leaning over and watching the graceful creatures swim. It was a great chance for our children with special needs; until now they had not been able to snorkel to see the large and majestic sea turtles glide through the water. They also peered at a crocodile who winked back from his swamp-like tank.
Combine this center with the salt museum for an enjoyable, educational side trip to Cuyutlán. Both trips can be completed within a couple hours. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a powerful view of the Pacific, or throw on your bathing suits and enjoy a dip in the two small pools at the Tortugario.
The Tortugario is open daily 9 am to 5 pm, closed on Wednesday. Admission: Adults (age 11 and older) MXP $40, children (ages 3 – 10) MXP $30. Free to all with physcial disabilities.
If you still have time to spare, or a mechanical issue to fix (as we did), the center of town has a quaint park with swings, an old-fashioned seesaw, and a tall metal slide. We arrived just as a traveling fair was setting up. Since it was during school hours, there were no other children around. A few pesos afforded our children great memories and lots of laughter in the bumper cars.
Come with us on our side trip to Cuyutlán! Click on the short video below.