Cuyutlan, Colima is a sleepy little village with a long history that is known for gourmet sea salt, a turtle rescue center, and thundering surf called la Ola Verde. The geography of Cuyutlan is set on a sand bar between the Cuyutlan Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean. The town is located 30 minutes southeast of Manzanillo and 2.5 hours south of Guadalajara making it one of the closest beaches to the capitals of both Jalisco and Colima. The area is spectacularly beautiful and kind of a throwback to Mexico that most people have forgotten.
Relaxing on the beach, drinking beer, and eating fresh seafood at enramadas (simple thatched-roof restaurants with beach chairs and umbrellas) are some of the favorite activities of local families from this part of Mexico. The tourism is primarily Mexican with few lucky foreigners finding their way to the black sand beaches.
My father-in-law had a house here for many years and this was my base camp for exploring the State of Colima. I absolutely love this part of Mexico and think you should check it out. It is not fancy but still classic Mexico.
Caution: The surf is dangerous along this stretch of coast. During the summer the waves are frighteningly large and the currents are vicious. Please exercise caution while swimming and know your limits. If in doubt, don’t go out.
A Little History of Cuyutlan, Colima
The name Cuyutlan comes from the náhuatl word cóyotl (which means coyote) and the suffix -tlan (which means place of). The coyotes would come down to the beach to dig up turtle eggs. There is still a lot of wildlife in this part of Mexico.
People in these parts had been making sea salt for centuries before the Spanish arrived. There is evidence that salt from Colima was traded all the way to Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. Before the era of refrigeration, salt was an important ingredient for curing and preserving food. During the early Spanish era, massive amounts of salt were used to process and refine silver in the mines. Salt has been an important part of the economy for close to a thousand years.
This little pueblo was the capital of Mexico for two nights in 1858 while Don Benito Juarez was locked in a struggle for control of Mexico during the War of the Reform. Benito Juarez was exiled from Mexico City by conservative forces opposed to the liberal constitution. He traveled the country to build support for the new constitution and where he slept was considered the capital of Mexico. He stayed here on the way to the important port city of Manzanillo.
During the administration of Porfirio Díaz, a railway was built from the port of Manzanillo to Guadalajara. Cuyutlan instantly became a major tourist destination. The train still runs from Manzanillo to Guadalajara but only takes cargo and no longer stops in Cuyutlan.
Colima Sea Salt
If you are still using iodized table salt, I am about to change your world. Once you start using a gourmet salt like the pink Himalayan or the Cuyutlan sea salt you will never go back to using the standard table salt.
A lot of salts are mined but the Colima sea salt is processed in a traditional manner from a saltwater lagoon next to the Pacific Ocean. Saltwater is filtered through sand and laid on a drying table. The summertime sun is intense in Colima and the water quickly evaporates. The remaining salt is swept and shoveled into hug piles to be packaged and marketed later.
Colima sea salt has a larger granular size than standard table salt. Rather than using a salt shaker, you will need a wooden spice box with a cover.
This salt that is made in Colima has a significantly lower level of sodium than industrial table salt making it a better choice for human consumption, specifically for diabetics and people with high blood pressure.
The Colima sea salt has a unique mineral content that makes it taste better than standard table salt. The grains melt into your tacos and add little pockets of flavor. Once you start using gourmet Colima sea salt you won’t go back to using iodized table salt.
Museo de la Sal de Cuyutlan, Colima
If you read Spanish the Salt Museum is an interesting way to spend 45 minutes. The production of salt was an important source of income for the region going back hundreds of years and built a thriving middle class in the first half of the twentieth century. Most of the houses in the center of the Pueblo were once owned by workers at the salt plantation. While there is still active salt production the price for salt has continued to drop and the industry is not what it once was.
The museum has some great pictures of old-time Cuyutlan and stories about how a couple of tsunamis reshaped the village. It is interesting to think about what it was like to ride the train to the beach, eat some seafood and drink some beers a hundred years ago.
A few miles down the free road towards Manzanillo, you can see how they make salt. Saltwater is left to dry on plastic sheets in the scorching sun until the water evaporates and the salt crystals are brushed into large piles. The midday sun makes the work excruciating but also produces the finest grains called flor de sal.
Surfing Cuyutlán, Colima
All over Mexico, people know Cuyutlán for the green wave or la ola verde. The black sand beach break is a wave magnet picking up swell from just about every direction. During the summer months, the surf can reach up to 20 feet on a decent swell and create some pretty heavy rip currents. In the winter months, the ocean is much calmer picking up the mild north swells. The water temperature rarely drops below 80 degrees Fahrenheit attracting snowbirds from the northern latitudes, as well as a few from Guadalajara.
The wave at Cuyutlán is a heavy beach break barrel. There are a lot of close outs but when the sandbars are set up correctly there are also some gems to be found.
The bodysurfing is particularly good.
El Tortugario de Cuyutlan, Colima
El Tortugario de Cuyutlan, or more formally known as, el Centro Ecológico de Cuyutlán is an education and community center that is dedicated to the protection of the three different turtle species found in the area and the incubation of their eggs until they can be released into the ocean.
The mission of the Tortugario has grown to include the preservation of the Palo Verde Estuary and the abundant wildlife that is found therein.
Palo Verde Estuary
The estuary tour is particularly enjoyable and gives you the opportunity to see the birds, crocodiles, iguanas, and more animals in their natural habitat. The Tortugario is located about two miles south of Cuyutlan.
Where to Eat in Cuyutlan, Colima
The tacos in front of the Benito Juarez head in the main plaza are excellent. Make sure to put a few grains of that gourmet salt on your tacos.
The Hotel Morelos has a great breakfast that includes a candied banana and fresh fruit like papaya. The coffee is from Colima and the milk is from a local ranch.
The tortilla shop on calle puerto vallarta
The tortilla shop makes simple breakfasts and is always stocked with beans and tortillas. Nothing like waking up to the smell of freshly cooked tortillas!
Enramada Mario has all the classic seafood dishes and a few specials depending on what the catch of day happens to be. We always order ceviche and a plate of octopus and shrimp.
Mario rets lounge chairs and umbrellas but if you order food and drinks the price of the rental is usually negotiable.
Fried bananas in front of the church
The fried banana dessert in Cuyutlan, Colima is an absolute delicacy. There are several varieties of bananas grown locally that you may not have tasted before. There is something about a tree ripened banana that tastes different from the ones that are picked green, weeks before they are ripe and shipped to the United States.
Where to Stay in Cuyutlan, Colima
The accommodations in Cuyutlan are somewhat rustic. The salt air rusts metal at an astonishing rate and the beachfront hotels are always in need of some more maintenance than is budgeted. Most of the year there is very little traffic coming through Cuyutlan during the week. The weekends see lots of families from the neighboring pueblos make their way down to the beach. Semana Santa and New Year’s is a mob scene.
The Hotel Morelos is my favorite place to stay in Cuyutlan. The rooms are rustic yet clean. There is a small pool and the restaurant is good. It is a block away from the beach which is actually better than being right on the beach.
If you enjoyed this article you will love the blog entry on my favorite beaches within a couple of hours of Guadalajara and my Guadalajara guide