Cuyutlan, Colima: Sea Salt, Sea Turtles, and Surfing La Ola Verde

Playa de Cuyutlán, Colima, Mexico

Cuyutlan is a sleepy little village with a long history that is known for gourmet sea salt, an important ecological center, and thundering waves called la ola verde. The geography of Cuyutlan is set on a sand bar between the Cuyutlan Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean. The area is spectacularly beautiful and kind of a throwback to Mexico that most people have forgotten.

I love relaxing on the beach, surfing the heavy waves, and eating fresh seafood at enramadas (simple thatched-roof restaurants with beach chairs and umbrellas).

My father-in-law had a house here for a lot of years and this was my base camp for visiting different parts of Colima. I absolutely love this part of Mexico and think you should check it out. It is not fancy but still classic Mexico.

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.

Sea Turtles at the Tortugario de Cuyutlán
Sea Turtles at the Tortugario de Cuyutlán

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. 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 manor from a salt water lagoon next to the Pacific Ocean. Salt water is filtered through sand and laid on a drying table. The summer time 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.

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. You won’t go back to using the old variety of salt after tasting this variety.

Museo de la Sal de Cuyutlan

Salt Museum, Cuyutlan, Colima
Cuyutlan Salt Museum

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. Salt water 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

Surfing La Ola Verde de Cuyutlán
La Ola Verde de Cuyutlán

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.

Bodysurfing La Ola Verde de Cuyutlán, Colima
Bodysurfing Cuyutlán, Colima

The bodysurfing is particularly good.

El Tortugario

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 in their natural habitat. The Tortugario is located about two miles south of Cuyutlan.

Palo Verde Estuary in Cuyutlan, Colima
Palo Verde Estuary in Cuyutlan

Google Maps

Where to Eat

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.

Hotel Morelos

Hotel Morales, Cuyutlan, Colima
Hotel Morales

The Hotel Morelos has a great breakfast

The tortilla shop on calle puerto vallarta

Cuyutlán Tortilla Shop
Cuyutlán Tortilla Shop

The tortilla shop makes simple breakfasts and always stocked with beans and tortillas. Nothing like waking up to the smell of freshly cooked tortillas!

Enramada Mario

Mario with the Catch of the Day
Mario with the Catch of the Day

Enramada Mario has all the classic seafood dishes and a few specials depending on what the catch of day happens to be.

Fried bananas in front of the church

Fried bananas in Cuyutlan, Colima
Fried bananas in Cuyutlan, Colima

If you enjoyed this article you will love the blog entry on my favorite beaches within a couple hours of Guadalajara and my Guadalajara guide