Puerto Vallarta Sea Turtle Release: How to Guide for This Bucket List Experience!

Participating in a responsible conservation effort to release sea turtles in Puerto Vallarta is an amazing experience. I’ve always loved ocean animals and participated in conservation efforts in different ways, but a Puerto Vallarta sea turtle release was truly special!

Several species of sea turtles can be found in the waters around Puerto Vallarta, and the area is recognized for its efforts in sea turtle conservation. Conservation organizations and local authorities in Puerto Vallarta work together to protect sea turtle nesting sites and implement measures to ensure the survival of turtle hatchlings. This makes it the perfect place for participating in this experience.

The best news? One of the ways to participate is actually free (although not guaranteed to be available). Here’s everything you need to know and how to participate in a Puerto Vallarta sea turtle release.

Table of Contents

Sea Turtles in Puerto Vallarta

In Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding region, several species of sea turtles can be found. That is one of the reasons conservation efforts are so strong in Banderas Bay. It’s an important region for so much marine wildlife.

    1. Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea): Olive Ridleys are the most abundant sea turtle species globally and are known to nest on the beaches of Puerto Vallarta. They are characterized by their olive-colored carapace and heart-shaped shell.
    2. Pacific Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizii): The Pacific green sea turtle, a subspecies of the green sea turtle, is another species that can be encountered in the waters around Puerto Vallarta. They have a distinctive smooth carapace and are known for their herbivorous diet.
    3. Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta): While less common than the Olive Ridley and Pacific green sea turtles, loggerheads can also be found in the area. They are characterized by their large heads and powerful jaws, adapted for crushing shells of prey.
    4. Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata): Hawksbills are known for their distinctive beak-like jaws and are often associated with tropical coral reefs. While less common than some other species, they can still be found in the waters near Puerto Vallarta.

When participating in a Puerto Vallarta sea turtle release, it will most likely be Olive Ridley Sea Turtles that you will be releasing since they are most common there. When getting to the sea turtle camp, you’ll learn a lot of information about sea turtles and they will share lots about the turtles you are about to release!

Sea Turtle Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts in Puerto Vallarta focus on protecting the nesting sites of these sea turtles and ensuring the survival of their hatchlings. Organizations and local authorities work together to implement measures to mitigate threats and educate the public about the importance of sea turtle conservation. It’s crucial to stay informed about the specific conservation initiatives and guidelines in place to help protect these endangered species.

The average Olive Ridley sea turtle lives for about 50 years, and despite being the most dominant species, they are federally listed as threatened and endangered, as well as internationally listed as vulnerable. Olive Ridley turtles in Puerto Vallarta are in danger of going extinct, but conservation efforts are making a big difference.

Sea turtles lay up to 250 ping-pong sized eggs in a sand nest that takes hours for them to dig. After she lays the eggs, she swims away. This is when they are in danger of being stolen, stepped on, or eaten by predators or people. While it is illegal for humans to eat them, people do steal them and sell them to be eaten. You should never eat a sea turtle egg or contribute to this ongoing threat of sea turtles going extinct.

The Green Patrol, also known as La Patrulla Verde, patrols the area around Puerto Vallarta, looking for nests. They are a team of volunteers and professionals who know how to handle sea turtle nests. If you see one while on the beach, call 911.

The Green Patrol will ensure that the eggs are transported to the conservation camp, where they will be properly cared for and will be able to hatch safely in about 45 days. To avoid stepping on sea turtle eggs, keep your eyes open when walking the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, especially during nesting season.

There are four sea turtle release camps & sanctuary sites in Banderas Bay (the larger area around Puerto Vallarta). The Boca de Tomates Saving Sea Turtles release camp & sanctuary is right behind the Puerto Vallarta airport on the beach. You’ll see airplanes taking off right over your head on the beach when you visit.

Our guide told us there’s an average of 60,000 baby turtles are released each year!

When Should You Participate in a Sea Turtle Release in Puerto Vallarta

Hatching season begins at the end of July and goes through December. However, Sea turtles live in Banderas Bay year-round, so there is always a chance you might see them or that they will lay a nest. Tours for this operate year round, but in the off-season, they don’t happen daily.

The conservation efforts there are year-round, so it’s always worth checking the free option below on a trip. However, if you want to guarantee you’ll be able to do this, it’s best to visit from August through December.

The babies are released at sunset to minimize the risk of being prey to birds, fish, and other natural predators. This means the activity happens in the evening, typically starting around 6:30 and ending at 8 pm. However, it depends on the time of the year, so make sure you double check with your guide.

Option 1 for Puerto Vallarta Sea Turtle Release

Book a tour and guarantee you can participate.n

If you want to actively participate in releasing baby sea turtles and learn all about sea turtles in Puerto Vallarta, this is the best option! It’s also the most convenient and easy option. You won’t have to worry about trying to find your way there, getting to the turtle camp on your own, or checking the website repeatedly. They take care of it all for you.

We chose this option while in Puerto Vallarta, and I am SO glad we did. It was amazing getting to see the baby sea turtles up close and learning so much about them.

Book a tour here!

Our tour started at 6:30 at the end of Paseo Bocanegra Street. Any other address will take you to the wrong location. If you put in the Boca de Tomates Sea Turtle Camp, you will get to the wrong location because you have to walk along the beach to get there.

You’ll spend about 30 minutes learning about sea turtles, getting to see the nests, and learning about sea turtle conservation in Mexico. Our guide was so wonderful and had incredible insight into how and why it is so important to support sea turtle conservation efforts.

The tour we took was $45 a person and included photos as part of the tour. I am so glad we went with this option after looking into all the possibilities!

The tour will end around 8 pm, and you’ll want to plan transportation back from here before the tour because gates close at 8 pm to keep poachers from being able to enter the nature reserve unseen at night. We drove ourselves and had no problem, but we did see a few people get stranded (even after our guide warned us a few times).

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Option 2 for Puerto Vallarta Sea Turtle Release

See the turtles for free without a guide

The turtle releases are free, open to the general public, and take place in the hours before sunset during the months of July through December. Follow Boca de Tomates Sea Turtle Camp on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on whether sea turtle releases are happening that day.

Many people came walking up to see the turtle release and asked to participate while we were on our tour. Those working at Boca de Tomates and volunteers turned away many people asking to release one of the turtles and were told no; you have to reserve in advance most of the time. Yes, even for the free option!

You can do this by going to their Instagram page and sending them a message on the same day you see them post that there is going to be a release that day.

If you’re taking an Uber or a taxi to the turtle release camp, make sure to enter Paseo Bocanegra Street as the default address. Any other address will take you to the wrong location. If you put in the Boca de Tomates Sea Turtle Camp, you will get to the wrong location because you have to walk along the beach to get there.

Once you get dropped off at the end of Paseo Bocanegra Street, you will see a small building with bathrooms on the right. Walk on the beach past that to get to the Boca de Tomates turtle conservation and release camp.

It takes about 15 minutes to walk from the road to the sea turtle camp. You’ll notice it right away because of the tents and nets.

Be careful walking because there is an area known for crocodiles along the beach here. Stay alert and accidents have never happened, but still something to be aware of if coming on your own.

Option 3 for Puerto Vallarta Sea Turtle Release

Volunteer with Boca de Tomates Sea Turtle Camp.

If you want to get more involved in helping sea turtles, you can join the annual Sea Turtle Volunteer Program, where you will live in a secluded turtle camp, assist in nest relocation, care for new baby turtles as they hatch, and assist in their release into the ocean. Contact Boca de Tomates Sea Turtle Camp to learn more.

Project Tortuga also operates not far from Puerto Vallarta and you can also choose to volunteer with them for a week at a time.

Volunteering opportunities include:

  • Collect nests from six different beaches and relocate to the nursery.
  • Monitor and regulate nursery temperatures, the hatching and releasing of hatchlings, and the cleaning of nest boxes.
  • Keep the greenhouse nursery good condition around the clock.
  • Maintain computer records on nests collected, temperatures, and the cleaning of nests.
  • Maintain and operate an all-terrain-vehicle, (sometimes during periods of heavy rain and very poor road conditions).
  • Conduct slide shows, lectures, and tours on our marine turtle program.
  • Conducting children’s environmental classes.

Other Things to Know Before You Go

You also should know about a few things about baby sea turtles and the experience before you go.

  1. Our bacteria can harm sea turtles; never touch them.
  2. You cannot use flash when taking photos and videos.It can blind them.
  3. Bring a flashlight and wear bug spray. This camp is in a nature preserve.
  4. You can leave donations by contacting the volunteers via Instagram or on-site. Donations are not required but are greatly appreciated.
  5. Gates close at 8 pm to keep poachers from being able to enter the nature reserve unseen at night. Make sure you have an Uber or taxi inside the gates before then, or you’ll have a long walk.
  6. You won’t be wearing shoes most of the time; you’ll be on the beach. I’d recommend wearing flip-flops and bringing little with you!
Experience the magic of a Puerto Vallarta sea turtle release. Learn how to participate in this bucket list activity while supporting conservation efforts.
Experience the magic of a Puerto Vallarta sea turtle release. Learn how to participate in this bucket list activity while supporting conservation efforts.

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