Just a few miles west of the popular beach town of Mazunte and the Mexico hippie beach town of Zipolite, lies a sleepy and tiny coastal fishing village called La Ventanilla, Mexico. Honestly, this is a place I’d never heard of and wasn’t on my radar, but I’m so glad we found out about it.
We had stopped in to inquire about seeing sea turtles at the National Mexican Turtle Center on the Oaxaca Coast, but they were not expecting any activity in the coming days, so they recommended that we take a short guided tour in La Ventanilla among the mangroves where you can see a different variety of animals
La Ventanilla, Mexico Ecotourism
La Ventanilla translates as “little window” and is so named for the seaside rock that has a hole in it just where the brackish mangrove waters meet the Pacific waves.
The locals here have created a small nature reserve centered around the mangroves where the Tonameca River meets the Pacific Ocean in order to protect local fauna and create a new revenue source.
It is here where the salt and fresh waters mix where a whole host of important wildlife calls home among the thick mangroves.
Ecotourism here in La Ventanilla got started in the 1990s when the ban on sea turtle and crocodile trade destroyed the livelihood of many locals in the area.
In its place, an ecotourism cooperative was created with the goal of protecting the local wildlife and nature, while providing an economically viable alternative to locals.
Meeting the Guide at La Ventanilla
We drove into La Ventanilla with no prior reservations or info, but they organize outings regularly throughout the day and we didn’t need to wait long at all until we had a small group to fill the boat.
The tour is by boat through the mangroves and costs only 50 pesos per person (about $3).
The local guide first took us around the back of a shack to collect our life jackets for the boat ride, which would last about an hour and a half in total.
The sand in this area is black and white, and the guide made sure to explain to us that it isn’t black because of pollution or that it is dirty, as some tourists think upon first glance.
Rather, it’s just a natural occurrence, and that the black rock itself is actually metallic. He passed a magnet over the sand and black pellets collected around the magnet.
We hiked a short way over to the big paddle boat and set out along the mangroves.
There were tons of different kinds of birds throughout the trees and in the water, but the main attraction in La Ventanilla is the crocodiles.
The guide spotted a massive, 12-foot long croc submerged near the edge of a bank and pulled the boat literally right over the top of his tail. Since the boat isn’t motorized, he could do that without disturbing the animal. Honestly, the crocodile didn’t even flinch when we pulled out.
I could have reached over the edge of the boat and touched it! That’s how close we were.
The guide explained that we could get this close because the crocodiles aren’t the fearsome hunters they are portrayed to be in Hollywood movies.
We made our way further upstream and the guide talked about the difference between the red and white mangroves, and their ecological role.
He also showed us how this particular mangrove is still in recovery after a pair of devastating hurricanes destroyed much of the vegetation in years past.
This particular mangrove is in recovery still.
As we drifted along the brackish water, we could see a few turtles bobbing in the water and still tons of birds all over the trees and branches of the mangroves. They like fishing here.
We pulled up close alongside a set of mangroves and saw a number of iguanas hanging out.
The guide tossed out some food for them, which I thought to be a bit strange (you know, feeding wildlife) but he explained that the locals started feeding them out of pity after the hurricane destroyed their food supply and now they had become somewhat dependent. Since the mangroves are still in recovery, they continue to feed them as their natural food supply returns.
One of the iguanas even had a strange question mark (naturally occurring) right upon its cheek, which was pretty cool.
Wrapping up the La Ventanilla Tour
We meandered slowly back down the river, seeing a few more crocodiles, and then passed toward the mouth of the river, which is blocked from the sea for much of the year.
From here we could see the window rock that gives La Ventanilla its name.
All-in-all it was a great little tour, very affordable and worthwhile.
If you enjoy nature and wildlife, I would highly recommend a visit to La Ventanilla if you are in the area of Mazunte, Zipolite, or exploring the coast of Oaxaca.
Not only is the tour itself valuable and interesting, but it helps support the local community and their efforts to make a living through ecotourism rather than harvesting animals and their byproducts.
Tips Before You Go to La Ventanilla
Try to avoid going at midday when the sun is at its strongest. There is little to no shade in the mangroves and it is hot here.
Bring a hat for the sun, as well as sunglasses, sunscreen, and a bottle of water. Did I mention that this is a hot area?
Traveling to Mexico on your next trip? Book the perfect room on Booking.com today! If you plan to stay longer, I highly recommend looking for a place on Airbnb. And don’t forget to purchase travel insurance for Mexico that will help protect you against illness, injury, and theft. I use and recommend World Nomads for its combination of coverage and affordability.
Read Next: Travel Guide to Mexico
- Book a cheap flight to Mexico with Momondo, or better yet, start travel hacking so you can fly for free.
- Plan a rough itinerary and how long you will spend in each destination. Pick up Lonely Planet Mexico to help with this.
- Work every day to teach yourself Spanish, you want to know as much as possible before you arrive.
- Book your cheap accommodation in advance, at least for the first destinations -- For hostels use: Booking, for cheap hotels use: Hotels.com, for apartments use: Airbnb.
- Reserve your on the ground tours and activities through Get Your Guide.
- Purchase travel insurance for Mexico with World Nomads to protect yourself from illness, injury, and theft while in Mexico.
- Check out my comprehensive guide about traveling to Mexico with information on cities, things to do, places to see, and more.
- Learn more money saving tricks with my top budget travel tips if you want to get more bang for your buck.
- Put together your Mexico packing list.
- Enjoy this incredible country!
I hope this helped you plan your travels in Mexico! I know it can be a struggle to find accurate and on the ground information when traveling to a new place like Mexico, which is why I started writing so extensively about it!
If you have any questions about Mexico, budget travel, or anything else shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(I love getting questions! That is how I get ideas for my blog posts and what to write about!)
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