Playa La Ventanilla
Continue about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west along the main road over the low hill west of Mazunte and turn left at the signed dirt road to pristine wildlife haven Playa and Laguna La Ventanilla. Now protected by local residents, swarms of birds, including pelicans, cormorants, and herons, nest there, and a population of wild cocodrilos and lagartos is making a comeback in a bushy mangrove wetland.
Boatmen headquartered at the sturdy visitors center palapa, past the beach village road’s end parking lot, guide visitors on a two-hour ecotour ($4 per adult, kids half price), which includes a stop for refreshment at a little mid-lagoon island. The boatmen are known for their wildlife sensitivity and allow no motor vehicles within 100 yards of their communally owned lagoon-sanctuary.
(Note: A second latecomer cooperative, that merely conducts lagoon tours while doing little for conservation, may try to intercept you in the parking lot. Simply avoid them and continue to the original conservation cooperative’s beachfront visitors center, to get your lagoon-tour ticket.)
The Playa La Ventanilla community (laventanillamx [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] mx) has taken responsibility for protecting the turtles that arrive on their beach against poachers. During both February and June through October, hundreds of sea turtles come ashore to lay eggs. If necessary, community volunteers help the exhausted turtles up the steep beach, where they lay their eggs.
Volunteers then gather the eggs and rebury them in a secure spot. After the hatchlings emerge about a month and a half later, volunteers nurture them for about three months and release them safely back into the ocean. For more information and photos, visit www.tomzap.com/ventanil.html.
Besides lagoon tours and saving turtles, La Ventanilla cooperative maintains the excellent beach-view Restaurant Maiz Azul (8 a.m.–7 p.m. daily, $2–6), run by half a dozen dedicated women. They specialize in local recipes, such as savory banana-leafed-wrapped tamales, baked turkey smothered in mole sauce, and yummy chiles rellenos. They also sell their own home-ground fresh peanut butter.
Furthermore, the Ventanilla community invites visitors to stay in their comfortable rustic accommodations. They offer two options: either four clean and cozy cabañas (on the left as you enter), with choice of one king-size bed, two double beds, or one double bed, all with mosquito nets and private hot-water shower-bath, for $35 s or d; or a four room dormitory-style cabaña, each room with two bunk beds for a total of four persons per room, with shared toilets and showers, for $15 per person.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition