Escape to Gecko Rock Resort, in Mexico’s sea turtle country

Just because I live in a beach destination doesn’t mean I don’t dream of a weekend getaway once in awhile. Somewhere super secluded where the only footprints I’ll see in the sand are my own. When I get to dreaming about seclusion, it’s time to hit the road. This past week, I headed southeast to Santa Elena, a tiny village southeast of Puerto Escondido. My destination was Gecko Rock Resort, a new boutique inn that also happens to be in the heart of sea turtle country.

Primetime the terrier goes to Mazunte

Primetime the terrier hits the road in Santa Elena Mexico

But how to get to Santa Elena? I was travelling with my usual suitcase packed with file folders, media kits and computer gear so wasn’t really very mobile. And Santa Elena doesn’t appear on most maps. Fortunately, Sur Bus line knows where it is – Santa Elena is the first official stop on their bus route to Huatulco. For 25 pesos  (much less than a taxi for 250 pesos), I had bus ticket in hand and in less than a 45 minute air-conditioned bus ride  had arrived at the crucero, Highway 200 and Santa Elena’s main street.

My hosts Mike and Aileen ( who rescued their adorable terrier Primetime from near death on the streets of Puerto Escondido) picked me up in their truck and we bounced our way  along a dirt road towards the ocean and Gecko Rock Resort.

Hammock at Gecko Rock Resort Santa Elena Oaxaca Mexico

Hammock at Gecko Rock Resort Santa Elena Oaxaca Mexico

I’m writing a review of Gecko Rock Resort for a guidebook, so can’t really disclose much about this lovely  hotel except that my bungalow La Tortuga was decked out with a rooftop palapa featuring a hammock and lounger with 360 degree views. There was an inviting swimming pool  just steps from my porch PLUS  a communal fridge filled with icy cold beer and Aileen was busy preparing dinner. In short, there wasn’t much more for me to do than follow the sign marked PLAYA to the beach.

Cabana at Gecko Rock resort

Can I live here too?

After a few minutes of walking down a meandering trail through a mix of mangroves, gurgling streams and cactus,  I arrived at a vast expanse of sun, sea and sand.

Michele Peterson Santa Elena Beach

Nobody here except me!

All along the beach, rocky outcroppings created tidal pools perfect for splashing about in. And, as I walked a bit further I recognized Agua Blanca beach ( Aileen had tipped me off on this earlier so it wasn’t a complete surprise), a favourite spot for people in Puerto to go for the day, lounge in a hammock and eat raw oysters fresh from the sea.

Tidal pools at Gecko Rock Resort Playa Santa Elena, Oaxaca, Mexico

Tidal pools at Gecko Rock Resort Playa Santa Elena, Oaxaca, Mexico

But on my stretch of the beach,  the only company was a school of tiny minnows in a tidal pool and a scurrying red crab that looked as surprised to see me as I was to see him.

Tidal pools near Gecko Rock Resort, Santa Elena, Oaxaca, Mexico

Tidal pools near Gecko Rock Resort, Santa Elena, Oaxaca, Mexico

Further along the beach I began to notice several unusual impressions in the sand. It didn’t take long to figure out that they had been created by  sea turtles that had come in the night to nest and lay their eggs in the sand. In about 45 days, the  tiny sea turtles would emerge from the nest and scurry their way into the ocean to begin their own life cycle.


Impression of a nesting sea turtle in the sand

Impression of a nesting sea turtle in the sand Santa Elena Oaxaca

As I walked along the coast it began to seem to me that some of the nests were empty. Poachers of all types steal the turtle eggs, selling the  eggs to people who believe the eggs have aphrodisiac powers.  Read more in my article about  Saving Sea Turtles in Mexico . Unlike the nearby protected sea turtle nesting beach La Escobilla further along the coast, where 5,000 or more Olive Ridley turtles can arrive nightly in mass nestings known as arribadas, it’s impossible for officials to patrol the entire coast.

Watch this incredible aerial video footage of an arribada, 

Gecko Rock Resort is a short drive from this amazing beach, one of the most important Olive Ridley turtle nesting beaches in the world.


Turtle impression in sand at Santa Elena Beach

hmmm…does it look like this turtle nest is empty?

I used my best sleuthing skills to examine the markings around the nest but couldn’t tell if the nest had been tampered with by  sea birds, dogs or people.

Following a trail of turtle impressions, I wandered further along the beach  until the  sun began to drop low in the sky. Although it would be another two weeks before the next arribada of thousands of sea turtles, it was easy to imagine the turtles drifting on the surface of the ocean on the nearby horizon, waiting for sunset to return to the beach of their birth and the beginning of a new nesting cycle.


Travel Planner 

 Gecko Rock Resort:  A bungalow at this adults-only resort costs $199 a night and includes a delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner for two people.   Inquire about excursions to La Escobilla for turtle nesting and hatching events.

Michele Peterson
Michele Peterson
Dividing her time between Toronto, Mexico and Guatemala (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is an award-winning writer, blogger, editor and publisher who specializes in travel, cuisine and luxury lifestyles.
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Showing 13 comments
  • Culture Tripper

    That really is an excellent deal for two people. Santa Elena, the Gecko Rock resort and secluded beach really appeal.

  • santafetraveler

    Gecko Rock Resort looks wonderful. Would love to go when the sea turtles are there. It would be amazing to be close to one of them.

  • Leigh

    I would love to visit right now. Looks lovely and the sea turtles would be a bonus.

  • Marilyn Jones

    You picked a great place to get away from it all!! Beautiful!!

  • Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru

    Wow, Gecko Rock Resort – what a steal with meals included! Sounds like your respite was just the piece of paradise you needed. Love little Primetime, what a ham!

  • Michelle da Silva Richmond

    Mexico is special to me, but I’ve never been here. Sounds like I need to put it on my “trip list.”
    Great story!

  • Carole Terwilliger Meyers

    The video of the turtles from the air is amazing. Primetime is a darling. Check out this really cute loaner dog in Hawaii,

  • Irene S. Levine

    What amazing wildlife! Can’t wait to read the guidebook and learn more about this resort.

  • Johanna

    You had me at sea turtles! But what a wonderful place to visit and the accommodation looks gorgeous too. Feeling in need of an escape, and somewhere like this to revitalise would fit the bill.

  • The GypsyNesters

    We have been lucky enough to see them both laying their eggs and hatching a few times and you’re right, magical is a great description.

  • Sand In My Suitcase

    Love the name of this! Gecko Rock Resort… The prices sound very reasonable for what you get. We’ve helped release baby sea turtles back into the ocean in Mexico (in Cabo San Lucas and along the coast south of Puerto Vallarta), and that was a pretty special experience to see the little hatchlings cross the sand to swim away…

  • Michelle

    Keep up the great work, MP.
    You remind me of myself!

    • Michele Peterson

      Thanks! It’s always fun to meet another member of the Michele – one or two “L” – club!

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