La Barra de Navidad, Colotepec banner

Excursion to La Barra de Navidad, Colotepec



The small community of La Barra de Navidad is part of the Municipal or county of Colotepec in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Locally the community is known as La Barra. When you feel the need to slow down and smell the roses, this is a place to visit. You can swim in the river, visit the animal sanctuary and go hiking on the country roads that parallel the river, lagoons and the Pacific Ocean.

Galo's Animal Sanctuary


Just beyond where the paved main road ends in La Barra de Navidad is an animal sanctuary operated by Galo Sánchez Ríos. Galo has a small farm and raises chickens, during his spare time he runs the Animal Sanctuary which is a labor of love for Galo who clearly cares for animals. He raises both iguanas and crocodiles to be released into the wild. Over the years he and his community have released over 5,800 iguanas, 1,256 crocodiles and 40,000 turtles back into the wild. The first image to the right or below is of Galo Sánchez Ríos at the entrance to the sanctuary.

blind ocelot

Galo's animal sanctuary also takes in injured animals with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. Currently the animal sanctuary has a deer, a few snakes, turtles, a few parrots and a jaguarundi on the mend and hopefully they will released soon. More problematic are the animals with injuries that can't be leased back into the wild such as the three legged jaguar or the blind ocelot which is in the picture to the right or just below.

Visiting the animal sanctuary will take about a half hour and the tour is in Spanish (Galo's Spanish is easy to follow). The Animal Sanctuary, which gets no government funding, depends on donations, 100 pesos or U.S. $5 (April 2019) seems about right but you certainly can donate more. Galo wants to build a more permanent and larger enclosure for his wild cats that can't be released back into the wild.

If you are interested in volunteering to work at the sanctuary, talk with Galo.

If no one is at the refuge, go to the little store kind of across the street and they will help you find Galo.

Restaurant Ballena

15 minutes walking down hill from The Animal Sanctuary is the Restaurant Ballena, named for the whale bones in front and on the side of the restaurant. I think these bones came from a whale that washed ashore near where the river meets the ocean, the dead whale was too big to move so the authorities decided to blow up the rotting whale; it didn't work out so well.

Restaurant Ballena is great place to eat regional food and get a refreshment. If you are driving and plan on hiking around the area, this is a good place to park your vehicle.

The Hike

Old tree

An unpaved lightly traveled road parallels the lagoons and small farm plots along the river and the old river channel; offering a great area for observing the birds and wild life of the area. Be sure to bring drinking water and wear comfortable shoes.

There are some signs in the area explaining about the wild life. The first sign warns people not to hunt the small land crabs, free trip to jail if you do. The crabs used to appear at the beginning of rainy season by the millions but are now rarely seen. The crabs were (and still are) used to season soups and rice. The next sign warns of crocodiles. Although they are uncommon, they are in the area. Crocodiles can move and run fast so don't mess with them.

Getting There


La Barra de Navidad and the La Barra Colotepec are two different places. La Barra de Colotepec is on the side of the river closer to Puerto Escondido. La Barra de Navidad is across the long bridge and on the far side of the river.

La Barra de Navidad is 6 kilometers away from Puerto Escondido. You can get there easily by "collectivo" or taxi. You can get the collectivo along Highway 200 from the Crucero (the main intersection) and along the highway above Playa Zicatela The collectivo runs every 15 minutes and costs 10 pesos (April 2019). The drive there takes about 20 minutes. The animal sanctuary is at the very end of the route with an additional 5 minute walk. You can also get there by taxi which should cost you around 100 pesos or U.S. $10 (April 2019). On the way back you will need use the collectivo to return to Puerto Escondido as few taxi pass that area.

You can also drive to La Barra de Navidad. After leaving Puerto Escondido heading toward Huatulco on Highway 200, turn down the first paved road heading to the ocean after you cross the bridge spanning the Colotepec river. There should be houses on both sides of the street. Less than 10 minutes down the road on the left hand side you will find the animal sanctuary. The collectivo is much more fun.

Recommended Video

Although this YouTube video is a bit dated, it shows off nicely La Barra de Navidad. This is not my video nor do I know the author of it. Iguanario de Barra de Navidad produced by Channel 47 TV Puerto Escondido in July 2005.

Photo Credits

Photos taken by Marc Wilkinson. I, the copyright holder, hereby publish these photos under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0).