Every year the National Park Service welcomes people from around the world to experience the wonders of our nation's national parks. At Padre Island National Seashore, many people patiently wait for return of sea turtle nesting season and the opportunity to watch a hatchling release.
Scheduled Hatchling Releases
The 2023 Kemp’s ridley hatchling season has concluded. No sea turtle hatchling releases are currently scheduled. Check back on this page in June 2024 for future sea turtle hatchling releases.
Know Before You Go
• Call the Hatchling Hotline at (361) 949-7163 before you drive out to the seashore to make sure the release is happening. The hotline is a recorded message you can call anytime day or night.
• Hatchling releases may be cancelled if the turtles have not hatched on the expected date, due to bad weather (ex. pouring rain, lightning on the beach, high winds), extreme high tides, or flooding over roadways, etc.
• Park entrance fees are required to enter the park year-round. To save time, purchase your entrance pass online BEFORE coming to the park.
• The $10 per vehicle one-day pass expires at midnight on the date of purchase. Do not purchase this pass the night before the hatchling release as it will be expired in the morning. Purchase your $10 per vehicle one-day pass the morning of the hatchling release only AFTER calling the calling the Hatchling Hotline to verify the release is happening.
• Annual and lifetime pass holders do not need to pay the park entrance fee but must present their pass and ID at the entrance station.
• Hatchling releases take place on Malaquite Beach in front of the Malaquite Visitor Center. The visitor center is located 15-minutes south of the park entrance station. Once you arrive at the release site, you must park in a parking lot, walk across the visitor center deck (where the restrooms are located), down the ramp and out to the beach. Driving on Malaquite Beach to the hatchling release site is not permitted. If you have not been to the park before, take some time to look at a map of the park, and look over driving directions.
• Come prepared for the conditions. Even though hatchling releases take place around sunrise, the high humidity, crowded conditions, and summer heat can still be intense. Please bring water with you on the beach (but leave food in your car). A hat, sunglasses, and sunblock are also recommended. You can even bring a beach chair if you want to as long as you sit outside the release perimeter.
• Please leave your pets at home. Trained service animals, authorized under the ADA are allowed.
Frequently Asked Questions
When hatchling releases are scheduled, they will be posted on this page, on the park's social media pages, and on the recorded Hatchling Hotline at (361) 949-7163.
Hatchling releases typically take place at sunrise which is around 6:45 am during the summer months.
Hatching is a difficult process to predict. It can take 1-4 days from the time a nest begins to hatch until the hatchlings are ready to be released. Once a nest begins to hatch, sea turtle biologists monitor the nest closely. As hatching progresses, biologists try to estimate when the hatchlings will be ready. If, by mid-day, it looks like hatchlings will be ready for release within the next 12-16 hours, a public release may be scheduled for the next morning.
Hatchling releases may be cancelled for a variety of reasons including: the hatchlings have not hatched on the expected date; hatchlings become active more quickly than expected and must be released during the middle of the night to ensure survival; bad weather (ex. pouring rain, lightning on the beach, high winds); extreme high tides; flooding over roadways, etc.
Hatching is a slow process. It can take 1-4 days for the baby turtles to break through the eggshell, emerge from the egg, and be ready for release. Once they are fully emerged from the egg, hatchlings are released as soon as they are ready, usually within 24 hours.
In nature when sea turtles hatch from their nests, the newly hatched turtles must crawl on the beach from the nest near the dune line to the water. Time spent crawling on the beach is an important part of the imprinting process. Imprinting is a complicated process by which the elements of the beach where sea turtles hatch (sand, water, air, and other factors) is "programmed" into the brains of the baby turtles. Many years later, female sea turtles that may have traveled thousands of miles away return to the beaches where they hatched to lay their eggs and sustain the population.
The NPS only releases sea turtle hatchlings during the summer months. During other times of the year, area non-profit organization who operate under US Fish and Wildlife Service permits may release juvenal and adult sea turtles that have been rescued and rehabilitated. Sea turtle releases by these organizations do not take place in the national seashore.
No. Only trained biologists and volunteers who are authorized by federal endangered species permits may handle the turtles.
Photos and video are allowed during the hatchling release as long as the camera’s flash and other light sources are turned off. Lights, including flash photography or video, disorient the hatchlings and can even reduce their chances of survival by causing them to wander and burn off their limited energy reserve. When you arrive at the release site, please make a point to ensure any flash or lights are turned off on all cell phones, cameras, and video equipment.
Yes, the park offers free loan of two beach wheelchairs and a walker on a first-come, first served basis (no reservations). These devices are specifically designed for use on the beach by individuals with mobility concerns. The wheelchairs cannot be self-propelled and require another person's assistance. An accessible ramp goes from the visitor center pavilion down to the beach where the public releases are held.
No. For the safety of the sea turtles, pets are not allowed near the hatchling release site.
Last updated: September 22, 2023