The species differs from the olive ridley by its parrot-like beak and flatter, almost completely round, carapace.
Ridley turtles are around 70cm long, and up to 40kg in weight.
The carapace (shell) of Kemp's ridley is olive grey, while the plastron (underside) is yellowish/white.
Adult females migrate hundreds or even thousands of kms between feeding habitats, mating areas and their preferred nesting beach in Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Adult males appear to be nonmigratory, and stay mainly in coastal waters around Rancho Nuevo.
Having reached sexual maturity at around 12 years of age, the nesting takes place during daylight along a single stretch of coastline in the Gulf of Mexico. Like olive ridleys, this species nests in arribadas -'mass arrival' in Spanish.
Kemp's ridleys are thought to nest every 2 years, with approximately 3 clutches of about 90 eggs in one season. Incubation lasts about 45 days, and the nesting season extends from March to August, with a peak in May and early June.
Characteristically, ridleys camouflage their nests by rocking from side to side after covering the nest, in order to compact the sand and disguise the nest.
Kemp's ridleys are carnivores, although the feeding behaviour of the hatchlings and juveniles is not well understood. Adults eat crabs, shrimp, clams, and sea urchins. Juveniles eat small species of crabs, but prefer larger species as they mature.