Las Coloradas or the Pink Lakes of Mexico are part of the Rio Lagartos Bioshpere Reserve, a protected area home to animals like flamingos, crocodiles, sea turtles, jaguars, and all kinds of sea birds.
Yes, you heard that right! There is a place in Mexico where you can see both Pink Lakes and Flamingos!Warning: You should not expect friendly flamingos like in Aruba because they are not used to people and they love living a private life on the salty lakes. When they feel people approaching, they tend to hide themselves.
The cotton candy lakes are obviously the main attraction of the area after gaining a lot of attention from social media. A few years ago, a travel blogger posted a picture floating on a pink lake that went viral. The lakes became famous and now you can only access the premises with a local guide avfter paying a tax.
At Las Coloradas, you can find many lakes of different colors (pink included) which are actually salt evaporation ponds used for sea salt extraction. Besides fishing, salt extraction is a big industry in the area. The Mayas started to extract salt here hundreds of years ago. Now a big company is harvesting salt and it has become the supplier of the main companies in the country.
How to Get There
Las Coloradas is approximately 280 km away from Tulum and Cancun, 268 from Playa del Carmen, 240 from Merida and 140 from Valladolid.
You can find private tours to the pink lakes from any hotel or travel agency on the coast where you don’t have to stress yourself with anything. You will pay a higher price, but if you don’t like doing things on your own or if you are afraid of traveling across Mexico, it is probably the best option.
We don’t like tours to be honest, so we’ve decided to visit Las Coloradas on our own. We rented a car from Cancun Airport because we knew we would visit many places across the Yucatan Peninsula.
This being said, we started in the early morning from Valladolid and we arrived to Rio Lagartos (the closest town from Las Coloradas) in less than 2 hours. From Rio Lagartos, you’ll follow the same highway from Valladolid (Mexico 295) that continues on to Las Coloradas.
You can find all the information and route on Google Maps which makes everything easy. The only problem was that the pin only got us close to the lakes and not at the actual entrance.
We were able to see a glimpse of the lakes from the car, but there was a fence and big signs saying we are not allowed to enter because the lakes are private property. I have read about this online so I knew trespassing was not a good idea (like it was in the past) so we went ahead on the road till we found a local that pointed us in the right direction – just go straight ahead till you see locals on motorbikes that will guide and help you.
After finding the guys, we discovered that you can only enter and get close to the lakes if you pay a local guide. You are not allowed to take anything with you inside (not even a coconut which I was eager to get photos with). They have imposed that rule because tourists used to leave trash after their visits. Sounds familiar, right?
Our Experience at Las Coloradas
We chose our guide – a young local boy – and we were ready to go in. I was able to convince the guide I need another dress with me inside because I wanted to take pictures in two outfits. You don’t get to visit pink lakes every day, right?
The “tour” is actually a short walk because you are only allowed on a certain route. The water is indeed pink and we were lucky to have a friendly guide that took us as many pictures as we wanted. He also tells you a lot of information about the lakes and the sea salt industry in Mexico. You will find out that 4-5 years ago the lake was not famous at all representing just a work place for the locals. They are still amazed by how famous it has become over the years.
I was so happy that we were able to see flamingos because, to be honest, I had no idea they live there. They were pretty far and afraid of people, but it was such a beautiful experience. We found out that Flamingo season is March – June when is the breeding season. Flamingos are present all year long, but you can see significantly more during this time.
What makes the water pink?
The most common question regarding this lake it what makes the water pink. Our guide explained us that the color comes from red-colored algae and a microorganism species called “artemia salina” that live in the salty environment while improving the quality of the production ponds by cleaning the water. The pink color is also influenced by the sun and extraction process. We understood that the lakes have the strongest pink color during July-August and March so we were lucky since we’ve visited at the end of July.
Can you Swim in the Pink Lakes?
Unfortunately, you are not allowed to swim in the pink lakes anymore. Before being famous on Instagram, there were no rules regarding entering the water, but due to the huge interest, they have to prohibit it. The sea salt extraction is a huge industry there and they could not allow the process to be affected.
Moreover, you cannot even touch the water, you have to follow the strict route that the guides shows you.
How much does it cost?
The price for visiting the pink lakes with a guide and have a closer look was 50 MXN/person, which meant around 7 $ for the both of us. You can see the lakes from afar without entering, but since the cost is not high at all, I recommend paying the local guide and enter.
What else to See in Area
After visiting our main objective – the Pink Lakes – we have decided to explore more of the area. Instead of turning the car around and go back from where we came, we decided to go forward. To be honest, I am not sure if we were allowed to do that, but there were no signs and no one told us nothing, so I guess we could do it.
While having the tour at the pink lakes, our guide told us he could take us to other places to see more flamingos, but we kindly refused him and decided to go on our own.
We had such a beautiful surprise. We’ve discovered there are also orange, green and blue lakes also used for salt extraction. There was literarily no one around which made everything even more beautiful. We kept on going forward with the car and we found hundreds of wild flamingos. I am so grateful we had the chance of seeing these cute animals in their natural habitat even though we could only observe them from afar. We are only sad we didn’t have a better lense to capture them in photos.
After a while, we’ve arrived to a beautiful pristine beach and had it all for ourselves. The water was incredibly beautiful and we took some time to relax.
At the end, we’ve decided to go back to Rio Lagartos, the little fishing village close to Las Coloradas to eat some local food. We were approached by guides that told us they offer boat tours to see crocodiles, flamingos and shore birds in the Biosphere Reserve. If you have more time at your disposal, they also offer fishing tours.
We had no more energy after exploring so much on our own, so we’ve decided to take a short walk in the village and just eat something tasty for lunch. After all, we had already seen hundreds of flamingos and other birds.
After taking a look at the restaurants with sea view, we chose El Perico Marinero Restaurant and since we were in a fishing village, we obviously ate fish. Hubby chose a fish soup and for me fried fish with vegetables and rice. Topped everything with local beer and we went back to Valladolid with a smile on our face.
Where to Stay
Visiting Las Coloradas from Cancun or Tulum seemed too difficult for us to make it happen in one day so we’ve decided to pair it with Chichen Itza and Valladolid.
We’ve found a beautiful traditional hotel in Valladolid – Palacio Canton – where we stayed for 3 days while we visited the wonder of the world, the cenotes in the area and the pink lakes.
We’ve started our day tour in the early morning and it took us around 2 hours to get to the lakes which meant we were there around 10.30 am. We had the whole day in front of us to explore.
Another good option (if you have more time at your disposal) would be to stay directly in Rio Lagartos. The village is really nice with good places to eat and a chance to interact with the locals.
Was it worth it?
Well, it depends on what you like to see during our travels. For me, seeing a pink lake was a bucket list experience and I couldn’t go back home without doing it.
It feels like the Pink Lakes are made for Instagram. Seeing flamingos in their natural habitat was definitely a big plus. To be honest, we wish we had more time at our disposal. We should have slept in Rio Lagartos for at least one night so we could have enjoyed their pristine beaches as well.
This was our experience at Las Coloradas, Yucatan, and our first encounter with a pink lake. After searching the internet, I have discovered there are many other pink lakes around the world. If you don’t get to Mexico, maybe you can check one of these out:
1. Lake Hillier – Australia
2. Hutt Lagoon – Australia
3. Laguna Colorada – Bolivia
4. Las Salinas de Torrevieja – Spain
5. Lake Retba – Senegal
6. Lake Natron – Tanzania
7. Dusty Rose Lake – Canada
8. Masazir Lake – Azerbeijan
9. Salin d’Aigues-Mortes – France
10. Pink Lake – Australia
Hope you liked our experience at Las Coloradas! Writing about it made me miss it so much and I would like to teleport myself there asap. Hopefully we will be able to explore this place again with more time at our disposal.
See you soon with a new adventure!