How to Arrange a Trip to Las Coloradas Pink Lakes, Mexico

Pink Lakes of Las Coloradas in Yucatan is a real place with pink water. A photo from this location also became my most shared and popular photo on Instagram, so it comes as no surprise that many readers and followers are asking me questions about it. Here’s a basic compendium of everything you need to know when visiting Las Coloradas that some refer to pink lakes, others to pink lagoons.

Las Coloradas means ‘blush red’ in Spanish. It’s actually the name of a tiny village, that specializes in salt production and fishing. The place is a part Rio Lagartos Biosphere, protected Natural Reserve with many birds, crocodiles, flamingos and other species. No matter where you’re coming from, it’ll probably take you about 5-6 hours round trip just to get there. Is it actually worth your time…?

How to Arrange a Trip to Las Coloradas Pink Lakes

(updated for 2018)
Las Coloradas Pink Lakes, Mexico


I’m not going to lie. When I first visited Las Coloradas I ended up coming back very disappointed. I took a tour that promised to take me to see pink lakes, a river full of crocodiles and ruins of Ek Balam. However, I ended up seeing a small body of water that looked more yellow than pink, no crocodiles or flamingos, and I didn’t understand how did some people claim to see bright pink lakes. The trip was a big fail.

When I came back to Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos for the second time in a rental car, my husband and I found our way to the actual pink lakes. Here are my tips on how to arrange your trip in order not to get disappointed.


What to Do in Las Coloradas?

There’s not much to do at pink lakes apart from admiring their beauty. Las Coloradas is a very small town, so you won’t find any tourist attractions like souvenir shops, cafes etc. At least, not yet, but judging from the crowds storming the place it might happen soon.

In fact, there’s only one local restaurant there and some very basic corner stores. It’s also important to mention that pink lakes aren’t technically a tourist attraction per se. It’s a working salt factory that became famous for the pink color of the water that locals don’t want to turn into a tourist attraction like it happened to Salinas de Maras in Peru.

Salinas de Maras in Peru

If you’re heading to Las Coloradas, I suggest you also take a boat tour around the nearby biosphere of Rio Lagartos. In order to do so, just walk down the main road by the water of Rio Lagartos town (located about 30 minutes from Las Coloradas), where the boats are kept. You will be approached by several boat owners offering to take you into the reserve.

Boat tours coast about 900 MXN per boat (not per person) and they’ll take you to see birds, horseshoe crabs, plenty of flamingos, and crocodiles. You’ll have an opportunity to bathe in salt water and take a mudbath. Apparently, a mud bath is very good for your skin and the same mud costs a lot if bought in a fancy box.

My personal tip would be to go see the lakes AND take a boat tour. The boat tour is totally worth it, but you won’t see the pink lakes up close from it.

Horseshoe crab!


Why Are Las Coloradas Pink? Is the Pink Water Natural?

I’d say that the place is 50% natural and 50% manmade.

Back in the Mayan times, salty ocean water from mangroves was flooding to manmade lagoons and evaporating in the sun, leaving natural sea salt behind. Since the lagoons are so shallow and salty, the red algae and plankton are brine shrimp are concentrated and as a result, their pink color makes the water pink.

The manmade reason for this pink water is the concentration of the microorganisms. This is also why the flamingos from the area are pinker than most flamingos because they eat more of the brine shrimp that makes them pink (sadly, humans can’t get pink from eating it). I wonder if flamingo poop is pink too…

Regular flamingo (top) vs super pink flamingo (bottom)

flamingos Rio Lagartos


Can You Swim in Pink Lakes?

Sorry to disappoint everyone, but you cannot swim in pink lakes anymore. More than half of the lakes of Las Coloradas are privately owned and fenced, so you can’t trespass. Back when these lakes weren’t as popular as they are now (thank Instagram for that!), there were some that you could get into as they weren’t used for salt production.

These days it’s all guarded by security and you can’t really even touch the water. Guards on motorcycles are seriously everywhere now and they will stop you immediately.

The good news is that you haven’t missed much! The lakes are VERY shallow and water level gets to your knees the most. The water is super salty, so your skin gets dry and disgusting, some even claimed to have burnt their skin. On the plus side, on your way to Las Coloradas you will pass an entire coast of beautiful white sand beaches.

pink lake mexico

This isn’t possible anymore…


READ MORE: Pink Places to Visit Around the World


Best Way to Get to Las Coloradas

I’m not going to lie and say that getting to Las Coloradas takes a long time. No matter where you’re coming from – Cancun, Merida, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Las Coloradas is at least 2-3 hours away. The road leads through small towns and there are NO gas stations between Playa and Valladolid, so fill your tank beforehand!

You can use Google Maps to point you to “Pink Lake Las Coloradas”.

Las Coloradas map


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Can You Visit Las Coloradas Without a Car?

You can, BUT it takes a long time and costs a lot of money if you want to do it on your own. While there are buses to Rio Lagartos, they aren’t frequent and if you’re coming from Tulum, Playa del Carmen or Cancun, it’ll take forever.

There aren’t many taxis in Rio Lagartos and none in Las Coloradas, so you’ll also have to find and hire someone to stay with you while you see the lakes. It’s usually not cheap.

Recently, it came to my attention that Las Coloradas have become VERY popular, after my photo with a pink flamingo along with a joint video with my husband Matt went viral. Guess that’s the power of Instagram these days…
There are tourist buses coming to see the lakes, and they also doug a moat around some lakes so people won’t come close to the water anymore, you can find some shuttles easier than it used to be. Some people were asked for money to be able to see the lakes, but they’re absolutely free to visit as of now.

Las Coloradas pink lakes Mexico


Tours to Las Coloradas from Playa del Carmen or Tulum

Since the lake became popular several tour companies launched tours to Las Coloradas. The majority of tours go to Rio Lagartos for the biosphere boat tour and proceed to the main viewing point of pink lakes.

When choosing the tour remember to make sure that the tour goes to the main viewing point for Las Coloradas on top of the boat tour, or you’ll end up disappointed. You can’t see the actual pink lakes up close from the boat.

FollowMeTo Mexico


Where to Stay near Las Coloradas

The town of Las Coloradas is too small for any hotels. There’s only one restaurant there and it’s pretty basic and local, serving whatever the fishermen caught that day. The closest place to stay is Rio Lagartos, about 30 minutes away by car/

Recommended Places to Stay:

Luxury:
Villa Pescadores

It’s the most well-known and luxurious hotel in the area. While I haven’t stayed there myself, I ate dinner at their restaurant and can vouch for the good food.

Check Prices On:

Booking.com | TripAdvisor

Budget:
Hotel Tabasco Rio

Affordable hotel with regular facilities. Everything was just as described with no surprises. My husband and I had a great experience.

Check Prices On:

Booking.com | HotelsCombined


Is a visit to Las Coloradas Pink Lakes actually worth the trip?

In my personal opinion, Las Coloradas pink lakes are totally worth the effort if you have enough time to visit and keep in mind that it is a working salt factory. If you love nature, you’ll enjoy a boat trip through the natural reserve. While you can’t do much with the pink lakes, it’s a great natural thing to see and admire.

During this day trip, you can also visit some of the nearby beaches completely free of tourists. Another option for an add-on to your trip would be stopping by a town of Izamal, also known as the yellow town, if you want to see more colorful places.


Mexico: Travel & Live section! If you have any specific questions join my Mexico Travel Tips community group on Facebook.


Suggested more extensive guides for Mexico:

  1. Lonely Planet Yucatan Guide
  2. The Rough Guide to Mexico
  3. Mexican Spanish Phrasebook

DON’T FORGET ABOUT TRAVEL INSURANCE

Don’t forget to arrange a health insurance before heading to Mexico. The easiest and the most reliable travel insurance is World Nomads Travel Insurance. Get it before your trip to skip unnecessary troubles that might ruin your holidays!How to Visit Pink Lakes of Las Coloradas in Mexico

Any questions? Ask me in the comments!

33 Comments

  1. Nov 28, 2017 / 3:16 am

    Great info, Anna – thanks for sharing! On our bucketlist!

  2. Dec 5, 2017 / 9:56 pm

    The rubber duckie pic is my fave! I wish I would’ve known this was here when I went to the Yucatan in 2002! I’ve been to the pink salt lakes near Cabo Rojo in Puerto Rico, but the photos aren’t as impressive.

    • Anna
      Author
      Dec 5, 2017 / 10:10 pm

      There are some pretty impressive ones in Bonaire too!

  3. Mercedes Meas
    Jan 6, 2018 / 7:15 am

    Awesome tips Anna and i want go there. Thanks.

  4. Jan 9, 2018 / 1:34 pm

    Awesome Pink Lakes info Anna! – the flamingo inflatable! haha love it! Great share!

  5. Karla
    Jan 11, 2018 / 6:52 pm

    Hey, I’m planning to go next week and I loved to read you. Very useful since there’s not a lot of accurate info on how to make it there without a tour.
    At what time would you recommend me to arrive? I’m going from Merida

    • Anna
      Author
      Jan 12, 2018 / 1:04 pm

      Around 10-11am, because it’s not too hot yet.

  6. Magdalena
    Jan 24, 2018 / 6:03 pm

    Hi Anna.
    Amazing photographs!
    I am planning a trip in February to see the lakes but I am not sure if you can still get so close to them as to stand right by the water. I know swimming is not allowed but is it possible to get so close you almost touch the water?
    Thank you 🙏

    • Anna
      Author
      Jan 26, 2018 / 11:53 am

      I saw that some people on instagram went recently and they were able to stand by the water 🙂

  7. Anne Sofie
    Feb 5, 2018 / 11:30 pm

    Hi! I wanna go the Rio Coloradas in the middle of march is that an okay time to see the pink water? And i was thinking about retning a car from Cancun and drive there myself, is that a bad idea?

    • Anna
      Author
      Feb 5, 2018 / 11:37 pm

      Driving there yourself is the best idea. The water is also always pink 🙂

  8. Jaana Paavola
    Feb 6, 2018 / 7:45 pm

    Hi Anna,
    At first thanks for an exellent info about Las Coloradas! I’m from Finland and just planning my trip to Mexico next July. I’ve red that rent a car is not so expensive in Mexico and I’m considering to do it. So, did y visit in Rio Lagartos? I mean do you know if there were a gas station? The way from Valladolid to Las Coloradas and back is about 200 km. If something else occurres in my mind during my trip to “Pink Lakes”, I have to cross it because of the fuel… 🙁 Not so good but I have to accept it if there are’t any alternatives.
    Regards from very cold Finland (today -29degrees)

    Ps. Your site shows you are in Maldives. Hope everything’s ok with you. I mean the attempted coup.

    • Anna
      Author
      Feb 6, 2018 / 10:04 pm

      There’s a gas station in Tizimin, you’ll pass it on the way to Rio Lagartos, so don’t worry 🙂

  9. mary Prekas
    Feb 9, 2018 / 8:53 am

    Hi Ana, Firstly, your photos are amazing, please could you tell me which month did you go?

    • Anna
      Author
      Feb 10, 2018 / 1:42 am

      I went a few times in different times of the year, but the lake is pink all year round.

  10. Paola García
    Feb 11, 2018 / 10:42 pm

    Hello Anna,

    Thank you for the advice. Can you tell which is the best tour to take for Las Coloradas where the lake is really pink? We are planning to go but dont know which one to choose.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Anna
      Author
      Feb 12, 2018 / 5:27 pm

      The best way is to rent a car on go on your own.

  11. Apr 5, 2018 / 2:36 pm

    Very appreciated post! this post is really useful for me and others who are going to visit las Coloradas Pink Lakes, Mexico.

  12. Apr 10, 2018 / 10:53 am

    Great post. I am thinking to go on a trip for a long time. After reading this article and the tips recommended I will definitely go to this unique place. Thank you so much for sharing:)

  13. Gladys
    May 17, 2018 / 11:36 pm

    Hi Anna,

    Thank you for your post!
    I know people are not allowed to swim in the lakes, but is it still possible to get your feet in them to capture a good photograph? How close can you get to get a good view?

    Thanks!

    Gladys

    • Anna
      Author
      May 18, 2018 / 3:06 am

      These days it’s not possible I’m afraid due to the high amount of tourists. But you can get close!

  14. Felipe Hoil Aguilar
    May 19, 2018 / 7:00 pm

    Saludos desde Cancún, México, durante sus Vacaciones por el Paraíso Mexicano, es recomendable visitar Las Coloradas y llevar a cabo exfoliación maya, el recorrido por Río Lagartos es una aventura inolvidable, nos vemos pronto !!

  15. Shelley
    Jun 6, 2018 / 2:25 pm

    My family and I are traveling to Cancun/Akumal next week and would love to go up to to Las Coloradas. You mentioned that there are beautiful nearby beaches for swimming….are they easy to access/find? We will have our own rented vehicle.

    • Anna
      Author
      Jun 7, 2018 / 11:01 am

      Yes, they are 🙂

  16. Ria
    Jul 23, 2018 / 2:46 pm

    Hi Anna, your tips are very informative. Anyway, I just wanna know, if the link of the tour that’s there will take us to pink lagoon coming from cancun? Thank you. Just like what you said, I dont want to get disappointed either. 🙂

  17. Shahrin
    Aug 17, 2018 / 7:30 pm

    Hello Anna, I am visiting Tulum from Aug 31-Sept 4. I was planning to visit the pink lakes on Sept 2nd. I read in many sites that the water color depends on the season do you have an idea how it would be in sept as its a long drive?? Also can you see the pink flamingos from land without doing the boat tour??- mainly interested in that not other wild life. Thank you.

    • Anna
      Author
      Aug 18, 2018 / 10:14 pm

      The water will still be pink. You need to get lucky to see the flamingos, I saw some but from really far away, you need binoculars really.

  18. Shahrin
    Aug 19, 2018 / 1:00 am

    Even with boat ride u need binoculars?? Or with the boat its guaranteed? Thanks

    • Anna
      Author
      Aug 19, 2018 / 4:21 pm

      Since flamingos are wild they can never be ‘guaranteed’. If some tour operator guarantees you flamingos up close they’ll straight up lie to you. You can definitely get closer to them in a boat though, that’s for sure.

  19. Cristina
    Sep 18, 2018 / 6:50 pm

    Hi Anna,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. do you suggest to book a tour for Rio Lagartos?
    To book a tour is kind of expensive, so I’m wondering if by just showing up is cheaper.

    Thank you
    Cristina

    • Anna
      Author
      Sep 19, 2018 / 1:59 am

      If you rent a car it’s definitely cheaper 🙂

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