How to Visit Las Coloradas Yucatan

December 26, 2021 0 Comments
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On the northern coast of the Yucatan peninsula lay several natural attractions, but none as attention-catching as Las Coloradas. Mexico’s pink lakes are massive pools of color, and fun fact: they weren’t meant to be tourist attractions at all.

During my stay in El Cuyo, I drove up to the Las Coloradas pink lakes to check out the brightly bubble-gum colored phenomena and find out what made them so unique. Read on to learn everything you need to know about visiting Las Coloradas Yucatan.

Las Coloradas Mexico

About Las Coloradas

What are Las Coloradas?

Las Coloradas, Yucatan, are unique pink lakes in Mexico that have gained much attention in recent years. Cotton-candy pink and reflective, they’re well-loved as both a local attraction and Instagram backdrop.

Las Coloradas Mexico is part of the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, which is a protected wetlands area. It’s also the site of a large sea salt harvesting industry.

Mexico Pink Lakes

Where is Las Coloradas?

Located near the town of Rio Lagartos, Las Coloradas sits on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Rio Lagartos is a tiny fishing village, but the pink lakes are relatively close to popular vacation destinations like El Cuyo, Holbox, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen.

Las Coloradas Yucatan Map

Why visit Las Coloradas?

Not only does the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve that houses Las Coloradas span a whopping 150,000 acres, teeming with animals like flamingos and crocodiles – the Las Coloradas pink lakes are filled with salt.

While visiting, you can learn about the fascinating history behind Yucatan’s salt production industry, capture beautiful photos, and spot rare wildlife. While visitors are no longer allowed to swim in the pink lakes, you can still experience a totally unique natural attraction.

Las Coloradas

What makes the lakes pink?

The pink coloring of Las Coloradas comes from the red-colored algae, plankton and brine shrimp that thrive in water with high salt content. Belonging to a major salt production company, the majority of Las Coloradas lakes are actually shallow man-made pools.

As these pools evaporate under the roasting sun, the marine life become highly concentrated. Sunlight then reflects off the water surface to make the pink hue of these organisms obvious.

Mexico Pink Lakes
Las Coloradas

What can you see at Las Coloradas?

Aside from these massive pink lakes in Mexico, you’ll see plenty of piles of pure white salt. You’ll get to see how salt gets harvested by the Las Coloradas factory, then cast your eyes towards the flora and fauna within the reserve.

Las Coloradas is also famous for its pink flamingos. After feeding on the algae, plankton and brine shrimp that give these waters its color, the originally white-feathered Las Coloradas flamingos turned pink to match!

Las Coloradas Salt Pile

How to Get to Las Coloradas

By Car

Driving or renting a car is by far the easiest option to get to Las Coloradas. I drove from El Cuyo to Las Coloradas, which is a little less than a 2 hour drive.

It’s best to drive with an SUV or four wheel drive vehicle as the roads can be bad after heavy rains. You can even make a road trip out of it and stop to see the sights (and flamingos!) between various tourist towns.

Driving times are as follows:

  • El Cuyo – Las Coloradas: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Cancun – Las Coloradas: 3.5 hours
  • Playa del Carmen – Las Coloradas: 3.5 hours
  • Tulum – Las Coloradas: 3.5 hours
  • Valladolid – Las Coloradas: 2 hours
  • Merida – Las Coloradas: 2 hours 50 minutes
Las Coloradas Salt Factory

By Taxi

You can hire a taxi or private driver to drive you to Las Coloradas Yucatan, but it will be expensive. The pink lakes Mexico aren’t close to any of the major tourist towns.

If you’re based around Rio Lagartos however, you can find taxis that will take you there and wait for around $25 USD.

On a Tour

If you’re staying in Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Tulum, or Merida and don’t have a car, then booking a tour is the easiest option to visit Las Coloradas.

Not only will it save you the cost and hassle of arranging transportation, you get experience Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas fully. With the driving time, these are usually full day tours that include a visit to Las Coloradas and a boat tour at Rio Lagartos.

Las Coloradas from Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or Tulum

Join a Las Coloradas tour from the Riviera Maya (Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or Tulum) where you can sit back and save 7 hours of self-driving. Upon arriving at Rio Lagartos, you’ll immediately do a sweep of the salt lakes and commemorate with photos.

A native guide walks you through the salt production process, after which you’ll take a boat ride through mangroves to spot crocodiles and nesting flamingos. Breakfast, lunch at a local restaurant, and roundtrip transportation is included.

Book the Las Coloradas tour from Riviera Maya here →

Las Coloradas from Merida

Starting with a stop at Chichen Itza (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), this Las Coloradas tour begins with an outdoor lesson in the history, customs, and culture of ancient Mayans. After a short swim at a cenote, you conclude your Las Coloradas Yucatan tour at the pink lagoon.

Enjoy an activity-filled day out without the hassle of planning transportation and buying admission fees. The licensed tour guide is a bonus, bringing you to an unspoiled beach within the biosphere reserve.

Book the Las Coloradas tour from Merida here →

By Public Transportation

You could take the local ADO bus to Rio Lagartos from Cancun, which takes 7 hours one way due to multiple stops and changes. From there, you can sign up for tours or hire private rides.

There is also a limited bus that leaves Tizimin at either 10:30 or 12:30 and the return bus is at 3PM. I haven’t done this personally though so I’m not sure how reliable this would be.

Visiting Las Coloradas

Arrival to Las Coloradas

Once you arrive to Las Coloradas, you’ll be greeted by a welcome attendant who will direct you to the right side of the site. Right past the welcome sign there is a long stretch of road where you’ll get your first glimpse of the pink lakes and where you can get out and take some photos.

From there, proceed further down the road to the main entrance where free parking is available on site. This is where you’ll pay the entrance fee to a closer view of the lakes. Restrooms are available near the parking lot and can be used for a small fee.

Las Coloradas Entrance
Las Coloradas Sign
Las Coloradas

Entry Fee for Las Coloradas

You don’t have to pay to see the pink lakes, but if you want to get a closer view, you’ll have to pay the entrance fee which includes a brief guided tour.

  • Access to the Pink Lakes (National): $143 MXN (~$7 USD)
  • Access to the Pink Lakes (Foreigner): $193 MXN (~$10 USD)
  • Access to the Pink Lakes + Lookout (National): $183 MXN (~$9 USD)
  • Access to the Pink Lakes + Lookout (Foreigner): $263 MXN (~$13 USD)
  • Access to the Pink Lakes + Lookout (Foreigner with Bilingual Guide): $293 MXN (~$15 USD)

For Mexico residents, you must be able to show official identification.  Note the discount does NOT apply to temporary residents, only permanent residents.

I personally just paid for the access to the pink lakes without the lookout, which is a structure that is a few stories tall that you can climb for a better view.

If you don’t speak Spanish, be sure to request an English speaking tour guide, which I believe is an additional $20 pesos.

Las Coloradas Entry Fees

Tour Experience

There really isn’t much to do at Las Coloradas besides walking along the lakes and taking pictures. Those travelling by themselves usually find a few aesthetic spots and linger for a while before hitting up the rest of the reserve of heading back to Rio Lagartos town.

If you opt for the tour access, you are assigned to a guide who walk with you along the path and explains the history of the lakes. You also have the opportunity to ask questions about Las Coloradas, like the science behind their unique color.

Since tourism increased over the years and caused the salt production company to fence off most of their property, visitors can no longer swim in the pink lakes.

However, you can ask your tour company to show you areas of Rio Lagartos Lagoon that aren’t restricted. Some tours may even let you paddle in the water. 

In total, a Las Coloradas tour lasts about 20-25 minutes.  Most of the guides do not speak English, so you’ll have to pay an additional fee for an English speaking guide. 

Las Coloradas
Las Coloradas

Tips for Visiting Las Coloradas

Once you’ve figured out how to get to Las Coloradas, all that’s left is to enjoy your tour of Mexico’s pink beaches. Here are some tips to make the most of your experience:

  • Go at midday – the colors are brightest under the noonday sun! Check the weather and aim for a sunny day.
  • Don’t forget to bring a face mask: masks are required for entry and can only be removed when taking pictures.
  • Combine it with visiting Rio Lagartos in the same day so that you’re making most of the commute. Those traveling from Playa del Carmen or Cancun should do a deep dive into the biosphere reserve – there’s more to it than just the pink lakes.
  • Bring biodegradable sunscreen as there is no shade and the reflective glare can make the sun more intense.
  • Wear sunglasses as the sun reflects off the lakes. UV-protective sunglasses are the best.
  • Bring some cash along in case of extra spending. There are no ATMs there and those are hard to come by even in Rio Lagartos.
  • Heed all posted signs and don’t trespass where you shouldn’t!
Las Coloradas Pink Lakes Contrast

Las Coloradas are a must-experience if you’re traveling in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. While the flood of tourists has led to more protective measures put in place, you’ll still get to experience a unique attraction that can only be found in a few places around the world.

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By vivalatravelista

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