Thinking of visiting the pink lakes of Las Coloradas in Mexico? Learn everything you need to know about this pink lagoon – how to get there, if it’s worth it, etc.
If you’re reading this post, chances are you found out about the pink lakes of Las Coloradas on Instagram. Las Coloradas is indeed one of the most Instagram- famous destinations in all of Mexico.
The man-made pink lakes of Las Coloradas, Yucatan, are definitely unique, but not too easy to reach. They are located about 10 miles away from a small fishing town, Rio Lagartos, which is part of a natural reserve called Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve.
This protected area is home to many animal species, including crocodiles and flamingos… which I’m sure you’re dying to see at the pink lakes in Mexico!
As you’ll read in this post, an excursion to Las Coloradas will take some planning. The closest city is Valladolid, which is 65 miles away, but it’s much further from Cancun or Tulum.
So, is this place really worth visiting? What else can you see and do in Las Coloradas aside from visiting the pink lakes? Should you go on your own or with a tour? Keep reading and you’ll find all these answers!
Make sure you have travel insurance before leaving for your trip to Mexico! As we all know after the last couple of years, unexpected things can happen and you want to be covered when you need it the most.
SafetyWing is the insurance I’ve been using for the last 3 years. It costs USD 42 for 4 weeks (and much less if your trip is shorter!).
LAS COLORADAS TOURS | THE BEST OPTIONS
Since getting to Las Coloradas pink lakes isn’t the easiest trip, joining a guided tour might be the best option unless you really want to drive yourself. In fact, once you calculate the cost of the rental car, gas, tolls, and the guide once you get to Las Coloradas (which is mandatory), it might even be cheaper to join a Las Coloradas (Yucatan) tour and save yourself the hassle. Here below you’ll find the best options.
Tour of Las Coloradas from Cancun & Playa del Carmen
The Rio Lagartos, Las Coloradas, and Cenote Hubiku Day Trip is ideal if you’re coming from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. You’ll go on a boat ride in Rio Lagartos, marvel at the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, hopefully see the flamingos in the wild, visit a crocodile sanctuary and enjoy a Mexican lunch. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Tour of Las Coloradas from Merida
The Chichen Itza, Pink Lagoon and Pink Flamingos Day Tour is one of the best options from Merida. This full-day tour starts visiting the most popular Mayan ruins, and then heads to the pink lakes of Las Coloradas. You’ll get the chance to see the famous flamingos, and also swim in a sacred cenote in the area. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Tour of Las Coloradas from Valladolid
With the Las Coloradas and Ek Balam Trip, you’ll take a boat ride on the Lagartos River and explore the Rio Lagartos Reserve in search of flamingoes and pelicans. You’ll also go wow at the incredible color of the pink lakes, take a traditional Mayan mud bath and visit the archaeological site of Ek Balam. You’ll be treated with lunch to refuel after the adventures. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
HOW TO GET TO LAS COLORADAS, YUCATAN
How to get from Valladolid to Las Coloradas
Valladolid is the closest city to the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, but that doesn’t mean it’s close by! Expect your trip to Las Coloradas pink lake to take a full day (or more).
➤ It is possible to take public transportation from Valladolid to Las Coloradas pink lakes. I’ve done it and can confirm it. However, do I recommend it? Probably not, because transportation is not very straightforward and you’ll easily get lost (speaking Spanish really helped when I couldn’t find the bus stop in Tizimin!), plus it will take so much longer.
First, you need to make your way to Tizimin from Valladolid. You can do so by taking the ADO bus from the Valladolid bus station. There is one bus almost every hour, so this part is very easy (you can check the schedule here, but it’s only in Spanish). I recommend going to the Valladolid bus station one day early and asking about the bus schedule.
Instead of the bus, you can also take a colectivo (shared taxi) to Tizimin, but I do not recommend this option unless you can communicate well in Spanish.
From Tizimin, you have two options. You can take a direct bus from Tizimin to Las Coloradas (operated from Central de Autobuses Noreste), but at the moment there seem to be only two buses a day: at 10.30 AM and at 12.50 PM. Make sure to do your research before traveling as times might change.
You might find a few more buses going to/from Rio Lagartos, in which case you’ll need to get then a taxi for the last stretch from Rio Lagartos to Las Coloradas (or from Las Coloradas to Rio Lagartos).
Another option is to get a colectivo from Tizimin to Las Coloradas, subject to availability, or to Rio Lagartos and from there take a taxi to the pink lakes.
But repeat after me: check the time of the last bus back to Tizimin, check the time of the last bus… yeah, I didn’t. My friend and I stayed way too long at the pink lakes because aheam I wanted to take about a million pictures and videos, and when we walked to the bus stop people told us there were no more buses. Luckily a sporting team was going to Valladolid, so they gave us a ride! At the time of writing, the last bus is at 3 pm.
➤ One other option to get to Las Coloradas from Valladolid is to hire a taxi, an expensive option as the round-trip ride could cost you around 900 MXN. But if budget is not an issue and you want convenience, then it’s worth it. There’s also the option to get to Tizimin by public transport, and take a taxi from there.
It’s important to consider that if you’re coming via public transport you won’t be able to see both Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas, unless you decide to spend the night in Rio Lagartos and go back the next day. At the end of this post you’ll find a few hotel recommendations in the area.
How to get to Las Coloradas from Cancun or Anywhere Else
If you’re coming from anywhere else in the Yucatan Peninsula other than Valladolid, keep in mind that it’s going to be a very long day.
➤ Coming to Las Coloradas by public transportation from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum for one day is impossible due to the distance. You would have to take a bus to Valladolid or Tizimin, spend the night there, and the next morning head to Las Coloradas.
If you decide on this option, I’ve previously written a post on how to get from Cancun to Valladolid.
➤ If you want to make it a day trip, your only option to visit on your own is to rent a car and head out early in the morning (so you’d probably have to rent a car the afternoon/night before).
If you drive your own car, the drive to Las Coloradas will take:
From Cancun to Las Coloradas: 3 hours 40 minutes
From Playa del Carmen to Las Coloradas: 3 hours 30 minutes
From Tulum to Las Coloradas: 3 hours 25 minutes
From Merida to Las Coloradas: 3 hours 10 minutes
From Holbox to Las Coloradas: 3 hours 45 minutes (ferry + car)
I generally use Rentalcars.com that compares the prices from all the major rental companies. You can rent a car for as little as 10-15 USD a day. The rental prices will vary depending on the type of vehicle you choose (such as a sedan or SUV). You can search how much it would cost for you to rent a car down here, without even leaving this page.
LAS COLORADAS, MEXICO: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Why is Las Coloradas pink?
The pink lakes of Las Coloradas get their color from the high salinity level of the water. I had no idea, but since the time of the ancient Maya, the main industry of the region has been salt production. For the Mayans, it was highly valuable salt! The locals who live in this area have continued this traditional industry generation after generation.
The area that encompasses Las Coloradas pink lake is owned by a large company, which is the second-largest salt producer in Mexico, and it’s used for large-scale salt production. These massive salt evaporation ponds are used for sea salt extraction, and the pink color comes from a natural process. The presence of certain microorganisms are responsible for making these lakes so insta-worthy.
These microorganisms include red algae, brine shrimp, and pink-colored algae which are only able to survive in salty waters. When the water evaporates, they become highly concentrated creating that bright pink color.
Salty ocean water from the mangroves nearby floods the dry plains, and this process generates these large yet shallow pink lakes. The sun helps to naturally evaporate the water so that the salt is left behind. The process of extracting the salt is generally natural but these lakes are actually man-made to facilitate the collection of salt from the ocean.
On other sites you’ll find articles referring to Las Coloradas as the “pink beach in Mexico” or “Las Coloradas beach”, but I want to stress that here you will NOT find a pink beach or any real beach at all. The color of the sand is a regular color, only the water of the lakes is actually pink.
Can you swim in the pink lakes in Mexico?
NO, swimming is not allowed in the pink lakes of Las Coloradas. In February 2017 swimming has been prohibited at the lakes to the point that you’re not even allowed to dip your toe into the lake.
This restriction was placed because of chemicals from the human body affecting the water composition at the lake which is in reality a salt factory.
⚠️ It’s extremely important that you follow the rules to not swim in the pink lake or touch the pink water. If you do, your guide could be fined for your action so please be a responsible tourist!
Do you need a guide?
YES. It’s mandatory to hire a guide to be able to visit the pink lake in Mexico because the site is fenced and there’s no way for you to enter without one.
The pink salt lakes are private property owned by a salt factory. Making these restrictions is their way of regulating guests into the site since it quickly gained popularity and many tourists started arriving. It was never meant to be a tourist attraction.
As a matter of fact, the salt company wanted to limit the number of tourists who visit the site in order to preserve the biological makeup of the water. Instead of managing the tourist visits on their own, they have instead handed over the responsibility of regulating guests to the local guides.
I was one of the lucky ones who visited before Los Colorados, Mexico, became super touristy. When I went there were probably two other tourists. This is why in this article you can find a few photos of me so close to the pink water, I was not breaking any rules at the time. It’s a bummer that the rules changed, but I honestly understand why people need to go with a guide.
➤ There is no entrance fee, but you have to pay the guide. The current cost for hiring a guide is 50 MXN (approximately 2.5 USD) so know that guides should charge you around that amount.
It’s worth mentioning that the guides are not trained or experts, so the depth of their knowledge on the site will vary from one to another. Every visit to the site is limited to no more than 30 minutes. If you want to take a cool Instagram photo, make sure you know how you want to take it so it can be a quick deal!
⚠️ Another thing to keep in mind: you can’t use cameras anymore, and drones are forbidden as well. Just bring your smartphone, you’ll still be able to take great pictures with the pink water.
Best Time To Visit the Pink Lake
One of the questions I got on Instagram when I uploaded a photo from the pink lakes of Las Coloradas was: are the lakes always pink?
Sort of, but the shade of pink can vary a lot based on the weather and the level of the water. On cloudy days, the salt lakes look generally less pink, so you should try and visit on a clear day with a beautiful blue sky.
The first time I visited the pink lagoon in Mexico, I went away disappointed. The water was just slightly pinkish, but more like a yellow shade – NOTHING like I had seen on the internet. I went back a couple of days later on a sunny day and it was beautiful!
I’ve also heard that the water will be at its pinkest in March and July-August, but I haven’t visited at this time personally.
How To Spot the Flamingos
You might be able to spot flamingos at Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, but you probably already knew. What I bet you don’t know though, is that flamingos are pink because they eat the pink algae that also make the water pink. Their feathers would be naturally white!
The best season to spot the flamingo colonies is between May and June during their breeding season. When I visited in November (one of the best months for a Yucatan itinerary), there were very few flamingos.
So, Is It Worth Visiting Las Coloradas?
While there are certain destinations in the Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that you should definitely check out such as the Chichen Itza pyramids, I’m not 100% sure that visiting Las Coloradas is still worth it for everyone nowadays. When I first visited a few years ago, not many people knew about this place and the experience was still very intimate.
Now that the place has become very commercialized, it’s just not the same thing anymore. However, there are only a few places in the world where you can see some pink lakes like these, so it might be still worth it.
▶ I recommend planning a multi-day itinerary around the Yucatan Peninsula that also includes the town of Valladolid, visiting Chichen Itza, and the cenotes around Valladolid rather than a very long day trip all the way from Cancun or Tulum.
I also wrote a post about the best cenote tours from Valladolid to make your life easier.
VISITING THE RIO LAGARTOS BIOSPHERE RESERVE
If you have time, you should definitely check out the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve as well when visiting Las Coloradas.
The territory includes wetlands, mangrove forests, beaches and the biggest estuary in Yucatan, and is home to a large number of animal species such as sea turtles, flamingos, crocodiles, and many bird species.
The tiny village of Rio Lagartos is located about 35 minutes by car from Las Coloradas. If you head to the docks, you’ll be able to either hire a private boat, or join a boat tour around the reserve. Otherwise you can head to the office of Rio Lagartos Adventures a- they’re happy to arrange boat tours.
Hiring a private boat is pretty expensive at around $100-140 per boat, so if you can find a few friends to join you it will be a lot cheaper. If you’re alone or a couple, it might be way cheaper to look for a group tour or ask other tourists if they want to join you on a private boat tour.
During your tour, you’ll be able to spot flamingos, crocodiles, horseshoe crabs, cormorants, sea birds, and many other bird species. Some tours will also bring you to the beach, known for being a nesting area for marine turtles. Others will let you take a mudbath – mud is great for the skin!
Remember that most Rio Lagartos tours will NOT go to Las Coloradas, so you should head to the pink lakes on your own before or after the tour.
HOTELS NEAR LAS COLORADAS
Would you like to explore beyond the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, and see what else the Rio Lagartos protected area has to offer? Book your accommodation by using the map below ⬇
LUXURY / BOUTIQUE: Hotel Rio Lagartos – This 5-star hotel is the best choice in town, but still comes with an affordable price tag. The rooms are simple, but the best things about this hotel are its pool (and poolside bar), the dock, and the incredible views of the sunset over the lagoon.
MID-RANGE: Yuum Ha Boutique Hotel – A 4-star boutique hotel located just opposite the Rio Lagartos River. It comes with tropical style furnishings and a pool, but its main selling point are the incredible views over the river and the lagoon.
ON A BUDGET: Hotel Tabasco Rio – Simple but nice 3-star structure right at the heart of the Rio Lagartos village. It’s also only 100 meters away from the seashore and from the area where the tours depart.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Las Coloradas pink lakes are located in Yucatan, Mexico. The closest city is Valladolid (65 miles away), while the closest airports are in Merida (165 miles away) and Cancun (179 miles away).
It depends on where you are coming from. If you’re coming from Valladolid, you can reach Las Coloradas pink lakes by public transportation. If you’re coming from Merida, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Riviera Maya, or somewhere else, you can either rent a car or you can join a guided tour. You’ll find more information in the “How to get to Las Coloradas” section.
This is it, hopefully here you’ve found all the information you need to plan the perfect trip to the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, Mexico.
WAIT! DON’T LEAVE YET!
If you’re going to be around the area for a while, check out some of my most popular articles about the Yucatan peninsula!
The Perfect Yucatan Road Trip Itinerary
Visit Holbox Island: A Full Guide to the Best-Kept Secret in Yucatan
The Ultimate Guide to Cancun
11 Cenotes in Valladolid You Can’t Miss
30 Best Things To Do in Tulum