Exploring Mexico: Las Coloradas & Rio Lagartos
The tiny fishing village of Las Coloradas has recently gained a lot of attention and popularity through social media due to its unique bright pink water pools. I am sure you have seen one of the many pictures circulating across Instagram during the past year or so. This is how this place came to my radar and as you may already know, we have been visiting Mexico quite often lately so I quickly and happily added it to the top of my adventure list. The day after we ventured to Chichen Itza, Cenote Ik Kil and Valladolid, we decided to continue our adventure streak and visit Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos.
We embarked on a 3 and a half hour journey (each way!) in search of Las Coloradas. Once we arrived to Rio Lagartos, we took a boat to what we thought was the pink lakes. Instead of witnessing what we thought was going to be a hot pink lakes we were greeted by a small body of water that changed from purple to golden yellow as we were there. But instead of being greatly disappointed we still got to enjoy the beautiful Río Lagartos Biosphere Reserve where we saw flamingos, crocodiles, sea turtles and all kinds of birds ! And at the end we were rewarding with a mud bath, who needs a spa? ha.
We hadn’t planned on visiting Rio Lagartos but my little one really loved the boat tour since we were able to see so much wild life! The flamingoes where definitely the highlight of the tour but if you ask my little one he would firmly disagree and say it was the crocodiles.
With mixed feelings and even a bit confused, we decided to head back to Playa and stop in a small town called Tizimin to have lunch on the way. home. While in Tizimin already over one hour into our drive back home, I decided to show our driver some of the pictures that I had seen online. Apparently, we had “technically” gone to the wrong place. You see, when I told him I wanted to go to Las Coloradas, he assumed I meant go on a tour through Rio Lagartos and then just see the back end of Las Coloradas that connects to the biosphere reserve. He didn’t believe we actually wanted to make such a journey just to see Las Coloradas and when he told me this I didn’t understand . I mean, why wouldn’t I be willing to make such a journey to witness such incredible sights, right?? Well….
Determined not to leave the area until I got to see Las Coloradas with my own eyes, after driving one hour on our way home we decided to turn back and continue exploring. Witnessing the color of water in all shades of pink was something extraordinary! Though I have to admit, this place is nothing like what you might imagine it to be. It turns out it is actually a privately owned salt mining factory! The process of mining the salt is what makes the water pink.
When we got there, I couldn’t believe my eyes partly becomes of the pink colored water but mostly because this place that I had dreamt about so deeply was a factory with “Do Not Enter” “Danger” “Private Property’ signs everywhere. As soon as we parked, the security guards came rushing behind us. While he was driving towards us, I snuck in and took the pictures below. He warned us that we could not touch or get close to the water. Two other groups of tourists and us asked him to tell us a little bit more about the place since we all expressed how disappointed we were. He explained that each pool (not actually a lake) varies in color from golden (which explains the color of the first body of water that we had seen earlier) to pink due to the stage at which the salt mining process is at. He told us that each pool is less than a feet or two deep and that nothing could live there since the salt content is so high, and once the salt is ready it becomes hot pink and then they drain all the water out to cultivate the salt. Around the edges of the lake you could see bubbles and crystalized salt, creating an illusion of a beach as you can see in my picture.
Now that you know how this place is, it is up to you to decide whether it is worth the visit or not. Personally, I would only make the journey there (6-6:30 hour roundtrip ) if you are an avid photographer, travel blogger or if you want to take a tour through Rio Lagartos (highly suggested for nature lovers) than this could be an addition to your itinerary. Yes you can take amazing pictures, and seeing pink water is something very unique, but would I make the journey again? No. Would I had gone if I knew how this place really was? Most probably not. Am I glad I went? Yes, because if I hadn’t I would still have this place in my list and now I can share my experience with you.
I've been waiting to read your take on this place. I haven't seen the pictures circulating on Instagram until you posted yours, and now I see others as well. It looks like such an interesting place because it seems so out of this world. Since it's private property, was the security guard open to have prior take pictures there? It looks like you got a few. To get there, did you hire a driver? I am on the fence about this place, especially after reading about your experience.
Hi Caitlin, this place is picture perfect, and great if you are into photography because you can capture beautiful and unique pictures with the pink water. We took the pictures when the guard heading towards us in his ATV. I snuck in and took the pictures along with two other groups who had made the journey just to take a picture with the pink pools. If you can see in the 7th picture of this post (the one where you can see the salt clearly), I came too close to the edge so my feet sunk in the salt and I had to rinse of immeditely as the salt content is so high. The other group continued to take pictures when the guard was there but not from close to the water as I was, rather he had no problem with pictures taken from where the cars where parked. We did hire a driver who was with us through out the whole day and was excellent. I have his number and I can share it with you if you wish. He also was the one who took us on the Chichen Itza tour on the day prior.
This was a great read, thank you so much for your honesty. The pictures are "Instagram perfect", but it's great to have the story behind it. The way you tell it (the guards stopping you, the Danger signs, the construction site, etc...), I am not sure I would make the trip, especially since there are many other great things to see in Mexico. And hey! I'm going to the Bahamas in 2017, I guess I will see pink sand there :P But Yucatan is one of my best travel memories. I really loved it (but I didn't make it to Las coloradas back then).
Thank you! I try my best to be as honest as I can and share my experience so everyone can make their own decisions. This place is certainly absolutely perfect for pictures, but it is definitely not what you see in social media. Oh the pink sand beach in the Bahamas is the real deal!! Now thats somewhere I want to visit! Yucatan is definitely one of my favorite places too. I am headed there again in just 2 days!
Gorgeous pictures! I've been seeing this all over IG & would definitely make a trip there .... but as you mentioned, will the security guards allow me to walk nearby? I'd planned to take a flamingo floatie too!! Since thats not happening, I atleast need to take one of those backside pictures for IG. We'll be ticking this off our list this year (hopefully).
Hahah I have seen pictures with the flamingo floatie and cant even imagined how they pulled that off! Maybe back then not many people where visiting so there wasnt need for a guard? who knows.. but he is following you around everywhere. He will let you take a picture nearby but wont let you touch it or come close to the edge because your feet can sink, which happened to me.
Suze - Luxury Columnist
Thanks for such an honest review, Claudia. I had no idea that the water was pink due to the salt levels. It certainly makes for striking photos although as it's private, it does sound a bit hard to access. Hoping to have confirmation of our Mexico trip very soon so will keep you posted
As travelers- all of us tend to fall a victim to the expectation vs reality trap. And the social media just continues to add to the mess. However, I am so happy that you have been honest. More importantly, I am happy that you could see with your own eyes- both the sides of the place- pink and without pink. Both look equally gorgeous.
Beautiful pictures, even though I'm a travel blogger not sure if I would have made the trip to see the pink water and take the pictures only because I don't think I can convince the rest of the family about a 6 hour trip! Thanks for being honest about your findings... and for sharing the pictures!
Hi. I´m a recent travel blog reader and yucatan native. I am agree with your driver. Sincé in all the north coast of Yucatán are natural salt ponds (think about it we have the sea the mangroves and a lot of sun energy) and of course "pink lagoons" (small, médium and some are large) to Yucatan native people is a litle weird make a long trip to see something so "comon" (at least for us). Certainly Las Coloradas landscape is amazing, and altough is a mining operation the industry firm only exploit the already present natural environmental conditions. There are seasons of the year when up in the Rio Lagartos estuarine área the wáter naturally becomes pink and it look like a inland pink sea. I really enjoyed your story. Greetings from Mérida. PS you can explore the Yucatán coast by google earth looking for natural salt ponds, In dry season they become pink wáter lagoons (and all year are flamingos present).
Hi Raul, thank you so much for your comment. Yes, everyone in Mexico was a little confused as to why we were headed there and everyone suggested visiting Holbox instead. Also, everyone I asked said that the bright pink tones where a product of the salt production in the lakes and that there is no wildlife that lives in the water as the "pools" are only a feet deep, and the water is removed once the salt is ready. While we where there, a few of the pools had already been labeled for pumping. However, next to Rio Lagartos there was a big lake where in some areas there was a light pink shade being reflected by the soon and there were flamingos present. According to my driver, that was a natural one. It still is a little unclear to me as I would still like to believe that they are all a natural product. Anyway, the whole Yucatan area has sooooo much too offer that you are better off visiting other places and skip this one in my opinion :)
I'm going to Mexico this year and we're spending a week on the Carribean coast before flying up to Guadalajara. I really wanted to see this pink lake but when I looked into how long it would take, urrrrggggh it gave me a headache! I think I'd much rather spend a day chilling on the beach lol. Thanks for sharing such an honest perspective on this. So many IGers are like ohmygod, you must go here but I think it's all for the gram!
Thank you Nicole, yes I agree with you. I ventured off because I had only heard great things about it, but to be honest, unless you are a photographer or want this picture really badly for IG, I would recommend you use your time wisely and visit somewhere else. Visiting a Cenote is much more worth it!
Thank you so much for this post! We are in Valladolid today and are wondering what to do. Today, we will go to Chichen Itza but we have another full day tomorrow. We thought we'd head up north and do the boat trip on Rio Lagartos and see the pink pools of Las Coloradas, but since we rely on public transport and there is only one daily bus to Las Coloradas, we can't do both. After reading your post, we now know for sure that we are going to do the boat ride and skip Las Coloradas. I would love to see the pink lakes to take some nice pictures, but not if I have to skip the flamingos and crocodiles. End especially not if I first have to get past all those private property signs to get to the pink lakes. Thanks again for this very informative post!