Las Coloradas, Mexico
Hidden away on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is a magical place full of color. These stunning cotton-candy pink lakes filled with salt are called Las Coloradas.
Las Coloradas means “the colored” in Spanish. It’s the name of a tiny Mexican fishing village with a population of 1000. Nearby, a series of brightly colored pink lakes cover the landscape on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.
The region is part of the Río Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, a protected wetlands area home to animals like flamingos, crocodiles, sea turtles, jaguars, and all kinds of sea birds. The reserve covers some 150,000 acres.
I rented a car and drove up from Playa del Carmen with my wife Anna to check out the biosphere reserve, but it’s these strange pink lakes that really steal the show!
Mayan Salt Production
Fishing isn’t the only industry here, salt is big business in Las Coloradas. It has been for thousands of years, when the ancient Maya (you know, the people who built Chichen Itza and other Mayan Ruins) used this area to produce highly valuable salt. How do they do it?
Salty ocean water from the mangroves nearby floods onto hard flat salt plains, creating shallow lagoons. The sun then slowly evaporates this water, leaving fresh sea salt behind.
Salt was extremely important to the Maya for both nutritional needs as well as food preservation. It was mined here in the northern Yucatan then shipped by canoe to other parts of the Mayan empire.
Why Are The Lakes Pink?
While this “solar salt” production process is a natural one, the large pink lakes of Las Coloradas we see today were constructed by a company who produces salt on a much larger scale (500,000 tons per year).
The vibrant pink color of these lakes is due to red-colored algae, plankton, and brine shrimp that thrive in the salty environment. As the water evaporates, these organisms become more concentrated, glimmering pink in the bright Mexican sunlight.
Want to hear a cool fact? The reason flamingos are pink is because they eat these pink creatures. Normally their feathers are white, however, they change color after eating this stuff!
You can often find pink flamingos hanging out in the pink lakes.
Getting To Las Coloradas
The amazing pink lakes of Las Coloradas are located off the beaten track a bit. Getting here requires a 3-hour drive from Cancun or Playa del Carmen — 2 hours from Valladolid.
So you can do it as a very long day trip, or even better, spend 2 days in the area as there’s plenty to do.
Discover Cars searches all the big car rental companies and finds the best price. This is probably the easiest way to rent a car in Mexico.
There is a local bus from Cancun to Rio Lagartos, but because of different stops/changes, the trip can take 7 hours. Renting a car like we did is much easier!
Most travelers stay in the nearby town of Rio Lagartos 30 minutes away from Las Coloradas. Popular mangrove and Flamingo boat tours are based in Rio Lagartos, which usually stop at the pink lakes too.
The pink water is incredibly salty, so while safe to get in, it can sting a bit — especially if you have cuts. However, it’s more for the photo op than anything else because the lakes are only about a foot deep!
Beautiful Mexican Beaches
The road to Las Coloradas stretches along the coastline, with a few places to turn off and explore the white-sand beaches, dunes, and brilliant turquoise water.
The beach is a favorite stop for sea turtles, so be careful where you step! The turtles bury their eggs on the beach at night.
Where To Stay Near Las Coloradas
If you want to spend the night near Las Coloradas, there are hotels in Rio Lagartos, about 30 minutes away by car. There’s no real accommodation at the lakes themselves.
Road tripping up to Las Coloradas is a wonderful way to spend a sunny day in Mexico. The pink lakes show off their best colors in the sunshine. Remember to pack plenty of water & sunscreen too.
Some of the roads are very narrow, so watch out for the large trucks making deliveries from the salt factory. They can hog the whole road. ★
Watch Video: Pink Lakes Of Las Coloradas
(Click to watch Las Coloradas Pink Lakes – Mexico on YouTube)
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I hope you enjoyed my guide on the pink lakes in Mexico! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:
Have you ever seen pink lakes like this before? Any favorite spots in Mexico? Drop me a message in the comments below!