The Unbelievable Pink Lakes Of Las Coloradas In Mexico

Las Coloradas Mexico

Pink Lakes of Las Coloradas

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.

UPDATE: Swimming in the pink lakes around the factory is now off-limits for tourists. However you can still book tours from Rio Lagartos that visit a different area where it’s possible to float in the pink water & take a Mayan mud bath.

Las Coloradas means “the red” 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 Ría 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 girlfriend Anna (AnnaEverywhere.com) to check out the biosphere reserve, but it’s these strange pink lakes that really steal the show!

Las Coloradas Water

Enjoying the Hot & Salty Water

Las Coloradas Drone Shot

Pink Lakes from the Sky

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 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.

Las Coloradas Salt Factory

Mountains of Salt

Las Coloradas Salt Production

Traditional Salt Production

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.

Las Coloradas Pink Lakes

Real Flamingos Live here Too

Las Coloradas Mexico

Floating in the Salty Water

Visiting 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.

Las Coloradas (the village) has no real accommodation options, but they do have a restaurant. Most travelers stay in the nearby town of Rio Lagartos 30 minutes away. Popular mangrove and Flamingo boat tours are based in Rio Lagartos, which usually stop at the pink lakes too.

There is a local bus from Cancun to Rio Lagartos, but because of different stops/changes, it can take 7 hours. Renting a car like we did is much easier.

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!

Las Coloradas Mexico

Brilliant Pink Colors in the Sun

Mexico's Pink Lake

Swimming in the Pink Lake

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.

Best Places To Stay

If you’re planning on staying somewhere nearby you should find a hotel in Rio Lagartos. There are quite a few accommodation options.

Budget Accommodation

Hotel Tabasco Rio – This is where we stayed. Small hotel with AC and decent wifi. It was pretty much empty when we visited.

Check prices on: Booking.com

Mid-Range Accommodation

Villa de Pescadores – The most well-known hotel in Rio Lagartos. We actually ate dinner there and it was excellent.

Check prices on: Booking.com

I also enjoy using AirBnB from time to time. Make sure to read my article about how to find cheap hotels too.

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. ★

Traveling To Mexico Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

Watch Video: Pink Lakes Of Las Coloradas


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More Information

Location: Las Coloradas, Mexico
Useful Notes: Swimming in the lakes around the factory itself is no longer allowed, but you can still stop by to take photos. There is a mangrove boat tour based from Rio Lagartos that takes you to a different area, where you can float in the water & take a Mayan mud bath.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Yucatan
Suggested Reading: The Maya: Ancient Peoples & Places

Pink Lake Tour If you’d like someone else to take care of all the planning/logistics for you, check out this Rio Lagartos Eco Tour that covers the same locations & more.

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Visiting the pink lakes of Las Coloradas in Mexico. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Visiting the pink lakes of Las Coloradas in Mexico. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Have you ever seen pink lakes like this before? Any favorite spots in Mexico? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Any Questions Or Comments?

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52 Comments

  1. Hey Matt,
    Just went to the PINK lake yesterday! We were the only people there. Well we were the only tourists in Loreto, that I saw! September is apparently very very low season.
    I never even knew pink lakes existed until yesterday. Such an amazing natural world wonder!

  2. Hi Matthew! I love following yours and Anna’s adventures on your blogs and Instagram. I’m going to be in the Yucatán at the end of the month (bachelorette in cancun, but I’m exploring on my own before everyone arrives). I plan on driving to Las Coloradas so that I will not be restricted on time. It doesn’t have any hours of operation, correct? Just show up? I’m so excited to see this with my own eyes! I know I can’t get in the water, but I’m fine with that I suppose…

    1. The lakes are behind the village of the same name, you can just park the car and walk around back there. Although the best time of day to see the water is noon, when the high sun reflection makes it look more pink.

  3. I love your Information .
    What time if the year is the best to go Las Coloradas ? Does the color change?
    When did you took all this pictures ? It looks amazing .

  4. Hi I am planign to do a family roadtrip in january and we want to visit this place at what time did you arrived ? and also If I dont mind not being able to swim there how can I get into the road where you are in the video.

  5. Thanks for the informative articles, love em all! Some people write and write long but dont give out important information i was wondering why these lakes are red and boom your article had this info! Keep up the good work

  6. Hi Matthew, can you answer a few questions as I would like to go here in a month while im in the Yucatan, but first I want to make sure the drive is worth it based on the access or lack-there-of since you mention ‘swimming’ is now off-limits. I would really appreciate it. Thanks!

    In a couple of comments you mention different details. Can you clear a few things up…

    1. In your article above, it gives a general “swimming is now off-limits, but in the comments you mention that “SOME areas are off limits for swimming (close to the factory)”. Does this mean that if I look around and explore, I can find some areas where I CAN swim? and are these swimmable areas just as nice as the non swimmable ones?

    2. If all areas are now off-limits to swimming, then how is this enforced in such a large area? Did someone just mention this rule to you, or do they now have fences for all areas where you can not go in? or signs? etc?

    3. In one of the comments, you say “Sure there is a dirt road next to the lake where you can park and take photos along the edge.” If the swimming restrictions are strict and in-place as I asked above, does this comment still hold true? Can you at least walk along the edge of the lakes and dip your feet in at the least?

  7. We are taking an excursion to these lakes from the Progreso cruise port in 2 weeks. I wonder if we will be allowed to get into the water and can I scoop up some salt to keep as a souvenir?

  8. Which beach did you guys hang out at while you were in Las Coloradas? I’m planning a trip there in early May and am debating about whether or not we should just stay the night but want to make sure we have an equal amount of exploration with relaxation. :-) Thanks!!

    1. You’ll see it as you drive to the pink lakes. There are a few little turn-offs from the road, or you can access a beach directly from the town of Las Coloradas. There’s not much to do in Las Coloradas town itself though, Rio Lagartos nearby is a better place to spend the night.

    1. Yes, most of the lakes are now off-limits to swimming. It became too popular with tourists. However, you can book a guided mangrove tour from Rio Lagartos that stops in a different section, where you can get in.

  9. OH, my goodness that is crazy! It looks like something out of Dr. Suess. Love it and so would the kids!! Love traveling with them and getting their perspective on the world!

  10. Good to read about the pink lake. I was quite fascinated with it, the moment I saw it on your Snapchat channel. That fact about flamingoes turning pink after eating the sea creatures was something new for me. Considering a salt making company owns the place, do you require to get the right permissions to visit it, or is it open for the public?
    Regards,
    Nimish

    1. Hey Nimish, yeah isn’t that a cool fact? Anyone can visit the pink lakes, however some areas are off limits for swimming (close to the factory). It’s kind of a grey area. If you take a tour, they let you swim in a section away from the factory.

  11. This is awesome and I want to visit this someday! I also remember my trip in New Zealand, especially the colors that nature can create, like the blue and green lakes in Rotorua. I’d want to take a dip in a pink one!

  12. Fantastic! What amazing video footage you’ve got. Just this weekend I was hiking in New Zealand and saw the Emerald Lakes that glow green (something to do with volcanoes) and then over another ridge the Blue Lake – such vibrant colors!
    Does the salt retain the pink color once it’s harvested or will it end up white?
    I’ve seen pink flamingos at Lake Natron in Kenya – the alkaline “soda lake” also turns their feathers a pink color.

    1. It’s pretty far out there. Not very close to major tourist areas, and you basically need a rental car too. Off the beaten track. But well worth a trip if you’re spending a lot of time around the Yucatan.

      1. We have rented a car and plan on driving from Playa. What route did you take? I am getting mixed answers from google. Thank you!

  13. Beautiful shots Matt! Its such nice scenery isnt it!
    What camera did you use to capture your images? A GoPro (i know you’re a fan!).
    I’d love to add this to my bucket list but Mexico is so far away (i’m based in Australia!) However there is apparently a pink lake in Western Australia so im maybe one day i can had there and see something similar or who knows maybe ill get the chance to go to Mexico one day!
    I see all types of Flamingos flock there… real and blow up haha! (sorry i have a terrible sense of humour!)

    1. Depends on where you go. There’s another area that get’s more visitors, we did a bit of exploring to get away from the road so we had a lake to ourselves. The lakes cover a few square miles.

      1. Could you please say a little bit more about the location? We are planning on visiting next week and I would love to find a quiet place away from everyone else. As this is going to be my first trip to that area could you please advise where should we go so we won’t get into the trouble trespassing or being too close to the factories.
        Also is it possible to spot some flamingos on our own or do we need guided tours for that?

        1. Flamingos hang out everywhere in the area, so you can easily spot them on your own. However, you can get way closer to them on a boat tour from Rio Lagartos. These boat tours cost 900 Mexican Pesos for an entire boat (not per person).

          For the pink lakes I recommend just following the sign to Las Coloradas and you’ll reach these pink lakes pretty easily. You can’t miss them. Private areas as fenced up, so I wouldn’t worry :-)