The Unbelievable Pink Lakes Of Las Coloradas In Mexico

Las Coloradas Mexico

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: Entering the water 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. Harvesting salt this way has been a tradition for thousands of years.

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 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 (AnnaEverywhere.com) to check out the biosphere reserve, but it’s these strange pink lakes that really steal the show!

Las Coloradas Water

Las Coloradas Drone Shot

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.

Las Coloradas Salt Factory

Las Coloradas 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

Las Coloradas Mexico

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.

Rental Car

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.

By Bus

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!

Las Coloradas Mexico

Mexico's 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.

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.

Best Accommodation In Rio Lagartos

Luxury


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

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(Click to watch Las Coloradas Pink Lakes – Mexico on YouTube)

Travel Planning Resources For Las Coloradas

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Find cheap flights on Skyscanner. This is my favorite search engine to find deals on airlines. Also make sure to read how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent apartments from locals on Airbnb. Read more about how I book cheap hotels online.

Protect Your Trip

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.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Yucatan
Suggested Reading: The Maya: Ancient Peoples & Places

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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

READ MORE MEXICO TRAVEL TIPS

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!

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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