How to make the best out of the pink lakes of Las Coloradas in Mexico
The pink lakes of Las Coloradas are one of the unique and breathtaking places to see in Mexico. Although the entire Yucatan Peninsula is full of amazing sites, cenotes and colorful cities, there is nothing that compares to Las Coloradas. We will detail below more about the lakes and tours available to see these wonderful pink lakes.
Las Coloradas site has been well-known since the Mayan times, for its potential for mineral production. The pink lakes are part of a large-scale industrial site created by a Mexican family in 1940, who discovered the salt extraction site. This environmentally-friendly company is ISYSA, or the Industria Salinera de Yucatan, S.A. de C.V., and it employs about 80% of the village. ISYSA is the second national manufacturer of sea salt through the process of evaporation. The company produces more than 750.000 tonnes of salt every year.
The site does not only include pink lakes, but some that are yellow and green. Each lake represents a step of the manufacturing process of salt.
Las Coloradas, the name of the site and adjacent village, means the red ones in Spanish. The name has been given after the bright pink color of the famous lakes.
The pink color of the lakes
The color of the lakes (and flamingos) is due to a microorganism from the Artemia Salina species. These type of crustaceans feed themselves from the particles floating on the water, leaving them clean.
The pink flamingos
The flamingos eat the Artemia Salina, and this is the reason they turn pink, and this process takes around 7 years. Flamingos have white or gray feathers when they are born, and they spend the first years of their lives in solitude. This is because they feel they don't fit in with the older flamingos, as they are not yet pink.
Getting to Las Coloradas
You will find organized day trips to Las Coloradas from the main cities of Cancun, Valladolid, Merida or Tizimin.
By public transportation
You can visit the pink lakes by public transportation. However, this may be a daunting process, as you may have to change collectivos (busses). In case you miss the bus, you will have to wait a long time for the next one, or take a taxi.
You can visit the lakes from the neighboring villages of El Cuyo or Rio Lagartos, either by taxi or organized tour.
We chose to visit Las Coloradas by car. We believe is the best option, as you can take your time to enjoy the place.
Visiting Las Coloradas
If you are not part of an organized tour, you will encounter plenty of tour guides at the entrance of the village. If you choose to go with one of them, make sure they are certified guides.
We visited Las Coloradas two times. The first time we stayed in Las Coloradas for two nights, and we found a certified guide through the owner of our Airbnb. The second time we visited was from Rio Lagartos, you can read more about our experience in our dedicated guide of Rio Lagartos.
What does the tour of Las Coloradas include?
There are some standard tours offered in Las Coloradas, that include a variety of activities, which we will detail below. The tour takes about 2 hours. However, we decided to pay a few extra pesos in order to be able to take our time and enjoy the place. The standard price for the tour in September 2020 was 1000 MXN (~48 USD) for two people, and we added another 400 MXN (~19 USD) for the time extension.
The tour starts at 9 in the morning. Our tour guide met us at the Airbnb, and we left towards the lakes. As we wanted to see the lakes in bright pink color, we left them for last.
The lakes are brightest a noon, when the sun is directly over them. We were lucky to be there on a cloudless day and to see them as pink as they can be.
Extracting the mud for the mud bath
The tour starts with a 10-minute drive to the mud-extraction site. You'll walk by some greener lakes until you reach a mud-extraction place. You or your guide will have to dig deep with the palm of your hand until you reach a soft type of mud. Your tour guide will collect the mud in a bag for you so you can use it at the lagoon. This mud is 100% natural and it contains 12 types of minerals that are great for the skin. However, if you have sensitive skin, we would recommend not to apply it on your face. Chris did, and had an itchy rash on his face for a few days.
The next stop includes the fish spa. You will walk on the other side of the road, where you will find some small lagoons, filled with tiny fish. These lagoons are brown, due to the mangroves that live in them. You'll have the chance to sit by the side of the lagoon and put your feet in the water. Soon, a lot of fish will arrive to give you a pedicure, eating the dead skin on your feet. It is fun and it tickles!
The crystal-clear lagoon
After the fish-spa, you will visit the lagoon, where you will apply the mud on your skin. Normally, you have to wait 6-10 minutes for it to dry, and then you can enter the lagoon to take remove it. Afterwards, you can enjoy and float in the crystal-clear waters.
Be careful not to splash the water on your face as it will sting if it gets into your eyes of mouth. The salinity level in the lagoon is 3-4 times higher than the sea.
The virgin beaches
After the refreshing lagoon, you will get to visit a white-sand, virgin beach. There, you will have the chance to see turtles or baby turtles hatching, depending on the season and time of day. You can refresh and swim in the turquoise waters of the sea.
The pink lakes of Las Coloradas
On your way back to the pink lakes, you will make some stops to see the flamingo flocks. Las Coloradas is home to thousands of flamingos, and you should be able to see them year-round.
As soon as you get to the entrance of the pink lakes, you will have 45 minutes to visit and take pictures. Your guide will explain the process of salt manufacturing as you walk by each lake, and you'll get to take plenty of beautiful pictures.
The tour will end with a climb up the Mirador, a platform that offers a scenic view of the lakes. You will see part of the nature reserve of Ria Lagartos, the sea, the village, and the numerous pink lakes.
What to take with you on the tour
Below you'll find a list of must-have items that you should take with your on your visit to the pink lakes of Las Coloradas:
Sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher, as the sun is strong.
Mosquito repellent, there are tons of mosquitoes along the reserve and on the beach.
Hat and sunglasses.
Water bottle, to keep yourself hydrated on the tour. There are no shops after you leave the town.
Phone or camera.
Things to know before you visit
There are two important things that you should know before your trip to Las Coloradas.
The first one is that it is forbidden to enter or swim in the lakes. This is for preservation purposes and for health reasons, as the salinity levels are very high and can damage your skin.
The second thing to know is that it is forbidden to use drones over the lakes. This measure has been taken because, in the past, many drones or drone components fell into the lakes and contaminated the water. There are many security points that check for drone usage, and if they catch anyone using a drone, they can confiscate it.
Where to stay
Choosing a place to stay depends on your plans and comfort preferences.
In Las Coloradas, there is only one Airbnb that has 6 rooms and a restaurant. It offers basic accommodation with air conditioning and low Internet speed.
If you want to experience the entire biosphere reserve, we recommend choosing a place to stay in the neighboring village of Rio Lagartos. There are more accommodation options you can choose from there. Our personal favorite is Posada El Perico Marinero.
Las Coloradas are a must-see item to add on your Mexico list. The spectacular pink lakes are a great reason to visit, but Las Coloradas is more than that. You will get to explore a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, where you can see the rich fauna and flora. Finally, you will get to experience the way people live in the rural areas of Yucatan.
Read more about our adventures in Mexico by checking out our articles on Rio Lagartos or Cozumel.