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Written by Savi, 31 Comments

On our road trip through Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico in September 2016, we had two main points on our agenda: to celebrate my (Vid) birthday in a gorgeous place and to find and photograph the much-talked-about coloured lagoons and flamingoes of Yucatan Peninsula. In early 2016 we had seen photographs of a bright pink lake – at first we thought it was a product of someone’s imagination run wild while using Photoshop, but on reading more we realised that there was a place in Mexico where these coloured lagoons did exist. What’s more, they came with a gorgeous side of pink flamingoes that call this area home. Some people wish for a million dollars on their birthdays. Me? coloured lagoons and pink flamingoes por favor.


pink lagoon in los coloradas Yucatan Mexico
How can one not want to visit this place? 🙂


We had such an incredible time visiting this area at different times of the day that we decided to share some tips on how to find the coloured lagoons and pink flamingoes in the Yucatan Peninsula. Not just that, we have some beautiful images from the area that will tempt you to pack your bags and get going on a drive through this beautiful part of Mexico.

If you haven’t already, have a look at what all we got on during our Mexican road trip in the Yucatan Peninsula!


Getting to the coloured lagoons

Rio Lagartos is a four hour drive away from Cancun/Playa Del Carmen. Roads are in good condition for an hour or two but get narrower and bumpier as you get closer to the coloured lagoons. The coloured lagoons can be found right next to the fishing village called Las Coloradas, located on the northern tip of the Yucatan peninsula.  There are no accommodation options in Las Coloradas so it’s best to stay in the nearby fishing town of Rio Lagartos. We stayed at Yuum Ha boutique hotel and had a comfortable stay. You can book it here.


Although a trip to Las Coloradas can be done as a day trip from Cancun or Valladolid or Merida, we strongly recommend spending a couple of nights here. Whether you’re driving from Cancun towards Merida or the other way around, Rio Lagartos is a small detour off the main highway.


driving directions from Playa Del Carmen to Rio Lagartos in Yucatan Peninsula
Our route when driving from Playa Del Carmen to Rio Lagartos


Rio Lagartos, which is a part of the Ria Lagartas Biosphere, has been on the rise as a tourist destination and the pink lagoons and flamingoes have a big role to play in that. As soon as you get into the village, you’ll be approached by tour operators trying to sell you boat tours into the estuary that promises varied birdlife and wildlife, including flamingoes and crocodiles. We opted to explore the area in our rental car and are so glad we did. Although we didn’t get to see crocodiles, we got to spend a good amount of time photographing the lagoons and flamingoes as well as driving around without a plan, which we wouldn’t have been able to on a short 2-3 hour boat tour. These 2 days were definitely the highlight of our road trip in the Yucatan peninsula.


Finding the Pink Lagoons and Flamingoes in Las Coloradas

Once you have settled into your hotel in Rio Lagartos, we suggest going for a saunter in this sleepy little town. Although dining options are limited, there are some local shacks that sell delicious local food. Since we wanted to photograph the lagoons and birds in different lighting, we decided to head to Las Coloradas on a bit of a recce and we ended up experiencing a gorgeous sunset. Las Coloradas is a 30 minute drive east of Rio Lagartos and the coloured lakes are located right besides this little village.

Coloured Lakes of Las Coloradas
Aerial view of the coloured lagoons by Las Coloradas on Google Maps


In the above image, you’ll be driving in from the left (west), which is where Rio Lagartos is. As soon as you hit the first lane of houses in Las Coloradas, you’ll notice a dirt track going towards the right. Head onto this one and you’ll spot the first ping lagoon on your right. You can continue to drive on this web of dirt roads – be careful though as some of these tracks have been now barricaded by the factory that produces salt.


If instead of turning right you continue going straight past the village of Las Coloradas and follow the dirt path towards El Cuyo (to the right of the image above), you’ll see many dirt roads branching to your right. From here on, the world is your oyster 🙂 Bring out the Columbus in you and explore this area. Be CAUTIOUS and remember the turns you are taking – there are no sign posts and these tracks don’t show up on GPS, so you don’t want to end up in a situation where you can’t make your way back to the main road. We ventured onto one such track and drove around lagoons and witnessed a beautiful sunset, with gorgeous pink flamingoes making their way back to the lagoon. Don’t believe us? Here you go:


Rio Lagartos sunset
Rio Lagartos – ideal place to spend a couple of nights


Las Coloradas Pink Lagoons sunset
Gorgeous sunset on one of the dirt tracks near Las Coloradas


Birds in Rio Lagartos
You can see all sorts of birds in this area


Flamingoes at sunset in Las Coloradas Yucatan
Flamingoes make their way back at dusk and reunite 🙂  Check out the heart!


While the sunset is great in this area, if you want to experience the lakes and their true colours, you must come back during the day when the sun is high up in the sky.


What makes the lakes of Las Coloradas pink?

As you drive from Rio Lagartos to Las Coloradas, you’ll notice a large salt producing plant on your right. It was this company that made these salt lakes in the area, right next to the estuary. The salty ocean water from this estuary and mangroves floods these man made lakes. Gradually the water evaporates leaving behind salt.

This salty water is also home to red-coloured algae called Plankton as well as brine shrimp, which are pink in colour. As the concentration of these organisms increases, the lakes turn bright reddish pink. As a matter of fact, the flamingoes are pink because they feed on these organisms in these lakes.

When you make your way back to Las Coloradas during the day, take the first right onto the dirt track as soon as you enter the village of Las Coloradas. The best thing was that there was nobody else around and we had the entire area to ourselves 🙂 Here are some stunning photographs from our time here during the day:

Pink and Green coloured lagoons in Las Coloradas
Pink on one side Green on the other 🙂


Clouds reflected in the coloured lakes at Las Coloradas in Yucatan
Look at the clouds and reflections 🙂


Pink lagoon in Las Coloradas in Yucatan peninsula Mexico
Gorgeous shades of pink 🙂


Pink Flamingoes in Las Coloradas
We spotted tons of Flamingoes!


Flamingoes in Las Coloradas
They seemed to be having fun 😉


Driving in Las Coloradas
No soul around for miles


If you find yourself driving through the Yucatan peninsula, make sure you stop in Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas for a couple of days – you’ll come back with the most beautiful photographs and stories to tell 🙂

Drop us a line if you have any questions about Rio Lagartos. Do read all our articles on Mexico to get an idea of what to do on a road trip in this beautiful country.


31 thoughts on “Finding The Coloured Lagoons and Pink Flamingoes In Yucatan Mexico

  1. I’m a bit obsessed with those pink lakes ? Thank you so much for the info! Definitely something to be added to my bucket list ☺️

    1. Us too Adele – think this info will come in really handy when you make it to the pink lagoons of Mexico because it’s quite hard to find them otherwise 🙂

  2. Hi

    I am a big fan of yours and follow your stories.
    We are planning to cover this on our trip to cancun. Wanted to know is it safe to drive in Mexico – Cancun, tulum and las colorados?

    I hear that someone might stop you randomly – mostly cops and ask for money. Any advise?

    1. Hi Shaileen,

      Thanks a lot 🙂

      It’s absolutely safe to drive in Yucatan. You might get stopped by the cops, but in all probability that would be for random checks to see you are not carrying drugs etc. We were stopped a couple of times and our car was searched thoroughly but they let us go without asking for any bribe or such. Just make sure you follow rules and drive within the speed limits!

      Have a great trip

  3. Hi,

    I have been reading quite a lot about the horror stories from renting cars. Mostly, with the insurance part. You have also suggested that we rent the cars online beforehand.
    Could you please shed some light on the insurance details and if (suggested by you) was helpful.

    1. Hey Tushar – we have annual insurance as we travel very frequently but definitely recommend purchasing Collision Damage Waiver every time you rent a car! We rent cars super frequently all over the world and haven’t really faced any problem. Hope this helps. Cheers 🙂

  4. Hi,
    This place is terribly awesome, we will be travelling in mid of March and will be staying in playa del Carmen with a toddler, after seeing your blog we thought of visiting Los colorodas for a one day trip( will be returning on the same day) jus want to see pink lake. Would you think it will be sufficient of us to make a one day trip.

    And my another question is will the pink lake will be bright pink like seen in your pink or you enhanced your pictures because I fell in love with that place after seeing your pictures and I badly wanted to replicate the same picture, I’m not good at photography I owe a cannon 55mm, would you think it will be good to capture pics or do I need to upgrade my lens if so could you plz suggest.
    Do you have any doc which has any tips about photography.

    1. It can be done but it’ll be hard and a super-long day if you want to visit the Coloured Lagoons as a day trip from Cancun or Playa Del Carmen Lini – I’d suggest spending at least one night in the area.

      As for the colour of the lake, it changes depending on the time of year and time of day. The colour is most vivid during the months of November & March, when the lagoons are teeming with shrimp. The colour also varies on the time of day – we went back to the same location 4 times during different times of the day (sunrise, sunset, afternoon, evening) but got vivid colours just once when the sun was out. Having said that, the lagoons are super gorgeous anytime of day.

      You should try to get a wide angle lens for capturing the colour of the lagoons well.

    1. Thanks you so much dear Praveen for getting back to us.We really appreciate it and we are glad that you loved what we wrote and clicked:)

  5. Hello I am planning a day trip from Tulum to Los Colorados to see the pink lagoons. Would you happen to know good directions to take from Tulum? Finding information about this online is a bit tricky. Thanks in advance beautiful site!

    1. Hey Val,

      From Tulum take the highway to Valladolid through Coba and Chemix and then get on highway 295 North bound towards Rio Lagartos 🙂 Roads are easy to navigate and drive on in Mexico so you shouldn’t have any problems 🙂

  6. Hi Guys,
    Dope pictures from there! I’m completely smitten by this.
    I was planning my solo travel in Central America for this August, and I’m so glad I chanced upon this article. Had no idea this place even existed!
    Quick question though- being a solo female traveller, I’m not really sure I want to rent a car and drive alone on those long, seemingly empty stretches.
    Would you have any idea about buses plying from Cancun to Rio Lagartos, and from there to the lake? (Don’t want to limit by time at the lakes with just the boat tour)
    Let me know if you came across any local transport in those parts. I’d be forever grateful. <3

    1. Hi Sharana,

      There are buses that will take you to Rio Lagartos from Cancun, but doubt there are any that will take you to the coloured lagoons once you are in Rio Lagartos. If you don’t rent a car, the boat tours will be your only option unfortunately 🙁 We didn’t see any public transport near the coloured lagoons.

  7. Hey guys, Mexico has been on my bucket list since I saw the beautiful pictures posted here in bruises passports. And now I am finally getting to go there for a holiday end of June (yaaay).
    However it’s a short 5 days holiday, sigh!
    And we were thinking staying in Cancun, a day trip to Tulum and a day trip to Las Coloradas!
    Are we being too optimistic? How do you think we can make the best of 5days in this Mexico?
    Any suggestions will be of great help.

    P.S: You guys are my Travel Gods, one blog I look up to every time we plan our travel. Keep inspiring guys ?

    1. Hey Sheeja,

      You can certainly do day trips to Las Coloradas and Tulum. The former might be a bit tiring and you might not enjoy the sunrise or sunset at the lagoon, but that’s not to say that you won’t have fun. Staying put in one place has its own advantages 🙂

      Have a great trip and share photos when you’re back 🙂


  8. Im heading there in 3 weeks without a car . Will stay in Rio Lagartos. I’m betting that I’ll be able to hire a taxi for the day or 4 hours in Lagartos. Not the cheapest way but ….

    1. Followed your itinerary and just visited los Coloradas..unfortunately things have changed a bit since you guys visited. You can no longer drive along the lagoons. There is now an entrance fee with a mandatory guide. 50 peso for Spanish and 100 for English. You also can’t get into the water or send drones in the area. There are apparently 15 pink lakes but you can only visit 1. Nevertheless the view is beautiful and we are really glad we visited.

      1. Aah thanks for the update – I’m sure other readers will benefit from this. It is such a gorgeous corner of the world and glad you got to visit 🙂

  9. Hi,
    I am Travelling to Mexico with my son, he’s 8, we’re doing a conservation project, Mexico City and then Yucatán peninsula. I hadn’t even considered hiring a car but always drive when travelling through Europe so this was inspirational. I’m literally going to follow your instructions! ? but of course I am worried about the safety aspect of driving by myself with my son. And my Spanish is minimal/non existent at the moment. Do you think we would be safe? Or should I try to find a guide? Or not drive? Do the locals speak English?

    1. Hi Kendra,

      You’ll be fine don’t worry 🙂 It’s safe and alright to drive there, even with minimal Spanish skills 🙂

  10. Followed your itinerary and just visited los Coloradas..unfortunately things have changed a bit since you guys visited. You can no longer drive along the lagoons. There is now an entrance fee with a mandatory guide. 50 peso for Spanish and 100 for English. You also can’t get into the water or send drones in the area. There are apparently 15 pink lakes but you can only visit 1. Nevertheless the view is beautiful and we are really glad we visited.

    1. Hey Shalini – aah this will really help all our readers, so thanks for this information. Glad to hear you enjoyed your visit – such a beautiful part of the world 🙂

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