Pink Lakes of Las Coloradas, Mexico- a Low Budget Day Trip

Rio Lagartos is a small fishing town about 3 hours north west of Playa del Carmen, in the Yucatan state. To be honest, it’s a town I hadn’t given much thought to, until I connected with a new friend on Facebook who was on her way to visit Playa del Carmen for a week. Somewhere in her research she had stumbled upon ‘the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, Mexico’ and mentioned wanting to see them. Well, if I needed any motivation to learn about this town, hearing ‘pink lakes’ was enough to get the ball rolling!

A quick image search on google pulls up a stunning array of bright pink photos, that surely have to be photoshopped…. Right?!

Well.. We were about to find out!!

 

The Planning Stage

No great adventure happens without a well thought out plan… HA! Just jokes, I don’t plan anything that I don’t have to!!

So after Sarah mentioned this trip a week before her arrival, I looked into it a bit, and offered to book a rental car and drive us there. And promptly forgot about it for the next week.

Seth and I were on a house sit in Cancun, and only had 2 days free before Sarah flew home. So when we finally discussed it again the following Sunday (during a fabulous day trip to Isla Mujeres.. More on that another day), there was really only one day we could go. That was the following day, Monday, February 13, returning February 14.

Another friend and fellow blogger, Elaine from FinallyElaine.com, caught wind of our plan and thought the idea of spending Valentine’s day with a couple of single girls and a teenage boy at the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, Mexico sounded like a FAB plan!

So NOW it was time to plan!

 

Having rented a car at Budget the week before, I knew I wouldn’t be in for a surprise with insurance prices. I booked online through Expedia for about $1/day, Then paid the insurance fee of $680mx per day on pick up. Full disclosure: I could have paid just $400mx/day for liability, but since 3 of us were splitting the cost, and we were heading to a part of Mexico that I wasn’t familiar with, it felt like a smarter decision to make sure we were 100% covered.

We booked our hotel room on Hotels.com (my go-to, since I love earning free nights!). Hotel Tabasco Rio was the winner… mostly based on price. We got a room with 2 double beds for $35usd. (Sarah opted to have her own room, though they do offer a room with 2 double beds and a single that would be perfect for a family!).

 

And We’re OFF!

We didn’t pull out of Playa del Carmen until around 8pm Sunday night. The drive was smooth, and we arrived at Rio Lagartos around 11PM, after a gas stop in Valladolid. (NOTE: There are NO gas stations between Playa and Valladolid… Get gas before hitting the highway!)

We checked in without issue, and got some advice from the girl at the front desk about waking up for the sunrise and catching a boat tour in the morning. She told us we could book a tour through the hotel for $1200, or just head out to the docks anytime after 7am and find a guide ourselves. Having done my research I knew we could get a boat for around $1000mx at the dock, so we opted to just take our chance in the morning.

After a busy day of driving, we were ready for bed! The alarms were set for 5:30am (much to Seth’s dismay) so we could catch the sunrise and begin our day of adventure.

 

A REALLY Early Morning

Morning came awfully quickly (especially if you ask the teenager that’s usually in bed until noon!), and we were quick to hop out of bed and head to the water.

We found an empty dock to get comfortable, and settled in to watch the sun come up. And it did not disappoint!! Even Seth agreed that it was worth waking up for, which is pretty high praise if you know teenagers 😉

Once the sun was up, tour operators were starting to come out so we lined up a boat to take us out onto the Ria. We arranged for a 2.5 hour tour in a 6 person boat for $1000mx. This is pretty standard pricing for the area, and it’s actually a great price when you consider a the other tour prices around Playa del Carmen and Cancun! If you want to cut the price a bit, wait around until a few more tourists show up and try to share a boat with them!

 

Boat Tour of the Ria

So we piled in to the boat, and we were off! The water was so calm and the breeze was welcome. Even at 7am, you could feel the heat creeping in. Being one of the first groups out was wonderful! The Ria was still waking up, and the stillness of the water was enchanting. As we made our way back we were able to wave to the fisherman who were pulling their nets in after their early morning tasks.

The Ria is home to hundreds of breeds of birds, so there was TONS to see. Our guide clearly grew up in the area because he was seriously pro at spotting the different animals. He was quick to turn off the engine so we could get some good shots (he must have sensed he was in the presence of bloggers ;)), and explained what it was that we were looking at. It was helpful that Elaine speaks Spanish and could translate for us, but not altogether necessary so don’t let that worry you when choosing a boat for your tour.

 

He even pulled a Horseshoe crab out of the water to show us! …Then put it on my head… What a weird feeling! When he started crawling towards my face, that was the end of that!

 

Brave guy that he was, as soon as he saw this crocodile hiding in trees at the shore, he reached over with his sandal to draw him over! The croc made his way over and got nice and close to say hello. So close, that Elaine even reached over to touch his back! I wasn’t that brave.. but it was very cool to see him up close!

 

Breakfast with Flamingos

When we made it to the back of the ria we found the flamingos. They were amazing! There were 2 other boats out there already, so we all sat quietly together enjoying the sound of the flamingos talking to each other. Were they ever noisy! Such beautiful birds. I’m so glad we got to see them!


 

Floating in the Salt Pond

Once the flamingos had had enough of us, we headed to a salt pond a short distance away. It’s not very pretty looking, but was it ever cool! As soon as you get into the water you’re floating. It’s actually hard to stand upright, because the high salt content creates such buoyancy.

 

Mayan Mud Bath

We were then whisked away to another little pond that was surrounded by mud. This mud is apparently very good for your skin, so we were given a traditional Mayan Mud Bath, and covered head to toe in mud. So neat!

 

Back to Shore

After rinsing off at a beautiful little beach at the mouth of the Ria, we headed back to shore for some breakfast and to walk around the town a bit. It wasn’t even 10am yet, and our day was off to an amazing start! But the adventure wasn’t over yet… We still had pink lakes to see!

 

Pink Lakes at Las Coloradas, Mexico

After breakfast it was time to head over to the pink lakes at Las Coloradas, Mexico. They’re a 25 min drive from Rio Lagartos, so you’ll need a car or to pay a taxi to take you over.

When leaving Rio Lagartos there is a sign at the edge of town showing San Felipe is right, Las Coloradas, Mexico is left. Turn left and follow that road for about 25 min. As you pass a large salt hill you’ll know you’re getting close. Right after that you’ll come up right beside the pink lakes- you truly can’t miss them! A security guard on a motorcycle does patrol the grounds to make sure people aren’t swimming or going where they aren’t supposed to. He’ll likely let you know the best side to go for the pinkest pictures, so stop and chat with him!

The lakes are pink because the high salt content draws in shrimp and plankton, and they colour the water. As you get close to the shore you’ll see the salt collecting along the edge. You can even reach down and pick up a handful!

Swimming is not allowed at these lakes, and honestly you wouldn’t want to. The salt makes the water almost slimy. But man, is it ever cool to look at!

Survey says… YES! They really are as pink as the photos show!

  

 

Lunch time in San Felipe

After we finished soaking in the beauty of the pink lakes at Las Coloradas, Mexico, it was time for lunch. Before we headed back into Valladolid, we cut across the highway to the small seaside fishing village of San Felipe. The views here are beautiful, and the houses are built with wood, as opposed to the cement bricks we’re used to seeing in Quintana Roo. The colourful, wood-sided houses are so neat to look at! Quite the contrast to what we’re used to, both in Playa del Carmen, and in our hometown of Edmonton, Alberta.

The restaurant we stopped in for lunch was clearly a local favourite. The place was packed! And we saw a couple customers walk in with a whole fish in their hands, and give it to the kitchen to cook for them. Not something you’d ever see in the US or Canada!

Our server brought an assortment of ceviche as an on-the-house appetizer. I’m not a fan, but it got rave reviews from the other girls! Having had breakfast not too long before, I opted for (my fav) guacamole, and Seth just had fries. But I couldn’t resist splurging on a margarita!

The restaurant is called Restaurant Vaselina, and it looked to be the busiest place along the coast. Head in on the main road, and when you hit the water turn left. It’ll be one of the last buildings on your left!

 

Finding an Agave Farm

I may have been raised in the plains of Canada, but I am no farmer! BUT, agave farming is something I can definitely support! These agave plants are turned into a version of tequila. It’s similar to the regular tequila we all know and love, but since it isn’t produced in Jalisco, Mexico (or one of the other select states in Mexico), it can’t be called tequila.

Since we were driving through an area with several Tequila distilleries we had to stop in to see the fields! We were too late to take a tour at the Mayapan Distillery, but it’s on the list for our next visit. For today, seeing these fields was a nice way to break up the drive.

 

Valladolid

Our last stop of the day was the Mayan city of  Valladolid. It is the oldest city in the Yucatan, and home to authentic Mayan culture and sights.

We didn’t arrive in town until after 5pm, so we didn’t have much time before the sun set. Our first stop was Calzada de los Frailes.. This is the street that connects the San Bernadine Convent to the main square, and is lined to authentic architecture and bright colours. Here we had a small tour of a chocolate factory, and sampled some delicious fresh-made chocolate and hot cacao.

We then walked back to the town square and got a nice look at the Church of San Gervasio at dusk. We chatted with the ladies selling embroidery for a bit, and Sarah picked out a few to take home with her.

By now it was completely dark, and our adventure had passed the 24 hour mark. After an amazingly full day, we were all ready to hop back in the car for the 1.5 hour drive home!

 

 

So there you have it. Our 27 hour day trip to Rio Lagartos, the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, Mexico and Valladolid, in a nutshell! Everything included, it cost us under $100 usd each! Considering you’re hard-pressed to find any excursion for under that around Playa del Carmen and Cancun, we were thrilled to do this trip for that price, including a hotel room and car rental!

I hope this helps you plan your own day trip to Rio Lagartos and the pink lakes of Las Coloradas, Mexico! Don’t forget to Pin this for later!

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25 Comments on "Pink Lakes of Las Coloradas, Mexico- a Low Budget Day Trip"

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Michelle
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Great post with lots of excellent info! I’m definitely add the lakes to our bucket list.

Shaun
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So cool! I passed on visiting this last year and now have regrets. Thanks for sharing!

Shaun
http://www.thislifeintrips.com

Gabor
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Very nice post! I love Mexico, but I have never been in that area, but I hope we can go back soon and have more time to wander around. I love the pink lake, looks beautiful. That crab on your head is funny, must be a good massage!!! 😀

Sherianne
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I would love to see this! That sounds like an intense schedule, but how perfect for me that you have it all planed out and I know it is doable! Pinning this one!

Hannah
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I have always thought the pink lake is photoshopped until I googled it and found out it was real! Haha. And it’s so interesting that they have security guards to stop people from swimming in it!

Tony (tonyandkimoutdooradventures)
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Tony (tonyandkimoutdooradventures)

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What a big day. Would be great to capture some photos of the pink lakes. You were game trying to touch the croc. Lucky it wasn’t hungry.

Becky Angell
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Oh wow I have wanted to go to Mexico for quite some time now but this is really tempting me to visit. Love how you had that crab on your head, I love wildlife so would be really interested to see a Horseshow crab 🙂

Christie
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This looks like such an awesome trip! I can’t believe they put a horseshoe crab on your head 🙂 The pink lakes look so pretty, I’d love to visit there someday.

Ami
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Wow….that sounds like a fun trip…I have been to the pink beach in Indonesia and I must say I loved it. However, it is not as pink as this lake :D.

Suruchi
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Well Written post. You were not scared when that chap placed a crab on your head. And that crocodile. OMG!! I felt scared reading it. I have never seen any pink lakes but I love their colour. Thanks for sharing

Rebecca
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Wow, I had no idea there were pink lakes in Mexico. I’m familiar with the pink lakes in Australia but these are much closer to where I live. I’m going to make a point to go here next time I’m in this part of Mexico.

Evie
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Looks like a great escape… I don’t plan much either hahaha. Love the pink lakes and the Mayan bud bath. Fun times!

sandy N Vujay
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The pink lake looks so stunning, that I could barely tear my eyes away from the photos. It seems to be a great idea for a lovely day trip with the family. The horsecrab on your head had me screaming!

Fábio Inácio
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I am like you, I don’t plan anything before if It is not extremely necessary, the thinks happens in a natural way, much more fun 🙂
The pink lake looks gorgeous for pictures and now we know it isn’t just photoshop ahah!! But your day was much more than just the pink lake. I never saw anything like the Horseshoe Crab!!
I never have been in this part of the world, I need to go soon 🙂

where monica goes
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That was an insane but fun boat ride, I must say! I haven’t seen any horsecrab, so I think I will try to hold it. But no, not to the crocs! Nice to know that there are also pink lakes in Mexico. I heard of the one in Australia and in the Philippines they have pink beaches down south as well.

Jessica Enily
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Wow! This is seriously on my bucket list! So beautiful! Thanks for sharing x

Alaska
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Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve been so absorbed in reading a blog post that I lost track of time, haha. Thanks for sharing the experience. What an interesting day trip; seems like a very unique area, with some cool wildlife. I wouldn’t have touched the crocodile either! Freaky! Do they go over to the other pond with the high salt content? I might even be too afraid to get in that water, knowing there were crocodiles in the area, haha.

Travellingdany
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I don’t know if I’d be as brave to put a crab on my head but I’d go for the Mayan mud bath!

Lauren
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Really awesome post and also an interesting fact about the pink lakes! Thank you so much for giving a detailed experience on everything – personally I wouldn’t be sticking my hand out there to pat an alligator!

Felicia Broccolo
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Love this post!! Great description of the day! Such a gorgeous lake! I need to visit 🙂

Emily
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One of my friends has just moved to mexico.. I can’t wait to share this with her to help her plan her visit 😊

Stella the Travelerette
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I would love to do that exact itinerary for that price! Your photos are amazing, and I had no idea there were pink lakes in Mexico. It makes sense that they were caused by plankton and shrimp. Also I love the pic of you with the horseshoe crab on your head!

Jen
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Fellow GLT here! Love your post, I’m doing this trip in May and was debating on the mud bath but your pictures came out adorable!

Nuraini
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The pink lake is part of my Mexico bucket list!

Rimsha
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Whoa! The photos are gorgeous. I can’t believe I had never heard of these lakes before. It looks like you had a great time! I would really love to visit one day.

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