What are pink lakes?
One of the biggest highlits of out trip to Mexico? Definitely visiting pink lakes. It’s a hidden gem located on the northern part of Yucatan Peninsula. Magical place full of colors, pink flamingos and super friendly people. These stunning cotton-candy lakes filled with salt are called Las Coloradas. They are a part of Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve which is a UNESCO Biosphere.
Las Coloradas means “the red” in Spanish. It’s the name of a tiny Mexican fishing village with a population of 1000 people. Nearby you can find a series of brightly colored lakes. Not everyone knows that the lakes are not only pink but also orange and blue. These colors come from the saltiness of the water and lakes itself are a private property that belongs to the salt factory.
Unfortunately it is not allowed to swim there. Also, lakes are are formed into rectangles to allow easier collection of salt from the mineral rich water. Therefore it is not a romantic pink lagoon if you have imagined so. But still, this bright pink color looks spectacular and seems to be unreal even when seen life.
How to get there? Is car rental good option?
You can always try to find a trip with a tourist office, but there are two issues with that. First, this trips in Mexico are rather expensive, second, we did not find any tourist office in Tulum offering it. So what to do?
Renting a car is not only cheap but also very convenient way. You can visit pink lakes and also see some other attractions along the way. Believe me, it’s not complicated at all. The car rental for 24 hours costed us 78 USD and we rented Nissan X-trail which was completely fine for our one day trip. The way was super easy to drive and the areas are safe to be explored on your own. If you are concerned about the safety, you can always check the latest Mexico safety reports on the website here.
Your route step by step
Really important advantage of a car trip organized on your own, is that you can stop on the way wherever you want and see whatever you want. The trip to pink lakes takes 3 hours of drive one way from Tulum (30min longer traveling from Cancun). You will have time to explore beautiful places like cenotes or pyramids or stop to see some small Mexican cities.
So how to plan it? Check below our schedule we have followed that I can absolutely recommend to you. It’s doable within a one day trip and not very challenging. I am attaching also a map with an exact route we took from Tulum:
There is a time difference between Quintana Roo (EST) and Yukatan (CST) so take it into account when planning your trip.
7:30 am – Leaving the hotel in Tulum and heading to the car rental.
8:00 am – Car picked up and we also had few minutes to have a take away coffee.
8:40 am – Visiting Coba Pyramid. It is open from 8:30 so you can be one of the first visitors and avoid crowds. This pyramid is also great because it is allowed to climb it! You need around an hour for this stop.
12:00 pm – Arriving to Las Coloradas. Right at the beginning of reserve you will find local guides, continue reading next paragraph for more information how to find famous lakes and other attractions.
14:00 – Lunch in Las Gaviotas. Ask local boys to guide you to this restaurant and thank me later – the fish is absolutely outstanding!
14:40 – Leaving Las Coloradas
16:00 – Visiting cenote Xcanche, it’s closed at 17:00 pm so make sure to be there on time, also at this time of the day you may be lucky and have it only for yourself, like we had. You can swim there and you need around one hour for that stop.
17:30 – 18:30 Visiting some cities on the way back, we have visited Temozon but you can also have a stop in Valladolid if you have enough time
21:00 – Arriving back in Tulum – negotiate with your car rental, as we did, that for the same price you can return your car on the next day in the morning, they usually accept this solution.
How to find the right lake?
Well, this is a tricky one. First what you can do is to direct yourself with gps to the Las Coloradas Biosphere Reserve, and than follow the main way and try to look for the lakes. You should find them on the right side. The other option is to use help from local boys. They are waiting in a group on their motorcycles, right at the beginning of Las Coloradas. All in identical t-shirts with a name of travel company, Moto Tours, on it. You can see it on my pictures below.
Most of them can speak english and they will offer you a tour for 200 pesos per person. I highly recommend to use that opportunity. For that price you will be guided to other local attractions that are hard to find on your own: mayan bath, blue lake, flamingos or natural fish spa. They have also showed us what is horseshoe crab. Looks pretty scary!
Regarding the time when to be there, the best is around noon. The sun will be high on the sky beautifully reflecting color of the water and making it even more vibrant.
Are there any other attractions in Las Coloradas?
Yes! And they are awesome! Except famous pink lakes you will see also orange lake, blue lake and mud lake where you can try a mayan bath. It is basically covering your whole body with mud to make it smooth and soft as the mood is full of minerals. We did that, what you can see on the pictures above, and it was awesome! Local boys will also take you to a little water pond called fish spa and to the place where you can meet pink flamingos.
Here I have to give you a little head up. If you count on a picture of you feeding pink flamingos, like in Aruba, well… you will not get it. These are wild flamingos and they are very shy. You will see them only from the quite a distance and if you want to have some pictures of flamingos, a camera with good zoom is a must. We didn’t have it therefore we have no flamingo pictures that I could show to you :(
After exploring all the attractions, ask your guide to take you to Las Gaviotas, which is the only local restaurant. It’s a simple place where you can try fresh, delicious fish. I was actually stumbled how good it was! Remember to have cash with you as there is no ATM there.
If I would do the trip differently? Not at all! It was a fantastic day and next time in Mexico for sure we will rent a car and explore more this beautiful country.