For many, a stop at Las Colorades on the coast of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico is not on itinerary because it lies off route. You have to drive for a few hours, but I promise you it’s worth it. The few hours we spent in Las Coloradas is for me one of the highlights of our trip through Mexico. Here you will find the yellow and pink lakes in Mexico, you can spot flamingos, other animals and you will find the most beautiful, empty beaches.
Where is Las Coloradas and how do you get there?
Las Coloradas is part of the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, the largest wetland area of Yucatan. The area is right on the Gulf of Mexico. The area on the same coast as Isla Holbox, but it is a pretty big detour to come here. We visit Las Coloradas as a day trip from Valladolid. From here it is at least a two hour drive to Las Coloradas. From Cancun it is about three hours away. It is possible to travel to Las Coloradas by public transport, but you have to take into it will take a few hours. The easiest – and most fun! – option is renting a car in Mexico. If didn’t have the car, we wouldn’t have seen flamingos. So to see flamingos without a car, you will be dependent on booking a tour.
When you drive from Valladolid – or for example Cancun – to Las Coloradas it is nice to first stop in the village Rio Lagartos. This fishing village is a nice place to take a break after the trip you just made. Get some lunch to refuel and you’re good to go. It is also possible from here to book a tour through the mangroves to see flamingos. We ourselves choose not to book a tour as we ourselves can explore the area with the rental car.
Why the detour to Las Coloradas is worth it
As said, Las Coloradas is located in the middle of the largest wetland area of Yucatan. The area is huge – about 150,000 hectares – and it hosts all kind of wildlife: flamingos, crocodiles, jaguars, beautiful seabirds and sea turtles. The main reason for our visit to Las Coloradas were the flamingos that we unfortunately did not see on Isla Holbox. Another attraction in Las Coloradas are the yellow and pink lakes that you really have to see. Las Coloradas is located on the coast and on the way from Rio Lagartos to Las Coloradas it is advisable to get off the road and walk to the beach. You will have the beach and the breathtaking ocean totally for yourself. These beaches are part of Zona de Anidacíon de Tortugas Marinas which means that sea turtles come here to nest.
What to do in Las Coloradas?
The area Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve in which Las Coloradas is located is enormous and you will not be able to see everything. We stayed in the area for about four hours and that is certainly enough to discover most of the interesting part.
Admire yellow and pink lakes in Mexico
Although the entire area is beautiful, the yellow and pink lakes are, in my opinion, the highlight of the trip to Las Coloradas. The area is very salty and rich in microscopic pink algae, shrimp and plankton. Because the sun shines brightly on the lake, you see a beautiful pink glow. The lakes are the most beautiful in the afternoon when the sun shines brightest. Unfortunately, it’s prohibited to swim in the lakes since a few years.
Spotting flamingos in Yucatan
There are different animals around Las Coloradas, but we mainly came to see the flamingos. Between November and April the chances of spotting these amazing animals is very big. To spot them you can book a tour, but even without a tour you can spot them. After the lakes we drove up a dirt road where we spotted our first flamingos. The entire area is protected and so unfortunately you can not get too close. Also from a distance they are amazingly beautiful. In the whole area you can find many lakes, so keep your eyes open, because the flamingos can sit anywhere.On the way from Rio Lagartos to Las Coloradas – near the salt factory – we spot two flamingos in one of them the lakes.
The salt factory of Las Coloradas
One of the first things you will see on the road to Las Coloradas is the huge salt factory. The Mayas started this salt extraction for preserving their food. Salt production, in addition to sea fishing, is the most important source of income of the area of the Las Coloradas dump. The water is pumped from the sea to the plains by huge machines. The sun evaporates the water in the shallow lagoons leaving only salt over the course of time. When you drive a little further from the salt factory, you’ll reach the actual colorful salt plains.
Spotting other animals in Las Coloradas
As I said earlier, there are numerous species of animals in this area, especially pelicans and other seabirds dominate the areas. We were lucky enough to spot two raccoons. When driving from Rio Lagartos to Las Coloradas, you have to cross a bridge at a given moment. Under this bridge you can park your car and enjoy the view over the water. This view is already beautiful, but a number of raccoons often appear under the bridge. The jetty is often used by local men to fish, and the raccoons are only too aware of that. They love fish and are not afraid of people at all. Definitely worth a short stop.
The beautiful beaches of Las Coloradas
Las Coloradas is located right on the Gulf of Mexico. The beaches here are bright white and there is no one else to be found. Be sure not to skip one of the roads to one of the beaches. Keep in mind that there are many sea turtles in the area and that they nest here. Unfortunately we didn’t spot them, but be sure to pay attention to where you are walking.
Overnight stay around Las Coloradas
You can of course visit Las Coloradas like we do a day trip from Valladolid. In Valladolid you can find different hotels in every price range. We spend the night in Hostal Tunich Naj. They have ensuite rooms and dorms. The shared garden with shared kitchen ensures that this is a very cozy option. If you do not feel like traveling back and forth or just want to spend more time in the area, it’s best to sleep in the village of Rio Lagartos. Check out all accommodations in Rio Lagartos.
Watch a short video of our day trip to Las Coloradas below