Are the Pink Lakes in Mexico Worth Visiting?

Are the Pink Lakes in Mexico Worth Visiting?

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The pink lakes in Mexico were on my bucket list for a while, after seeing Instagram photos of the bright pink water and gorgeous blue sky, with a girl floating on an inflatable pink flamingo.  I wanted to be on that flamingo, and take a dip in the unearthly pink water.  So, when I realised the pink lakes of Las Coloradas were in the Yucatan region of Mexico where I was going to be for a few weeks, I knew I had to visit!  So here is the lowdown on how to visit the Mexican pink lakes independently on public transport, and if I think it’s really worth the effort to do it without a tour or not!

Where are the Pink Lakes in Mexico?

The pink lakes are in a tiny town called Las Coloradas, on the northern coast of the Yucatan peninsula, about 2 hours’ drive from Valladolid, and about 3 and a half hours from Cancun – by car.  If you are backpacking Mexico then it is still possible by public transport but takes a lot longer. The coloured lakes are close to the Rio Lagartos nature reserve, famous for its colonies of flamingos, and tours of the reserve often include a visit to the pink lakes.

It's not as romantic as I expected but its still pretty! The pink lakes at las Coloradas - near Rio Legartos Mexico
It’s not as romantic as I expected but its still pretty! The pink lakes at las Coloradas – near Rio Legartos Mexico

What are the Pink Lakes?

I had envisioned a beautiful pink lagoon, rather like La Laguna Colorada I had seen on my tour to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.  That lake is naturally formed, and has a stunning backdrop of a mountain watching over the lake.  The pink lakes in Mexico however, are part of a salt factory, and although the colour is natural, the lakes are formed into rectangles to allow for easier collection of salt from the mineral rich water.  The lakes are part of private property, belonging to the salt factory, and although it is not enforced, there were signs everywhere to stop people entering the area, and from getting in the water, so there really is no romantic lagoon as I had hoped.

READ MORE: Coloured Lakes in the Salar de Uyuni

Can you Swim in the Pink Lakes in Mexico?

No.  Apparently, this used to be allowed, hence the inflatable flamingo shot, but now the signs clearly state you are not allowed in the water.  I did see several people paddle in the pink water to take photos, but at least when I was there, no-one was so brazen as to get in fully.  The water is not toxic, but is very salty, so bear in mind if you do dip your toes in, any cuts or blisters will sting like hell!

Pink toes, pink water. The pink lakes at las Coloradas - near Rio Legartos Mexico
Pink toes, pink water. The pink lakes at las Coloradas – near Rio Legartos Mexico

Is there anything to do around the Pink Lakes?

Not really.  In Las Coloradas town, there is literally nothing.  There is a beach but it is filthy and covered in plastic bottles and rubbish.  When we were there, there were no restaurants open anywhere, so we bought some snacks from the corner shops & used the toilet in the Six store as there was no other option!  Thankfully it was clean, although you’ll need your own paper.

If you are not on a tight budget, there are guides riding motorbikes who will offer to give you a tour around the lakes, and to take you to see flamingos for around $100 pesos per person.

There are tours of the Rio Legartos natural reserve which leave from Rio Legartos, which include a boat trip into the reserve to see flamingos, crocodiles and plenty of other birdlife, and a visit to the pink lakes.  I had read that these tours were relatively expensive for cash-strapped backpackers like me, so I decided to take the bus to Las Coloradas, with a couple of girls from my hostel.

The beach at las coloradas - dirty and run down. Are the pink lakes in mexico worth it?
The beach at Las Coloradas – is sadly very dirty and run down

How to Get to the Pink Lakes by Public Transport

If you are in Cancun and want to visit Las Coloradas on public transport, I highly recommend spending the night in Valladolid first.  A bus from Cancun to Valladolid takes around 3 hours on the second class Oriente or Mayab buses, and less on the more expensive ADO buses, then there is only one bus a day to Las Coloradas. There are plenty of decent hostels and hotels in Valladolid, I stayed at Hostel la Candelaria which was lovely, and had a fabulous breakfast.

BOOK YOUR HOSTEL NOW

The next morning, take a bus from Valladolid to Tizimin, which is about half way between Valladolid and Rio Legartos.  Second class Oriente buses leave every 45 minutes or so, although ours was supposed to leave at 8am and was half an hour late setting off.  To make sure you get the (only!) connecting bus from Tizimin to Las Coloradas, I recommend taking the 8am Oriente bus from Valladolid, which cost $30 pesos.  There are no ADO bus routes to Las Coloradas, so don’t bother looking on their website for bus times.

There is only one bus per day that goes directly to Las Coloradas from Tizimin, and that leaves at 10.30am, from the bus terminal behind the terminal where you just arrived from Valladolid.  Ask at the ticket desk if you need help finding it, or just go out the door, turn right & right again to get to the entrance of the other terminal.

There are collectivo minibuses that go from Tizimin to Rio Lagartos, but the only way to get from Rio Lagartos to Las Coloradas without a tour is to take that 10.30am direct bus, which passes through Rio Lagartos on the way, and costs $50 pesos each way.

The bus to Las Coloradas takes around an hour and a half to get there from Tizimin, and will drop you off in the same place it picks up from.  The only return bus from Las Coloradas to Tizimin leaves at 3pm.  Don’t miss it, as that is the only one!  When you buy your ticket in Tizimin, double check that the bus times haven’t changed.  You don’t want to get stuck in Las Coloradas!

Las Coloradas pink lakes are pretty but are they worth it?
Las Coloradas pink lakes are pretty but are they worth it?

Is Visiting the Pink Lakes Worth It?

This is a tough one.  I am glad I went, and although it wasn’t how I imagined, the pink water was still pretty cool.  However, I am travelling slowly and have time to spare – honestly if you don’t have long to spend in the area I don’t think it is worth it to come here by public transport to just see the lakes.  All in all, it took us four hours to get to the lakes, and after 30 minutes to an hour, you are done taking pictures.  Then you have to wait for the bus back, which will take you at least 3 hours to get back to Valladolid – so it is a long day for relatively little enjoyment.

If you would like to do a full tour from Rio Lagartos, to see the natural reserve and the flamingos, then it is worth seeing the pink lakes as part of the tour (make sure it is included in your tour package, as not all tours go there).  Prices vary from around $15 per person to $100+ per boat of 6 people, plus a small fee to enter the Rio Lagartos reserve.  Some tours apparently take you a different reddish-brown lake, not the pink lakes at Las Coloradas, so be sure to clarify exactly where you want to go.  The lakes we went to can be clearly seen from Google Maps satellite view, right next to the town of Las Coloradas.

Some of the lakes aren't pink but are still interesting at Las Coloradas
Some of the lakes aren’t pink but are still interesting at Las Coloradas

Another option is to hire a car, which would cut the journey down to around 2 hours each way, and give you the flexibility to return to Valladolid much quicker.  Merida is also within easy reach of the pink lakes, if you have you own car.  With your own car it is even possible to take a day trip to the pink lakes from Cancun, although it will still be a long day.  You could take a day trip from Cancun to Rio Lagartos and combine a Rio Lagartos tour & an independent visit to the Pink Lakes if your tour doesn’t include it.

Bear in mind the weather too, if you are in Mexico in rainy season.  The colour of the water is always pink in some of  the lakes, but if you have clear weather then the sunshine gives the water a stronger pink colour – if it is very cloudy or raining the colours will be much duller.  We were lucky, and visited the day after a thunderstorm – the water was still pink, and we had a combination of cloudy reflections and bright blue sky.

The pink lakes Mexico at las Coloradas near Rio Legartos. Beautiful reflections in the pale pink water
Beautiful reflections in the pale pink water at las Coloradas

Overall, I am glad I went, but don’t think I would go again.  If you have your heart set on visiting the pink lakes in Mexico then I don’t want to crush your dreams, but think carefully about other things you may prefer to do instead.

Have you visited the pink lakes?  What did you think, was it worth the trip?  I’d love to hear your opinions, just add a comment below.

Prepare for your trip to Mexico with these top picks from Amazon:

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 Lonely Planet Mexico  Travel Daypack Sandals

 

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The pink lakes in Mexico were on my bucket list for a while, after seeing Instagram photos of the bright pink water and gorgeous blue sky, with a girl floating on an inflatable pink flamingo.  I wanted to be on that flamingo, and take a dip in the unearthly pink water.  So, when I realised the pink lakes of Las Coloradas were in the Yucatan region of Mexico where I was going to be for a few weeks, I knew I had to visit!  So here is the lowdown on how to visit the Mexican pink lakes independently on public transport, and if I think it’s really worth the effort to do it without a tour or not!

Last updated: October 22, 2017

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12 thoughts on “Are the Pink Lakes in Mexico Worth Visiting?

  1. It is not how I would have imagined either. Not sure I would trek all the way out there just to get a glimpse of it with nothing else to really do. No real way to enjoy it. Glad I can see some pics of it though.

  2. Thanks for your honest description of the lakes. I would’ve never expected what you described based on other photos I’ve seen. Good thing I didn’t have my heart set on the Pink Lakes in Mexico! You were still able to capture some great photos.

  3. The pictures of pink lakes in Mexico have always fascinated us and it fascinates us more because until the day we haven’t seen any. Driving by a car or clubbing the natural reserve tour along with it makes much more sense. We loved the tips you have laid down in your post. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This is on my list and I have read a lot of mixed reviews, love your honesty. I think if I did spend my time doing this I would need to combine it with the nature park to feel it was worth it

  5. Your honesty is refreshing. Most travel posts seem to say “OMG, go to [destination] right away, you can’t miss it!” I love the fact that you were honest in your opinions, but also left it up to the reader to determine whether they should make the choice to go or not. Very well written, and I love your photos.

  6. Thanks for such an honest post. Always wanted to check out the pink lake, but considering all the factors, I’d give it a miss as I dont think I can have that much time to spare! thanks for the heds up!

  7. That is quite informative with pros and cons. I think taking a car for the trip to lake would be better. It surely is tempting to get a photograph of the pink lake.

  8. I didn’t know there were pink lakes! Your photos are beautiful and I love the fact that you went because you saw a photo on Instagram! If I went there, I would like to see the flamingos too, so I would go on that tour.

  9. I have never heard of the Pink Lakes. It’s too bad that you’re not allowed to have a swim there. It sounds like it would be a really cool thing to see but that there wouldn’t be much else to do after you snapped a few photos. I think a car would be best, not being a fan of buses. I’m glad you went, though, so now I don’t really have to!

  10. I’ve read so much about the Pink Lakes, but just like you, I was wondering if it’s worth a visit or not. Thank you for offering your honest opinion on this! I don’t know if I’d add it to our itinerary, maybe we’d take the full tour that you mentioned, from Rio Lagartos, to see also the natural reserve!

  11. I am always attracted by beautiful photos on Instagram and often decide to go there because of the pictures. I like your honest point of view and by reading your post I think I would not go. The dirty beach does not look very inviting either… Thanks for sharing! I’m glad I read it.

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