The Pink Lakes of Las Coloradas

Photo of Ben Kempton
8 April 2020

On the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is an other-worldly vibrant pink body of water.

Las Coloradas, which means ‘blush red’ in Spanish, get its unique tint from red-coloured algae, plankton and brine shrimp that use the salty water as their habitat, creating the magenta pink hue.

The eastern coast of Mexico backing on to the stunning pink waters of Las Coloradas | © Culture Trip

Due to how unusual the water is and because of a viral Instagram of a girl floating on an inflatable flamingo on its surface, Las Coloradas has become a hotspot for curious tourists and keen photographers.

Can you go for a swim in the pink water?

Although Las Coloradas is certainly a sight to to behold, unfortunately the Mexican state declared that no one can swim in the water, and most of the lakes are used for salt production and are fenced off.

People used to be able to be able to go into the water but because of social media, the popularity of the public lakes skyrocketed. With masses of visitors wading through the lakes, the algae and wildlife dispersed meaning the lake started to lose its trademark pink colour.

Now there are guards to make sure no one enters. Don’t worry too much though, anyone that may have wanted to go into the water isn’t missing out – the water is only knee-high and is extremely salty to the point that it can dry skin to a crisp. Instead, there are a few beautiful white sandy beaches with crystal-clear blue waters on the nearby coastline for anyone wanting a swim.

How to get to the lakes

The lake is situated on the eastern coast of Mexico in Las Coloradas – a tiny fishing village with a population of around 1,000. It takes around two hours to drive to the lakes from most nearby major places such as Cancun, Merida, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. There are also tours in the area, most of which end up at Las Coloradas. Just look out for the Rio Lagartos tours which go from Merida, Cancun and Playa Del Carmen.

For anyone planning on making the journey, it is worth nothing that there really is not much else in the area. There are very few restaurants and almost no shops, so make sure to bring provisions.

Spot the wildlife

Although you shouldn’t bother wearing your swimming shorts (unless you are planning on heading further down the coast) you should definitely consider packing your binoculars and a camera. Las Coloradas is part of the 150,000 acre (60,703 hectare) Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve – a protected wetlands area. Within the reserve lives a range of exotic animals, including flamingos, crocodiles, jaguars, sea turtles and a range of sea birds that can all be seen in the reserve.

Colonies of flamingos are the most commonly seen exotic animal in the area and are possibly the inspiration behind the inflatable flamingo Instagram that went viral. If you do go searching for wildlife, just make sure to not get too close to the crocodiles.

Check the weather

A point that should definitely be taken into consideration before embarking on the long day-trip is that the colour of the lake varies depending on the weather. To get to and from the lakes will take between four to six hours, determined by where you’re coming from. So it’s worth making sure that the conditions are right before making the decision to go.

The lakes are always pink but when the sun is out, the colour is a lot stronger and provides much more of a spectacle. However, when it is cloudy or raining, the colour becomes much duller which could be hugely anti-climatic if you were to travel all that way. So, make sure you look out of the window and check the forecast before making the decision.

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