(Post updated, April 2023): The Pink lagoon in Yucatán are actually simply man-made salt lakes. A specific type of algae gives the very saline water it’s color – that truly shines in all the rose and pink tones you can imagine. It’s like a dream come true and at the moment where you think it’s actually too good to be real, along comes a group of flamingos… In this guide we give you all the updates for a visit of Las Coloradas in 2023 after a lot of changes have happened in the last few years!
No photoshop involved in these photos – that’s how pink the water is at the pink lagoon!
Update April 2023: It is not allowed to touch the water or salt anymore – these photos were taken during our first visit in 2017 when there was no visitor center or guides yet.
This is an updated photo from December 2021 – you can see the visitor centre in the background.
There’s also a new lookout tower, that had not been opened yet when we visited.
Updated Tips for a visit of the Pink Lagoon at Las Coloradas
A lot has changed since our first visit back in 2017. It was our second visit in December 2021 and now everything is more organised and regulated. There’s an official visitor centre, you need to hire guides, a lot of rules and regulations have been put into place to protect the salt lakes and the mining process, that is still ongoing. But we do believe Las Coloradas is still worth a visit – especially since there’s also a new eco lodge called “Piña Coloradas”, that makes a stay even more appealing.
- Tip 1: Arrive around noon on a day without clouds for the best experience of the pink color.
- Tip 2: Don’t leave before sunset & visit the flamingos in golden light.
- Tip 3: Stay overnight in the brandnew ecolodge Piña Coloradas.
Stay until sunset for a colourful show like this.
Also all the day trip visitors will be gone by then and you’ll likely have the lagoon to yourself.
A visit of the pink lagoon: What you need to know in 2023
Here’s a few things to consider before you plan your visit to Las Coloradas:
- There is a newly opened visitor centre since 2021, which is located directly at the entrance to the pink lakes and is run by the salt mine.
- They have now cut off the access to the paths around the pink salt lakes, so you cannot go there on your own or drive down with your car. You can now only access these paths by foot accompanied by one of the official guides after booking one of the tours.
- The “guided tour” costs 400 Mexican pesos per person and basically entails a 30 minutes walk alongside the pink salt lake, where the guide explains the salt mining process and takes a few photos.
- All the photos you saw with people either bathing or sitting at the edge of the lake (or the ones that show us walking directly next to the pink lake or touching the salt crystals) have been taken before 2021, as all of this is strictly forbidden and not possible anymore. So no touching or bathing in the water!
- Flying drones is also strictly forbidden since one drone crashed in one of the lakes a few years ago.
Ways to visit: Day trips or Staying in Las Coloradas?
We visited the pink lagoon twice (once in January 2017 and the second time in December 2021) and both times we drove there as a day trip with our rental car. The first time we stayed in in Mérida and the second time in Valladolid. The lagoon is easily accessible from both cities, from the coast (Tulum, etc.) it is a bit of a longer journey, so you might want to stay overnight either in Las Coloradas or Rio Lagartos.
Personally we didn’t stay overnight, but we stayed until sunset and drove back in the dark, which is doable, but only if you are comfortable with driving at night in Mexico. And it’s important to know that this is a 2-3 hour drive – so you should consider this when planning your trip.
For more comfort we would suggest to book at least one night in Las Coloradas if you want to experience the sunset (or sunrise) at the pink lagoon.
- There is a new eco lodge directly in Las Coloradas since 2021, which we can highly recommend. The eco lodge is called “Piña Coloradas” and offers 4 beautiful rooms and a swimming pool.
- Other options can be found in Río Lagartos – a small fishermen’s village about 2o-25 minutes away from the lagoon. This is also where you can take boat trips to see more flamingos. (Just let us tell you that this town isn’t really that picturesque if you ask us. We also had some of the most disappointing Mexican food here.)
- For your day trip pack something to eat and enough to drink! You will want to spend a couple of hours in Las Coloradas and the restaurant options are not great (and almost non-existent for vegetarians like us).
The brand-new Piña Coloradas eco-lodge is a perfect option if you want to spend a night in Las Coloradas.
Las Coloradas: Pink lagoon & flamingo wonderland
You might have heard that there’s flamingos at the pink lagoon. But have you also learned about the reason why flamingos have pink feathers? It’s because they feed on red shrimp that live in the lagoon. At Las Coloradas they have found a perfect habitat with plenty of food for their colonies.
So you’ll easily spot flamingos there without having to search for too long. Just be aware that they are rather shy, so you might only see them in the distance! But that guarantees that they are wild flamingos (whenever you can come close or even cuddle flamingos you have to know that their wings have been cut, so they can’t escape). Here at Las Coloradas they are perfectly wild and free!
The flamingos are not feeding in the pink colored lakes, but further down the road where the salt lakes are still blue.
Update December 2021:
If you want to see the flamingos you now have to hire one of the guides on motorcycles, who await you at the entrance. They will bring you to the flamingo lakes (it’s about 1-2 kilometres further down the road behind the new visitor centre).
This is one of the guides for the flamingo “tour” at Las Coloradas.
You’ll follow their motorcycle with your own car.
We booked a “tour” for 400 Mexican Pesos during the early afternoon. I’m using the word “tour” with caution here, because the guides basically bring you to the flamingos and that’s it – they have some limited knowledge about the animal’s behaviour, but they are not really guides in the original sense. After the tour we went back to Piña Coloradas to relax and then returned later without a guide to watch the sunset, which only worked, because the guides were already off duty – so this was a bit of a semi-legal action 😉
But in all honesty it all seems only semi-regulated as well. It seems the guides have an “understanding” with the local police (as some head nods while passing by suggested), but in the end this is the private property of the salt mine, which you are entering semi-legally as a private person. For now you can drive down that road with your own car, but things might change quickly as the salt mine is starting to use the area touristically and commercially themselves.
These colours aren’t photoshopped – the lagoon is truly this pink!
The flamingos can be found further in the back of the lagoon where the lakes are more turquoise and blue.
How to get to the Pink Lagoon
You can use Google Maps to point you in the right direction, when you enter “Pink Lagoon Las Coloradas”. This will guide you directly to the entrance of the area. Once you pass by the salt production, the road makes a slight turn to the left and on the right side you’ll spot the first pink lake.
Pass by the salt production facility to reach the pink lagoon.
After the left curve there will be one road going straight ahead to the village and a sand path turning right along a fence right next to the pink lake off of your right side. It might not look like an official road, but that’s the one you’ll have to take.
You’ll probably be greeted by the first guides at the corner of this street already. They will offer these “semi official” tours that include mud baths and flamingo encounters on top of the official pink lake tour, that you can book at the visitor centre.
In 2017 there was no visitor centre and we just passed by the guys on the motorcycles, as it didn’t seem like they were officials. Now in December 2021 things looked different and they did seem to have an understanding with both the salt mine company and the local police, so bringing tourists to the flamingo colonies is being tolerated in a way.
The “official” tour of the pink lakes is offered at the visitor centre by the salt mine, but it doesn’t include the flamingos!
This is the correct road – and on the right side is the first pond.
Behind the corner is the new visitor centre, that was opened in 2021.
Pink lagoon photos
So as you can see the pink lagoon is truly pink.
Many of the photos you’ll see online are photoshopped, but this is how it really looks like!
Update December 2021: You are not allowed to get close to the lakes anymore (as in the first photo at the top left). The guides will ask you to stay away from the water to protect it from being polluted.
You can stand at the shores with a distance now and just marvel at the water, but don’t try to go in or touch the salt crystals. The reason is that this is still an active salt production site and they want to avoid any contamination of the water.
Around noon ist the best time to see the pink color. The lower the sun gets, the less visible the pink color will be. We recommend a visit during midday (on a sunny day)! If you want to avoid reflections buy a polarising filter for an even better effect (and also your sunglasses should be polarised!).
If you don’t have a polarising filter the photos might turn out like this.
The light reflections deter from the pink color.
How to find the flamingos at the pink lagoon in Las Coloradas
If you want to spot the flamingos you’ll have to drive alongside the road at the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico, that leads to “Las coloradas Private Beach” (see map below). This road starts directly behind the visitor centre at the Pink Lagoon and follows the coastline for at least 10 minutes. Then you will be able to spot the flamingos on the right hand side already.
Update December 2021:
As stated above you now have to book a guided tour to get to the flamingo colonies. The guides charged 400 Mexican pesos for the tour and then drive there on motorcycles and you can follow in your own private car. There are local police officials around that seem to have an understanding with the guides.
We did enter the same road later in the evening to watch the sunset alone as there weren’t any guides around anymore, but there is a gate that might be used to close the road at some point.
You can spot the road that goes parallel to the beach – you’ll have to take this one.
This sandy path directs you to the flamingos.
After approximately 10 minutes of driving the path takes a turn to the right and from that moment on you’ll be right next to the ponds where the flamingos gather and feed. In 2017 we just went there by ourselves, but in December 2021 we had to go with a guide.
Here’s our rental car on the sand path (you don’t need a 4×4). On the right side there are all the flamingos.
How to take great photos of the flamingos
As you can see the flamingos are a bit further away from the road, so we would suggest to bring binoculars to be able to watch them closer.
If you want to take photos you will have to bring a long tele or zoom lens! I suggest at least a 200mm lens would be optimal, anything longer will be even better.
Again – these are photos from 2017, when we went by ourselves and without a guide and walked next to the pink lake.
It’s not possible to get this close anymore in 2021.
The flamingos at Las Coloradas are only found in the turquoise and blue ponds and not in the pink ones. They only feed in the less pink water! It must have to do with the amount of live animals to feed on – the more pink the lakes they get, the higher the salt concentration and therefore the shrimps and other living animals disappear.
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This was by far one of our favourite moments of our visit in México! We hope you enjoy your visit of the Pink Lagoon in Las Coloradas as well.
Watch this video about our Yucatán road trip including the visit of the Pink Lagoon:
If you’re interested in more about the area, click to read more about how to explore Yucatán: