woman jumping at las coloradas pink lakes in mexico

Merida to Las Coloradas Pink Lakes: How to Visit in 2022


Planning to visit the pink lakes in Mexico?

Las Coloradas, located in the Yucatan Peninsula, is a Mexico bucket list destination for many visitors. The nearest major city is Merida, but you can access the pink lakes from other areas. This article, however, is all about how to get from Merida to Las Coloradas.

As I live in Merida, I have been to the pink lakes before. In this article, I’ll share all my best tips on how to visit Las Coloradas so you see the lakes in all their pink glory. You’ll also discover your transportation options — including Las Coloradas tours, driving directions and buses.

⭐️ EDITOR’S CHOICE: Best Merida to Las Coloradas TourChichen Itza, the Pink Lagoon and Pink Flamingos

In my opinion, the easiest, most stress free way to visit is on a Las Coloradas tour — and I have featured the best Merida to Las Coloradas Tours right here! As it’s quite remote, you need to take two buses and a taxi to get there on public transportation, or go with your own rental car.

Whichever way you choose, you’re about to learn all the best ways to visit Las Coloradas from Merida, Mexico. I’m also going to let you know about an off the beaten path pink lakes in Yucatan site, and answer all your Las Coloradas FAQs. Ready to dive in? Let’s get to it!

Is Las Coloradas Open?

Yes — Though, like all places, this can change at any time. Las Coloradas is privately owned, so the owners can do as they please; though it’s in their best interest to keep it open.

Where is Las Coloradas Mexico?

What state is Las Coloradas in?

Las Coloradas is in Yucatán State, Mexico — one of the three states that make up the Yucatan Peninsula.

How far is Merida from Las Coloradas?

The distance from Merida to Las Coloradas is 145 miles (233 km). The drive takes three hours in normal traffic. While Merida is the nearest city to Las Coloradas, it is accessible from these other parts of Yucatan as well.

Las Coloradas Map

Best Merida to Las Coloradas Tours

If you’re wondering how to get to Las Coloradas the easiest way, that would 100% be on a tour. In fact, this is what I did when I visited Las Coloradas from Merida — and I still recommend it to all Merida visitors who ask me for advice.

The cool thing about tours from Merida to Las Coloradas is that they combine it with a visit to other great sites, like Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins, cenotes near Merida, great Yucatan beaches, and more. Below you’ll find my Top 3 Merida to Las Coloradas Pink Lakes Tours ⤵

Best Tour: Chichen Itza and Las Coloradas

This is my choice for the best of all Merida to Las Coloradas trips because it includes Chichen Itza and a cenote. One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, many already have Chichen Itza on their Merida itinerary, so combine it with Las Coloradas and a cenote for a bucket list day!

What’s included? Chichen Itza Tour | Las Coloradas | Cenote | Transportation

You’ll be picked up early, to arrive at Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins in the morning before the crowds. Next, enjoy authentic Yucatan food lunch in the pueblo (small town) of Temozon, Yucatan, before heading to Las Coloradas. For your final stop, you’ll enjoy a refreshing swim in a Yucatan cenote.

Note: There is an additional charge of $703 MXN pesos ($35 USD) in cash payments you’ll need to make on the day of the tour to cover your Chichen Itza entry, entrance to the cenote and lunch.


Private Tour of Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos

cenote saamal, yucatan jungle pool in mexico
boat tour to las coloradas pink lakes mexico

Get picked up right at your Merida hotel or Merida Airbnb, for an easy, stress-free start to the day! Enjoy the comfort of private transportation for just you and your party on the three hours drive from Merida to Las Coloradas — ideal for social distancing.

What’s included? Las Coloradas | Cenote Saamal | Rio Lagartos Boat Tour | Private Transportation | Lunch

Upon arrival, you’ll board your private boat for a tour of Rio Lagartos, which means Alligator River, and yes, you will see gators 🐊 You will also see plenty of birds, including flamingos, as you cruise through the mangroves of this UNESCO Biosphere Natural Reserve and Wetland.

You’ll also of course spend time at Las Coloradas, to admire the pink water and take plenty of photos. The final stop before ending the day is a refreshing swim in beautiful Cenote Saamal. After a long day, board your private transport van back and relax as you’re driven back to Merida.


Las Coloradas, Yucatan Beaches, and Motul Mexico

pink lake | merida to las coloradas

An exciting full-day tour that starts with breakfast in the pueblo (small town) of Motul, Mexico — home to the famous huevos motuleños Yucatan breakfast dish. Next, head to the pink lakes of Las Coloradas to admire and photograph this unique body of water.

What’s included? Las Coloradas | Rio Lagartos Boat Tour | Cancunito Beach | Transportation | Breakfast

Since you can’t swim in Las Coloradas, you’ll next visit the virgin beaches of Cancunito, where you can! After, enjoy a private Rio Lagartos boat tour through the mangroves to see alligators and the Las Coloradas flamingos. End the tour with a nice meal in a local seafood restaurant.


Driving from Merida to Las Coloradas

road with no other cars on it in the yucatan peninsula mexico
Driving to Las Coloradas Mexico on a Yucatan highway — the roads are safe and well-maintained. (Photo: Textlad via Flickr)

Wondering, Is it easy to drive from Las Coloradas to Merida? The answer is yes! You will, of course, need to get a rental car in Merida first. As someone who lives in Merida, I recommend and personally use, Discover Cars whenever I’m renting a car in Merida.

The drive is easy, as you really only take two highways. These aren’t huge highways, but they are nice, paved roads, where you’ll actually only encounter a few other drivers. From Merida, you just take Highway 176 to the city of Tizimin, and then switch to Highway 295.

Highway 295 will take you right from the pueblo (small town) of Tizimin, Mexico, straight to Rio Lagartos Biosphere, where you’ll get on a boat to Las Coloradas. If you’re ever in doubt, just keep following the road signs overhead that say Ruta Flamingo (Flamingo Route).

Find Your Rental Car

Merida to Las Coloradas Map

Use these directions from Merida to Las Coloradas — and make sure to download the map so you have it to use offline. Your cell signal will likely go in and out as you drive from Merida to Las Coloradas, so you’ll want an offline map.

In fact, if you want signal at all you’ll need a TELCEL SIM Card. TELCEL is Mexico’s largest service provider and will give you coverage in the most places, including in Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos. 📲 Get more info on Mexico SIM cards here.

🚗💨 When renting a car, you do need Mexico driving insurance! If you buy the Explorer Plan with World Nomads Travel Insurance, you can get an add-on for car insurance.


Merida to Las Coloradas Bus (Public Transport)

You can take a bus from Merida to Las Coloradas — though you’ll want to stay the night at Hotel Rio Lagartos, the closest hotel to Las Coloradas. As there are no direct buses from Merida to Las Coloradas, this route requires two buses and takes about five hours

Las Coloradas is located in a remote part of the Yucatan, near the small pueblo of Rio Lagartos. As with most small towns, things close early and public transport stops running early as well. Since it takes five hours by bus, it’s not worth doing a Las Coloradas day trip from Merida.

colorful sign with letters TIZIMIN, a city in mexico
From Merida, you will take one bus to Tizimín, Yucatan, then a second bus or colectivo to Rio Lagartos. (Photo: De Mochila por México via Flickr)

First Bus: Merida to Tizimin

To get to Las Coloradas from Merida by bus, head to the CAME Merida Bus Station in Centro Historico (downtown Merida). Note: You may also see this main Merida bus terminal called TAME instead of CAME. Take the ADO bus to the city of Tizimin, Mexico, and get off there.

Coming from Valladolid to Las Coloradas? You’ll follow this same route — by taking the bus from Valladolid to Tizimin, then the second bus to Las Coloradas.

second Bus: Tizimin to Rio Lagartos

In Tizimin, you’ll take a second bus with Autobuses Noreste to the small town of Rio Lagartos, Mexico. Here, you’ll get a taxi (many usually wait outside the station), and go to the boat dock in Rio Lagartos. At the dock, you’ll need to find a tour operator to take you to Las Coloradas.

The pink lakes are only accessible by boat, so you must hire someone at the Rio Lagartos dock. There is a standard two-hour tour, which costs about $300 MXN pesos ($15USD) per person, and offers a great way to see Rio Lagartos (Alligator River) and Las Coloradas.

boats at the dock in rio lagartos, mexico, a small fishing village in the yucatan peninsula
The main road and boat dock in Rio Lagartos, where you’ll catch a boat to Las Coloradas. (Photo: Danny Foster via Flickr)

Xtampu: Closest Merida Pink Lakes

While Las Coloradas is the most famous of all Mexico pink lakes, there’s another option about 90 minutes closer to Merida! The Xtampu salt lakes are located in the pueblo (small town) of Telchac, Mexico, which you can turn into a full Merida day trip if you have a rental car.

In the town of Telchac, Yucatan, you can have a beach day at Telchac Puerto, one of the best Yucatan beaches near Merida. Next, head to the nearby Xtampu pink lakes, and then drive just five minutes further to Xcambó Mayan Ruins, a smaller site with pyramids you can climb.

The Laguna Rosada Xtampú pink salt flats in Yucatan, Mexico — located about 1.5 hours from Merida.
MERIDA TO las coloradas pink lakes

Las Coloradas Pink Lakes: Frequently Asked Questions

What is Las Coloradas?

Las Coloradas literally translates to “the blush,” as in someone’s blush colored, rosy cheeks — a reference to the color of the water. The pink lakes of Las Coloradas are a naturally occurring phenomenon, and among only 30 or so pink lakes on Earth! 

Is there a Las Coloradas Beach (Pink Beach)?

No — There is no such thing as a Merida pink beach, nor a pink beach in Mexico, and there’s no Las Coloradas pink beach. The pink lakes are sometimes called a pink beach, but the closest beach to Las Coloradas is Cancunito. ▶︎ Visit Cancunito Beach on this Las Coloradas tour.

bright pink lakes in mexico - great for day trips from Merida and Merida tours
It’s easy to see why some call this Las Coloradas pink beach — but it’s not a beach at all!
MERIDA TO las coloradas pink lakes

Why is Las Coloradas pink?

Las Coloradas has pink water because of the red algae, plankton and brine shrimp that live in this salty water. The salt content in this water is so high, this area has been used as a natural salt mine by the Maya for centuries.

What’s the best hotel near Las Coloradas?

The best Las Coloradas hotel is Hotel Rio Lagartoshands down! Though Las Coloradas is in a remote part of the Yucatan, it’s popular for bird watching in Mexico, and tourists visit the Ría Lagartos UNESCO Biosphere Reserve year-round to see them.

Hotel Rio Lagartos (Photo: Expedia)
Hotel Rio Lagartos (Photo: Expedia)

There are a few hotels in Rio Lagartos, Mexico, but none nicer than Hotel Rio Lagartos. A few other options include Hotel Villa de Pescadores, also located on the water, and Hotel Mercy Inn, the best cheap hotel in Rio Lagartos, which is one block from the river.

Is the water at Las Coloradas real?

Yes — There are large concentrations of red algae, plankton and brine shrimp in the water as Las Coloradas, which give it a pink color (and high salt content). This is also why you’ll see a lot of pink flamingos near Las Coloradas; they actually drink this water to get their pink color!

salt crystals collecting on a pole at a Las Coloradas pink lakes in Mexico
The pink water at Las Coloradas Yucatán is real, and it’s also very salty. You can see the salt collecting here on the poles.
MERIDA TO las coloradas pink lakes

Can you swim in Las Coloradas?

No — A few years back, the Mexican government made swimming in Las Coloradas illegal. If you see any photos of people in the Las Coloradas pink water on Instagram or social media, those are at least 7-years-old, or they got in illegally 👮‍♀️

woman covered in clay mud on a tour from merida to las coloradas mexico
The local Mayan people say the clay mud on the shores of Rio Lagartos is good for the skin, so the tour guides let all visitors do what’s called a Bañya Maya (Mayan bath).

The reason you can’t swim in Las Coloradas is because the high salt content can actually be toxic on your skin. While there’s not always someone around to enforce people not getting in, there’s also not really hospitals around, so don’t risk your health or break laws for a photo!

Where you can swim a bit is in designated parts of Rio Lagartos. All the boat tours to Las Coloradas will take you to an area in the river where you can get out and have a Bañya Maya, or Mayan mud bath, and then rinse off in the water afterwards.

What’s the best time to visit Las Coloradas?

Is Las Coloradas always pink?

To see the pink lakes in all their pink glory you’ll need to visit on a very sunny day. The pink color shows brightest at midday, when the sun’s directly overhead. Note: On overcast days, the water won’t show in vibrant pink, and may even look closer to brown!

🦩 Flamingo Season in Rio Lagartos

Rio Lagartos, along with Celestun, are the two best places to see flamingos in Mexico (and all North America). The large flock of Yucatan flamingos, which some estimate at 35,000, congregate in Rio Lagartos in their highest numbers from March to June, but you can see some year-round.

flamingoes in the water near rio lagartos mexico
Flamingos just a few feet away from the town of Rio Lagartos, Mexico. (Photo: Agnieszka Libera via Flickr)
MERIDA TO las coloradas pink lakes

Is Las Coloradas worth visiting?

If you checked the weather report and know it will be a bright, sunny day — then yes, the pink lakes are worth the trek. Also, know it is a trek of at least 2-3.5 hours by car from pretty much every other part of the Yucatan, so you have to be ok with sacrificing that amount of time.

If you want to opt for Merida pink lakes closer to the city, rent a car and head to X’tampu Laguna Rosada. This is a smaller Yucatan pink lakes site near Puerto Telchac Beach and X’cambo Mayan Ruins, but you will need your own car to get there.

How much does it cost to go to Las Coloradas?

You can only access the pink lakes of Las Coloradas by boat, and with a local guide. Boat rentals for the standard 2.5-hour Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos tour cost about $1,000-1,500 MXN pesos ($50-75 USD) for a boat that seats about six.

🤑 Is there a Las Coloradas admission cost? Technically, yes, but it’s pretty much always included with the cost of the boat tour. If not, it’s usually no more than $100 MXN pesos ($5 USD) per person.

If you’re splitting this cost, this can be economical. For those doing solo travel in Mexico, you will want to book one of these Merida to Las Coloradas Tours, which include transportation from Mérida, and cost about the same as the boat itself. 💗 Note: When I visited, it was on a tour!

You might get lucky and show up at the same time a boat with an empty seat or two is going out. If so, you’d split the boat cost with the welcoming strangers who let you join their boat! If not, you must rent the whole boat at a cost of about $1,000-1,500 MXN pesos ($50-75 USD).

pink lake behind a white fence | merida to las coloradas
Las Coloradas is actually on private property, so you need to be with a tour guide or pay a fee to enter.
MERIDA TO las coloradas pink lakes

What’s the closest city to Las Coloradas?

Merida is the nearest big city, at 145 miles (233 km) away. The pink lakes of Las Coloradas are located closest to the small town of Rio Lagartos, Mexico. Though it’s a small town, it does have one nice hotel — Hotel Rio Lagartos — if you want to stay the night.

You can also get to Las Coloradas from other popular places in the Yucatan Peninsula, including these ones listed below, and also the El Cuyo, Mexico beach town.

Valladolid to Las Coloradas

Valladolid is 77 miles (124 km) from Las Coloradas. The drive takes about two hours in normal traffic.

The Valladolid pueblo magico (magic town) is one of the most up and coming Yucatan travel destinations. Some of the best cenotes near Merida are actually located in or right around Valladolid, Mexico. With so many things to do in Valladolid, you may want to consider visiting!

Colorful Calzada de los Frailes street in Valladolid, Yucatan — located about two hours from both Merida and Las Coloradas.

Cancun to Las Coloradas

Cancun is 167 miles (268 km) from Las Coloradas. The drive takes 3.5 hours in normal traffic.

Tulum to Las Coloradas

Tulum is 139 miles (223 km) from Las Coloradas. The drive takes three hours in normal traffic.

Riviera Maya & Playa del Carmen to Las Coloradas

The Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen are about 160 miles (258 km) from Las Coloradas. The drive takes 3.5 hours in normal traffic.

El Cuyo to Las Coloradas

El Cuyo is a small beach town on the border of Yucatan State and Quintana Roo State. One of the best Yucatan beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, there are other things to do in El Cuyo, Mexico, like book an ATV Tour of Las Coloradas.

If you drive from El Cuyo to Las Coloradas, it’s about two hours because there are no direct roads. However, on an ATV tour you can take the beach-jungle route, which is only about 45 minutes — and a fun ride! 

On the way to the pink lakes with ATV Coloradas Tours, a local company out of El Cuyo, Yucatan. (Photo: ATV Coloradas Tours via TripAdvisor)
MERIDA TO las coloradas pink lakes

Final Thoughts: Merida to Las Coloradas Pink Lakes

There’s no shortage of amazing things to do in Merida! Besides what to do in Merida itself, there’s also many amazing days trips from Merida, including to Las Coloradas. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a trek to get there — but it’s worth it to see one of just 30 or so pink lakes in the world.

I went with a tour so I didn’t have to rent a car and drive solo, or spend a total of 10 hours on buses, and enjoyed it. As a solo traveler, the Las Coloradas tour was cheaper than going alone by rental car. However, for couples and groups, renting a car could be a fun drive to Las Coloradas.

Whichever way you choose to get there, I hope this guide helped you with planning, and I hope you enjoy the pink lakes of Las Coloradas. Oh, and if you are renting a car in Mexico, consider a second stop at Laguna Rosada Xtampu, the other pink lakes in Yucatan, Mexico.

Merida Travel Planning Guide

🚑 Should I buy Mexico travel insurance? 100% YES! — With basic coverage averaging just $5-10USD per day, enjoy peace of mind with a plan from World Nomads, the biggest name in travel insurance. (Read more)

💧Can you drink the water in Merida? No — You’ll want to buy a Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your drinking water so you don’t get sick from drinking water in Mexico, and helps keep you hydrated while traveling Mexico. (Read more)

🚙💨 Is it safe to rent a car in Merida? Yes — Renting a car in Mexico is one of the best ways to see the country! I always rent with Discover Cars, which checks both international companies and local Mexican companies, so you get the best rates. (Read more)

📲 Will my phone work in Merida? Maybe — It depends on your company, so check with your provider. If you don’t have free Mexico service, buy a Telcel SIM Card. As Mexico’s largest carrier, Telcel has the best coverage of any Mexico SIM Cards. (Read more)

🏩 What’s the best way to book my Merida accommodation? For Mexico hotels and hostels, Booking is the best site. If you’re considering a Mexico Airbnb, don’t forget to also check VRBO, which is often cheaper than Airbnb! (Read more)

✈️ What’s the best site to buy Mexico flights? For finding cheap Mexico flights, I recommend Skyscanner.

🎫 Do I need a visa for Mexico? Likely Not — U.S., Canadian and most European Passport holders don’t need a visa for Mexico; but check here to see if you do need a Mexico travel visa. The majority of travelers will receive a 180-Day FMM Tourist Visa upon arrival.

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