The next morning I set out to go to Río Largatos solo.
Río Lagartos is a town located on an inlet from the Gulf of México. It’s name means river of the crocodile because the river is well, filled with crocodiles. It is also home to hundreds of bird species. While this is all beautiful and interesting my main reason for wanting to visit the town was to see La Playa de Las Coradas.
La Playa de Las Coradas is a bright pink salt lake in between Río Lagartos and the Gulf of México. The water is a shade of pink from a crustacean called “artemia salina”. The best way to describe a crustacean is something between a shrimp and a lobster. Artemia salina absorbs the pigment of their prey, in this case the pink microorganisms living in the water. The same is true for the flamingos that feed on it, this is why flamingos are pink!
I had no idea how to get there from Valladolid so I first went to the tourist office located in the town square to ask how to get there by taxi collectivos. They told me I needed to get to Tinzimi and from there take a bus to Río Lagartos. They directed me to a nearby bus station in town, that station then sent me to a non-existent station. Locals on the street directed me to another station where they were taking advantage of the fact that I was a tourist and didn’t know how much things cost. Quoting me $800 MXN (about $40 USD) for the round trip.
At this point, I was SO OVER MEXICO and ready to go home. I almost burst into tears on the street. I composed myself and decided I would give it one last try. This was after all something I had been looking forward to my whole trip. I went to the ADO bus station to see if they had tickets to Tinzimi and they did. So off I went alone to the small Mexican town in search of the pink lake.
The ride on the bus and sitting alone really helped me to decompress and enjoy my time. I realized that this was the first day in over a month I had spent on my own. I’m someone who really needs their alone time so to not have it for that long was definitely having a negative impact on me.
When I got to Tinzimi an hour later, it was time to take another bus to Río Lagartos. The next bus wasn’t for an hour so I decided to wait at the station. I don’t know if it’s the mix of having been in Cuba and México for so long but waiting doesn’t bother me anymore. I think, only an hour? That’s nothing.
Arriving in Río Lagartos 2 hours later, a man named Jesús approached me on a scooter. He said: What are you looking for? What can I help you with? In Español of course. I explained to him that I’m here to see the pink water. I don’t care about the flamingos, I’ve already seen them, I don’t care about the crocodiles, I don’t care about the birds or the mangroves, just take me to the pink water. He said okay for $800 MXN. I laughed and we haggled back and forth and finally agreed on $500 MXN (about $25 USD).
We boarded the boat, just Jesús and myself. Suddenly I became afraid, I don’t know who this guy is, no one in the world knows I’m here, we’re alone on a boat in the middle of a river. He asked me what I wanted to see. I told him again I just want to see the pink water. He explained to me that there were several other things to see on the tour. I told him he could show me but I’d already seen a crocodile, flamingos, mangroves and I wasn’t interested in covering my body in special Maya mud. What luxury problems right? Oh no thanks I’ve already seen crocodiles and flamingos so I don’t care to see anymore.
He took me to see a crocodile anyways. It swam right up to the boat. He told me to touch it! I couldn’t believe it! I touched a crocodile!! Then we made our way to the pink water. He said he was going to take me to a forbidden place that tours aren’t allowed to go because the water was pinker there.
When we arrived we were totally isolated. I was like oh god, this is where he kills me, I know it. He had me take off my shoes, held out his hand and together we ran through the pools to the pink water. I should have worn a swimsuit! The salt water was so salty and dense that floating in the pools was like floating in a sensory deprivation tank. You just float, you can’t sink.
My guide kept encouraging me to go in despite the lack of a swimsuit. I already felt uncomfortable enough being alone with him, the last thing I wanted to do was get into my underwear. He said he wouldn’t look and I was like “uh huh”. After frolicking in the pink water for about a half an hour, I got back into the boat. Jesús had a bucket of “Maya mud” and apparently part of the tour is to cover yourself in mud for a spa like treatment. I said we could skip the actual mud baths and I’d just put the mud in the bucket on my arms, legs and face. My guide kept telling me to relax and enjoy life. Life was too short to be uptight all the time. He was right.
After the tour I walked to find a taxi collectivo and ran into other people from my hostel. We had to wear wristbands at the hostel so we knew who was staying there. We road in a taxi collectivo back to the hostel together.
All in all it was a good day. I saw the pink water, I touched a crocodile, I didn’t get murdered and I got some good life advice to just relax.
How to get to Río Lagartos from Valladolid:
My best advice is to go with a group of people in a taxi so you can spilt the cost of the taxi and the tour. If you’re alone, like I was, here is how you can take the bus:
Take a bus to Tinzimi from the ADO terminal.
Departure times: 5:30, 6:45, 7:30, 8:00, 9:15, 10:00, 10:30, 11:15, 11:45, 13:00, 13:45, 14:15, 15:30, 16:45, 18:00, 19:00, 20:00
Once you get to Tinzimi you will need to exit the ADO station and turn right, then at the corner turn right again to enter MAYAB bus station about 10 feet away. There you will catch another bus to Río Lagartos.
4:30 – Espita-San Felipe-Rio
5:00 – direct
9:15 – San Felipe-Rio Lagartos
10:00 – Panaba-San Felipe-Rio
10:30 – RioLagartos-Los Colorados
11:15 – Rio Lagartos-San Felipe
12:50 – Rio Lagartos-Los Colorados
14:15 – Panaba-San Felipe-Rio Lagartos
16:15 – Rio Lagartos-San Felipe
19:45 – Panaba-San Felipe-Rio Lagartos
19:50 – Rio Lagartos-Los Colorados