We took a trip to the salt ponds of Las Coloradas on Monday.
We’ve officially been living in Merida for two weeks. And as you may have seen from our previous blog and Instagram posts, we’ve worked on navigating the city.
Things like navigating the neighborhood, shopping, finalizing our Permanent Residency, and other assorted paperwork take some time. And, moving to the Yucatan in May – one of the hottest months of the year, takes a little time to adjust to.
But, we also knew we wanted to get outside of the city and do something fun. So we booked an Airbnb Experience.
Accentuate The Positive
We’re not going to make this an Airbnb Experience review. The tour was not without its hiccups. Part of it was due to our lack of research.
But overall, our driver was super sweet and attentive. The other two people on our tour, a 20-something couple from Rotterdam in the Netherlands were awesome, and we had a lot of fun.
Breakfast in Motul
After leaving Merida, we drove about 45 km to a small town called Motul. One of the things Motul is best known for is its Huevos Motuleños.
While there are several historical versions of how this dish came about and who created it, we’ll leave it to the fact that it bears the same name as the city.
The dish consists of two crispy Tortillas, a Fried Egg, Black Beans, and a sauce similar to Stewed Tomatoes with Ham, Peas, and a Habanero Pepper. Because, after all, it’s the Yucatan, and Habaneros are the Pepper of Choice. The dish is traditionally served with Fried Plantains and a sprinkle of Cheese.
Now, if you are close friends or family reading this, you know that there are a few things that Chuck is not fond of. It’s those childhood things that can haunt you. For him, it’s Stewed Tomatoes, Peas, and runny Eggs.
The waiter was happy to accommodate Scrambled Eggs, as was the request of our two Dutch travel companions as well. While cooked into the sauce already, the Peas were less of an English Pea and more of a Bean, the type we’re used to in Puerto Rican Rice dishes.
He was a trooper, the breakfast was delicious, and we were all on our way in a short time.
Las Coloradas is a small town about 274 km from Merida, about three hours in total, so even after the stop in Merida, we had quite a drive through the countryside of the Yucatan.
The town is toward the upper tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, where the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean meet. It also sits just inland between the gulf waters and the inland waterway of Rio Lagartos.
The town, whose name translated to English means “the colored,” is known for its pink salt lagoons. As it turns out, this small village, the Las Coloradas Tourist Park, is all part of a local factory that produces sea salt.
The factory started sometime in the late 1920s harvested salt from the lagoons for years before anyone ever thought it could be a tourist destination.
Our First Big Win!
The entrance to the park was separate from the tour, and our Mexican residency saved us 50 pesos each over our fellow Dutch travelers.
For them, it was 300 pesos or about $15.00 US, so our savings ended up being a whopping $2.51US – but, hey, a win is a win!
Truthfully, there’s not much to see. There are fifteen lagoons, and they appear in various colors depending on the cloud cover, direct sunlight, and amount of evaporation. There was only one pink lagoon visible from where we were.
Essentially, the pink color comes from algae in the water that lives in a salt solution of about 80%. So as the water evaporates, the water changes color for only a short time until it hits about 85% salinity. It’s cool to see but doesn’t do anything to change the color of the actual salt.
It’s a Journey, Not A Destination
The entire tour with our English-speaking guide took about thirty minutes. We stopped for some photos, and he told us about the manufacturing.
There is a small visitors center where you pay to get in. There was a short multimedia program, clean bathrooms (and it had toilet seats and toilet paper), and a store where we bought some of their Flor de Sal. It’s their top-of-the-line flaky sea salt, and a 125gm container cost us about 110 pesos or $5.50 US.
We also realized that their regular sea salt was already at our Airbnb and available at most local grocery stores.
We don’t necessarily recommend making a special trip to come here, even though it does support a local community. There’s not enough to do to warrant the price. But, it is worth the stop if you are here for other activities.
Cancunita and Rio Lagartos
Our second stop was a quick beach break at a place called Cancunita. Don’t let the name fool you. This is NOT little Cancun.
It is a cute, secluded little beach that we are sure is very popular with locals on the weekend. It has a few palapas and wooden cabana-type structures but no other facilities or changing areas. So if you plan to swim either wear your suit or change in the car, (or outside if you want …lol).
What it has are peace and tranquility. On a Monday afternoon, very few people were there, and aside from the seagrass, the water was beautiful. Our Dutch friends took a quick dip while we walked along the beach and chilled out looking at the water.
We are constantly reminding ourselves that there is no rush. We’re no longer tourists; we live here and have lots of time for beach days and revisit destinations when we have a car.
Shortly, we headed off the road to river access near Rio Lagartos.
Rio Lagartos is a UNESCO Biosphere Natural Reserve and Wetland. It is probably best known for its flamingos.
But the inland waterways are the perfect place for a lazy boat ride and the opportunity to see mangroves and local birds (we’ve read there are some 395 species of birds there), and we even saw some crocodiles.
Up water, our tour ended in the town of Rio Lagartos, which is an adorable little fishing village that makes its living doing boat tours of the waterways. It was a charming dock across the street from several little restaurants, and all of the curbs and light poles were painted flamingo pink.
So, What About The Flamingos?
Flamingo season near Rio Ligartos is listed as late February through June. However, very few places tell you that come May, the water levels near the flamingo areas get very shallow – we mean REALLY, REALLY shallow.
So after the little old man captaining our boat cut the engine and pushed with a stick that sunk about a meter and a half into the silt, we sat in one place for nearly an hour. We were set adrift by the current, and after he finally climbed into the water to push the boat, we reached a point where we could climb onto an island.
We were no closer to the flamingos. And none of us were dressed for wading chest-deep through the water with cameras. So, we headed off to enjoy the waterways. We’ll have to come back to Las Coloradas and Rio Lagartos to see flamingos another day, or better yet, go to Celestún in January or February.