Wheelchair Accessibility: Las Coloradas & Río Lagartos
If you’ve seen photos of Las Coloradas and Río Lagartos, the pink lakes and flamingos might have you ready to add them to your Yucatan itinerary. However, their remoteness might make you feel uneasy about traveling there as a wheelchair user.
In this guide, I’ll give you a glimpse at what an accessible trip to Las Coloradas and Río Lagartos might look like.
Note: The information here is based on my observation as a non-wheelchair user. If you have firsthand experience as a wheelchair user in Las Coloradas or Río Lagartos, I’d love to hear about your time there and your recommendations in the comments section. I appreciate it and know that our future readers will, too!
An Overview of Accessibility in Las Coloradas & Río Lagartos
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tours of Las Coloradas and Río Lagartos weren’t designed with wheelchair users in mind. Nevertheless, it’s relatively easy to visit Las Coloradas as a wheelchair user.
When it comes to Río Lagartos, the town itself is quite accessible. However, to take the boat ride where you can see flamingos, you’ll need to leave your chair at the dock and have the boat team carry you to a seat on the boat.
I’ll cover both of these tours in more detail shortly.
Whether for better or worse, parking of any kind is essentially non-existent in most of Las Coloradas.
Las Coloradas is a small town connected with wide dirt roads. So, although there aren’t designated parking spaces, you’ll have plenty of room to get out of your vehicle by pulling off on the side of the road.
The biggest downside to parking in Las Coloradas isn’t the inexistence of accessible parking spaces, but that the dirt roads get muddy.
Therefore, if you’re visiting while it’s raining or shortly thereafter, the best you can do is try to avoid parking your car beside a pothole full of water.
Parking in Río Lagartos is a bit different—if you end up taking a boat ride, you’ll again need to create a parking space. The area usually isn’t crowded and unlike in Las Coloradas, you’ll get off onto pavement.
Should you choose to skip the boat ride but would still like to see the town of Río Lagartos, there are a few accessible parking spaces in downtown.
The Restroom Situation
Unfortunately, a lack of accessible restrooms is one of the biggest issues for wheelchair users wanting to visit Las Coloradas and Río Lagartos.
In Las Coloradas, families rent out their latrines for tourists to use for a small fee (around 25 cents). The facilities I encountered weren’t accessible, as they had a couple of steps to get inside them and the space was small.
Your best bet for finding a relatively accessible restroom is likely in Río Lagartos, as there are many accessible restaurants geared towards tourists.
However, the restaurant I visited didn’t have an accessible bathroom, and because I took a tour, I didn’t have the chance to explore the town for other options.
Note: If you end up visiting Las Coloradas or Río Lagartos and find an accessible restroom, please let us know in the comments section. Thank you!
Visiting Las Coloradas as a Wheelchair User
Las Coloradas and Río Lagartos are close to each other, which is why many people choose to visit both on the same trip. However, of these two destinations, Las Coloradas offers far better accessibility.
I know it’s a lot to ask in the tropics, but if your schedule is flexible, aim to visit the pink lakes on a dry day. Not only will this keep your wheels cleaner as you cruise down the dirt path, but you’ll also get to enjoy seeing a brighter shade of pink if the sun is out.
Once you arrive at the entrance and pay the fee, there’s ample space for you to pass through the ticketing area.
From there, a wide, flat path will greet you with the pink lakes on one side and the green ocean on the other.
It’s quite the sight!
The exact part of Las Coloradas you visit can vary, as they rotate where they mine salt (and thus, whether there’s water in the mini lakes) and several different families operate tours from their properties.
All the photos you see here are from the far side of the pink lakes. Unlike so many photos you see online of Las Coloradas, I didn’t alter the photos in any way. So, you can get a good feel for what color to expect from your visit.
The good news is that I visited on a cloudy day, so if you visit when the sun is out the chances of you seeing even pinker water is high.
All tours at Las Coloradas are conducted with a mandatory Las Coloradas guide. Your guide will give you an informative speech on how the lakes form (Hint: They’re naturally occurring, and bacteria are involved).
You’ll also get time to roam around and take photos under the supervision of your guide.
No one is allowed too close to the edge of the water for conservation reasons because the shoreline has loose sand.
As a wheelchair user, you’ll need to gauge how compact the terrain is to know how close you can get to the pink lakes without worrying about your wheels sinking into the sand.
The wide, middle portion of the dirt path has tightly packed sand, so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck there. I noticed that there were also several sections fairly close to the water’s edge that were also packed down so you can get an even closer look.
You’ll likely spend around 30 minutes out on the lake path. Since there’s nothing anyone can do but admire the immediate scenery around them, I found this to be a good amount of time.
Visiting Río Lagartos as a Wheelchair User
The boats that tour Río Lagartos are located only about a 10-minute drive from Las Coloradas. While it’s certainly possible for an adventurous wheelchair user to take a Río Lagartos boat ride, it’s far from an accessible experience.
For starters, there’s a gently sloping dirt path that leads down to the river’s edge. From there, someone will need to carry you over a few wood logs that sit over shallow river water.
You’ll now be on a narrow dock beneath a low-lying old bridge. The boats seat seven people, so someone will need to carry you onto the boat and get you into one of these seats.
This is what the boat looks like:
Lifejackets are provided to all passengers.
With the hard part over, you’ll get to enjoy the next approximately 1.5 hours spotting crocodiles, flamingos, and countless other bird species.
They feed the crocodiles (I feel your pain, environmentalists), so there’s a good chance you’ll encounter at least one hanging around the boat dock.
Once you get into more open river closer to the ocean, you’ll enter territory too salty for the crocodiles to live and will start spotting pink colonies—flamingos!
The flamingos are protected, so the boats won’t get too close to them. Make sure to bring a camera with good zoom (something I didn’t do)! I was shocked by how many there were.
After you tour the flamingos and make a stop at a Mayan mud bath (they have mud on board so you can put some on your face or arms), you’ll get to enjoy a scenic boat ride down a narrower portion of the river that’s framed by mangroves.
Upon your arrival to Río Lagartos, getting out of the boat will look similar to getting in, except you’ll be on a more open dock and in a more developed area. Your driver will need to drive your chair into town so it’s there waiting for you when you arrive.
The area around the river in Río Lagartos town offers decent accessibility, with a small accessible boardwalk bordering the river.
There are also a number of restaurants across the road from the boardwalk that are accessible. After your eyes (and perhaps stomach) get their fill of Río Lagartos, you can head back to wherever you traveled from.
There are certainly places in Mexico with better wheelchair accessibility, but Las Coloradas in particular is a destination that is fairly accessible, with the exception of the restroom situation.
If you end up visiting Las Coloradas and/or Río Lagartos as a wheelchair user, it would mean so much to us if you return to this page after your trip to leave a comment about your experience. Your tips and advice will surely help future readers.
Wheeling Around the Yucatan?
If so, good news!
We’ve put together several other accessible blog posts on destinations around Mexico’s Caribbean peninsula. Check them out below:
Laura’s love for traveling started with a trip to Jamaica. Since then, she’s spent over five years living in Latin America and four years wandering the globe. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.