Home Beaches Río Lagartos

Río Lagartos

by Brent May

Río Lagartos

If you are looking for a fun and adventurous day trip on the Yucatan coast, look no further than Rio Lagartos, a beautiful laid-back coastal town known for its stunning natural beauty and abundant wildlife. With its colorful streets, friendly locals, and unforgettable experiences, Rio Lagartos is the perfect destination to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.


Río Lagartos UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

The Rio Lagartos UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is a protected wetlands area covering over 150,000 acres or 60,347 ha. This tip of the Yucatan peninsula is where the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea converge.

The ecosystem of the lagoon is unique because it is a shallow, coastal lagoon system forming an estuary where fresh and salt water meet. It has several outlets like Chipepte, San Felipe and Río Lagartos. You’ll see red, white and black mangrove trees. It is one of the most important arrival and nesting grounds for the hawksbill turtle and the only one for the white turtle in Yucatan.

Río Lagartos

Rio Lagartos is a small town of about 4000 people at the end of a long road to the north. You go here on purpose and for this reason, while it is a tourist destination, it is off the beaten track. Villagers have traditionally lived off the fishing industry which is still very much alive even as today, tourism has also become an important activity.

While “Río Lagartos” actually means Alligator River, there are only crocodiles. You will also see it written “Ría” which is truer to its meaning of an estuary.

Río Lagartos


Getting There

First things first, let’s talk about getting to Rio Lagartos. The easiest way to reach the town is by car or you can take a bus to Rio Lagartos, which is about a two-hour and forty-minute drive from Merida. Rio Lagartos is 50 kilometers from Tizimin. The drive is well worth it – you’ll get to soak in the scenery along the way, including views of Yucatan villages and the Yucatan jungle. If you’re coming by bus from any direction, you’ll take a bus to Tizimin first. Then change for Rio Lagartos. You have the option of a local bus going north from 4:30 am to 8:00 pm or a colectivo.


Things to Do

Here are a few of our favorite activities:

  1. Go on a Wildlife Tour

One of the biggest draws of Rio Lagartos is its incredible wildlife. The town is home to thousands of flamingos, as well as a variety of other endemic bird species.  On a tour into the mangrove, you may see spider monkeys, jaguars, ocelots, jaguarundis, anteaters, crocodiles, and even sea turtles. To get up close and personal with these amazing creatures, we recommend going on a wildlife tour. You’ll hop aboard a small boat and cruise through the mangroves with a local guide. Many people come for the birdwatching with over 400 species of birds.

Río Lagartos

Depending on when you visit, you are more likely to see flamingos in spring, sea turtle nesting from April to October, migratory birds from January to February and crocodiles all year round.

Some tours offer the “baño maya,” a clay mud scrub rich in sulfur, algae, salt and other nutrients beneficial for the skin.  The clay is a natural exfoliant toning and softening the skin. Then you go to a nearby beach to wash it off.


  1. Visit the Pink Salt Flats

Another must-see attraction in Rio Lagartos is the pink salt flats or Las Coloradas. The salt flats are part of the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve. They get their vibrant color from the presence of a type of algae that thrives in the high-salinity water. The flats are stunning, and make for some seriously Instagram-worthy photos. You can take a guided tour of the salt flats, or rent a bike and explore on your own. Read our article here about Las Coloradas.

Río Lagartos


  1. Relax on the Beach

Of course, no trip to Rio Lagartos would be complete without some time spent lounging on the beach. The town’s beach is quiet and pristine, with crystal-clear waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and explore the coast from the water.


  1. Explore the Town

Finally, don’t forget to take some time to explore the town itself. Rio Lagartos is known for its colorful streets and friendly locals, and there are plenty of cute shops, restaurants, and cafes to check out. Be sure to try some of the local cuisine, including fresh seafood dishes and traditional Yucatan specialties like cochinita pibil. If you’re in town in the evening, you’ll find a nice variety of traditional street food.

Río Lagartos


Tips for a Great Trip

Here are a few final tips to help make your trip to Rio Lagartos unforgettable:

– Bring plenty of sunscreen and bug spray.

– Bring cash. You will not find ATMs or be able to pay by credit card.

– Make it a 2-day trip and stop in to Discover San Felipe.

You may also like

Leave a Comment