Rio Lagartos is a small fishing town located on the north coast of the Yucatan. What makes this little town worth exploring is the 60,000 hectares long mangroves declared biosphere reserve called Ria Lagartos.
The name Rio Lagartos that is Spanish for Alligator River comes from the Spanish conquistadors. As described by Bernal Díaz del Castillo in his book “The true history of the conquest of Nueva España”, in on e of the exploration trips the crew was looking for fresh water and decided to explore what they thought was a river. When they did, the first thing that called their attentions was the large number of alligators in that river.
Nevertheless, there are no actual rivers in the Yucatan! At least not above the ground, only water formations called rías, which are entries from the ocean to the coast that form canals. Abundant aquatic vegetation is often formed around the rías, which is what we call mangroves.
Therefore, the actual biosphere reserved is called Ría Lagartos; a mangrove-lined estuary that boasts the densest concentration of flamingos in Mexico. The biosphere also shelters 334 other species of resident and migratory birds, including snowy egrets, red egrets, tiger herons and snowy white ibis, as well as a small number of the once-numerous alligators that gave the town its name.
As you may expect, eco-tourism is an important sector of Rio Lagartos economy. The mangrove area surrounding Rio Lagartos attracts many local and foreign tourists. There also natural spring waters that has been developed into a place to swim and enjoy the natural beauty, so you can really unwind.
It is 230 km (142.91 miles) away from Merida and 165 km (102.5 miles) east to Progreso. You can also get to Rio Lagartos from Cancun, just head to the north! It would be ideal to have a car to get there, that way you won’t depend on buses schedules. Remember this is still as small town to there are limited services. Be aware, there are no cash machines in Rio Lagartos, so make sure you go armed with enough cash.
It is easy to find a guide to show you the mangroves. Most groups or cooperatives offer bird watching by boat and on land, flamingo tours, alligator night tours and sport/fly fishing. Guides are 100% local people and most of the tours are available in Spanish, English and Italian.
There are also some delicious seafood restaurants; you can try several dishes like ceviche, deep fried fish, cocktails, and various snacks. If you are not find of this type of food, there are some convenient stores too. Nothing fancy but they do the trick.
Hotels are also available in Rio Lagartos, most of them located on the town square. Most of them include free parking, free wi-fi, Cable TV, private bathrooms with showers, fans and air conditioning.
There is another town close by called San Felipe; it is just 9 km away from Rio Lagartos, there are other hotel options there too!
Rio Lagartos is a relaxing destination and it is famous among locals and visitors. It often gets ignored by travelers as it is not considered a major destination. However, you should not miss a beautiful place!