Stop the presses: there are pink lakes in Puerto Rico! You can find them in Cabo Rojo, on the southwest side of the island.
I recently saw pink lakes for the first time in Mexico and was amazed. Pink is a magical color as is, but sprinkled throughout a body water, which we automatically associate with the color blue, makes the world seem even more whimsical.
The phenomenon of pink water is caused by the salinity of salt flats. Pink waters are often found by beaches as the coloration is caused by the presence of a specific type of shrimp. Fun fact — it’s the same kind of shrimp flamingos eat.
If you want to see this phenomenon firsthand, you can easily do so on a day trip from the island’s biggest cities. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Where are the pink lakes?
The pink lakes are off PR-301 in Cabo Rojo. They are less than 2 1/2 hours from San Juan and close to major cities like Mayaguez, Ponce and Aquadilla. I stayed in Boqueron and it was only a half hour away with a bustling downtown area. I attached a map above for your reference.
Stick to the main highways as much as possible. This may require you going around the perimeter of the island versus through it, but it actually saves you time since the landscape is filled with dark, windy mountain roads throughout the middle of the island.
If you need a place to plug into the GPS, look for the Faro Los Morillos. It’s straight on PR-301 to get there so you’ll pass the pink lakes on the way, they’ll be to your right. There’s no official parking since it’s not a designated tourist attraction but a working salt flat.
If you start to pass designated parking areas, you’ve reached the trails for the lighthouse and went too far.
Best time to visit
You can see the pink lakes year-round, but you need to go on a sunny day to see the pink hue of the water at its most vibrant. This is not a good rainy day activity.
There’s no wildlife in the water, but it’s so salinated that I wouldn’t recommend swimming in it or even dipping your toes in. Aside from the fact that you’ll disturb the quality of the water, it’s a working salt flat so commercial salt will be harvested from the area and you don’t want to taint or disturb it, since that would likely prompt the salt company to start prohibiting access to the space.
As with all places you visit on the island, be respectful and leave it more clean than you found it if possible.
About the Salinas in Puerto Rico
Currently, there are minimal regulations in place. There are no guides or cost of admission to visit; it’s free to enter. It’s uncertain how long the salt flats will remain open to the public, so your best bet is to take advantage now and visit while you can. Aim to scroll the grounds while causing the least amount of damage as possible.
Not all of the salt flats in the area are pink. If you drive around the coastline you’ll see different shades and can choose where you want to stop along the way. The brightest point, however, is not far after a large green observation tower, and is usually marked by employees working the premises as well as a cluster of cars parked across the street.
Renting a car in Puerto Rico
The best way to access this destination, and to peruse the island at your leisure, is to rent a car. There is no public transportation outside the metro areas, and even then routes are limited.
I rented a car with Charlie Rental Car in Carolina, Puerto Rico. This is my second time renting with them; previously I’d booked a car at their Aquadilla location. Both times went smoothly. They require a small deposit but reimburse you once you return the car without issue.
There will be tolls along the way. I suggest you pay the flat fee to activate the easy pass toll service and pay for your charges afterwards, once they’re all accrued. Be careful with driving. The roads can be dangerous and narrow with other cars driving quickly, even when turning blind corners.
I was warned of carjackings when I arrived but had no issues. Be smart and hide any valuables. Always lock your car and try to park near others.