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Introducing Río Lagartos

On the windy northern shore of the peninsula, sleepy Río Lagartos (Alligator River) is a fishing village that also boasts the densest concentration of flamingos in Mexico, supposedly two or three flamingos per Mexican, if one believes the provided math. Lying within the Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Lagartos, this mangrove-lined estuary 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 crocodiles that gave the town its name. It’s a beautiful area. At the right time of year you can see numerous species of birds without even getting out of your vehicle.

The Maya knew the place as Holkobén and used it as a rest stop on their way to Las Coloradas, a shallow part of the vast estuary that stretches east almost to the border of Quintana Roo. There they extracted precious salt from the waters, a process that continues on a much vaster scale today. Spanish explorers mistook the narrowing of the ría (estuary) for a río (river) and the crocs for alligators, and the rest is history.

Less than 1km east of town, on the edge of the estuary, a natural ojo de agua dulce (natural spring) has been developed into a swimming hole. A sometimes-empty tourist kiosk sits at the end of Calle 10 by the waterfront.

Most residents aren’t sure of the town’s street names, and signs are few. The road into town is the north–south Calle 10, which ends at the waterfront malecón.

There’s no bank or ATM in town, so bring lots of cash.