Rio Lagartos: much more than Just a fishing village

Filed under: Places to Visit - by Louise Hennessy

Rio Lagartos: Having read a brief description of Rio Lagartos in a travel guide, we had imagined this tiny, off-the-beaten-tourist-trail place as a sleepy, typical fishing village; your general nice-to-visit, pretty -to –look-at destination. And, that is just how it would appear…at first glance…

(BE WARNED – Rio Lagartos is a must see and must do!!!)

The first clue that there was something special about this village was the lovely atmosphere which awaited us on this lazy Sunday morning; the gentle lap-lapping of the water against an assortment of fishing boats which were bobbing about at the shore line. This is actually where you can find a suitable host to take you on a river trip (the main attraction here) either privately, or collectively, if there are others looking to go out. We opted for the second choice, the capacity being for 8 people in our particular vessel (and meaning we could save a few more of our pesos!) It really depends on the season and day of the week you visit, as to how many other visitors there are on the look-out for trips, though.


The boat itself was a basic motor boat with a simple roof to keep the sun off our heads, and we were blessed with our cheerful captain and his mate, who were keen to show us as much as they could and give us the best experience possible. On one occasion he steered us as close as possible to an eagle (without scaring it off), perched on the mangrove. It took us all a while to focus in on it,  to be honest we weren’t sure what we looking at right away, almost convincing ourselves that a floating branch was a “lagarto” (crocodile)!

Moving (not so swiftly) onwards we got to enjoy the view of a great deal of other wildlife as we rounded various bends in the river, and at one point came across the bizarre sight of a boatful of people looking extremely pale, sallow and zombie-like as they chugged back down towards where we had come from, waving merrily at our quizzical expressions; this encounter made sense later on in the tour…

At a wider part of the river, after a lot of waving and pointing by our captain, we began to make out dots of pink appearing to our right in the distance, and as we got closer we were pleasantly greeted by a flamboyance of lovely flamingos, strutting and gliding above the water, and offering hundreds of photo opportunities (in our case, the kind where you think you’ve got the perfect shot of a flamingo taking flight, but ends up being a shot of him flapping his wings shut at the moment it flashed). It was wonderful to hang around so near these pretty birds, so much so that we were quite sorry to say goodbye to them when we finally carried on along the river.

rio lagartos

Next stop was at the shore of what we want to call a “beach”, soft-ish at first but leading to a dry cracked area, like a salt flat. A few of us followed the captain’s mate along to where he invited us to take a dip in a huge area  of water which turned out to have an extremely high salt concentration, regardless of the Do Not Enter – Danger sign which stood before it. A few of us were tempted, and determined not to be put off by nerves, especially as our guide reassured us that it was fine to take a short dip, just as long as we didn’t get it near our eyes. We waded into the shallow pool, which was very warm and somewhat comforting, and floated, on our backs; it was a weird sensation, and probably the closest thing to bathing in the Dead Sea, the description which comes to mind is that the water felt ‘thick’. We wouldn’t recommend staying in for very long though; just long enough to enjoy the rich salty properties of it upon your skin.

Back down on the ´beach´, our Cappy’s right-hand man made a deep hole in the sand and proceeded to extract thick, wet, beige clay from within, and signalled for us to start rubbing it all over our skin which, of course, we jumped at the chance to do! One  of the girls in our group plastered everywhere except her eyes, looking like some sort of reptile, which produced endless laughter, particular from herself! And back it was to the boat to let the clay set and frighten the people on the next passing boat with our appearance, all the way back upriver, past the point of departure and onto an area of pristine turquoise water, to take a rinsing dip and put the finishing touches to our natural spa treatment. We were a bit dubious as to whether there were any lagartos about, but our captain seemed fairly content to let us de-clay in the shallow water beside the boat.


With a hearty thank you to our crew (and a well deserved tip) we disembarked where we had set off, and headed off in search of lunch. If you like fish, you are in for a treat, Río Lagartos has simple but tasty options galore; our choice being a local eatery with mouth-watering fried fish and freshly squeezed lemonade. The town itself is simple and very quiet, the perfect place to disconnect and get away from the tourist trail. Although we only visited for the day, we would have loved to stay for the night and get the feel of the lazy town at sunset, and we would recommend it to anyone…

Our helpful tip for visiting Rio Lagartos: take water shoes if you have them, the walk across the salt-plain beach can be a bit uncomfortable.

Our essential tip: Don’t go in your best bikini! The clay caused ours to fade a bit, as we let it dry on our skin for a while.

Our extra tip: Take a plastic bag if you can! Fill it with more clay to take back to your hotel and apply another mask later on!

Ask our concierge if you wish to book a tour to the amazing trip to Rio Lagartos!

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