Best places to see crocodiles in Mexico

crocodiles in Mexico

You can easily observe crocodiles in Mexico throughout the year in the Yucatán Peninsula. Crocodiles are mainly found in mangroves or near them.

This dinosaur-like animal can be found in mangroves, swamps, lagoons, and can even be spotted in cenotes and in the sea!

The crocodile is a carnivore that mainly feeds on fish, birds, and mammals.

In this article, I will present to you the main places where you can observe crocodiles in complete freedom in Mexico.

1. Sian Ka’an

One of Mexico’s most beautiful reserves is undoubtedly Sian Ka’an. The Mayans called it “where the sky begins.”

Imagine: endless turquoise waters, incredible fauna and flora. Numerous marine and terrestrial species can be found there.

You can obviously spot crocodiles, but also turtles, dolphins, and even manatees.

crocodile in Sian Ka'an

On the bird side, you’ll find the roseate spoonbill, an emblematic species of the region, and a strange black bird with a red throat.

When it comes to a natural reserve with animals in their natural habitat, there’s no guarantee of seeing all the animals mentioned above.

But don’t worry, it’s very, very rare to end a tour to the Sian Ka’an biosphere without having seen any animals.

Sian Ka’an Boat Tour

Discover the wild beauty of Sian Ka’an by boat! Sail through turquoise lagoons, spot dolphins and turtles, and explore the mysteries of this preserved natural reserve. An unforgettable adventure in Mexico!

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crocodile in Sian Ka'an

What species of crocodiles can be seen in Sian Ka’an?

Two species of crocodiles can be observed in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve are the Morelet’s crocodile (Moreleti) and the American crocodile.

These two species play an essential role in the region’s ecosystem, contributing to its biodiversity and balance.

📍 The ideal place to observe crocodiles in Sian Ka’an is the Boca Paila bridge. This location is about an hour’s drive after entering the nature reserve south of Tulum.

crocodile in Sian Ka'an

🤔 What is the likelihood of seeing them?

Sian Ka’an is undoubtedly a natural reserve that offers spectacular wildlife.

Dolphins and turtles are the two emblematic animals of the reserve that can be observed on every boat trip.

As for crocodiles, although they are undoubtedly present in the reserve, it is not always possible to observe them as they often hide in the mangroves.

Crocodiles can be seen in Sian Ka’an in about 60% of visits.

2. Rio Lagartos

This reserve has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it brings together numerous animal species (nearly 400 species of birds!) that coexist within the reserve.

Boat tours (in small speedboats called “lanchas”) are conducted in the lagoon, searching for crocodiles and birds.

At the end of the tour, you can even observe pink flamingos!

A Mayan white clay bath is also available for those who wish to indulge.

I particularly recommend this place for observing crocodiles in the mangroves.

crocodile in Rio Lagartos

Rio Lagartos means “river of alligators” in Spanish. In reality, there are no alligators but crocodiles.

The Yucatan Peninsula, located in Mexico, is home to two main species of crocodiles: the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and the Morelet’s crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii).

  • The American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus): It is one of the largest species of crocodiles and is found in many places in the Americas, ranging from Florida and Mexico to northern South America. These crocodiles prefer saltwater and brackish waters, although they can also live in freshwater. They are easily recognizable by their long, narrow snout.
  • The Morelet’s Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii): It is also known as the Mexican crocodile. They are generally smaller than American crocodiles and have a broader, shorter snout. These crocodiles prefer freshwater swamps and lakes and are mainly found in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala.

In the mangroves of Rio Lagartos, we observe both of these species.

I recommend taking a two-hour boat tour, which is the classic tour offered by fishermen at the Rio Lagartos port.

  • 📍 I recommend the Ria Maya cooperative in Rio Lagartos.
  • 💰 The 3-hour tour to see pink flamingos, birds, and crocodiles costs 3400 MXN for the boat (up to 6 people).
crocodiles in Mexico

After your tour in Rio Lagartos, we recommend visiting the pink lake of Las Coloradas located 20 minutes away.

This lake is unique for its pink color, a beautiful place for stunning photos. This is due to a bacteria present in the lake.

Las Coloradas

How to get to Rio Lagartos?

Renting a car in Cancun is the easiest way to go to Rio Lagartos.

Here are the travel times from the main cities in the region:

  • Cancun: 3 hours
  • Playa del Carmen: 2 hours and 50 minutes
  • Valladolid: 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • Merida: 2 hours and 40 minutes

The best time to visit Rio Lagartos?

Crocodiles are present year-round. However, if you also want to see the pink flamingos during your visit, it’s best to choose the period from April to May. During this time, thousands of flamingos gather there.

Please note, there are no ATMs in Rio Lagartos or Las Coloradas, so remember to bring cash before you come.

crocodile in Yucatan

3. The Nichupte Lagoon in Cancun

Near the resorts of Cancun lies the Nichupte Lagoon. You’ll likely see signs saying “Beware of Crocodiles” along the way.

In reality, they rarely venture out of the lagoon, but you might catch sight of them sunbathing peacefully on the shore.

Taking a boat tour of the lagoon to see the crocodiles is a fairly popular activity, especially enjoyed by children.

Of course, it’s safe as long as nobody goes swimming in the water.

crocodile in Cancun

4. Celestun Biosphere Reserve

The Celestun Biosphere Reserve is a protected area located in the Yucatan, near Merida.

It is primarily known for its population of pink flamingos, but it also hosts a wide variety of other wildlife species, including crocodiles.

As in the entire Yucatan Peninsula, it is possible to observe two species of crocodiles in Celestun: the Morelet’s crocodile (Moreleti) and the American crocodile.

Celestun is a perfect stop during a Yucatan road trip to observe crocodiles and flamingos.

crocodile in Celestun

5. Manati Cenote and Panchito the Crocodile

Manati Cenote is unique in Mexico and even in the world! This particular cenote is home to a local superstar: Panchito the crocodile.

Accustomed to tourists, he has been living in this cenote for years without ever attacking anyone.

Manati Cenote is an open cenote where you can see many fish, so remember to bring your mask and snorkel. It is located near Tulum.

📍 This cenote, also known as “Casa Cenote,” is located 20 minutes from Tulum and 50 minutes from Playa Del Carmen.

crocodile in Cenote Manati

Crocodiles and Safety

Crocodiles very rarely attack humans.

Their diet consists mainly of fish, insects, turtles, and other small animals.

They are more afraid of humans and may attack if we encroach on their territory or if they feel threatened.

There is no danger of attack during a boat tour in Rio Lagartos or Sian Ka’an, for example.

crocodile in Yucatan

Other animals in the Yucatán

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