This national park, which encompasses a long estuary, was developed with ecotourism in mind—although most of the alligators for which it and the village were named have long since been hunted into extinction. The real spectacle these days is the birds. More than 380 species nest and feed in the area, including flocks of flamingos, snowy and red egrets, white ibis, great white herons, cormorants, pelicans, and peregrine falcons. Fishing is good, too, and the protected leatherback, hawksbill, and green turtles lay their eggs on the beach at night.
Booking an excursion through Restaurante Ría Maya is the easiest way to visit the 149,000-acre park. Call ahead to reserve an English-speaking guide with their tour company, Río Lagartos Adventures (986/862–0452, www.riolagartosadventures.com). Boat trips will take you through mangrove forests to flamingo feeding grounds (where, as an added bonus, you can paint your body with supposedly therapeutic white clay). A 2½-hour
tour, accommodating five or six people, costs M$1065; a 3½-hour bird-watching tour is M$1275 (both per boat, not per person). Shorter sunset trips and four-hour photography safaris are offered for M$710 and $1700 respectively. The night tour in search of crocs takes 2½ hours (one to four passengers, M$1275). Boats can also be hired to transport you to an area beach and pick you up at a designated time (1–10 passengers, M$285). Mosquitoes are known to gather at dusk in unpleasantly large swarms in May, June, and July. Bring repellent to fend them off.