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Visiting the Laguna Bacalar Mexico – the complete travel guide for 2022

In this guide to the Laguna Bacalar Mexico I am sharing practical tips and useful information on things to do in Bacalar, where to stay, and everything you need to know to have the best vacation ever in this magic town.

The Bacalar lagoon, or Laguna Bacalar (or lake Bacalar), is a spectacular lake on the Mexican Caribbean coast. Bacalar is located between Sian Kaan and Chetumal in the Quintana Roo state of Mexico.

It’s locally known as the Laguna de Bacalar or also “Laguna de siete colores” for the multiple shades of blues that you can see in a sunny day. And that is what made it so popular.

Bacalar is also the name of the homonymous village on the lagoon shore where many tourists flocks all year round to enjoy these amazing views and the laidback vibes.

Bacalar town has been growing so much across time, as every touristy place in the state of Quintana Roo, but it still conserves its village vibes.

Laguna Bacalar Mexico is situated at about 3.5 hour drive from Tulum (5 hours by BUS) and I will tell you more how to get to Bacalar from Tulum in a bit.

A few days in Bacalar Mexico could be enough to appreciate its beauty and feel the magic, but you might be tempted to stay longer and enjoy the great atmosphere and the tranquillity, relax at the soothing view of the 7 shades of blue on the water and try all the lovely places to hang out, and why not, have some adventurous activities.

Bacalar nightlife might seem too quiet for the party lovers, so you guys, be aware of that; there is a very young crowd of travelers who love to just hang out in the few bars or cantine with live music, mingle, dance, and chill.

During the day there are quite a few activities that you can do and enjoy, or you can just relax on your charming eco-lodge right on the lagoon. In fact there are many pretty hotels in Bacalar that are right on the lagoon and offer the best experience ever.

If you are traveling to Bacalar alone, as a female, like I did and always do, it is super easy and safe. If you wish to stay on your own you can move around safely and find secrets and tranquil spots and if you like to mingle and meet new people there are many opportunities to do so on tours or in the many restaurants and bars.

The lovely resort town is popular for the huge lagoon of 7 shades of blue or maybe more. The name Bacalar comes from the Mayan Syancaan Bacalal, (syan = birth) Bacalal = place of reeds.

Despite the indisputable beauty of the soothing huge mirror of crystalline water, this destination has been developing as a touristy place only in the past 3 years.

I remember when I went there 4 years ago there were 2 great resorts, which are now still the iconic hotels of the area, and a couple of restaurants where to eat.

During my second visit 4 years later I was pleasantly surprised by how much it has developed and how huge and various is the offer in terms of accommodations and restaurants.

Even happier to see that the development happened in total respect for the environment and more hotels are trying hard to have eco-friendly installations and promote a similar lifestyle.

Fast forward 2 years, after some thoughtful readers gave me the heads up on water contamination, I did some investigation with my local contacts who confirmed that unfortunately, this is a huge problem and there have been a few cases of skin diseases. The good news is that the local hotel owners are joining forces to put a stop to this situation and working to save their beautiful lake.  I will certainly keep you posted. 

blue lagoon with houses and tropical vegetation on the coast
Bacalar Lagoon

Do I need travel insurance? Yes, you do! Whatever it is the way you love to travel, either by car, tour, or bus, always make sure you get travel insurance. I can never stress enough what a lifesaver it can be in unexpected situations. Although I hope I never need it, it gives me peace of mind to know that whatever happens I am covered. I recommend either World Nomads or Safety Wing, depending on your needs. Make sure you read carefully what’s included before making the purchase.

Things to do in Bacalar Mexico

1. Go on a boat tour on Bacalar Lagoon Mexico

Sailing in the lagoon is without a doubt one of the most amazing and therefore popular experiences you could do.

It’s definitely the best way to appreciate the beauty of the 7 shades of blue of this huge mirror of water and you have thousands of ways to do that.

First and foremost, you can do it either by sailing boat/hobby cats or by motorboat.

The second one is cheaper, around 250 pesos, while the sailing boat is from 500 to 600 according to the company.

Needless to say that if you sail, it will take around 4 hours and you will be able to appreciate more the tranquillity of the lagoon with more stops and a more relaxed cruise, without the noise of the motor.

By motorboat, you will still do almost the same itinerary but with only one or two stops for a swim.

2. Enjoy Bacalar Lagoon from the shore

Blue lake with a hut in the middle and a small dock
The blue lagoon of Bacalar

If for some reason you are not a fan of boats or you just don’t want to take the tour there are a few other options to appreciate the amazing mirror of water.

You can drive along the coast and enjoy the water from the different piers either from other hotels (some of them would let you in if you have lunch there) or from the so-called “Balnearios” which is the equivalent of a beach club but on the lake and without beach 

Blue lagoon with palm trees in the front
Photo from Shutterstock

3. Watch the sunrise from your hotel

Trust me, it’s totally worth an early wake-up call.

wooden platform on a lake, sunrise in the horizon

4. Book a catamaran tour

Among all the Bacalar tours sailing on a catamaran is the most eco-friendly and the best way to learn about the local ecosystem as you will be 3 hours sailing around the lagoon to the most interesting sites with a local guide. A great way to enjoy the lagoon.

5. Enjoy the sunrise while kayaking or paddleboarding on the lagoon

This amazing tour will take you around the lagoon during sunrise, an unmissable experience. The tour will be led by an experienced guide and will last about 3 hours visiting the Pirates Channel and Black Cenote.

6. Explore the Bacalar lagoon in a kayak

You can rent a kayak and explore the lagoon on your own. The guides will be happy to give you directions on the best spots and itineraries so that you can enjoy kayaking on your own.

Check out other amazing Bacalar tours

7. Visit Cenote Azul Bacalar

Blue lake with a platform and palm trees around
Cenote Azul Bacalar

Bacalar Cenote Azul, not to be confused with the Cenote Azul on the Riviera Maya, it’s one of the places in Bacalar that you should not miss.

Situated right at the end of the “Avenida Costera” the main road that runs along the coast of the lagoon, right before it merges with the “Carretera federal”, you will get to the entrance of this huge open Cenote.

It looks like a lake, surrounded by thick vegetation. Differently, from the other cenotes, the water is very dark due to its dept.

A cord stretches from one side to the other which allows you to have a safe swim to the other side of the “big pond”.

The entrance is only 25 MXN There is also a restaurant and a snack bar if you wish, but it is not mandatory to purchase anything. Just enjoy your swim!

8. Visit the spectacular and less spoken archeological sites in the surroundings

The area is also surrounded by impressive archaeological sites, which I love dearly, even though I have never paid too much attention to history.

Something that I am about to fix soon – I still love to just go there and walk around the ancient Mayan ruins and climb up the towering ancient building (when possible).

It is always a joy for me and has something magic in it, all the time, especially if I find myself alone.

ancient Mayan temple in a tropical garden

Chacchoben is located at only 30 minutes drive from Bacalar in the direction of Tulum it’s a great site although very little known.

They are now working on another one close to it and hopefully will be open soon as well.

Oxtanka It is closed to Chetumal but I missed it by distraction and I am not sure how worth it is the drive. I am just including it for the sake of information.

Dzibanche and Kinichna and Kohunlich are situated at around 80 km from Bacalar. You can definitely do it in one day.

It’s a beautiful drive 30 minutes off the main road direction of Campeche.

The road is signed you cannot get lost and both sites are totally worth the trip, if you like this kind of stuff.

Although you could do it in one day I always suggest spending a couple of nights out and visit also the area of Calakmul, which counts a tremendous number of natural and historical resources. I will write more soon about this.

Turquoise lake with rocky formation in the bottom
Bacalar lake with Estromatolitos

9. The archaeological site of Dzibanche’

If you want to do it in one day, though, you can either rent a car or ask your hotel if they can organize a tour for you.

They might have some deals. I know that at the hostel Green monkey they have a full day trip to Calakmul.

I wouldn’t do that because in the area there is so much to see that it deserves a special trip or at least 2 or 3 days, but if you are tight with the time you could check with them.

10. Visit the old fort

This is the construction situated in the middle of the town, by the plaza, represents a very important historical point since it’s the tower from where the old population used to catch sight of the Pirates coming through the canal connecting the lagoon with the open sea and that has now been named after them.

The fort, besides offering a lovely view of the bay, is now home to a small museum with interesting information on the history of Bacalar and in general the Mayan history and an infographic of the ancient communication routes.

I found it a very exhaustive and comprehensive summary of the mysterious ancient population.

historical map of the Caribbean

11. Spend a day in Mahahuhal and Xcalak

 Mahahual is an old fisherman town located on the sea right south of the biosphere of Sian Kaan and, on the map, at the same latitude as Bacalar.

If you have a car, in 1h and 30′ you will get there, in even less. It has now turned into a tourist place and a cruise destination.

I personally don’t like it, I have to be honest, for the following reasons: it’s too windy, all the time all day and night, it’s shabby and not particularly nice. the beach is short and the beach chairs are one close to the other like you are 2 cm from your neighbor.

The water is beautiful but considering the downside, you can find amazing water in better and nicer places.

Deserted beach and a boat

Having said that,  I would suggest going if you are a passionate diver. In this case, you will find paradise. I couldn’t dive there because during my stay the sea was rough and the boats were not allowed to go out, but I spoke with a dive center that really sounded reliable and I would have definitely gone diving with them.

But, as I said, I didn’t, so please take it as a personal first impression only.

They are called Mahahual dive center and are located on the “Malecon” the main road right on the beach. Otherwise, the place is full of dive centers of your choice.

The town offers a good variety of places where to stay, from cheap hostels to the lovely boutique hotel, such as:

► Hotel Quinto Sole

► 40 Cañones

► Hotel Luna de Plata

► Aqua Star Hotel, and Apartments by Koox

I am listing the hotels that I have checked in Mahahual facing the beach since they provide the best experience in Mahahual.

Xcalak is another piece of paradise for divers, but if you just want to enjoy the beach, just change the destination.

All the coast is full of smelly seagrass which is great to protect the coral, there is no doubt, but not pleasant for us who love to enjoy the beach.

There are lovely hotels along the coast which provide boat excursions to snorkel. Also here we have visited a dive center that seemed very reliable and would take you on snorkeling and diving trips of all kinds.

It’s called XTC dive center and they also have a couple of apartments to rent. That would be the only reason I would go there.

I didn’t have the time to check out Xcalak hotels, therefore, I cannot be helpful on that one.

Bacalar Beaches

I thought I should spend a few words on Bacalar Beaches as there are no real beaches per se in Bacalar. You have access to the water mainly from wooden platforms that have been built to facilitate swimmers.

Places like Cocalito instead have grass where you can lay down and from there you can easily step into the water.

I will explain more in detail here below.

12. Spend a day at Balneario Cocalito

It is the most popular beach club in Bacalar Lagoon, for different reasons, it is a sort of sanctuary for the famous Estromatolitos beautiful mineral formations mushroom-shaped (that’s my view) formed in the water by the shore.

The local is very strict and look after their preservations. At this particular point, you can lay and sunbathe on the mown and get in the water by a man-made entrance and walk through that form into the natural swimming pool of amazing shades of blue.

Here is where you can also find the famous Bacalar swings where you can have fun playing while enjoying the spectacular soothing view. The cost of the entrance is 25 pesos (1.25 USD approximately).

Girl on a swing in a blue lake
Balneario Cocalito Swing – Bacalar Pueblo Magico

13. Balneario Municipal

This is the Bacalar Public beach although it’s not properly a beach. It’s very close to the town center, on the waterside, of course.

It’s a huge green space with a patio and a long pier, where you can lay down by the water and swim from there.

There is no entrance fee but if you park the car they charge you 15 pesos (about 0.75 USD)

boardwalk  and platform on a lake
Balneario Municipal – Bacalar Pueblo Magico

14. Explore Balneario Sac ha

This is a mystery, still. This deserted Balneario is located just after the hotel Akalki, right outside Bacalar going towards Chetumal. I went there on a random weekly day and it was totally deserted, I guess abandoned.

The water was beautiful though and the mown were to lay down lovely, with easy access to the water. I guess it’s a good option if you wish to stay isolated.

transparent lake lined with palm trees - rocks on the bottom

12. Balneario Magico

It’s the first one that has been created in Bacalar, therefore the oldest and the most popular. There is where the big groups are taken. I would avoid it if you don’t like big crowds.

13. Los Rapidos Bacalar Mexico

Emerald green river lined by plants
Los Rapidos

Going to this place was one of my favorite things to do in Bacalar.

Located at 7 km from town, towards Chetumal, it’s a bit difficult to see as the writing on the road sign is very artistically designed, but if you see a colorful sign after one of the Akalki hotels, that’s it.

You can either play smart and cross the road going for a couple of mt in the opposite directions or continue driving until the next U-turn ( that‘s how I found out about Balneario Sac – ha – see above).

When you get there you will find a restaurant where they will explain to you how it works. You pay 50mxn for the entrance and you need to have your meal there, which you would anyway,  as you will want to stay all day.

They have kayaks and life jackets for rent and beach chairs for your free use. Once you pass the restaurant, you will get to the garden and there you will be in front of the beautiful transparent water river where you will realize that the actual “rapidos”  is nothing like the name suggests.

It is really fun though. The water runs quite fast from south to north and all along the shore.

They have fixed two cords where you can hang on and resist the water flow, or what we loved to do, like all the kids we met, go upstream and let the water take us down and then walk back up.

It’s not deep and most of the time, you will be able to stand on your feet. The current is stronger in the middle of the river.

If you go on the “palapa” on the right and climb down the stairs on the other side you will have an amazing view and you can start your descent even further, so your ride will be longer.

Sunrise on a lake clouds in the sky
Sunrise in Bacalar

We had so much fun, just like kids. A full day in nature.

The restaurant is very simple but ok and the staff very nice and friendly.

A short story for you. We were told also that we could have kept floating till the next restaurant at about 1.2 km distance and then come back by walking from the jungle side (another km).

We have tried it but we were not sure to be on the right path since there was no more current and we decided to turn around and go back walking upstream.

Only afterward did we realize that the current is only in the first 300 mt, then you will have to actually swim.

If you like that you might want to try it. We didn’t get to the end, though, so I couldn’t tell you the whole experience.

I suggest you should ask very well at the restaurants so you make sure not to get lost in the lagoon. 

Another tip, if you don’t like big crowds, you should avoid going on a weekend or a holiday as it gets quite busy.

Where to eat in Bacalar

My favorite restaurant in Bacalar is La Playta Bacalar. I loved the setting, right on the lagoon, the ambient, and decoration, and the food is delicious with vegan and vegetarian choices.

But I am going to write more option as I am going back to Bacalar and try out new places.

tropical garden

Where to stay in Bacalar: top hotels and homes

Find your perfect home on Airbnb: click on the price on the map below or on the Show More button.

If you are deciding where to stay in Bacalar, here below I have selected my top 5 hotels in Bacalar.

Rancho Encantado – Bacalar (Most popular luxury hotel in Bacalar)

Blue lake with a long wooden platform and tree branches

Rancho Encantado is one of the first eco-hotel in Bacalar, and one of the most popular. The cozy luxury cabañas are spread around a lush garden, and a restaurant is located by a long and comfortable pier from where you can safely jump in the fresh blue water.

Check rates & availability:   Booking.com 

Casa Lamat (Most unique luxury hotel in Bacalar)

Blue lake surrounded by tree a platform with hammocks in the missle
Blue lake

Just before arriving at Bacalar from Tulum, you can find this Eco-chic cabañas on the left by the water. I really loved the rustic concept of the wooden cabañas.

It is very simple and inspires an authentic feeling of connection with the surrounding nature. The hammocks on the pier are so inviting! A real relaxing option.

Check rates & availability:   Booking.com 

Casa Caracol (Best value for money hotel in Bacalar)

turquoise water lake with trees on the side and a red umbrella with 4 sunbeds on a rocky platform

This is one of my favorite among the little boutique hotels.

Situated in a peaceful area on the lagoon almost by the end of the coastal road, the rooms are spacious with minimal but fancy decorations, almost all in wooden.

The ones on the first floor can have a peak to the lagoon. You have access to the water through a beautiful garden and you can lay down on fancy beach chairs on a patio right on the transparent blue water. I find it one of the best properties in terms of quality/price.

Check rates & availability:   Booking.com 

Casa Corazòn (cutest hotel in Bacalar)

lagoon with plants floating in the water and a platform with a roof and hammocks
Bacalar Lagoon

This is a cute little property of 8 rooms. All are facing the lagoon although not all of them have a view. The bedrooms are minimal but cute and the pier on the lake is long and spacious with lots of hammocks where you can hang out and relax at the soothing view of the water.

Check rates & availability:   Booking.com  

Hotel Laguna Bacalar (Best views in Bacalar)

Blue lake with a green bank
Bacalar Lagoon – hotel view

Hotel Laguna Bacalar is the oldest hotel in Bacalar and very popular for its stunning views from almost everywhere in the property, although I would choose room 6 from which you feel like you are suspended over the water.

From the outside, the hotel looks quite old and tired, and I was expecting the rooms to be the same.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to find very spacious rooms nicely decorated. What adds to the overall value are the huge window walls that allow you a full view of the 7 shades of the blue lagoon.

Check rates & availability:   Booking.com 

Is it Bacalar Lagoon Safe?

I am sure this is one of your concerns, before anything else and I can easily say that Bacalar is indeed a safe destination, actually, I dare say Bacalar is one of the safest destinations in Mexico.

So enjoy the laid-back vibes and the chill town, and all the beauty around it.

Be friendly but don’t be naif. Nasty people are still everywhere. Make sure you follow the common-sense rules that I talk about in my thorough guide on safety in Mexico.

How to get from Tulum to Bacalar Mexico

Getting to Bacalar is very easy whether you decide to rent a car or get on a Bus.

Renting a car, presuming you are coming from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum,  you cannot get lost. It’s all straight.  All roads take you to Bacalar Lagoon. Follow my practical guide on driving in Mexico if you have any concerns.

Consider that from Tulum to Bacalar Lagoon is a little more than 3 hours by a car while the bus from Tulum to Bacalar will take about 4 to 5 hours.

car rental

Find the best Car Rental deals

Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.

If you prefer to travel by bus, the ADO offers great service from anywhere including Merida, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Chetumal, Palenque, Veracruz, and other towns in between.

You can check this site for a timetable. It is advisable to purchase the ticket with anticipation if you cannot get it online since sometimes the site is traveling should get to the ticket office earlier the same day or the day before to assure your seats.

Please remember that traveling on the ADO can be a little freezing so remember to bring a sweater or a blanket to cover up.

To move around you can either get a taxi from the reception of your hotels or just grab one on the road. I have seen many of them.

Or you can also rent a bike for a few dollars a day and be independent unless you are in a resort far from town. I would not suggest riding a bike on the main road ( Carretera federal.)  

Check with your front desk where is the closest place to rent it.

Best time to visit Bacalar

The best time to visit Bacalar and the entire Yucatan Peninsula is definitely from December through March, because the weather is the best you can have, not so humid, but still with summer temperature.

However, being the best season, the hotel rates are more expensive and it can be crowded. Summers are very hot and it’s more likely to find rain although not necessarily.

To get the best of both worlds you might want to consider traveling in the shoulder season, November and early December, and May and June.

That’s when you will find fewer tourists, lower rates, and good weather. However, remember that in the tropics it can always rain.

The two weeks that you should avoid by all means are Easter and Christmas. Those are the most expensive and crowded.

However, if you don’t have much choice, make sure you book your hotel and car rental in advance.

Mexico Travel Planning Guide

Do I need travel insurance to travel to Mexico?

I would do it if I were you. You never know what can happen and knowing that no matter what, you will be covered with any expenses will give you peace of mind, and make your travel worry-free. You can check out World Nomads or SafetyWing which I have used alternatively depending on my needs of the moment.

Can I drink tap water in Mexico?

No, you can’t! Maybe in some areas or in some homes where they have installed water filters but to be on the safe side, I would say, never drink tap water in Mexico. Carry a water bottle with you and fill it up where you find available potable water sources. Most of the hotels have those.

Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

The short answer is: depending on where you are. Although in general if you stick to the main roads and don’t drive at night you should probably be safe. In lesser tourist areas you should probably check the local news to stay up to date. Driving in the Yucatan Peninsula is easy everywhere, even at night, although I would still avoid it. I usually use Discover Cars because the site offers the options to compare prices among different car rentals and you can add their own full coverage.

Read more on my guide on Renting a car in Mexico.

Will my phone work in Mexico?

It will probably work, especially if you have a European or US phone, but your roaming rates may be to the stars (check with your SIM provider). Even if have an affordable international rate, you will be much better off by buying a Mexican SIM Card. It’s cheap, easy to set up, and it will keep you connected with your friends, family, and, more important, google Maps so you will never get lost!

Is it safe to travel to Mexico right now?

The short answer is, yes it is. However, there are parts of Mexico that are indeed troubled and you should avoid for now, and others that are super safe and easy to travel around. Regardless of where you are you should always use some common sense rules such as, never flaunt expensive clothing, accessories, electronics, or money and keep a low profile. Read more on my detailed guide on safety in Mexico. If you are traveling to a specific destination I have got you covered as well:

Do I need any vaccine to travel to Mexico?

No, there is no vaccine requirement (of any kind) to travel to Mexico

Do I need a visa to travel to Mexico?

If you are coming from the US or Europe you don’t need a VISA to enter Mexico. Once you get in you need to fill out a form which you need to keep with you until you leave. If you don’t have it you will pay a fine. Although the tourist visa for US and European travelers used to be 6 months long which you could easily renew by leaving the country for a couple of days and going back, nowadays they have been stricter. You may be asked how you would sustain your living and other similar questions. Sometimes they even ask you to show your credit cards. It seems odd but they can do that. If you intend to stay longer than a usual couple of weeks’ vacation time, just be honest and explain your plans. If you are not from the US, check this site to see if you need a visa