In this thorough guide to 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.
I just went back to Bacalar for the third time and I am updating this guide including tours, new hotels, world-class eateries, and interesting facts that you should know before traveling to Bacalar.
I am pouring my heart and soul into this article, after checking out as many places as possible, taking tours, and trying different restaurants. It’s a hard job, I know, but somebody’s got to do it, right?
Anyway, without any further ado, let’s talk about Laguna Bacalar in Mexico and find out everything you should know to plan your trip here.
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 on a sunny day. And that is what made it so popular.
Let’s get right into the 22 amazing things to do in Bacalar but keep reading because after the list of things to do I will share more useful practical tips to make your trip memorable!
LAGUNA BACALAR MEXICO
22 Best Things to Do in the Laguna Bacalar Mexico
1. Go on a boat tour on Bacalar Lagoon Mexico
Book your sailing boat tour in advance to secure your space! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 376 reviews
“Nice, peaceful, and beautiful. The captains/guides were skillful at sailing, and showed us a nice tour of the Laguna starting from Casa Árabe on cenote Esmeralda.“
“Amazing experience! Absolutely perfect way to see the lagoon! Swimming was incredible as was bird life and the fruit was delicious!“
There are many different boat tours but all of them will take you to the same places and you get to swim twice:
🐊 The cenote negro (black cenote)
🦤 Isla de los pajaros
🦜 Pirate’s canal
The difference will be made by the crew and the kind of boat.
I prefer going on a sailing boat because they have usually a fewer number of participants due to the size of the boat and because there is no noise from the motor.
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 on this huge mirror of water and you have thousands of ways to do that.
You can either sail or go on the hobbycat which is even better because it’s only for a max of 2 people.
The second one is cheaper, around 250 pesos, while the sailing boat is from 500 to 600 according to the company.
I booked with Wild Waves and I had a blast.
The captain Leandro and the mariner Zazil were kind and very knowledgeable about the lagoon and shared great information, besides making us feel comfortable and at ease in the boat. It was a great experience overall and I can’t recommend them enough.
The maximum number of guests is 7 which was perfect. They also give you some fruits and a couple of drinks during the cruise.
2. Watch the sunrise from your hotel
Trust me, it’s totally worth an early wake-up call if you are staying in a hotel on the water. And if you are not, it’s worth booking one of them at least for a couple of nights. Sunrises on Bacalar are just spectacular.
Further below I am going to share my favorite hotels in Bacalar.
The first time I was in Bacalar I stayed in the Yak on the lake, a great upscale hostel, which I recommend. They also have private rooms if you don’t like dorms.
The sunrise from their pier is amazing, but from any pier, you will be able to appreciate amazing sunrises.
You can also join a paddle board at sunrise tour for an even more special experience.
3. 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.
Usually, the tour itinerary is the same as the sailing boat that I described below, you will navigate to the Pirate’s Canal, then you will move on to the Black cenote, and then to the Bird Island where you can swim in the shallow waters while observing different species of birds.
4. Enjoy the sunrise while kayaking or paddleboarding on the lagoon
Book your paddleboard at sunrise in advance to secure your space! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 79 reviews
I book this tour on Viator and I can’t recommend it enough.
It’s a small group of 10 -15 people max. We all met up with the guide at Maracuya park where the guide, Hector explained how the tour would take place, the itinerary, and some safety rules.
He would also give us some practical tips on how not to fall from the paddleboards and helped each one of us to get on them.
The first stop was in the Cenote Negro (black cenote), not very far, where we had a short break and were served a delicious coffee.
We then moved on to Isla de Los Pajaros where we got off the paddle board ( we could touch the bottom) and chit-chatted while swimming while Hector was preparing a light breakfast on a paddleboard.
Unfortunately, the sunrise wasn’t the usual pretty sunrise that you would find in Bacalar as the weather hasn’t been sunny in the previous few days, but we enjoyed the paddling and the warm waters, besides the great company and the delicious fresh fruit.
Also the guide Hector was super cool, kind, and very knowledgeable, besides keeping an eye on each of us and helping if we were staying behind.
The tour is for paddling and kayaking, you can choose the activity you want, but you need to let them know at the moment of booking. or at least a day before.
5. 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
6. Los Rapidos Bacalar Mexico
Going to Los Rapidos has become one of the most popular things to do in Bacalar but there are some controversial opinions about it.
Located at 7 km from the town of Bacalar, towards Chetumal, this has become one of the most popular places to visit.
The Balneario is built by a natural river lined by mangroves and the popular stromatolites, which are actually what make the place so special.
The main activity there is floating in the river so you will walk on a platform about 300 mt long and then jump in the water and let the current take you back to base.
You can also rent a kayak and have lunch in the restaurant.
The first time I visited in 2017 it was very cheap and the facilities were included.
Now, fast forward 5 years, they have become so popular that they raised the price and you pay for every extra, including lockers and kayaks, chairs and sun beds.
You can read my guide on Los Rapidos in Bacalar to learn more in detail, and also read about the controversy that has been raised and also why I would suggest choosing another spot, instead.
A tip for you, if you don’t like big crowds, you should avoid going on a weekend or a holiday as it gets quite busy.
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7. Visit Cenote Azul Bacalar
Bacalar Cenote Azul, not to be confused with the Cenote Azul on the Riviera Maya, it’s one of the best places to visit 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 depth.
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!
You can also rent lifejackets for 50 Mxn, it’s not mandatory but recommended, especially if you cannot swim well.
Also, you can rent a kayak for 150 MXN per hour, in which case the life jacket is included.
Keep in mind that there are no lockers, so probably a dry bag will help you keep your staff safe and dry while you are swimming.
Along the banks of the cenote, you will find places to sit below the fronds of the trees, where you can rest after a good swim and enjoy the spectacular views.
The cenote Azul is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm.
8. Visit the old fort San Felipe in Bacalar Mexico
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 of San Felipe, 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 ancient Mayan population.
To get to the Fortress of San Felipe there is a small fee to pay at the entrance (5USD)
9. Tour to Dzibanche and Kohunlich with Transportation and 3 Course Meal Included
The area is also surrounded by impressive archaeological sites, and if you love to learn about the Mayan history you should check them out.
If you don’t have your own car you are in luck because now some local travel agencies organize tours from there.
The sites of 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.
If you decide to join a tour, here is a great one that I didn’t do but has great reviews.
During this tour, you will get to know the archaeological sites of Dzibanché and Kohunlich and have the opportunity to spot species of birds and monkeys.
You will also enjoy a delicious 3-course meal at an exclusive location in the middle of the jungle!
Some guest reviews
“Beautiful ruins in a quiet environment (very few tourists come here). Not too long driving. The guide was very nice and interesting. Do note that as of Jan 2022, the scheduled restaurant no longer accepts guests outside of the hotel so we are going to another restaurant in Bacalar.“
“It was great but there was a third person that we did not know and they show up in a regular sized taxi cab, the driver and guide were very nice and the lunch was delicious but it was hard being squished into a cab for several hours, but overall I would do it again !!“
10. Visit the Mayan site of Zona Arqueologica de Dzibanche – Kinichna + Birdwatching
This tour will take you not only to learn about the two archeological sites of Dzibanche – Kinichna but also the guide will take you birdwatching with nature interpretation taking professional photography for you! you will see monkeys, tucans, orchids, and more…
“Victor the owner/operator was amazing. He loves the history and loves to share . He was super professional but very laid back. I would highly recommend this specific tour. It wasn’t too long which we really love about it. He took us to the most authentic eateries in Mexico.“
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11. Visit Chaccoben Archeological site
If you have a car you can check out 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.
12. The archaeological site of Calakmul
The archeological site of Calakmul is one of the largest and, in my opinion, the most exciting as it’s situated in the protected biosphere of Calakmul full of wildlife and exotic birds. If you love birdwatching make sure you book your tour with the local tourism office. They will hook you up with local guides.
Also Calakmul is surrounded by other amazing sites and local commmunities where you can learn about their life and works. In the tourist office located in Xpuhil, you can get all the information on how to visit. I spent an entire week in Xpuhil exploring the area and I had a blast.
You will need your own car to get there or get a bus to the town of Xpuhil and then use local taxi. You should plan a two-night stay, though for the best experience.
13. 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.
It’s quite a popular town for diving and snorkeling, especially. It’s also a cruise ship port.
You can either snorkel on your own from the shore or join a snorkeling tour.
If you decide to stay there, the town offers a good variety of places where to stay, from cheap hostels to the lovely boutique hotel, here are some suggestions
I am listing the hotels that I have checked in Mahahual facing the beach since they provide the best experience in Mahahual.
Further south at about 20 minutes drive, you will find Xcalak is another piece of paradise for divers, but if you just want to enjoy the beach, just change the destination.
XTC dive center offers great tours and they also have a couple of apartments to rent.
I didn’t have the time to check out Xcalak hotels, therefore, I cannot be helpful on that one.
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14. Take a day trip to Chetumal
Although the city of Chetumal is everything but pretty, you should take some time to pass by and visit the ancient Mayan ruins of Oxtankah, located only 30 minutes drive from the city.
The archeological site makes a great day trip from Bacalar and you can combine the visit with a relaxing stay in one of the beach clubs nearby.
I went to Villa Marcela. There you can purchase a day pass if you want to use the pool, or just have a meal and take a swim in the ocean. Or just chill and enjoy the views.
Just keep in mind that during the rainy season the site of Oxtankah is infested by famished mosquitos and the repellent is not even enough. I was there in my sweater with 80°F (30°C) and I run through the site to escape from them.
Besides that, it’s a pretty site to explore and immerse in a lush jungle.
To reach Oxtanka you will need to have your own vehicle, that’s why I suggest renting a car to go to Bacalar, to explore so many amazing places.
Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.
LAGUNA BACALAR MEXICO
Things to Do in the Laguna Bacalar Mexico: Bacalar Beaches (Balnearios)
In the previous section, I mentioned that spending one day in one of Bacalar Beaches (which are actually called “balnearios”) is one of the MUST DO in Bacalar, besides joining the amazing sailing tours on the water.
Since there are many balnearios I thought should dedicate an entire section to this topic.
In Bacalar, there are no beaches, actually. You have access to the water mainly from wooden platforms that have been built to facilitate access to the lagoon.
Many hotels have them and they also offer a day pass where you can use their facilities and piers to get to the waters.
But there are also private spaces where there is no hotel, just cabañas, beach chairs, and platforms, usually, they are also equipped with hammocks, and in many cases, they have a small restaurant with local dishes, which is low season is only open during the weekend.
Here below there is a list of the ones I have explored. These below offer a better substitute to the overcrowded and overpriced Los Rapidos, where even locals believe they are not doing anything to protect the delicate ecosystem of Bacalar Lagoon. And, if I may say that, they are also quite rude.
15. Balneario Cocalitos
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 conservation.
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 different 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).
16. 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)
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17. Explore Balneario Sac-ha
Located just after the hotel Akalki, right outside Bacalar going towards Chetumal, this is one of my favorite places to enjoy the blue water of Bacalar lagoon.
5 years ago when I saw it for the first time it was like an abandoned place. Now it’s been maintained and you can rent palapas, chairs, and kayaks.
The entrance fee is only 40 MXN while the palapa costs 150 MXN to 200 MXN depending on the size.
The kayak is 200 mxn per hour.
If you have your own hammock you can hang it anywhere you want.
This is one of the places where you can go if you don’t like big crowds. However you should avoid Saturdays, Sundays and any holiday, otherwise, it gets extremely crowded.
Here you can also find bathrooms but there is no bar or restaurant during the weekdays.
18. Balneario LoL-Ha
Although it’s not located properly on the Bacalar Lagoon, it is connected with it.
It’s basically an “ojo de agua” (eye of water), where the water comes in from the bottom and creates a river that feeds into the Bacalar Lagoon. The water is crystal clear but emerald green instead of the turquoise blue of the Laguna Bacalar.
In the beginning, it’s quite shallow and as it gets close to the Bacalar lagoon it becomes as deep as 5 mt.
You can swim all the way to the Bacalar Lagoon, as it’s only 300 mt. long or you can rent a kayak for 100 mxn per hour which includes the use of a life jacket.
If you want to use the life jacket just to swim it’s only 25 mxn.
As you can see from the drone photos Lol-ha is very close to Sac-ha you could swim there.
On weekends the restaurant is open but not during the week for the moment.
They have a large green space where you can hang out and enjoy the natural surrounding. This is a family-owned non-pretentious place and the staff is really nice and friendly.
- Entrance fee is 50 MXN per person
- Palapa 140 MXN
- Tables for picnic 70
- Kayak 100/hr
- Life Jacket 25 MXN
- Restrooms and showers are also available for the guests to use
19. Balneario Laguna Bonanza Bacalar Mexico
I found out about the Laguna Bonanza thanks to a tip from one of the guides on one of the tours I took. I always love to ask the locals where to go.
Laguna Bonanza is a lesser-known yet spectacular place if you want to enjoy swimming in the Bacalar Lagoon without a big crowd (as usual with the exception of the weekends when it’s busy everywhere)
If you are looking for fancy infrastructures you won’t find them there, but all you want is pristine waters of thousands of shades of blues surrounded by stromatolites and mangroves, this is the place for you. Just don’t touch the fragile rocks 🙂
If you see it from the drone (in the picture here below) the Laguna Bonanza it’s like a small rounded appendix to the Bacalar Lagoon, to which is connected.
You can rent cabañas and tables although let me warn you, they look kind of filthy and old. But you don’t really care about that when you have a spectacular lagoon to swim in.
Entrance fee 50 MXN (30 MXN for locals)
Cabaña and chair rentals (50 MXN)
20. Club Playa Kin Ha Colors
Another interesting place on the Laguna Bacalar is Club Playa Kin Ha Colors. You will find the road sign right before getting to Xul-ha.
This tiny place is not very big but it’s equipped with a small beach and platforms and they can also call a provider to bring you food.
They have kayaks for rent and boats for tours.
21. Rancho Alegre
Not far from Club Playa Kin Ha Colors you can find Rancho Alegre. The restaurant is not very appealing, but they have a beautiful green space by the water where you can hang out and access the Bacalar Lagoon.
22. Spend a couple of nights in the less popular Xul-ha
I learned about Hotel Secreto on Booking.com and I just felt like I needed to spend a couple of nights there, and, oh, well they ended up to be 4 nights. I had a blast!
First of all they had WIFI so I could work from my comfortable room when I got back from my explorations.
The hotel is right on the lagoon, at the very beginning, and you can use kayaks and paddleboards for free.
Although during the day it’s a bit noisy for being close to a public beach, the nights are tranquil and you can hear and see birds nesting from your balcony.
I was lucky enough to get the ocean view room with a private balcony because it was the only one left available.
The only issue is that there are no decent restaurants close by so I drove all the way to Bacalar for dinner and Chetumal.
While I was there I explored the archeological site of Oxtankab, since it’s closer, and of course, I took some great drone shots.
Xul-ha is also home to the largest cenote in Bacalar.
LAGUNA BACALAR MEXICO
Where to eat in Bacalar
In Bacalar, they have been adding more and more delicious restaurants, and even if I did my best it was difficult for me to try them all.
Here is a list of the ones I managed to experience but also I added some of the others that I had on my list but didn’t make it.
Restaurants in Bacalar for breakfast, lunch, or coffee
La Kinta cafe
If you have to work, this is the place for you. The only coffee shop in town with a decent (good I would say) WIFI where you can stay all day while drinking herb infusions or coffee, and eating waffles, crepes, or sandwiches.
There is nothing healthy here, except for the herbal teas, but that’s the price to pay for good WIFI, I guess. Or that was the excuse I give myself for eating a brownie 😝
La Playta Bacalar
Besides the delicious food, you will enjoy the beautiful setting lush garden between trees and right on the lagoon, where you can eat while enjoying a lovely view.
The culinary choice includes many delicious dishes for all sorts of fodies, including vegans and vegetarian options, but also meat and fish lovers.
You will love the platform on the water and the swings by the lagoons. We can say it’s a sort of beach clubs and if you buy food and drinks you can stay all day.
The WIFI is crap, just like in every restaurant and hotel in Bacalar.
Mango Y Chile
It’s a vegan restaurant by the fort with a spectacular view over the lake. You will enjoy, salad bowls hamburgers and fries, and delicious healthy beverages from their porch.
Also, their WIFI is not good, just FYI.
Con.siente Plant-Based food
Located on the premises of the LOLA La Bruja Hostel, this cute place offers great plant-based food options for breakfast and lunch, but remember to bring mosquito repellent with you because they bite.
Otherwise, the place is really cozy, the food is delicious, and the staff is super nice.
If you ask for the coconut water they serve it straight from a coconut, and if you ask, they will open the nut for you to eat the coconut meat, such a delish! It made my day.
The place is really cute, with a beautiful outdoor garden and an internal artsy space. Their menu space from bakery goodies to eggs and smoothies among other healthy items.
I was hoping their WIFI was good but not a chance! 🙁
Open from 8 am to 4 pm
El Manati Bacalar
Spectacular cozy place in a beautiful garden for a delicious breakfast or lunch. They also have an artisan market with lots of art and ethnic clothing for sale. They close at 3 pm.
Restaurants in Bacalar for Dinner
Nixtamal cocina a fuego y lena
Awesome restaurant in a lush garden (beware of the mosquitos). They offer an interesting menu based on grilled fish or meat, but also vegan options and Mexican dishes.
The service is great and the presentation of the dishes very cool.
They offer you a shot of kombucha at your arrival followed by backed black tortilla chips with delicious dips.
I would have definitely gone back there if I stayed longer.
Great Italian Mexican restaurant except, don’t get the tiramisu because it’s not the original one.
I had arachera (meat) with grilled vegetables and it was all delicious. (open for lunch and dinner)
Maracuya food truck
This food truck park is located right on the water on the coastal road and it offers delicious meal options.
The good part is that you can stay comfortably seated and choose your favorite dishes from the menu and you can pick whatever you want from different trucks, but a waiter will bring everything to your table.
There is even a vegan ice cream truck.
I haven’t been there for lack of time, but I went to check it out during the day and the place looks beautiful. Definitely to keep in mind if you like Mexican gourmet cuisine. They open for breakfast from 8 to 12 and then again from 3 to 11 pm. They also offer a day pass and yoga and other holistic discipline classes
This small restaurant located by the plaza is very popular for, you have guessed, their delicious tacos. I haven’t tried it because it was always busy when I wanted to eat, but this is another reason why it should be delicious, and very cheap.
LAGUNA BACALAR MEXICO
Where to stay in Bacalar: top hotels in Bacalar
I have stayed in different hotels in Bacalar but I have also checked out many others for the sake of curiosity and because I love to see beautiful hotels even if I don’t stay there.
Here is my top choice of hotels in Bacalar.
This is where I stayed for the first three nights in Bacalar and I loved it. I found the best value for money. The rooms are clean and furnished with modern and cute decor and they have a great terrace with a spectacular view of the lagoon.
The staff is super friendly and gives you personal attention( they speak English too). A delicious full breakfast is included in the rate and served on the patio downstairs.
They have WIFI but it was not working when I was there.
Hotel Tropic Bacalar
I wanted to spend my last two nights in Bacalar on the water, first because I wanted to try and catch some pictures of the sunset and sunrise, and second because I just wanted to wake up and see the water first thing.
But I didn’t want to spend a fortune. So my first choice was hotel Corazón which was only 50 USD for the night but eventually I could find out the reason why it’s so cheap. Don’t go there!
However, I remember this hotel from my previous visit and I decided to invest a little more and give myself a treat. So I went back and book.
Unfortunately, the room I wanted was already booked and the only one left was a small room with no window but the decor and amenities were so good that I accepted. Plus I got a discount for that.
I really love this property, very stylishly decorated with white brick walls and wooden works all around. The outdoor grounds are great, with a huge garden and hammocks and chairs scattered around for the guest to relax in front of the spectacular blue lagoon.
The staff is so kind and friendly that makes you feel at home.
This is the hotel I recommend if you want to stay on the water but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg.
Rancho Encantado – Bacalar (Most popular luxury hotel in Bacalar)
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.
Casa Lamat (Most unique luxury hotel in Bacalar)
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
Hotel Laguna Bacalar (Best views in Bacalar)
Hotel Laguna Bacalar is one of the oldest hotel in Bacalar and very popular for its stunning views from almost everywhere on 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.
LAGUNA BACALAR MEXICO
Bacalar Lagoon: general information
I love Bacalar and I can’t take my eyes off the spectacular colors of the Lagoon. I am so happy to see that after the damages provoked by hurricane San Cristobal in 2020 it has almost recovered its magical color.
If there is one town that deserves the name of Pueblo Magico, this is Bacalar, for sure. I am even thinking about moving here for a few months, seriously.
So, now that you know all the things you can do in Bacalar let’s learn about the town in general and other important information.
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 over time, like 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’s drive from Tulum (5 hours by BUS) and I will tell you more about how to get to Bacalar from Tulum in a bit.
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 evening nights most people, locals, and tourists gather around the main square to eat in the many delicious restaurants and browse the local artisan shops.
There is a very nice and friendly vibe around for a tranquil walk.
During the day there are many activities that you can do and enjoy, or you can just relax on your charming eco-lodge right on the lagoon jump in its clear waters, or take a boat trip (make sure it’s a sailing boat and I will tell you while in a bit).
The lovely resort town of Bacalar is one of the three Pueblos Magicos in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and it is a popular destination for the huge lagoon of 7 shades of blue or maybe more.
Bacalar is the perfect place to relax and unwind from the busy Tulum or the rest of the Riviera Maya.
What does the name “Bacalar” mean?
The name Bacalar comes from the Mayan Syancaan Bacalal, (syan = birth) Bacalal = place of reeds.
Bacalar has also been named the Maldives of Mexico for the cristal clear waters or Lake of the Seven Colors (Laguna de los siete colores in Spanish).
As you will see also from my drone pictures here below the color of the water varies depending on the time of the day and the light, but always remain that mesmerizing turquoise blue.
Is Bacalar growing in a healthy way?
Despite the indisputable beauty of Bacalar Lake, this destination has been developing as a touristy place only in the past few years but very quickly.
I remember when I went there 10 years ago there were 2 great resorts, which are now still iconic hotels in the area, and a couple of restaurants where to eat.
Now you will find much more choices not only of services but places to visit and things to do, which could be either a good or a bad thing.
Unfortunately, some of the local businesses, eager to take advantage of this popular attraction, aren’t doing much to preserve this place and there is half the population of Bacalar that are worried and mad that the overdevelopment is going to ruin the natural environment.
So in this post, I will also speak about the contamination situation and how we as tourists, can contribute to the preservation of this natural miracle (see the last section of this post).
But for now without further ado, please find here below a full list of all the most incredible things to do in Bacalar!
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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.
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Is Bacalar safe for a solo female traveler?
If you are traveling to Bacalar alone, as a female, like I did and always do, Bacalar Lagoon 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.
Or there’s always Tinder or Bumble :), not an expert on that but just saying…
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How to get to Bacalar Mexico
Getting to Bacalar is very easy whether you decide to rent a car or get on a Bus. Let’s explore the different ways so that you can decide what’s best for you.
Getting to Bacalar by car
Renting a car is a great option, actually my favorite one because it gives you the freedom to move around Bacalar and visit all its spectacular hidden beaches.
There are some local car rentals in Bacalar but I would rent it from the city where you are coming from either Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. The road is really beautiful and straightforward. You cannot get lost.
I recommend you check out 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 car while the bus from Tulum to Bacalar will take about 4 to 5 hours.
Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.
Getting to Bacalar Lagoon by ADO Bus
If you prefer to travel by bus, the ADO bus company 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 keep in mind that traveling on the ADO can be a little freezing so remember to bring a sweater or a blanket to cover up.
Getting to Bacalar by plane
The closest airport to Bacalar is Chetumal international airport, but the direct flights to Chetumal are only from Cancun or Mexico City.
Chetumal to Bacalar is only 30 minutes drive. And you could rent a car at Chetumal Airport.
How to move around Bacalar
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.
There is no Uber in Bacalar.
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.
Read more on how to get from Tulum to Bacalar in this post.
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When is the 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.
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Is Bacalar Mexico worth visiting?
In my opinion, Bacalar is one of those unique places that you will want to see if you are traveling in the State of Quintana Roo, Mexico.
It is becoming even worthier than Tulum. It’s safer and more peaceful and the views of the Bacalar lagoon are unbeatable.
The small town offers a great variety of pretty hotels and delicious restaurants for eclectic dining options. It’s a real gem.
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How many days do I need to visit Bacalar Lagoon?
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.
Every time I come here I never want to leave.
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Can you swim in Bacalar?
Yes you can swim in Bacalar, in many parts the water is very shallow in others it’s deeper but you can definitely swim where the boat tour takes you or close to your hotel.
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Is Bacalar close to Cancun?
Bacalar is located 346 KM from Cancun and if you are driving it will take you approximately 4hrs 30 minutes to get there. The road is straightforward and really nice. By bus, it may take around 5 hrs 30 minutes.
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Are there crocodiles in Bacalar Lagoon?
Yes, there are crocodiles but they are usually in mangroves areas where you wouldn’t go, so I would not worry about that.
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Does Bacalar have an airport?
Bacalar doesn’t have an airport, the closest airport is Chetumal where you can get by a domestic flight if you are already in Mexico.
Otherwise, there is always Cancun International Airport and you can rent a car from there or book a transfer.
Book your transfer from Cancun to Bacalar
Is lake Bacalar saltwater?
No, it’s not! The water in Bacalar is sweet. And that is why during rainy season you may find quite an overpopulation of annoying mosquitos.
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How to enjoy Bacalar while respecting the environment
The Bacalar community is actively encouraging all its visitors to join them in their campaign to protect the fragile environment of their beautiful lagoon. Here are some rules to follow in order to make your contribution to that:
❌ DO NOT use sunscreen to swim in the lagoon, even if it is biodegradable because it provides nutrients that accelerate eutrophication, one of the causes of changing colors. Protect yourself with swimming clothes such as rush guards when you sunbathe!
❌ DON’T touch or climb or sit on the Stromatolites, or anchor or beach any kind of boat on them.
❌ It is FORBIDDEN to exfoliate your skin with “lake´s clay” it causes big harm to the ecosystem and could cause skin problems. Be part of the solution: avoid this activity.
❌ ENJOY WITHOUT IMPACT: don’t tie up to mangrove or anchor yourself on stromatolites. Don’t trespass inside the buoys of protected zones, don’t circulate through the canals
❌ DO NOT touch or remove from the environment the Chivita Snail, it is an essential part of the balance of the lagoon.
❌ AVOID NAVIGATING, SWIMMING, or WALKING in the Reeds. DO NOT CUT THEM. They have special ecological importance: myriad birds use them for nests and the bearded snail lays its eggs on them. They help retain and emit nutrients.
❌ DON’T touch, cut or anchor yourself to Mangroves. The mangroves are the largest biofilter of the laguna and home to many creatures. Help us conserve them!
❌ AVOID MAKING NOISE and high volumes of music live harmoniously respecting the bird sanctuary of this place.
❌ PROHIBITED: SMOKING in the laguna and discarding organic or inorganic waste. Use trash containers, and please always carry and refill your water bottle. Every kind of waste–even if it biodegrades–is a form of contamination.
❌ DO NOT use the lagoon as a toilet, use the bathroom before swimming. It is very important to not contaminate it.
✅ BE THE BEST HOST. Inform yourself, share and follow the guide, participate actively in campaigns, post on your social networks, and print and share the campaign flyers in your place. Inspire others to do the same. Help protect our most valuable treasure: this unique lagoon of seven colors and home to stromatolites!
What to wear in Bacalar
The dress code in Bacalar is very simple and laidback. Beach wear is completely appropriate, but also I would suggest the following:
✔ Rash guard to protect you from the sun since you cannot wear sunblock
✔ Dry bag
✨ 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 know 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 SafetyWing which I have used and find it affordable and comprehensive and also Travel Insurance Master which is great because you can insert all your information and what kind of insurance you need and their system will pull out the best insurance for your need.
🚰 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 recommend Discover Cars because the site offers the option 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 flaunting expensive clothing, accessories, electronics, or money and keeping 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 that 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
💸 Where Do I Find the Best Travel Deals for Mexico? 💸
A trip to Mexico can be expensive if you love to travel with all the comforts (like I do). There are a few tricks that will help you find the best deals. Here are my tips:
👉 DON’T travel in the high season, which is Holy week, Christmas and winter in general, and August.
👉 Book months in advance to find early booking discounts
👉 Use aggregators such as Discover Cars to find price comparisons and VRBO for vacation rentals!
👉 Look for packages flights+hotels on Expedia.
👉 Check on Booking.com or Hotels.com for hotel deals