A Traveler’s Guide to Bacalar Lagoon
Picture the scene: you roll out of bed in the quiet early hours of the morning. You open your hotel room door with a cup of coffee in hand to be greeted by a breathtaking view of a vibrant blue lagoon. You spend the day exploring the said lagoon, swimming in the sun, and taking siestas in hammocks.
Sound good? If so, it’s time to book tickets to Bacalar.
If you’re looking to relax in incredible natural surroundings while eating delicious food and staying in world-class accommodation, Bacalar should be at the top of your bucket list.
Let’s get into today’s post: a traveler’s guide to Bacalar Lagoon.
Get to Know Bacalar Lagoon
Bacalar is a small town located in the state of Quintana Roo near the Mexico-Belize border. This off-the-beaten-path destination is one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos, or Magic Towns. This means that the Mexican government has allocated the town a special status to recognize its beauty. And, once you’ve set eyes on it, you’ll know exactly why this decision was made.
Bacalar Lagoon, or Laguna de Bacalar is the second-largest freshwater lake in Mexico and is famous for its crystal clear water. Known as the lagoon of seven colors, the pristine white limestone bottom of the lake ensures that the colors of the water shine incredibly brightly.
Bacalar is widely recognized by visitors as one of the most beautiful places in Mexico. Its chilled, friendly vibes make it a great tonic after the craziness of bigger cities such as Cancun, Merida, and Playa del Carmen. The small-town feel and relatively low number of tourists make visiting Bacalar feel like you’ve been let in on a wonderful secret. Head there sooner rather than later before word gets out about this incredibly Costa Maya destination.
How to Get to and From Bacalar
Bacalar doesn’t have an airport but it’s perfectly positioned on the Yucatan Peninsula to be easily accessible. Most travelers will begin their journey by flying into Cancun International Airport. The drive to Bacalar takes just over four hours, so many travelers choose to stop off in Playa del Carmen or Tulum en route to break the journey up a little.
If you’re visiting Bacalar by road, renting a car is the most convenient option for the journey but you can also arrange a private shuttle or book an ADO bus which is a safe, cheap, and regular service.
Another option is to fly into Chetumal Airport. This is the closest airport to Bacalar and is only 45 minutes away by road. However, there are few international flights into Chetumal so you’d likely need to take a connecting flight via Cancun or Mexico City. Chetumal is also worth spending a few days exploring if you have time in your schedule.
If you’d like to see more of Central America than Mexico, Belize City is just a two-hour drive from Bacalar and is the perfect option for onward travel through the region.
What to Do in Bacalar
Although Bacalar is mostly known for its relaxing, rejuvenating vibe, there’s actually a lot to see and do in the area. These are some of our favorite activities on offer at Laguna de Bacalar.
Take a Boat Tour
No trip to Bacalar is complete without getting on the water in some way. A sailboat trip is the best option for seeing as much of the lake’s blue waters as possible and is definitely an undeniably tranquil way to start a day.
On most of the boat rides on offer you’ll have a chance to explore la canal de los piratas (the channels that were once used by pirates), allowing you to get a true sense of the history as well as the beauty of the area. There’ll also be opportunities to swim and you might even get to try a mud facial: just don’t forget to pack your sunscreen!
Kayak or Stand Up Paddleboard
If you prefer to be a little more active on your trips, explore the lake with a kayak or paddleboard instead. The clear, calm waters are ideal for watersports and there are plenty of rental places on the lake’s shore. If you aren’t confident on the water, book a group trip instead and make new friends while enjoying a morning in the sun.
Visit a Cenote
It might not sound like the best use of your time since Bacalar’s clear waters are right on your doorstep, but a trip to the Riviera Maya simply must include at least one cenote. The following are some of the best options in and around Bacalar:
- Cenote Esmeralda is a tranquil spot that offers great boat tours and the option to swim
- Cenote Azul has a changing room and a restaurant with great food and coffee
- Cenote Negro, or ‘black cenote’ in English is only accessible by boat tour but is well worth the effort
- Cenote Cocalitos is known for its fossilized stromatolites and also has a restaurant on-site
Take a Trip to Belize
Bacalar is conveniently located close to the Mexico-Belize border so it’s the perfect jumping-off point for visiting Belize. Most hotels and hostels will offer shuttle buses from Bacalar to Belize City, which is an easy and convenient way to do the journey. The ADO bus company also runs a daily service to Belize City and the journey only takes four hours.
If you plan on heading to Caye Caulker in Belize, you can also do that from Bacalar. First, hop on a bus to Campeche (and if possible give yourself a night there to enjoy this beautiful city). Then, take the ferry directly to Caye Caulker.
Discover Fuerte de San Felipe de Bacalar
Fort San Felipe was built in the 1700s to defend the town of Bacalar from the pirates that roamed the Caribbean coastline. The fortress is designed in the shape of a star and has been open as a museum since the 1980s. San Felipe is located in el centro on Bacalar’s main square and makes for a good addition to an afternoon exploring the charming town’s central square.
Explore Mayan Ruins
The Yucatan Peninsula is home to dozens of spectacular Mayan sites that give an insight into ancient Mexico. Just an hour’s drive from Bacalar is the ruins of Kohunlich. This 21-acre site is surrounded by lush jungle and makes for an enchanting sight to behold. It makes for an easy day trip from Bacalar if you’re short on time or don’t want to travel far.
If you have more time and want to explore larger ruins, you’ll need to consider a long drive or even a short flight. Chichen Itza and Tulum Archeological Site are two of our favorites in the Riviera Maya and are well worth the longer journeys needed to explore them.
Food and Drink in Bacalar
Tourism is hungry and thirsty work, and you’re in luck! The town of Bacalar is full of tasty places to spend your pesos. From healthy salads and smoothies to hearty burgers and wings, there’s an option to suit your appetite. Here are some of the best of the bunch:
La Playita is perhaps the most popular spot to grab a bite in Bacalar. The lagoon-side setting means you can take in the lake’s famous different shades of blue while enjoying a menu of tasty and affordable dishes. Pro tip: grab one of the hammocks or egg chairs after lunch for the best siesta ever.
Mango y Chile
For vegan food with fort views, head to Mango y Chile. As well as burgers and salads there are also lots of drinks to choose from including healthy and delicious smoothies. Mango y Chile is open all day and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
This restaurant is also an art gallery and gift shop and is well worth a visit. Set among lush gardens, this is the perfect spot for a hearty breakfast before heading out for the day. The chilaquiles are some of the best in town, and the juices and fruit platters provide some great healthy options.
El Barril Grill
If you’re craving beers and burgers, El Barril Grill is the place to be. This steakhouse is one of the most popular places in Bacalar for steaks and burgers and it can get pretty busy in the evenings. Head down early to sample beers made by the local microbrewery before they sell out.
This sports bar is one of the best spots in town for a few beers and some of the best wings in Quintana Roo State. The atmosphere is always buzzing and it’s a great spot to meet other travelers. Watch out for their all-you-can-eat offers on wings!
Where to Stay at Bacalar Lagoon
Bacalar is home to some of the best accommodations on the Yucatan Peninsula. Whether you’re looking for five-star luxury or budget lodgings, we’ve got you covered with our top six Bacalar hotels.
This five-star is one of the most relaxing places you’ll ever stay.
Rooms are situated in standalone cabins with thatched roofs and wooden finishings, allowing you to feel at one with the natural surroundings. The beds are big and comfortable, the furnishings are luxurious yet simple, and the bathroom with an al fresco shower is an incredibly luxurious experience. There’s also air-conditioning in all rooms, plus a small private terrace to enjoy the daily golden hour in peace.
The location is right on the lagoon, giving guests uninterrupted views of the lake. Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available to borrow, and regular yoga classes on the deck overlook the lake for the ultimate zen vibe. There’s a fabulous on-site restaurant serving Mexican food from breakfast until dinner, and guests can also book massages and treatments at the hotel’s wellness center. This property also has a 24-hour reception and there’s free Wi-Fi available throughout.
Top amenities include:
- Private cabins with outdoor showers
- Kayak and paddleboard hire
- Restaurant serving Mexican dishes
- On-site wellness center
Check availability for this ultra-relaxing accommodation here.
An alternative five-star hotel in Bacalar is the stunning La Albarina.
Rooms at La Albarina have been lovingly designed and the owners’ eye for detail makes each one a unique experience. All of the bright, airy units are equipped with a coffee machine and a spacious seating area. The luxury bathrooms have a shower and high-quality free toiletries and there are double doors that open out onto a private terrace. Several of the suites have lagoon views and free Wi-Fi is available throughout the property.
If you like to stay fit on vacation, there’s a small outdoor gym for you to take advantage of. Guests are also welcome to make use of the on-site watersport facilities if they prefer your workouts on water. The American breakfast offered at La Albarina is tasty and fresh, and the on-site restaurant is also open for brunch and lunch.
Top amenities include:
- Rooms with spacious seating areas
- Free Wi-Fi
- Watersports facilities
- An American breakfast is served each morning
Check availability for this luxurious lagoon accommodation here.
For an option that’s slightly more budget-friendly but still extremely luxurious, check out Khaban Bacalar Hotel Boutique.
A nice benefit of this hotel is the on-site swimming pool with a bar. It makes the perfect alternative option to the lagoon while offering a beautiful view of the water. And speaking of the water, hop on a paddleboard to explore, or nab one of the water swings or day beds to enjoy a peaceful afternoon in tranquil Bacalar. Heaven!
If you’re traveling as a group or with family, check out the three-bedroom villa for lake views, a private pool, and all the space you could ever need. Some rooms also have a kitchen with a microwave, a fridge, and an oven, allowing you to prepare your own meals and snacks using fresh local produce. Guests are also offered a delicious American breakfast each morning, in case they don’t feel like cooking for themselves.
If you’ve hired a car to explore the area you’ll appreciate the free private parking, and the free Wi-Fi is handy for planning the next leg of your trip (or just keeping your Instagram updated).
Top amenities include:
- Outdoor pool
- Family rooms
- Rooms with kitchens
- Free private parking
Check availability for this four-star hotel here.
One of the best mid-range properties on lake Bacalar is Zenusus Eco Boutique Hotel.
The rooms are standalone bungalows that look out onto the pool, giving you a little more privacy than standard hotel rooms. The rustic furnishings and neutral white wooden walls give the accommodation a cozy yet airy feel, and the bathrooms are well-sized and offer floor-to-ceiling windows so you can shower while looking out into nature (while maintaining your privacy).
The outdoor swimming pool and garden make for a wonderfully lush spot to relax in, and there are plenty of loungers to kick back and chill on. Guests are offered a continental breakfast at the on-site restaurant, and a tasty dinner menu is available, too.
Wi-Fi is available in public areas and the tour desk is helpful for visitors who plan on seeing more of the region during their stay. There’s also free private parking on-site which is handy if you have a rental car.
Top amenities include:
- Stylish bungalow accommodation
- Swimming pool and garden
- Continental breakfast
- Tour desk
Check availability for this peaceful oasis here.
From a mid-range oasis to an affordable one: Hotel & Suites Oasis Bacalar is a fantastic option that won’t break the bank.
To say this hotel is such a great price, guests can enjoy several luxury amenities including a large outdoor swimming pool with seating. There’s also free Wi-Fi, a concierge service, and room service available. The lake is just one minute away giving you easy access to the best attraction in town, and you can get your taco fix at one of the many surrounding restaurants.
The rooms at this property offer air conditioning, seating areas, flat-screen TVs, and private bathrooms with hairdryers. Some rooms also have a kitchen and others have balconies with pool views. Whichever room you choose, you’ll have your own private patio area to enjoy your morning coffee on.
Top amenities include:
- Swimming pool and terrace
- Close to local taco restaurants
- Rooms with air conditioning
- Rooms with private patios
Check availability for this well-priced option here.
The last Bacalar hotel on our list is Teki-sha Home & Suites, which is another great choice for leaner budgets.
The pool is beautifully designed to look like a natural pool, and there’s plenty of space around it to sit out and enjoy Mexico’s famous sunshine. As this hotel is a bed and breakfast, guests can enjoy a hearty morning meal before heading out for the day to explore. There’s also a bar on-site for evening beers with your fellow guests. Other amenities include free bicycles, free Wi-Fi, and free private parking.
The rooms at Teki-sha are stylishly decorated with modern white walls and wooden accents that give them a boutique feel. There’s air conditioning in each room as well as plenty of storage, a flatscreen TV, a coffee machine, and a desk.
Top amenities include:
- Pool and garden
- Free breakfast
- Free bicycles to borrow
- Air-conditioned rooms
Check availability for this laid-back option here.
So there you have it, our travel guide to the town of Bacalar. We hope you enjoy your adventure to the Maldives of Mexico, don’t forget to send us a postcard!