Laguna Bacalar Travel Guide: Best Things to Do + EAT [2024]

written by local expert Anna Faustino

Anna is a co-founder of Adventure in You and has been traveling the world for the last 9 years. She has spent time living in Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, and Spain and is our local expert in these areas. Her expertise on travel, gear, and building businesses have been featured on Foundr, Business Insider, Yahoo Travel, and more.

If you’re traveling throughout the Yucatan and looking for a place that’s off the beaten path, make your way to Laguna Bacalar, Mexico!

In this article, I’m going to walk you through a few of the best things to do in Bacalar as well as share a few of it’s best kept secrets on where to eat, where to stay, when to go, and how to best get there.

I will also share a detailed guide about transportation and the most popular beach bars to help you make the most out of your time.

Located just a short car ride away from popular spots like Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Laguna de Bacalar, Mexico is one of those trips that you want to add to your Mexico bucket list. It is right by the Mexico Belize border and is one of the prettiest places in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Also known as Laguna de Siete Colores (lagoon of 7 colors), this place is one of our favorite places to visit when we were living in Mexico for a year. Its name was given to it due to the multiple shades of blue that you can see when you visit the lagoon.

Bacalar was also named to be a part of the Pueblos Mágicos (magic town) and is one of three in the Quintana Roo State (Tulum and Isla Mujeres are the others).

While the rest of Mexico can be crowded and touristy, Bacalar still has that laid back off-the-beaten path charm, making it perfect for a weekend getaway!

Where is Laguna Bacalar Located?

Located right by the border of Belize, Laguna Bacalar is in the southeastern part of Mexico in Quintana Roo State. It is a popular destination that a lot of people visit while exploring the Yucatan Peninsula.

If you look out across its turquoise blue waters, you’ll feel like you’re chilling on the shores of the Caribbean. In all honesty, when I first saw lake Bacalar, I couldn’t believe it as it looked exactly like the ocean.

Unlike other Mexican cities that expats and foreigners flock to, Bacalar Lagoon doesn’t have beaches. Instead, it has an incredible lagoon with turquoise water. 

Most people say the Bacalar lagoon looks just like the ocean, so you still get that amazing Mexican shoreline feeling!  You can sit on the lagoon’s shores and be amazed by the pure blue water.

laguna de bacalar mexico

Enjoying the stunning waters by Bacalar Lagoon.

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Laguna Bacalar Things to Do Highlights

  • Bacalar Sailing Tour– See the BEST of Laguna Bacalar on this incredible small group sailing tour with open bar and snacks!
  • Catamaran tour of Bacalar– Alternatively, you can also opt to go on a catamaran tour which will take you sailing around the best parts of the lagoon.
  • Explore the cenotes around Bacalar- This local tour takes you around the cenotes of Laguna Bacalar while visiting mangrove islets where you can spot different wildlife.
  • Sunrise Paddleboard Tour– Start your day by paddleboarding in the flat waters of the lagoon!

History of Laguna de Bacalar 

Bacalar hasn’t always been a tourist town. Despite its growing fame in the last few decades, Bacalar is still much less known than places like Cancun and Cozumel. 

Laguna Bacalar, Mexico still has a traditional Mexican town feel along with some tourist attractions and beautiful natural history. It’s a nice place to relax away from the larger resort towns in Yucatán. 

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How to Get to Bacalar, Mexico

While there are plenty of ways to go to Bacalar, Mexico, the most common ways are via a car (rental or private driver). We love renting cars while in Mexico! The roads are very easy to drive and the Yucatan Peninsula feels very safe!

Alternatively, you can also opt to take an ADO bus which is the main bus network here in Mexico. They have daily buses running every hour from the major cities such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Chetumal.

While the main bus station in Bacalar is on the edge of the main highway, you can catch a quick taxi or opt to walk for 15 minutes to the center of town. Here’s some quick info on how long it takes to get to Bacalar from popular spots around Mexico:

  • Cancun to Bacalar – 4 hours 15 minutes | 345 KM
  • Playa del Carmen (PDC) to Bacalar – 3 hours 15 minutes | 279 KM
  • Tulum to Bacalar- 2 hours 30 minutes | 215 KM

Due to its location and depending on where you are coming from, there are many different ways to get to Laguna Bacalar. The best option for you depends on where you’re starting from! Here are our top suggestions to make traveling to Bacalar much easier. 

Private Shuttle

This is one of the best choices no matter where your starting point is. It can be one of the more expensive options though. A private shuttle can pick you up from any airport or hotel. Private shuttles are often more comfortable and less crowded than public transport. 

If you don’t have a driver’s license or are apprehensive about driving in Mexico, private shuttles are a perfect choice!

Driving to Bacalar

We found that renting a car was the fastest choice for getting to Lake Bacalar, Mexico. Car rental places are easy to find in major cities like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. If you fly into the Cancun Airport International Airport, you can also find car rental places right outside the international terminal. 

Don’t worry about driving in the Yucatan! The roads are extremely well labeled and it’s almost impossible to get lost. 

ADO Bus to Bacalar

If you’re on a budget, the ADO bus is the perfect way to get around Mexico. You can either book your ticket online or at the bus station. The buses are super comfortable and have air conditioning! 

Flight  to Chetumal

Flying into Bacalar is by far the least convenient choice since the airport is far away and flights are expensive. Flights are also scarce, so driving or taking the bus would actually take you less time than flying. 

You would need to fly to Chetumal International Airport which is a short 45 minute drive from Bacalar. If you’re doing this route, you can opt to take this shuttle from Chetumal to Bacalar. We don’t really recommend this route unless you’re flying from Mexico City as not a lot of places connect to Chetumal.

To give you an idea of how much transport will cost, click on the buttons below for a full quote.

Things to Do in Lake Bacalar, Mexico

1. Go Sailing on the Laguna de Bacalar

Hands down, one of the best things to do while in Bacalar is to book Bacalar boat tour. Most boat tours run twice a day, giving you the option to do a trip in the morning or the afternoon. Most sailing trips will take you around the best parts of the lagoon, visiting the following spots along the way:

  • El Canal de Los Piratas
  • Cenote Negro
  • Bird Island

Book Here: You can opt to join a small group tour or get a private catamaran for 6 people. Going on a Bacalar boat tour is a MUST-do so make sure you book it in advance.

Insider Tip: If you are renting a private boat and want to avoid the crowds, speak to your boat captain about potentially sailing to other spots within the lagoon. Ours took us to the northern side and we didn’t see a single boat!

sailing in bacalar catamaran

2. Eat Tacos at Barbanegra Bacalar

Tacos is like a religion here in Mexico and good tacos are plentiful and easy to find. However, if you’re looking to dine in a place with a beautiful setting, head on over to Barbanegra Bacalar for some delicious cocktails and cheap unique tacos.

The tacos here were delicious and were some of the best in Bacalar, Mexico!

3. Sunset or Sunrise Kayak in Lake Bacalar

Some people say that you can’t visit Bacalar without hopping on a kayak around the lagoon. While there are kayak tours that you can join, the lagoon is mostly always flat, giving you perfect kayaking conditions. With that in mind, you don’t really need a tour to enjoy kayaking around Bacalar Lagoon.

There are plenty of kayaks available for rent or if you’re lucky, your hotel / Airbnb should even have some free ones that you can use.

Spend your morning or afternoon paddling around the lagoon, taking the 7 shades of blue that Bacalar is known for. This sunrise tour is highly recommended!

Founder of the blog kayaking in bacalar lagoon

4. Visit the Mayan Ruins of Kuhunlich

While this place isn’t exactly in Bacalar lagoon, if you’re looking for a fun trip, a visit to the Mayan City of Kohunlich is worth the trip. Located only an hour away from Bacalar Lagoon, you can see impressive buildings dated back to 200BC.

The city itself was elaborately planned with raised platforms and pyramids, citadels, courtyards and plazas. It even has a rudimentary drainage into emptying into cisterns and an enormous reservoir to collect rainwater. The site itself is pretty impressive if you enjoy visiting ancient Mayan Ruins.

5. Eat Dinner or Lunch at La Playita

If you’re looking for a beautiful setting for either lunch or dinner, head on over to La Playita which is located right by the Fort in the center of town. They have the most amazing view for dining and is a great spot for either lunch or dinner.

The food is delicious and so are the cocktails! If you head there during the day, they have a large dock area which you can use to swim around the lagoon.

la playita bacalar

6. Visit the Cenotes in Laguna Bacalar

Known as natural freshwater sinkholes, cenotes are one of the main draws of why people visit the Yucatan Peninsula. Even within Bacalar lagoon itself, there are tons of nearby cenotes which you can easily explore. The best cenotes in Bacalar that are worth visiting are:

  • Cenote Esmeralda
  • Cenote Azul
  • Cenote Cocalitos
  • Cenote la Bruja

If you’re looking for a popular cenote to explore, Cenote Azul is a good choice to visit. The cenote itself is over 90-meters deep and can be explored via scuba diving. Aside from that, Cenote Cocalitos is another great option.

This place is a well known sanctuary of stromatolites which are flat, circular stone-like formations that are made by bacteria. It is very important not to touch or damage these while swimming in the waters.

There are tons of caves and caverns underwater, making it an ideal playground for underwater enthusiasts. Cenote Azul is so deep and dark blue that it often resembles being in a big lake.

Related: Tulum Cenotes and Playa del Carmen Cenotes

7. Play Around on a Paddleboard

Another fun activity in Bacalar is paddle boarding. Not only is it a great way to see the sights but it’s also a great workout!

We played around a paddle board during an extremely windy day, making the otherwise flat waters pretty choppy which just overall added some fun factor.

If you prefer to join a tour, this paddleboard sunrise tour is the perfect way to start your morning. (Costs around $30 per person for a 3 hour tour) Alternatively, you can also just rent a paddleboard and DIY.

paddleboarding in bacalar

8. Visit Fort San Felipe

Located right in the town square is a stone fortress, it’s pretty hard to miss visiting this popular historic landmark. Although it isn’t very large, it does offer pretty awesome panoramic views of Bacalar Lagoon as well as the pirate channel.

Built in the 18th century as a Mexican stronghold against English colonizers and rogue pirates, the fort is a great place to visit for those who enjoy history.

9. Visit the Canal de Los Piratas

If you’re doing any boat tour in Laguna de Bacalar, you need to make sure that it takes you to the famous Canal de Los Piratas. The color of the waters here are pretty unreal and the various jump off points make it a fun place to spend the day.

10. Relax by Bacalar Lagoon

While all the other activities I recommended are all worth doing, the one that tops my list is just spending time relaxing by the lagoon. There are many awesome vacation rentals in Bacalar that have private docks with hammocks and beach chairs, giving you the ultimate vantage point to enjoy this peaceful place.

Grab a cold cerveza, a book, and spend endless hours chilling and relaxing- trust me, you can’t go wrong with this combo!

If you are looking for even more things to do then I recommend you read our full guide to Bacalar tours.

relaxing by the laguna bacalar
Relaxing by the clear waters in Laguna Bacalar

Laguna Bacalar Balnearios (Beach Clubs) 

Although it’s not actually on the beach, Bacalar has tons of beach clubs / bars locally referred to as balnearios. They are located right on the lake and you can put your toes in the water while enjoying a few drinks and Mexican food

Some balnearios are fancier than others. You’ll find some with a simple bar and a few chairs while others have hammocks, day beds, and bathrooms. 

In my opinion, no trip to Bacalar is complete without enjoying the lagoon from a balneario. Here are my top picks for you to choose from! 

Balneario Cocalitos 

Cocalitos is one of the most popular balnearios and also one of the ones that gets the most crowded! There’s a small entrance to the lagoon where you can go swimming or you can lounge in the grass. You’ll find the picturesque Bacalar swings here where you can swing over the water. 

Bacalar Beach Club 

This beach club is the place to go if you’re looking for something a little more luxurious. They have a pool and hot tub if you want a break from swimming in the lagoon. They also have a huge bar that serves cocktails and gourmet food. Once you’re done eating, you can grab a spot on one of the cushioned lounge chairs and gaze out at the lagoon. 

Balneario Municipal El Aserradero 

For a down to earth and free balneario, check out Municipal El Aserradero. It’s a small public pier where you can relax. There aren’t many amenities or bathrooms, but the view of the lagoon is beautiful. 

Club Playa Kin Ha Colors 

For a small and less crowded Balneario, head to Kin Ha Colors. They have a small beach and lagoon area where you can swim. If you want to kayak or canoe, you rent one from the reception. They don’t have a restaurant on-site, but they can bring in providers that cook nearby to take orders and then bring the food to you once it’s done. 

Balneario Laguna Bonanza 

If you want to swim with the locals, Laguna Bonanza is a great place to get away from tourists and relax. It’s very secluded without many amenities. You can rent small tables and cabanas though. Beautiful mangroves and stromatolite formations surround the water. 

Balneario Lol-Ha

Lol-Ha connects to Lake Bacalar rather than being directly on it. Since it’s a small river emptying into the lagoon, you’ll see that the water is a beautiful green color instead of blue. If you’re a confident swimmer, you can swim to the lagoon. 

If you’d rather not swim, you can rent a kayak and a life jacket. They have a small restaurant, but it’s only open on weekends. Instead, you can bring your own food and rent a picnic table. 

Chilling by the many Balnearios in Bacalar

Getting Around Bacalar

As soon as you get to Bacalar, while the main town and restaurants are concentrated in the town area, the hotels happen to be spread all over the lagoon. If you’re taking the bus, it is best to check ahead of time where your hotel is located as transportation can be an issue.

Most hotels will have bicycles which you can rent for a couple of dollars a day. If not, you can always get the number of a local taxi to drive you around. Taxis here cost around $50 MX per trip which isn’t too bad at all.

Want more tips on Traveling to Mexico? Take a look at our Mexico Travel Guide

bacalar lagoon

Best Time to Go to Bacalar

Although Laguna de Bacalar is a great place to visit all-year round, December to April are usually the best times of the year to go. Last year, when we were living in Mexico, the Yucatan Region has a pretty bad hurricane season (June to September) which would sometimes extend all the way to Bacalar, causing a lot of flooding.

In the summer months, temperatures can reach as high as 33℃ in Bacalar. The coldest it usually gets in winter-time in Bacalar is around 19℃. However, even during the shoulder seasons, don’t be afraid to plan a trip here- just make sure you check the weather beforehand!

Where to Eat in Bacalar

While I already mentioned a few places to eat in Bacalar above, a few notable mentions that you should make time to check out are. We went to most of these places during our time in Bacalar and all of them serve delicious meals that are worth checking out:

  • Nao– Great sushi and cocktail bar
  • Mango Y Chile– Fantastic vegan burger and falafels
  • Enamora Bacalar– Nice spot for breakfast or lunch
  • Pizzeria Bertilla– Known for their Italian Pizzas
  • Botte de Leche– Fab spot with great food

tacos al pastor

Is Bacalar Safe?

Personally, we found Bacalar to be super safe. It is a small sleepy town and the locals were very nice. However, with that being said, at the risk of sounding like your parents, make sure you get travel insurance before hitting the road.

Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to leave home without. We recommend Safety Wing, depending on the type of traveler you are.

Where to Stay in Bacalar

While in Bacalar, there is no shortage of places to stay from beautiful bungalow style hotels to stunning vacation rentals and Airbnbs. Here are a couple of our top recommendations on Bacalar hotels to stay in:

Budget Friendly Hotels in Bacalar

Royal Palm Bacalar This place is a good option for those looking for something that is both budget friendly while still being able to enjoy awesome views. When you stay here, the hotel lets you access a nearby property with a private dock and hut right by the lagoon. Room rates start at $60 a night.

The Yak Lake House Hostel For those who want to stay in a fun hostel, our recommendation is the Yak Lake House which has both dorms and private rooms. The hostel is located right by the edge of the lagoon and has plenty of chairs and sun loungers right by the dock. Dorm rooms start at $22 a night.

Mid-Range Hotels in Bacalar

Hotel Rancho Encantado If you’re looking for an awesome mid-range hotel to stay at, we recommend spending a few nights at Hotel Rancho Encantado. It has an on-site restaurant which serves beautiful meals as well as breakfast included in the room rate, this place has rustic style bungalows, perfect for a weekend escape. Double Suites start at $158 a night.

Hotel Casa Bakal Located right by the front of the lagoon, this hotel in Bacalar offers adult-only accommodations and an on-site bar and beautiful swimming pool. All rooms come with a breakfast which you can take while gazing out at the lagoon. Rooms start at $126 a night.

Luxury Hotels in Bacalar

La Albarina Offering beautiful suites with lagoon views, this place is our top recommendation for places to stay in Bacalar if you’re looking for something a bit more upscale. Aside from the rooms being absolutely gorgeous, the hammocks and sun loungers within the property complex are the perfect place to relax and unwind.

If you’re traveling as a large group or family and want to get something a bit more private, check out this article we have on the best Bacalar Hotels.

FAQ on Laguna Bacalar 

Still have some questions about visiting Bacalar? Here are the answers to the most asked questions! 

Is Bacalar Worth Visiting?

Yes! Bacalar is definitely worth visiting if you’re looking for a relaxing holiday while in Mexico. Although Laguna Bacalar is much smaller than other Yucatán tourist towns and lacks a party and nightlife scene, it is such a beautiful place.

With the beautiful lagoon and historical Mayan ruins, Bacalar is worth visiting for those who want to explore Mexico’s history and spend time in nature. 

If you want more of a party scene, we recommend visiting Cancun and Playa del Carmen. You can also spend a few days in Bacalar before or after these other towns to get the best of both worlds. We personally LOVE it here and think it is one of the best parts of the Mexican Caribbean.

Can you Swim in Laguna Bacalar?

Yes! You can swim in Laguna Bacalar, Mexico and you should carve time out in your schedule to make sure you do so. It’s a popular place amongst locals and tourists for swimming, diving, and snorkeling. 

You can snorkel with your own gear or rent gear from one of the nearby shops. Kayaking on the lake is also an option. Some of the resorts offer kayaks for free to guests, so make sure to ask your hotel before renting a kayak from a local shop. 

If you want to spend more time on the lagoon, you can also take a boat tour. Most boat tours include a guide, snacks, and non-alcoholic drinks. 

How many days should I spend in Bacalar?

You should aim to spend at least 2 days in Bacalar, but spending 3 or 4 days is even better. If you have limited time in the Yucatan, 2 days is enough to explore the lagoon and some of the historical sites like the Fuerte de San Felipe de Bacalar. 

If you add on an extra day or two, you will have more time to explore other sites like the cenotes. You can also book a tour or two with more time, leaving plenty of time to relax and enjoy the peaceful scenery.

What is there to do in Bacalar at night?

Bacalar nightlife has limited options compared to other cities in the Yucatan, but there are still a few things you can plan to do in Bacalar at night. One of the most popular choices is the Galeon Pirata Bar.

Here, you can enjoy a cocktail or beer while eating a fresh pizza. Every night they also have shows ranging from stand-up comedians to dance shows to magic events. 

Another popular spot in the evenings is Damajuana Bacalar. They have some of the best cocktails in the area as well as mezcal tastings. 

Is it Called Bacalar Lagoon or Bacalar Lake?

The names Bacalar Lagoon, Laguna de Bacalar, Laguna Bacalar and Bacalar Lake are used interchangeably. The body of water is actually a lake though, not a lagoon. It’s the second largest freshwater lake in Mexico. 

Is Holbox or Bacalar better?

Holbox and Bacalar each have something different to offer travelers. Bacalar might be a better choice for travelers who mainly want to spend their time swimming and snorkeling. The lake and the many cenotes offer plenty of opportunities to spend time in the water. 

Holbox is on the beach, unlike Bacalar. For those who want to spend time in the sand or in ocean water, Holbox is the better choice. Holbox is also slightly more touristy with more nightlife choices and rooftop bars.

Does Bacalar Lake have 7 colors?

Bacalar Lake is referred to as the Lake of Seven Colors. The lagoon has seven different shades of blue ranging from turquoise to indigo to violet. The seven colors are best seen from an aerial view though.

You might not catch all the shades when you are standing near the water. The turquoise hues seen from the shores are breathtaking though. 

So whether you’re planning to go to Bacalar for a few days or a week-long trip, this spot in the Yucatan Peninsula is a hidden gem that is worth adding to your itinerary!

Between the many delicious places to eat and stunning seven shades of blue lagoon, Bacalar is a must visit in my books. Hopefully this article helps you plan out your trip, giving you tons of ideas on the best things to do in Bacalar.

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