Located just a short car ride away from popular spots like Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Bacalar Lagoon is one of those trips that you want to add to your bucket list in Mexico.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through a few of the best things to do in Bacalar. I’ll also 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.
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.
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!
- 1 Where is Bacalar Located?
- 2 Recommended Things to Do in Bacalar Lagoon, Mexico
- 2.1 Go Sailing on the Lagoon
- 2.2 Eat Tacos at Barbanegra Bacalar
- 2.3 Sunset or Sunrise Kayak
- 2.4 Visit the Mayan Ruins of Kuhunlich
- 2.5 Eat Dinner or Lunch at La Playita
- 2.6 Visit a Cenote (or Two)
- 2.7 Play Around on a Paddleboard
- 2.8 Visit Fort San Felipe
- 2.9 Visit the Canal de Los Piratas
- 2.10 Relax by the Lagoon
- 3 How to Get to Bacalar
- 4 Getting Around Bacalar
- 5 Best Time to Go to Bacalar
- 6 Where to Eat in Bacalar
- 7 Safety in Bacalar
- 8 Where to Stay in Bacalar
- 9 Luxury Hotels in Bacalar
Where is Bacalar Located?
Located right by the border of Belize, Bacalar 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 the lagoon, I couldn’t believe it as it looked exactly like the ocean.
Driving in and seeing the multiple shades of blue, depending how the sunlight hits the water is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Recommended Things to Do in Bacalar Lagoon, Mexico
Go Sailing on the Lagoon
Hands down, one of the best things to do while in Bacalar is to book a sailing trip. Most trips 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
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!
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.
Sunset or Sunrise Kayak
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.
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.
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.
Visit a Cenote (or Two)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Relax by the 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!
How to Get to Bacalar
While there are plenty of ways to go to Bacalar, 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
If you’re pressed on time, another option would be to fly to Chetumal 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. Another option would be to fly to Belize but the border crossing to get into Mexico can be a pain. The best way would be to fly into Cancun and rent a car or get a private driver to take you here.
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
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:
- 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
Safety in Bacalar
We found Bacalar to be super safe, but 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 either World Nomads or 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 where to stay in Bacalar:
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 vacation rentals in Bacalar.
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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