Welcome to the ultimate guide to Bacalar Lagoon in Mexico! Have you ever dreamt of visiting an off-the-beaten-path destination that is brimming with beauty, adventure and culture? Well then Bacalar Lagoon is exactly what you have been searching for! This hidden gem located in southern Mexico offers crystal clear waters surrounded by lush jungle vegetation. To top it all off deep shades of cerulean blue adorn this luxuriously secluded lagoon. Through our recent two week journey we are excited to share all the secrets and tips this remarkable spot has to offer – from the best activities, eateries & more. Come take a journey with us across one of nature’s greatest spectacles; as we uncover why Bacalar should be on your radar!
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Bacalar is a quaint town in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It's situated in the southeast of the Yucatan Peninsula, about 40 kilometers north of Chetumal, the capital city of Quintana Roo. This magical town, known for its seven-color lagoon, is approximately 355 kilometers south of Cancun, making it an accessible yet tranquil getaway from the bustling tourist hubs. With its pristine beauty and enchanting history, Bacalar provides an authentic Mexican experience unlike any other.
Why do they call the lagoon the "Seven Color Lagoon?"
The lagoon of Bacalar is famously referred to as the "Seven Color Lagoon" due to the breathtaking palette of blues that it displays. This spectacle is a result of the lagoon's varied depth and the way the sunlight refracts off the clear, mineral-rich water. From a brilliant turquoise to a deep indigo, each shade of blue represents a different depth of the lagoon, creating a mesmerizing, multi-layered visual effect that appears to change throughout the day. The unique coloration of the lagoon makes it a must-see feature of Bacalar, contributing to the town's charm and allure.
How to get to Bacalar
Bacalar is certainly a bit more a jaunt to reach than other popular vacation towns such as Tulum or Cancún. But it's probably its more remote location that has kept it from being overrun by overwhelming numbers of tourists and high rise hotels for so long. If you're traveling to the Yucatan, you absolutely must make the trek down to Bacalar! Here are your best options for reaching this beautiful town home to the magical blue lagoon.
Traveling to Bacalar, Mexico by bus is a cost-effective and convenient option, particularly for those coming from nearby cities like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. The ADO Bus company operates regular services to Bacalar, with buses being comfortable, air-conditioned, and equipped with restrooms. From Cancun, the bus ride is approximately 5-6 hours, from Playa del Carmen around 4-5 hours, and from Tulum it's a relatively short journey of about 2-3 hours. Upon arrival in Bacalar, the bus station is centrally located, making it easy to reach your hotel or any point of interest either by foot or a short taxi ride. To purchase tickets, you can visit the ADO Bus' official website or buy them directly from the bus station.
For those who prefer a faster route to Bacalar, flying is an excellent alternative. Chetumal International Airport (CTM) is the closest airport to Bacalar, located about 30 kilometers away. It hosts regular flights from major Mexican cities, including Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey, via airlines such as Aeromexico and VivaAerobus. Upon landing, you can hire a taxi or rent a car for the short ride to Bacalar. A more cost effective option would be to fly into Cancun International Airport (CUN), which has a larger number of international flights. From Cancun, you can either rent a car for a scenic 4-hour drive or take a comfortable bus ride to Bacalar. Remember to book your flights in advance for the best deals and availability.
How to drive yourself
Driving to Bacalar offers a chance to see the beautiful Mexican landscape up close. From Cancun, take Highway 307 south towards Tulum. This major road extends all the way to Bacalar, making the journey straightforward. The trip will take around four hours, depending on traffic. Make sure to have some pesos on hand for the occasional toll booth along the way. As you approach Bacalar, you'll see signs directing you to the town and the lagoon. Remember to adhere to local traffic laws and drive safely. If you're unfamiliar with driving in Mexico, be cautious during night hours due to potential road hazards. Car rental services are widely available at airports and major cities if you need to hire a vehicle.
Is Bacalar, Mexico safe?
Bacalar, Mexico, is generally considered safe for tourists. The town is frequently visited by both domestic and international travelers and it has a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Crime rates are relatively low, especially when compared to larger Mexican cities. That being said, like any travel destination, it's important for visitors to exercise common sense precautions. Ensure that your belongings are secured, don't walk alone in isolated areas late at night, and be wary of street vendors selling goods at prices that seem too good to be true. Always remember, the best travel experiences come from being aware and respectful of the local culture and norms.
We visited Bacalar right after Tulum and we felt far safer in Bacalar than Tulum. I'm sure both towns deal with similar issues, but the entire feel of Bacalar was laidback and seemed far less tense. There is an incredibly strong military and police presence in Tulum, but in Bacalar we hardly noticed any abnormally strong security even though it's a popular tourist destination, too.
What to do in Bacalar, Mexico
Bacalar, with its rich cultural history and breathtaking natural landscapes, offers a plethora of activities for every type of traveler. Here are 15 things to do in Bacalar, Mexico:
Explore the Lagoon of Seven Colors: Take a boat tour, kayak, or swim in the breathtakingly beautiful multi-hued lagoon. This is definitely the centerpiece of Bacalar and for good reason. Most of your activities when visiting will revolve around the lagoon. Personally, we couldn't get enough of these beautiful waters! You'll definitely want to take full advantage of all the water activities.
Visit the San Felipe Fort: This fort is the only surviving structure left from the 17th century colonial period in Bacalar. It's also known as "The Castle of San Felipe" due to its resemblance to a Spanish castle and it's a great spot for some dramatic photography.
Stroll along the Malecon: Enjoy a leisurely walk along Bacalar's Malecon, a picturesque boardwalk offering magnificent views of the lagoon's shifting blue hues, local artisan shops, and delightful food stalls serving authentic Mexican cuisine.
Swing by the Stromatolites: Visit these ancient, living fossils, some of the oldest life forms on Earth.
Indulge in local cuisine: Try delicious Yucatan Peninsula dishes at the town's charming restaurants.
Visit Cenote Azul: A natural sinkhole with crystal-clear water, perfect for a refreshing swim.
Bird watching at the Bird Island: A haven for bird lovers, housing many exotic species.
Sailing on the lagoon: Rent a sailboat or join a sailing tour to fully appreciate the beauty of the lagoon.
Visit the Bacalar mural project: Discover vibrant murals that beautifully depict the town's history and culture.
Explore the Pirate Channel: A narrow strait in the lagoon with a history of pirate attacks.
Practice Yoga lakeside: Join a yoga class or meditate by the calming waters of the lagoon.
Sunrise paddleboarding: An early morning activity that provides an unbeatable view of the sunrise over the lagoon.
Visit the Uchben Kah Ecological Park: Explore the diverse flora and fauna in this conservation area.
Check out the local markets: Purchase locally made crafts, textiles, and fresh produce.
Relax at a Spa: Enjoy a relaxing massage or treatment at one of Bacalar's wellness centers.
Where to eat in Bacalar, Mexico
Bacalar’s culinary scene is a delightful fusion of traditional Mexican recipes and modern international cuisines. Keep in mind that Bacalar is a fairly small and casual town so you can expect lots of traditional mom and pop type Mexican shops and food stalls. In recent years trendy cafés and restaurants have popped up to meet the demand for tourism that is similar to Tulum. All of the food we had in Bacalar was really good (and better than what we ate in Tulum!). Here are the top 10 places to eat in Bacalar, Mexico:
El Manatí Bacalar: An eco-chic, vegetarian-friendly restaurant known for its locally sourced ingredients and intimate, garden-style setting. Google Maps
METATE: A restaurant with creative takes on Mexican classics and a delightful outdoor courtyard. Google Maps
La Playita: Located right on the lagoon, it's perfect for enjoying a seafood platter with a stunning view. Google Maps
Enamora: Renowned for its creative breakfast fusion of Mexican and international cuisines, and a stylish, modern ambiance. Google Maps
Bote de Leche: This breakfast spot serves traditional Mexican dishes and some of the best coffee in Bacalar. Google Maps
La Piña: Authentic Mexican street food at its finest. Don’t miss their tacos al pastor. Google Maps
Kai Pez: This upscale establishment is the place to go for a special night out, serving fresh seafood and fine wines. Google Maps
Remember, Bacalar's restaurants can get busy, particularly during the high season, so booking a table in advance is advisable. Eating out in Bacalar not only promises delicious food but also an authentic cultural experience.
Where to stay in Bacalar
Budget-friendly accommodations in Bacalar, Mexico
If you're traveling on a tighter budget, no worries, Bacalar has plenty of options to choose from. For years Bacalar has been a popular destination amongst backpackers and the town's naturally casual vibe caters to the budget traveler.
The Yak Lake House is a popular budget-friendly option among travelers, renowned for its laid-back ambiance and picture-perfect location on the shores of the stunning Bacalar lagoon. It offers both private and dormitory-style rooms, catering to the needs of solo travelers and groups alike. Notably, it boasts a range of amenities including a communal kitchen, a bar, free wifi, and offers a variety of activities such as paddleboarding and kayaking, making it a fun-filled and economical choice for your stay in Bacalar.
This charming hostel and camping site offers affordable accommodations right in the heart of Bacalar. It's just a short walk away from the lagoon, making it a fantastic base for all your lagoon excursions. The hostel offers both private rooms and dormitory-style rooms, ensuring there's an option suited to every budget.
Mid-range accommodations in Bacalar, Mexico
Mid-range is typically the level of hotels we book most often. While mid-range can mean a lot of different things depending on where in the world you are, in Mexico, you can expect mid-range to still be less that a typical hotel in the USA. Generally you're looking at $75-125 a night.
This is the hotel we stayed at when we visited Bacalar, Mexico. We chose it based on its solid reviews, free parking (since we were in a rental car), because it offered air conditioning in the rooms, and because it was dog friendly. Win win win win. We had such a nice stay at the hotel. It appeared they had just opened and everything was perfectly maintained and everyone was so kind and accommodating.
Situated right on the shores of the Lagoon of Seven Colors, Hotel Aires Bacalar offers comfortable accommodations with a stunning view. The hotel features well-appointed rooms, an on-site restaurant serving local cuisine, and a private dock for guests wishing to explore the lagoon. The central location offers easy access to the town's attractions, making it a convenient base for your Bacalar adventures.
Nestled in the heart of Bacalar, Casa Chukum provides a tranquil retreat with its contemporary design and lush surrounding gardens. Each room comes equipped with modern amenities and a private balcony overlooking the pool. Guests can also enjoy a rooftop terrace, perfect for viewing the remarkable Bacalar sunsets.
High-End accommodations in Bacalar, Mexico
With the growing of Bacalar's tourism industry has come a few higher end hotels in the area. Generally Bacalar is still pretty laidback and casual, but if you want something a bit more of a splurge on your trip, consider one of these three accommodations.
Perfectly located on the banks of the lagoon, Mia Bacalar Luxury Resort & Spa offers a unique blend of comfort and luxury. The resort boasts elegantly furnished suites with stunning lagoon views. The spa offers a variety of treatments and therapies designed to rejuvenate and restore. The property also features an on-site restaurant that serves gourmet local and international cuisine.
Hotel Boutique Akalki is a sanctuary of peace and serenity nestled in a lush green setting. The hotel offers exclusive cabins with private terraces and direct access to the lagoon. An on-site restaurant and bar, a wellness center offering massage treatments, and a variety of water activities make Akalki a premier luxury destination in Bacalar.
Offering a unique blend of luxury and adventure, AMAINAH Bacalar is located in an ecological reserve right on the banks of the lagoon. The resort offers comfortable accommodations with modern amenities and breathtaking views. Guests can also enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as kayaking, bird watching, and cave exploring. AMAINAH Bacalar is perfect for travelers looking for a romantic getaway or a nice place to get some good R&R.
Packing for your Bacalar adventure
Embarking on a vacation to Bacalar, Mexico, means preparing for an array of exciting activities, from exploring the mesmerizing Seven Color Lagoon to discovering the town's rich cultural heritage. As such, your packing list should be comprehensive, ensuring that you have everything you need to make the most of your Bacalar adventure. Below is a list of essentials that you should consider packing for your trip:
Swimwear and Lightweight Clothing: With the inviting lagoon and warm climate, you'll want comfortable swimwear and breathable clothing. We highly recommend bringing a hat and even SPF protecting layers due to the harsh sun rays.
Sunscreen and Sunglasses: The Mexican sun can be intense, so it's essential to protect your skin and eyes. Be sure to bring reef safe sunscreen for the lagoon (it's the only kind that is allowed)!
Comfortable Footwear: For exploring the town and its surroundings, comfortable walking shoes are a must. Remember to bring at least one water friendly pair of shoes for going to and from the lagoon.
Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is key, especially during outdoor activities. While the water in Bacalar is not safe to drink straight from the tap, buying a large 5 gallon jug of water is a lot cheaper and more environmentally friendly than single use plastic bottles.
Camera: To capture the stunning landscapes and memorable moments, of course!
Insect Repellent: To protect yourself from mosquitoes and other insects.
Travel Adapter: If you're traveling from abroad, don't forget a travel adapter for your electronics. If you're coming from America you will NOT need a travel adapter.
Beach Towel or Mat: For lounging by the lagoon or picnicking.
Snorkeling Gear: If you plan on exploring the underwater wonders of the lagoon. This can also be rented in town if you'd rather not bring your own.
Light Rain Jacket: Just in case you encounter a light shower.
Basic Spanish Phrasebook or App: While many locals speak English, knowing a few basic Spanish phrases can enhance your experience. We always recommend downloading the offline version of Google Translate's Spanish option.
What to absolutely NOT do in the Bacalar Lagoon
The mesmerizing Seven Color Lagoon in Bacalar, Mexico, is a natural marvel that has captivated countless travelers with its stunning beauty. However, while it's undoubtedly a must-visit destination, it's also crucial to remember that our actions can impact the delicate ecosystem of the lagoon. In this section, we're sharing some essential guidelines about what you should absolutely avoid doing in the Bacalar Lagoon to ensure we protect this natural wonder for future generations to enjoy.
Don't Use Regular Sunscreen: Regular sunscreens often contain chemicals harmful to the lagoon's delicate flora and fauna. Instead, opt for a biodegradable, reef-safe sunscreen.
Avoid Touching or Disturbing the Stromatolites: These ancient life forms are extremely fragile. Interfering with them can cause substantial damage.
Don't Litter: Help to maintain the pristine beauty of the lagoon by ensuring all your trash is properly disposed of, or even better, packed out.
Refrain from Jet-Skis or Speedboats: The noise and water disruption caused by these vehicles can disturb wildlife and contribute to the erosion of the lagoon's banks.
Don't Feed the Wildlife: It's important to preserve the natural habits of the lagoon's wildlife. Feeding them can disrupt their normal diet and behavior.
Are there crocodiles in the Bacalar Lagoon?
Yes, there are crocodiles in the Bacalar Lagoon, but there's no need to panic! The species found in the lagoon, the Morelet's crocodile, is generally not dangerous to humans. They are usually shy and tend to keep clear of any areas heavily populated by people. While sightings are not common, it's still important to remember that you're in their home. Be respectful and ensure to keep a safe distance if you come across any. It's always recommended to use guided tours for activities that involve going deep into the lagoon, as local guides are knowledgeable about the safest regions to swim and have the necessary training to deal with wildlife encounters.
Bacalar is undoubtedly worth a visit for those seeking a unique Mexican getaway. A stunning blend of natural beauty and cultural richness, the town provides a tranquil retreat far removed from the often hectic pace of Mexico's more frequented tourist destinations. The Seven Color Lagoon, the crown jewel of Bacalar, offers visitors a chance to experience a range of water-based activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and snorkeling. The lagoon's clear, warm waters and ever-changing hues of blue are the perfect backdrop for a day of leisure and adventure.
Aside from the mesmerizing lagoon, Bacalar boasts a wealth of historical and cultural attractions that promise to enrich your travel experience. Explore the San Felipe Fort, which stands as a testament to Bacalar's pirate-laden history, or wander through the town's charming streets, lined with colorful colonial-style buildings and local eateries serving delicious Yucatecan cuisine. The warm, welcoming locals and the laid-back atmosphere of Bacalar further enhance the town's appeal, making it a destination that leaves a lasting impression on all who visit.
Can you bring your dog to Bacalar?
Yes, you can bring your dog to Bacalar, but with some stipulations. The town of Bacalar is generally pet-friendly and you'll find several hotels or bed and breakfasts that welcome pets. However, when it comes to the lagoon itself, restrictions may apply. For the safety of both your pet and the local wildlife, it's essential to keep dogs on a leash and avoid areas designated as wildlife habitats. Also, remember to clean up after your pet to keep the area clean and prevent any potential harm to the lagoon's ecosystem. Always check with your accommodation and local authorities for specific rules and guidelines regarding dogs in public areas.
If you plan to travel to Bacalar, Mexico with your four-legged friend, we'd highly recommend this sailing tour that we booked through Airbnb. We had so much fun with the hosts and our dog, Kramer, was more than welcome on the boat and in the water at all of the swimming spots we stopped at!
Bacalar, Mexico is an amazing destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you're looking for the best places to eat and drink, interesting things to do or see, or unique places to stay, there is truly something for everyone in this Mexican paradise. Not only will Bacalar help you escape the hustle and bustle of modern life, but it's also sure to provide a trip full of unforgettable memories. Don't wait any longer - start planning your trip today and get ready for an experience that you'll never forget! So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and open yourself up to adventure in Bacalar, Mexico!
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We're Chris and Sara
A creative husband and wife duo from a small-town in Tennessee with passion for all things travel. Checkout the links below to join us on our past, present, and future adventures!