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Discover Bacalar: Uncover Mexico's Hidden Gem Beyond Cancun!

Escape to Bacalar and experience its enchanting \"Lagoon of Seven Colors\"! Find out why this serene destination offers more than just beauty with our ultimate guide—dive into vibrant waters, savor local cuisines, and explore ancient ruins. Click to unlock the secrets of Mexico’s magical getaway!




Prepping for Bacalar? Here’s Your Ultimate Travel Guide

Imagine lounging in a hammock, swaying gently over crystalline, spearmint blue waters—that's Bacalar Lagoon for you! Nestled just a 2-hour drive from the bustling vibes of Tulum, Bacalar offers a serene escape into a laid-back, almost dream-like atmosphere. This enchanting town, declared a Pueblo Mágico (Magic Town) in 2006, serves as your gateway to one of Mexico’s most breathtaking natural wonders. If you’re yearning for an offbeat Mexican adventure, Bacalar is your ideal destination. Read on for the most comprehensive Laguna Bacalar travel guide detailing the best local experiences, how to get there, and where to stay.

Bacalar Mexico

Balacar, Mexico Travel Guide

Where is Bacalar, Mexico?

Positioned on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Bacalar sits tantalizingly close to the Belize border—merely a 3-hour drive to Belize City. This proximity makes it easy to hop over to the idyllic islands of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. Back on the Mexican side, Bacalar is neighbored by Chetumal and the beach town of Mahahual on the Costa Maya. While Cancun is a 4-hour drive away, Bacalar itself sprawls along approximately 15km of the 42km long Bacalar Lagoon coastline, offering a quaint, concentrated experience of the Riviera Maya's quieter side.

Is it Safe to Visit Bacalar?

Safety is a common concern among travelers, but Bacalar is known to be one of the safer places to visit in Mexico, particularly for tourists. The town's economy largely revolves around tourism, contributing to its welcoming and secure environment. The Yucatan Peninsula, where Bacalar is located, boasts one of the lowest homicide rates in the country—significantly lower than many other parts of Mexico. Public transportation in the area is generally safe to use during the day, but it’s wise to stay cautious and avoid traveling at night, as isolated incidents, including carjackings, have occurred under such circumstances.

Cost of Travel in Bacalar

When compared to popular coastal destinations like Cancun and Tulum, Bacalar stands out as a more budget-friendly option. The cost of both accommodations and dining here tends to be lower, which is great news for travelers looking to extend their stay without breaking the bank. Typically, you can find a comfortable hotel room in town for about $30-50 per night. Dining out is equally affordable, with meals ranging from $5-10. For those interested in exploring, boat tours around the lagoon start at $15 per person, and daily bike rentals are available for just $12.50.

Bacalar Lagoon: Unveiling the Magic of Laguna de Siete Colores

Why Bacalar Lagoon is a Must-Visit

Stepping into Bacalar, it becomes immediately apparent why Laguna Bacalar is affectionately known as "Laguna de Siete Colores" or the lagoon of seven colors. The waters display a mesmerizing spectrum from light turquoise to deep indigo, creating a natural mosaic that’s simply breathtaking. The secret behind this colorful display? It's all about depth. The lagoon’s water depth varies significantly, from as shallow as 10 feet to as deep as 300 feet, which affects the color reflection—shallow areas shimmer with clear, spearmint hues while the deeper areas boast a mysterious dark blue. Beyond its beauty, Bacalar Lagoon is a unique geological formation—a saltwater lake created by oceanic waves, making it a rare and special ecosystem compared to the world’s 2 million lakes.


How to get to Bacalar, Mexico

Getting to Bacalar is an adventure in itself. The nearest gateway by air is Chetumal International Airport, just a 45-minute drive from Bacalar. Though small, this airport connects you through Mexico City from international locations. Alternatively, if you're combining your trip with a Belize adventure, Belize City is just a stone's throw away—a 45-minute flight from Bacalar and about a 4-hour bus ride.


By Car

Driving to Bacalar offers a flexible and scenic route, especially from places like Cancun or Tulum. The roads in the Yucatan Peninsula are traveler-friendly, marked with clear signage and generally in good condition—just keep an eye out for the occasional pothole. Renting a car? It’s surprisingly affordable. You can snag an economy car for around $200 per week—that’s less than $25 a day! Fuel costs are equally reasonable at about 16.50 pesos per liter (approximately $2.50 per gallon). For the best deals and reliable service, I recommend checking out DiscoverCars.com. Here’s a quick breakdown of drive times:


By Shuttle

If driving isn't your style, consider a hassle-free private shuttle. You can book a ride that will pick you up directly from your hotel or the airport in Cancun or Tulum and whisk you straight to Bacalar. This service is reliable and perfect for those who prefer not to navigate on their own.


By Bus

For those on a budget or seeking a local experience, the bus system in the Yucatan is excellent. ADO buses offer a comfortable, air-conditioned ride with punctual and organized services. Make sure to book your tickets in advance to secure your spot.

Whether you're mesmerized by its vibrant waters or navigating your journey to this secluded paradise, Bacalar is a destination that promises both relaxation and adventure, tailored to your travel desires.


Getting Around in Bacalar

Exploring the quaint town of Bacalar on foot is a breeze, but to truly appreciate the vastness of the lagoon, you'll want to get on the water. Whether you opt for a leisurely boat ride or paddle yourself in a kayak, you'll find that many guesthouses and hotels offer these as rentals or even complimentary amenities. For those wanting to venture further, driving is quite straightforward. We took our own ride from Playa del Carmen, found parking to be plentiful, and navigated around town effortlessly. For attractions a bit off the beaten path, like los Rapidos, having access to a car or renting a bike is essential. Speaking of bikes, rentals are readily available—Magic Bacalar rents them out for just 35 MXN (about $1.75) per hour or 250 MXN ($12.50) for a full day.


Best Time for Visiting Bacalar

Bacalar Lagoon is stunning any time of year, but for the best weather and fewer crowds, plan your visit between January and March. The climate is more comfortable, and you’ll avoid both the hurricane season from August to October and the busy peak season in December. The rainy season lasts from June to November, with September and October seeing the heaviest downpours. We visited in November and were lucky to enjoy spectacular weather throughout our stay!


Recommended Duration of Stay in Bacalar

While Bacalar might not boast an extensive list of activities, its charm lies in its simplicity. Ideal for those looking to unwind, the lagoon’s tranquil waters and the laid-back vibe of the town are perfect for relaxation. I suggest staying for at least three days, giving you enough time to enjoy a boat tour, explore los Rapidos, and spend a lazy day swinging in a hammock. Although it’s tempting to think of Bacalar as a day trip destination, its beauty and serenity deserve a longer stay. It’s a bit remote compared to other Yucatan attractions, so a quick visit would mean missing out on the essence of this peaceful retreat.

Where to stay in Bacalar

Where to Stay in Bacalar, Mexico: Top Picks for Young Travelers

Choosing Your Ideal Bacalar Stay

Bacalar offers a range of accommodations that cater to every taste and budget, although it's worth noting that even in this picturesque locale, the amenities can be quite rustic. For instance, don't expect flawless WiFi everywhere, and many guesthouses might skip on serving breakfast. For an immersive experience, consider staying at one of the lakeside hotels which usually feature private docks and stellar views right from your room. If you're looking to save a bit or want quicker access to local dining and activities, then a place in the town center might be more up your alley. However, for those who can't decide, some hotels offer the best of both worlds with lakeside views and proximity to town.

Top Accommodation Options in Bacalar

Whether you’re traveling on a shoestring budget or ready to indulge in luxury, Bacalar has something just for you:

Budget-Friendly: Yak Lake House

For those watching their wallets, Yak Lake House is an unbeatable choice. Perfectly located both in town and by the lake, this hostel is praised for its chic design and offers both dormitory-style and private rooms. It’s an adults-only venue, which might be a bummer for some, but it guarantees a tranquil atmosphere. Make sure to check out their latest rates and availability.

Mid-Range Comfort: Casita Maya Bacalar

Nestled on the northern shore of the lagoon, Casita Maya offers a balance of comfort without breaking the bank. A mere 10-minute drive from the town center, the accommodation might be basic, but the direct access to the lagoon and the private dock more than make up for it. Wake up to some of the most beautiful lake views Bacalar has to offer. For current pricing, click here.

Luxury Stay: Mia Bacalar Luxury Resort & Spa

For a splash of luxury, the Mia Bacalar Luxury Resort & Spa stands out as the area’s premier upscale resort. You won’t find the typical high-rise or chain hotels here; instead, Mia Bacalar offers exclusive amenities and is situated on the prime part of the lagoon known for its crystal-clear waters. This resort comes with a higher price tag but delivers an exceptional experience. Check out their rates and book a memorable stay.

Bacalar is a destination that combines natural beauty with a laid-back vibe, making it a perfect escape for young travelers. Whatever your budget, each of these recommended stays promises a unique way to enjoy everything this charming lagoon town has to offer.


Things to Do in Bacalar

Embrace the Aquatic Wonders of Laguna Bacalar

Laguna Bacalar, often the highlight of any visit to the region, offers an array of water-centric activities. This expansive body of water is not only home to several cenotes and balnearios but also flanked by mysterious Mayan ruins. Here’s a rundown of the must-do activities to make the most out of your Bacalar adventure:


1. Take a Boat Trip around the Lagoon

Top of the list is a scenic boat tour across Bacalar’s vibrant waters. The best views are caught during a midday tour, typically around 11 am when the sun lights up the lagoon's myriad of blues. Whether you opt for a speedboat, which departs hourly at 250 Pesos ($12.50) per person, or prefer the luxury of a sailboat, offering trips at 600 Pesos ($30) complete with an open bar and snacks, you’re in for a breathtaking experience. Sailboats and pontoons offer a more intimate setting for 350 Pesos ($17.50) and are often booked out during peak season, so planning ahead is advisable. Key spots visited include Canal de los Piratas, Cenote Negro, Cenote Esmeralda, Cenote Cocalitos, and Isla de los Pájaros.

Rent a Kayak or SUP

If you're looking for a more active engagement with Bacalar’s serene waters, renting a kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) is a fantastic choice. With rental locations throughout town, including options from your hotel or local providers like Magic Bacalar (95 MXN or $4.75 per hour), you can explore at your own pace. Imagine paddling to secluded areas, your kayak filled with snacks and drinks for a day-long adventure.


2. Float in Canal de las Piratas

Dive into the history and natural beauty of Bacalar at Canal de las Piratas. This iconic spot, once a hideout for 18th-century pirates, now serves as a perfect location for a leisurely float and is a popular stop on boat tours. Don’t miss the unique, abandoned ship-like structure in the middle of the canal, originally intended as a restaurant.


3. Drift down Los Rapidos


For a truly enchanting experience, head to Los Rapidos, a natural ‘lazy river’ at the southern end of the lagoon. Here, you can drift through gentle currents surrounded by lush scenery—a favorite among visitors of all ages. Although slightly removed from Bacalar town, the journey is well worth it for the serene drift and the on-site dining options, albeit a bit pricey. Admission is 100 pesos ($5) for adults and 50 pesos ($2.50) for children.


4. Swim in Cenote Cocalitos

Cenote Cocalitos is a hit among younger crowds and families, renowned for its crystal-clear shallow waters and Instagram-worthy over-water swings and hammocks. Not just a beautiful spot to chill, it’s also the best place in the area to observe stromatolites, the ancient living rocks. The on-site restaurant offers tasty local dishes like shrimp soup, making it a perfect spot for a swim and a bite.


Each of these activities encapsulates the magical appeal of Bacalar, making it a destination that caters to both thrill-seekers and those looking to unwind by the tranquil waters. Whether you’re exploring underwater sinkholes, drifting through ancient pirate channels, or simply soaking up the sun on a hammock, Bacalar promises an unforgettable experience.


5. Dive into the Beauty of Cenote Cocalitos

Cenote Cocalitos stands out as a vibrant gem within Laguna Bacalar, attracting a lively crowd of young travelers and Instagram enthusiasts, all drawn to its picturesque over-water swings and vividly colored hammocks. While it's popular on social media, the real allure goes beyond digital appeal.

The shallow, crystal-clear waters make Cenote Cocalitos an ideal spot for families and anyone looking to soak up the sun in a serene setting. Perfect for a refreshing swim, the cenote also offers the added culinary treat of an on-site restaurant renowned for its exquisite caldo de camaron (shrimp soup), a must-try for visitors.

Moreover, Cenote Cocalitos provides a unique opportunity to witness stromatolites—some of the oldest known organisms in the world, which contribute to the cenote's ecological significance. This combination of natural beauty and scientific interest makes Cenote Cocalitos a captivating stop in your exploration of Bacalar’s waters.


6. Discover Cenote Negro

Nestled within Bacalar Lagoon, Cenote Negro, also known as Cenote de las Brujas (Witch’s Cenote), offers a mysterious and profound experience unlike typical cenotes. With depths reaching 250 feet, its dark blue waters create an eerie yet mesmerizing allure. Due to its depth and past tragic events, swimming is currently prohibited, but it remains a popular spot for contemplative visits during boat tours.


7. Birdwatching at Isla de los Pájaros

Isla de los Pájaros (Bird Island), situated within the lagoon, is a paradise for birdwatchers. Home to unique species like the snail hawk and parrots, the island is best visited in the early mornings or late afternoons when the birds are most active. Remember to bring your binoculars to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.


8. Relax at the Public Docks

If you're not lodging directly on the water, Bacalar’s public docks, particularly at Balneario Municipal El Aserradero, offer a splendid swimming spot. Access is free, and its location in the town center makes it easily accessible. The structure, crafted from wooden beams and covered by a straw palapa, sits amidst turquoise waters, illustrating why Bacalar is often dubbed "the Maldives of Mexico."


9. Stroll Through Bacalar Town

Experience the quaint charm of Bacalar town, recognized as one of Mexico’s "Pueblos Mágicos." The town’s layout is typical of Spanish colonial design, centered around a vibrant main square. Walking through Bacalar, you can explore its rich history, from its days as a significant city in the Maya civilization to its conquest by Spanish colonizers in 1543. The town’s serene atmosphere offers a glimpse into its storied past.


10. Visit San Joaquín Parish Church

Just a block from the main square, the Parroquia de San Joaquin stands as a testament to Bacalar’s history. This 18th-century church, with its impressive vaulted ceilings, is open to visitors without charge, providing a peaceful retreat and a chance to admire its architectural beauty.

11. Explore Fort San Felipe

Overlooking the town square, Fort San Felipe is a historic fortress that played a crucial role in protecting Bacalar against pirate invasions in the 18th century. Today, it serves as a museum showcasing an array of colonial-era weapons, navigational instruments, and even a pirate skeleton. Entry is 100 pesos ($5), and the fort is a must-visit for history enthusiasts.

12. Experience El Manati

El Manati Bacalar is a unique combination of a concept store, museum, and restaurant. It’s especially known for its engaging exhibits on stromatolites—ancient life forms found in the lagoon. Visiting on a Sunday is particularly delightful with live music and a vibrant atmosphere, perfect for enjoying a leisurely breakfast in their exotic palapa tipi tent.

Each of these activities provides a unique way to connect with Bacalar’s natural beauty and rich history, making your visit truly unforgettable. Whether you’re into history, nature, or just relaxing by the water, Bacalar has something special to offer.


13. Explore the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins

Just an hour's drive from Bacalar, the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins offer a profound glimpse into the past, sprawling across 20 acres of dense jungle. This extensive archaeological site is home to over 200 mounds, inviting explorers to wander through history. The standout features of Kohunlich are the striking Sun God masks, but the site's allure doesn't end there. It also boasts various other structures and intricately modeled censers that have been excavated and are now preserved in museums. Named after the English term "Cohoon Ridge," referring to the local Corozo palm trees, Kohunlich’s original name remains a mystery. Entry to this captivating site is priced at just 80 MXN ($4) per person, making it a must-visit for history buffs and adventure seekers alike.


14. Go Ziplining at Kan Kin Bacalar

For a thrilling perspective of Bacalar Lagoon and its surrounding beauty, nothing beats the exhilarating experience of ziplining at Tirolesas Kan Kin Bacalar. Positioned above the verdant jungle canopy, the facility features a 1500-meter circuit comprising five zip lines, designed to thrill and awe. This adventure is perfect for those seeking to combine an adrenaline rush with stunning aerial views of the lagoon below. Whether you’re an adventure junkie or a family looking for an exciting day out, Tirolesas Kan Kin welcomes everyone, including children over the age of five. The cost for this unforgettable aerial adventure is 750 MXN ($37.50) per person.


Where to Eat in Bacalar

Despite its modest size, Bacalar boasts an impressive array of dining options that cater to every palate. From quaint breakfast cafes to bustling food trucks and elegant gourmet establishments, here are some must-visit spots where you can indulge in the local flavors:


Where to go beyond Bacalar

Where to Go Beyond Bacalar

While Bacalar itself offers plenty to explore, many visitors combine their stay with a trip to Mahahual, a serene beach town along Costa Maya known for its laid-back charm and less touristy vibe compared to Tulum. Here, you’ll find a blend of local and visiting Mexican tourists, creating a more authentic atmosphere.


Just a stone’s throw from the Belize border, Bacalar also serves as a gateway for further adventures into Belize. During our first visit a decade ago, we crossed into Belize seamlessly. If you’re considering extending your journey, don't miss the opportunity to explore the stunning Caye Caulker. For more tips on traveling from Bacalar to Caye Caulker, be sure to check out our detailed travel guide.


Whether you're sampling the local cuisine or venturing beyond into neighboring regions, Bacalar offers a vibrant mix of culinary delights and adventurous outings, making it a perfect destination for young travelers looking to experience the richness of the Yucatan Peninsula and beyond.

What to Pack for Bacalar

Given Bacalar’s tropical climate and aquatic activities, it’s essential to pack accordingly to make the most of your trip. Here’s a list of recommended items to bring along:

By preparing with the right gear and setting realistic budget expectations, you can enjoy all that Bacalar has to offer without any major hitches. Whether you’re lounging by the lagoon or exploring ancient ruins, Bacalar is a destination that promises both adventure and tranquility.

Bacalar, a serene gem nestled on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, affordability, and safety, making it an ideal destination for young adventurers. Renowned for the stunning "Laguna de Siete Colores," Bacalar provides a breathtaking escape with its mesmerizing spectrum of blues, accessible via a comfortable journey by car, shuttle, or bus from nearby cities or countries.

The town itself boasts a range of accommodations from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious resorts, all offering unique lakeside views and cozy amenities, though services like WiFi might be basic. For gastronomy enthusiasts, Bacalar surprises with diverse dining options ranging from charming lakeside restaurants to vibrant food trucks offering delicious local and international flavors at a budget.

Safety in Bacalar is top-notch, with a community focused on tourism and lower crime rates compared to other Mexican destinations. For those planning a visit, packing should include eco-friendly sunscreen, snorkeling gear for the rich marine life, and comfortable quick-dry clothing suitable for the tropical climate.

Whether you're exploring the rich cultural history at ancient Mayan ruins, zipping over the lagoon, or simply relaxing by its crystal-clear waters, Bacalara provides a comprehensive yet tranquil experience. With additional attractions just a drive away, like the less-touristy beach town of Mahahual or the enchanting Caye Caulker in Belize, Bacalar serves as both a standalone destination and a gateway to broader adventures.