In this guide to Bacalar Lagoon, Mexico I am sharing practical tips and useful information on things to do in Bacalar, where to stay, and everything you need to know to have the best vacation ever in this magic town.
The Bacalar lagoon, or Laguna Bacalar, is a spectacular lake so popular for its multiple shades of blue and the tranquil homonymous village on its shore where many tourists flocks all year round to enjoy these amazing views and the laidback vibes.
The Laguna Bacalar Mexico is situated at about 3.5 hours drive from Tulum (5 hours by BUS).
A few days in Bacalar Mexico could be enough to appreciate its beauty and feel the magic, but you might be tempted to stay longer and enjoy the great atmosphere and the tranquillity, relax at the soothing view of the 7 shades of blue of the water and try all the lovely places to hang out, and why not, have some adventurous activities.
Bacalar nightlife might seem too quiet for the party lovers, so you guys, be aware of that; there is a very young crowd of travelers who love to just hang out in the few bars or cantine with live music, mingle, dance, and chill.
During the day there are quite a few activities that you can do and enjoy.
Or you can just relax on your charming eco-lodge right on the lagoon.
Traveling alone as a female is super easy and fun in Bacalar. If you wish to stay on your own you can move around safely and find secrets and tranquil spots and if you like to mingle and meet new people there are many opportunities to do so on tours or in the many restaurants and bars.
Or there is always Tinder 😉
The lovely resort town is popular for the huge lagoon of 7 shades of blue or maybe more. The name Bacalar comes from the Mayan Syancaan Bacalal, (syan = birth) Bacalal = place of reeds. Despite the indisputable beauty of the soothing huge mirror of crystalline water, this destination has been developing as a touristy place only in the past 3 years.
I remember when I went there 4 years ago there were 2 great resorts, which are now still the iconic hotels of the area, and a couple of restaurants where to eat.
During my second visit 4 years later I was pleasantly surprised by how much it has developed and how huge and various is the offer in terms of accommodations and restaurants.
Even happier to see that the development happened in total respect for the environment and more hotels are trying hard to have eco-friendly installation and promote a similar lifestyle.
Fast forward 2 years, after some thoughtful readers gave me the heads up on water contamination, I did some investigation with my local contacts who confirmed that unfortunately, this is a huge problem and there have been a few cases of skin diseases. The good news is that the local hotel owners are joining forces to put a stop to this situation and working to save their beautiful lake. I will certainly keep you posted.
Is it Bacalar Lagoon Safe?
I am sure this is one of your concerns, before anything else and I can easily say that Bacalar is indeed a safe destination, actually, I dare say Bacalar is one of the safest destinations in Mexico. So enjoy the laid-back vibes and the chill town, and all the beauty around it. Be friendly but don’t be naif. Nasty people are still everywhere. Make sure you follow the common-sense rules that I talk about in my thorough guide on Safety in Mexico.
Things to do in Bacalar Mexico
Go on a boat tour on Bacalar Lagoon Mexico
Sailing in the lagoon is without a doubt one of the most amazing and therefore popular experiences you could do.
It’s definitely the best way to appreciate the beauty of the 7 shades of blue of this huge mirror of water and you have thousands of way to do that.
First and foremost, you can do it either by sailing boat/hobby cats or by motorboat.
The second one is cheaper, around 250 pesos, while the sailing boat is from 500 to 600 according to the company.
Needless to say that if you sail, it will take around 4 hours and you will be able to appreciate more the tranquillity of the lagoon with more stops and a more relaxed cruise, without the noise of the motor.
By motorboat, you will still do almost the same itinerary but with only one or two stops for a swim.
Enjoy Bacalar Lagoon from the shore
If for some reasons you are not a fan of boats or you just don’t want to take the tour there are a few other options to appreciate the amazing mirror of water.
You can drive along the coast and enjoy the water from the different piers either from other hotels (some of them would let you in if you have lunch there) or from the so-called “Balnearios” which is the equivalent of a beach club but on the lake and without beach
Watch the sunrise from your hotel
Trust me, it’s totally worth an early wake up call.
Book a catamaran tour
Among all the Bacalar tours sailing on a catamaran is the most eco-friendly and the best way to learn about the local ecosystem as you will be 3 hours sailing around the lagoon to the most interesting sites with a local guide. A great way to enjoy the lagoon.
Enjoy the sunrise while kayaking or paddleboarding on the lagoon
This amazing tour will take you around the lagoon during sunrise, an unmissable experience. The tour will be led by an experienced guide and will last about 3 hours visiting the Pirates Channel and Black Cenote.
Explore the Bacalar lagoon in kayak
You can rent a kayak and explore the lagoon on your own.The guides will be happy to give you direction on the best spots and itineraries so that you can enjoy kayaking on your own.
Check out other amazing Bacalar tours
Find your perfect stay in Bacalar
Visit Cenote Azul Bacalar
Situated right at the end of the “Avenida Costera” the main road that runs along the coast of the lagoon, right before it merges with the “Carretera federal”, you will get to the entrance of this huge open Cenote.
It looks like a lake, surrounded by thick vegetation. Differently, from the other cenotes, the water is very dark due to its dept.
A cord stretches from one side to the other which allows you to have a safe swim to the other side of the “big pond”.
The entrance is only 25 MXN There is also a restaurant and a snack bar if you wish, but it is not mandatory to purchase anything. Just enjoy your swim!
Visit the spectacular and less spoken archeological sites in the surroundings
The area is also surrounded by impressive archaeological sites, which I love dearly, even though I have never paid too much attention to history.
Something that I am about to fix soon – I still love to just go there and walk around the ancient Mayan ruins and climb up the towering ancient building (when possible).
It is always a joy for me and has something magic in it, all the time, especially if I find myself alone.
Chacchoben is located at only 30 minutes’ drive from Bacalar in the direction of Tulum it’s a great site although very little known.
They are now working on another one close to it and hopefully will be open soon as well.
Oxtanka It is closed to Chetumal but I missed it by distraction and I am not sure how worth it is the drive. I am just including it for the sake of information.
Dzibanche and Kinichna and Kohunlich are situated at around 80 km from Bacalar. You can definitely do it in one day.
It’s a beautiful drive 30 minutes off the main road direction Campeche.
The road is signed you cannot get lost and both sites are totally worth the trip, if you like this kind of stuff.
Although you could do it in one day I always suggest spending a couple of nights out and visit also the area of Calakmul, which counts a tremendous number of natural and historical resources. I will write more soon about this.
The archaeological site of Dzibanche’
If you want to do it in one day, though, you can either rent a car or ask your hotel if they can organize a tour for you.
They might have some deals. I know that at the hostel Green monkey they have a full day trip to Calakmul.
I wouldn’t do that because in the area there is so much to see that it deserves a special trip or at least 2 or 3 days, but if you are tight with the time you could check with them.
Visit the old fort
This is the construction situated in the middle of the town, by the plaza, represent a very important historical point since it’s the tower from where the old population used to catch sight of the Pirates coming through the canal connecting the lagoon with the open sea and that has now been named after them.
The fort, besides offering a lovely view of the bay, it is now home of a small museum with interesting information on the history of Bacalar and in general of the Mayan history and an infographic of the ancient communication routes. I found it a very exhaustive and comprehensive summary of the mysterious ancient population.
Spend a day in Mahahal and Xcalak
Mahahual is an old fisherman town located on the sea right south of the biosphere of Sian Kaan and, on the map, at the same latitude of Bacalar.
If you have a car, in 1h and 30′ you will get there, even less. It has now turned into a tourist place and a cruise destination.
I personally don’t like it, I have to be honest, for the following reasons: it’s too windy, all the time all day and night, it’s shabby and not particularly nice. the beach is short and the beach chairs one close to the other like you are at 2 cm from your neighbor.
The water is beautiful but considering the downside, you can find amazing water in better and nicer places.
Having said that, I would suggest going if you are a passionate diver. In this case, you will find paradise. I couldn’t dive there because during my stay the sea was rough and the boats were not allowed to go out, but I spoke with a dive center which really sounded reliable and I would have definitely gone diving with them.
But, as I said, I didn’t, so please take it as a personal first impression only.
They are called Mahahual dive center and located on the “Malecon” the main road right on the beach. Otherwise, the place is full of dive centers for your choice.
The town offers a good variety of places where to stay, from cheap hostels to the lovely boutique hotel, such as:
I am listing the hotels that I have checked in Mahahual facing the beach and I would recommend it.
Xcalak is another piece of paradise for divers, but if you just want to enjoy the beach, just change the destination.
All the coast is full of smelly seagrass which is great to protect the coral, there is no doubt, but not pleasant for us who love to enjoy the beach.
There are lovely hotels along the coast which provide boat excursions to snorkel. Also here we have visited a dive center that seemed very reliable and would take you for snorkeling and diving trips of all kinds. It’s called XTC dive center and they also have a couple of apartments to rent. That would be the only reason I would go there.
I didn’t have the time to check out Xcalak hotels, therefore, I cannot be helpful on that one.
I thought I should spend a few words on Bacalar Beaches as there are no real beaches per se in Bacalar. You have access to the water mainly from wooden platforms that have been built to facilitate swimmers. Places like Cocalito instead have grass where you can lay down and from there you can easily step into the water.
I will explain more in detail here below.
Spend a day at Balneario Cocalito
It is the most popular beach club in Bacalar Lagoon, for different reasons, it is a sort of sanctuary for the famous Estromatolitos beautiful mineral formations mushroom-shaped (that’s my view) formed in the water by the shore.
The local is very strict and look after their preservations. In this particular point, you can lay and sunbathe on the mown and get in the water by a man-made entrance and walk through that formation into the natural swimming pool of amazing shades of blue.
Here is where you can also find the famous Bacalar swings where you can have fun playing while enjoying the spectacular soothing view. The cost of the entrance is 25 pesos (1.25 USD approximately).
…or Balneario Municipal
This is the Bacalar Public beach although it’s not properly a beach. It’s very close to the town center, on the waterside, of course. It’s a huge green space with a patio and a long pier, where you can lay down by the water and swim from there. There is no entrance fee but if you park the car they charge you 15 pesos (about 0.75 USD)
Explore Balneario Sac ha
This is a mystery, still. This deserted balneario is located just after the hotel Akalki, right outside Bacalar going towards Chetumal. I went there on a random weekly day and it was totally deserted, I guess abandoned.
The water was beautiful though and the mown where to lay down lovely, with easy access to the water. I guess it’s a good option if you wish to stay isolated.
It’s the first one that has been created in Bacalar, therefore the oldest and the most popular. There is where the big groups are taken. I would avoid it if you don’t like big crowds.
Los Rapidos Bacalar Mexico
Going to this place was one of my favorite things to do in Bacalar.
Located at 7 km from town, towards Chetumal, it’s a bit difficult to see as the writing on the road sign is very artistically designed, but if you see a colorful sign after one of the Akalki hotels, that’s it.
You can either play smart and cross the road going for a couple of mt in the opposite directions or continue driving until the next U-turn ( that‘s how I found out about Balneario Sac – ha – see above).
When you get there you will find a restaurant where they will explain to you how it works. You pay 50mxn for the entrance and you need to have your meal there, which you would anyway, as you will want to stay all day.
They have kayaks and life jackets for rent and beach chairs for your free use. Once you pass the restaurant, you will get to the garden and there you will be in front of the beautiful transparent water river where you will realize that the actual “rapidos” is nothing like the name suggests.
It is really fun though. The water runs quite fast from south to north and all along the shore.
They have fixed two cords where you can hang on and resist the water flow, or what we loved to do, like all the kids we met, go upstream and let the water take us down and then walk back up.
It’s not deep and most of the time, you will be able to stand on your feet. The current is stronger in the middle of the river.
If you go on the “palapa” on the right and climb down the stairs on the other side you will have an amazing view and you can start your descent even further, so your ride will be longer.
We had so much fun, just like kids. A full day in nature.
The restaurant is very simple but ok and the staff very nice and friendly.
A short story for you. We were told also that we could have kept floating till the next restaurant at about 1.2 km distance and then come back by walking from the jungle side (another km).
We have tried it but we were not sure to be on the right path since there was no more current and we decided to turn around and go back walking upstream.
Only afterward we realized that the current is only in the first 300 mt, then you will have to actually swim.
If you like that you might want to try it. We didn’t get to the end, though, so I couldn’t tell you the whole experience.
I suggest you should ask very well at the restaurants so you make sure not to get lost in the lagoon.
Another tip, if you don’t like big crowds, you should avoid going on a weekend or a holiday as it gets quite busy.
Where to eat in Bacalar
Having stayed in Bacalar for a few days I managed to try different restaurants which you can see in this separate post on the best Bacalar Restaurants. My favorite is La Playta Bacalar. I loved the setting, right on the lagoon, the ambient, and decoration, and the food is delicious with vegan and vegetarian choices. What’s your favorite Restaurant in Bacalar?
Where to stay in Bacalar: top hotels and homes
Find your perfect home on Airbnb: click on the price in the map below or on the Show More button.
If you are deciding where to stay in Bacalar, here below I have selected my top 5 hotels in Bacalar. If you wish to see more, you can read my complete guide to Bacalar Hotels, where I talk about all the hotels I have visited during my time in Bacalar.
Rancho Encantado – Bacalar (Most popular luxury hotel in Bacalar)
Rancho Encantado is one of the first eco-hotel in Bacalar, and one of the most popular. The cozy luxury cabañas are spread around a lush garden, and a restaurant is located by a long and comfortable pier from where you can safely jump in the fresh blue water.
Casa Lamat (Most unique luxury hotel in Bacalar)
Just before arriving at Bacalar from Tulum, you can find these Eco-chic cabañas on the left by the water. I really loved the rustic concept of the wooden cabañas. It is very simple and inspires an authentic feeling of connection with the surrounding nature. The hammock on the piers are so inviting! a real relaxing option.
Casa Caracol (Best value for money hotel in Bacalar)
This is one of my favorite among the little boutique hotels.
Situated in a peaceful area on the lagoon almost by the end of the coastal road, the rooms are spacious with minimal but fancy decorations, almost all in wooden.
The ones on the first floor can have a peak to the lagoon. You have access to the water through a beautiful garden and you can lay down on fancy beach chairs on a patio right on the transparent blue water. I find it one of the best properties in terms of quality/price.
Casa Corazòn (cutest hotel in Bacalar)
This is a cute little property of 8 rooms. All are facing the lagoon although not all of them have a view. The bedrooms are minimal but cute and the pier on the lake is long and spacious with lots of hammocks where you can hang out and relax at the soothing view of the water.
Hotel Laguna Bacalar (Best view hotel in Bacalar)
Hotel Laguna Bacalar is the oldest hotel in Bacalar and very popular for its stunning views from almost everywhere in the property, although I would chose room 6 from which you feel like you are suspended over the water. From the outside the hotel looks quite old and tired, and I was expecting the rooms to be the same. However I was pleasantly surprised to find very spacious rooms and nicely decorated. What adds to the overall value are the huge window-walls that allow you a full view of the 7 shades of the blue lagoon.
Read about more hotel on my article: Where to stay in Bacalar.
How to get to Bacalar Lagoon and around
Getting to Bacalar is very easy whether you decide to rent a car or get on a Bus.
Renting a car, presuming you are coming from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum, you cannot get lost. It’s all straight. All roads take you to Bacalar Lagoon. Follow my practical guide on driving in Mexico if you have any concerns.
Consider that from Tulum to Bacalar Lagoon is a little more than 3 hours by car while the bus from Tulum to Bacalar will take about 4 to 5 hours.
If you prefer to travel by bus, the ADO offers great service from anywhere including Merida, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Chetumal, Palenque, Veracruz, and other towns in between.
You can check this site for a timetable. It is advisable to purchase the ticket with anticipation if you cannot get it online since sometimes the site is traveling should get to the ticket office earlier the same day or the day before to assure your seats.
Please remember that traveling on the ADO can be a little freezing so remember to bring a jumper or a blanket to cover up.
To move around you can either get a taxi from the reception of your hotels or just grabbing one on the road. I have seen many of them. Or you can also rent a bike for a few dollars a day and be independent unless you are in a resort far from town. I would not suggest riding a bike on the main road ( Carretera federal) Check with your front desk where is the closest place to rent it.
Find the best car rental deals and explore around freely, at your own pace. My favorite way to enjoy a destination!
Best time to visit Bacalar
The best time to visit Bacalar and the entire Yucatan Peninsula is definitely from December through March, because the weather is the best you can have, not so humid, but still with summer temperature. However, for being the best season, the hotel rates are more expensive and it can be crowded. Summers are very hot and it’s more likely to find rain although not necessarily. To get the best of both worlds you might want to consider traveling in the shoulder season, November and early December and May and June. That’s when you will find fewer tourists, lower rates, and good weather. However, remember that in the tropics it can always rain.
The two weeks that you should avoid by all means are Easter and Christmas. Those are the most expensive and crowded. However, if you don’t have much choice, make sure you book your hotel and car rental in advance.