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A boat tour is hands down the best thing to do while you’re in Bacalar! It’s really the only way to properly see the stunning, turquoise lagoon. Sure, you can glimpse it from the dock, but nothing beats heading out on the water and swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Bacalar Lagoon. Plus, you get to see some gorgeous scenery and you can even party on board!
Bacalar Lagoon is often referred to as “the Lagoon of 7 Colors” because of its beautiful array of blue and green hues, so you definitely don’t want to miss the chance to explore this amazing body of water. Some people even call it “the Maldives of Mexico!” and it’s without a double one of our top places to explore in the Yucatan.
We had such an amazing time when we went on a Bacalar boat tour and definitely picked a good one. But with so many tours on offer, it’s worth doing your research beforehand to make sure you pick the right one for you – which is precisely why we’ve put together this guide!
- Our TOP PICK for a Bacalar Boat Tour
- 1. About Bacalar Lagoon
- 2. Most Bacalar boat tours are very similar
- 3. Are Bacalar boat tours safe?
- 4. When is the best time to book a Bacalar boat tour?
- 5. What are the highlights of Bacalar Lagoon?
- 6. What are the best boat tours on Bacalar Lagoon?
- 7. Private tour vs group tour on Bacalar Lagoon
- 8. Do you need to book a Bacalar boat tour in advance?
- 9. Can you get seasick on a Bacalar boat tour?
- 10. Are Bacalar boat tours suitable for kids?
- 11. Why book on Viator?
- 12. Is a Bacalar boat tour worth it?
- Other Activities to do While in Bacalar
- Where to Stay in Bacalar, Mexico
- Thanks for reading!
- Why We Book Tours with Viator
- Renting a Car in Mexico
- Don't get Caught without Travel Insurance!
Our TOP PICK for a Bacalar Boat Tour
If you’re ready to book a cruise on Bacalar Lagoon right this second, we recommend this specific Bacalar boat tour that we took. You get all the highlights of the lagoon like snorkeling in cenotes, a mud mask, and lots of swimming. Plus there’s an open bar and loads of delicious fresh fruit. It’s only $50 USD per person which is a steal for a fun afternoon out on the water! You can book this boat tour online here.
1. About Bacalar Lagoon
Bacalar Lagoon is a crystal clear lagoon in the small town of Bacalar in Quintana Roo, on the Yucatan Peninsula. Bacalar is only about 30 minutes away from the border between Mexico and Belize, so people do visit from both sides.
Bacalar is a pretty chilled place to visit right now, but it’s fast gaining popularity. It’s certainly becoming a bit of an Instagram hotspot, which is no surprise because its bright blue waters make for amazing photographs! But for now, it is a chill paradise compared to the tourist hotspots of Cancun, Tulum, or Playa del Carmen.
The Bacalar Lagoon is long and narrow, and it’s actually the largest lake on the Yucatan Peninsula. It measures around 42 kilometers (26 miles) long and just under 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) wide at its widest point. You can also spot some pretty cool wildlife as you explore the lagoon, like howler monkeys, hummingbirds, and even the occasional crocodile.
The lagoon has a pretty interesting history, too. You can spot the Fort of San Felipe on the edge of the lagoon, which was built in the 1700s to protect the town of Bacalar from attacks by European and African pirates. These attacks were pretty constant because the pirates were looking for blackwood. Admittedly, it doesn’t sound as exciting as gold, but it was super valuable in Europe at the time because it was used to dye textiles.
Blackwood coupled with the fact that there’s a channel from the lagoon to the ocean, made Bacalar a prime target for pirates. Luckily, the fort served its purpose and was operated by the Spanish for over 100 years before it was taken over by the Mayans during the Caste War.
Nowadays, it’s hard to believe that this peaceful lagoon could have been the site of vicious pirate attacks!
2. Most Bacalar boat tours are very similar
There’s not that much variety in terms of Bacalar boat tours. They all tend to visit the same five places, which are Canal de los Piratas, Cenote de la Bruja, Cenote Esmeralda, Cenote Cocalitos, and Isla de los Pájaros.
They also last for roughly the same amount of time, and they’re all within a similar price range.
The main difference between the tours is the crew and the inclusions. Some boats will say that drinks are included but then impose a limit of three drinks per person. Other boats genuinely do have an all-you-can-drink policy, so pay attention to this if you’re hoping for a boozy boat tour.
Some tours include food as well, whereas others don’t. The tour that we did included snacks and some delicious fresh fruit, which we were super happy with. If the tour you choose doesn’t include food, you can usually bring your own.
3. Are Bacalar boat tours safe?
Yes! When it comes to safety in Mexico, the Bacalar Lagoon is known for its super-calm water. The tour operators also follow both local and national boating rules. You have to wear life jackets while the boat is moving. We were surprised by how strict they were (even if my oversized life jacket might not be as effective as it could be).
The lagoon is also safe to swim in because the water is very clean. You’ll make several swim stops in shallow water, so you should be okay even if you’re not a strong swimmer.
So basically, there’s no need to worry!
4. When is the best time to book a Bacalar boat tour?
The general consensus is that morning is the best time to go. The water tends to be at its clearest in the morning because the wind picks up in the afternoon and disturbs the sediment at the bottom of the lagoon. The morning is also a cooler time of day to go. You’re not allowed to wear sunscreen on a Bacalar boat tour, so going earlier in the day might be better for you if you have a tendency to turn into a lobster.
Having said that, we went on our Bacalar boat tour in the afternoon and loved it! It definitely topped our list of tours in the Yucatan Peninsula as the lagoon is still stunning later on in the day so we didn’t feel like we missed out by going in the afternoon. We got to catch warmer weather which made us eager to swim in the crystal blue water!
Plus, if you’re looking to party on your Bacalar boat tour, then you might want to go in the afternoon. Well, unless you’re the kind of person who likes to get the party started at 9 am – in which case, more power to you!
5. What are the highlights of Bacalar Lagoon?
Canal de los Piratas
As you can probably tell from the name, this channel was pretty popular among the pirates. Even the controversial explorer/pirate Francis Drake used to frequent it on his journeys.
However, prior to colonization, it was used as a more legitimate trade route by the Mayans.
With its white sand and bright blue water, this part of the lagoon looks especially Maldivian. Plus, the sand at this beautiful Yucatan beach is said to be rich in minerals, so you can rub it on your skin for the ultimate exfoliation!
One of the best things about visiting Canal de los Piratas, though, is exploring the abandoned ship’s bow. It was built to be a floating restaurant but part way through construction, the project was deemed too damaging to the marine ecosystem. It was abandoned so although you won’t find any food here, you can have fun exploring and jumping off of the platforms.
Cenote de la Bruja
Cenote de la Bruja is an open-air cenote that’s shrouded in mystery. Bruja is Spanish for witch. The story goes that a witch cursed the cenote after the people of Bacalar tried to evict her from her home in order to build a school. Priests, healers, and everyone in between tried to get rid of the curse, but no one ever succeeded.
The cenote is also referred to as Cenote Negro due to its dark blue color. As you enter the Cenote de la Bruja, you’ll notice that there’s a stunning contrast between the turquoise water of the lagoon and the deep navy of the cenote. So, enter if you dare – it’s about 100 meters (328 feet) deep and no one really knows what’s down there!
Cenote Esmeralda is a small cenote that’s surrounded by mangroves, so it’s a good place to spot wildlife. We were lucky enough to see a giant iguana when we visited!
The reason this cenote is a popular stop on Bacalar boat tours is because of its unique appearance. There’s a gap where the cenote meets the lagoon, and it looks like an eye! It’s a really striking sight, and naturally, it’s a very popular photo opportunity.
It is also the largest cenote in the lagoon at a whopping 500 meters (1,640 feet) in diameter. That’s a lot of cenote for you to explore!
Cenote Cocalitos is known for its stromatolites, which are flat, circular structures that are formed out of bacteria but essentially look like stones. They’re actually some of the oldest living organisms on Earth, so it’s pretty amazing to see!
Sadly boats no longer stop at Cenote Cocalitos and it is closed for swimming. This is because the area is protected and fragile, so it’s important to prevent overtourism. We want to enjoy this beautiful area for as long as we can!
We enjoyed Cocalitos Beach Club but it is also temporarily closed, hopefully will be open to tourists by the time you make it there! You can still enjoy some amazing beach clubs this side of the lagoon by visiting Beach Club Blú or Bertilla Lagoon & Beach Club just a little further down.
Checking out cenotes is one of the best things you can do in the Yucatan, as they are such a unique natural wonder, and Bacalar has three!
Isla de los Pájaros
This is the best place to see birds in Bacalar. I mean, Isla de los Párajos literally translates as “Bird Island.”
Boat tours don’t usually take you onto the island itself but since you’ll be swimming close by, you can spot them flying overhead. You’ll spot parrots and hawks, as well as larks and herons, which aren’t generally the kind of birds most people expect to see in Mexico!
6. What are the best boat tours on Bacalar Lagoon?
Bacalar Lagoon Sightseeing Boat Tour with Open Bar and Snacks
We absolutely loved our boat tour on Bacalar Lagoon. The tour itself really was amazing, because it was evident that the guides really love their job and enjoy having fun with the guests. We picked up a cheap taxi to the dock and set sail for an afternoon on the water!
We went to all of the lagoon’s main highlights, like two cenotes for snorkeling, Canal de los Piratas, and had plenty of swimming opportunities that included a mud mask from the sulfurous mud in the lagoon! But the real highlight was the open bar, so we were allowed to drink as much as we wanted! Plus, we got loads of fresh fruit which was so juicy and delicious.
This tour only leaves at 12 pm, so you can’t go in the morning, but we think it’s totally worth the later departure. Besides, an open bar in the morning might be a recipe for disaster!
If you’re looking for a really fun experience with flowing drinks and lots of adventure, then we highly recommend this tour. It’s great for groups of friends but also for solo travelers, as you meet other people on the boat and naturally get chatting.
The tour costs $50 USD per person for a 4-hour tour and we thought it was worth every penny! Plus, it lasts an hour longer than most tours, so it’s good value, too. If you’re ready to book you can reserve a spot on this tour online here and pay later!
Sailing Tour through the Lagoon of the 7 Colors
If you’re traveling to Bacalar as a family, or just don’t want to end up on a tour with a load of party animals, then we think that this small-boat sailing tour is perfect.
You’ll hit the main highlights of the lagoon, including snorkeling in the cenotes and stops at the Pirates Canal and Bird Island. There’s a maximum of 16 people per boat, and you’re capped at three beers per person, so things won’t get too rowdy. Plus, you get bottles of fresh juice on board in addition to the fresh fruit platter.
This tour departs at 8 am, 11 am, and 3 pm, so it’s ideal if you want to see the lagoon in the morning when the water is at its clearest. At $49 USD per adult and $29 USD per child, this makes for an unforgettable way to explore Bacalar Lagoon!
Private Sailboat + Captain for a Day Experience
This private tour is an awesome option for aspiring sailors because it includes a sailing class with the crew! So if you’ve always wanted to learn how to sail, now is your chance.
You don’t have to sail if you don’t want to, though, as the class is optional. If your whole group just wants to lounge on the deck and soak in the scenery, we think it’s still worth opting for this tour! It costs $251 USD to have this boat to yourself for three hours, and you can have a group of up to five people, so you could get a private boat for as little as $50 USD each.
You can choose from several different departure times throughout the day and if you select the later departure time, you can catch an epic sunset on the lagoon! Included in this tour are three beers each, fresh fruit and juice along the way, and a kayak to use for the day! You can book this unique private boating experience here.
Catamaran Cruise with Open Bar through the 7 Colors Lagoon
I always think that a catamaran feels more glamorous than a speedboat, so if you’re looking for a more luxurious Bacalar boat tour then this is a fantastic option.
There’s an open bar on board and there’s a capacity of 20 people per boat, so it’s great if you’re traveling alone or with 1-2 other people and looking for a lively vibe. It’s worth noting that, unlike some boats, you don’t just get beer on this cruise, but also spirits like tequila and rum. You can mix them with the fresh fruit juice on board for some seriously refreshing cocktails!
A catamaran cruise is also ideal for anyone who struggles with seasickness because you don’t feel the motion as much. This tour costs $67 USD and departs at either 11 am or 3 pm, lasting for around 3 hours. For a spot on a luxurious catamaran, book this tour with Viator online!
Laguna Grill – Private Boat with On-board BBQ and Drinks Included
This 4-hour private boat tour is perfect for families or groups of friends. You get to sail around the lagoon with just your group on a pontoon boat, which is super comfortable and gives you lots of space.
The price of the tour includes six beers per person, plus an onboard barbeque! You’ll get a surf ‘n’ turf menu that includes yummy skewers and lots of fresh guacamole to boot.
Our favorite thing about this tour, though, is that it includes kayaking! The Bacalar Lagoon is perfect for kayaking because the water is so calm, and it’s an amazing way to discover the secret spots dotted around. Plus, you can enjoy free access to the kayaks for the rest of your stay in Bacalar, which is a huge bonus.
Because this is a private boat trip this tour is priced per group, but it does vary according to group size. The price gets cheaper the more people you add, starting at $180 USD per person for 2 people, $90 USD per person for 4 people, $78 USD per person for 10 people, and so on. Get your friends together and book this private boat tour for an epic way to experience Bacalar Lagoon!
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
7. Private tour vs group tour on Bacalar Lagoon
We think that group tours of Bacalar Lagoon are great for small groups, couples, or solo travelers. This is a great opportunity to meet other people on board and it tends to work out cheaper than booking a private tour for yourself or a small crew.
Meanwhile, if you’re traveling in a big group, a private tour like this one might work out cheaper per person, and it’s nice to have the boat to yourselves. Plus, a private tour is probably better if you plan to party hard and get a little rowdy because you won’t need to worry about other travelers on board.
We also think a private tour is better for families because there can be a lot of drinking on board group boats!
8. Do you need to book a Bacalar boat tour in advance?
No, as long as you’re not picky about which company you go with. But if you’ve got your sights set on a certain tour, then it’s definitely best to book it in advance to make sure you get your spot.
However, I will warn you that when you get to Bacalar, there will be loads of companies selling tours. You can definitely get a spot on one of these boats, but there’s no guarantee you’ll have a good experience.
Lots of the companies work together, operate under hidden names, and sell tours on the street. There’s no way to check reviews (or leave your own) so you really don’t know if you’ll get a decent tour. They don’t charge hugely inflated prices, but you may not get the same inclusions.
So no, you don’t have to book in advance, but we recommend booking your tour online so that you can make sure you’re going with a highly-rated tour provider and know what inclusions to expect! Plus, we love Viator’s cancellation policy. In case you need to cancel or reschedule your tour, you can do so up to 24 hours before your tour starts, so you have flexibility during your trip!
9. Can you get seasick on a Bacalar boat tour?
It’s possible, but most people (including me!) are fine.
Bacalar Lagoon is very calm and you’ll spend a lot of time off of the boat, swimming in the lake and standing in waist-deep water. However, you can technically get seasick anytime that you go out on the water, so if you are prone to motion sickness you may still struggle.
If you’re worried about seasickness, then we recommend skipping the sailing boats and speed boats and going for a catamaran tour instead. Catamarans are more stable so you don’t feel much movement at all, especially on a lake as calm as this one. Plus, when else will you have an opportunity to ride in luxury on a catamaran boat!?
10. Are Bacalar boat tours suitable for kids?
Yes! The tours are super safe and kids will love swimming in the beautiful lagoon. The water at all of the swimming spots is really calm and shallow, and they can keep their life jackets on the whole time. There were two kids who were on the tour that we did.
However, be aware that there will be drinking on group tour boats. If you’re worried about this, you can always choose an option that limits passengers to just a few drinks each. Or, you can always book a private tour so that it’s just you and your family on board.
But, we highly recommend taking a boat tour with your kids! It will be an experience that will stick with them for a long time.
Related Read: If you’re traveling as a family, another great activity is swimming with turtles at Akumal Beach!
11. Why book on Viator?
We prefer to book our tours through Viator for quite a few reasons!
You get free cancellation on most tours and can get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change or if the weather takes a turn for the worst. As long as a tour isn’t crazy popular you can even book tours just a day in advance, so if you need flexibility in your schedule, it usually works out.
They also have a handy reserve now, pay later policy so you can secure your spot for one of these tours in advance and pay closer to the day of the tour. Another convenient feature of booking through Viator is that you can pay in your chosen currency without any international transaction fees. It also shows the honest price, so you don’t have to haggle with tour operators on the street (no one enjoys that).
Really we love Viator because it is simple and gives us peace of mind that we will actually get what we pay for. So if we are promised unlimited drinks on our boat tour, I know they will be there! I find reviews and other travelers’ photos helpful, especially when there are so many different tour options to choose from, like these Bacalar boat tours.
12. Is a Bacalar boat tour worth it?
This is an easy yes!
The Bacalar Lagoon is a stunning site. It has relaxed vibes and gorgeous water, you’ll be itching to get out and explore from the moment you see it. A Bacalar boat tour is the best way to see the lagoon and you get to visit many of the natural wonders that you can’t access by land. The boat tours are also super fun! We absolutely loved our experience and had an amazing time. It’s definitely the best thing to do in Bacalar!
Other Activities to do While in Bacalar
Of course, a boat tour is a must, but there are so many other fun things to do in Bacalar. Trust me, you’ll have no problem filling your itinerary with a mix of relaxing and fun activities. To give you an idea of some other things to do, I’ve highlighted our favorites below!
- Go for a paddle – Bacalar Lagoon is perfect for boat tours, but it’s so nice to go at your own pace. The calm waters make it easy and its natural beauty makes you want to stay out there forever! This full-day kayak rental lets you get out to where the boats can’t and you’ll have all day to explore. Or this Sunrise SUP tour includes your paddle board and breakfast – what more could you ask for!?
- Fort San Felipe – Right in the heart of Bacalar stands the impressive Fort San Felipe. This stone fortress built in 1725 is still remarkably intact; it now serves as a history museum. Its stunning architecture paired with long-standing Yucatan history makes this a great afternoon activity while in Bacalar!
- Eat good food with an amazing view – Mango y Chile isn’t your typical taco stand on the side of the road. This vegan restaurant is a charming gem in Bacalar, offering high-quality Mexican food with a new twist. It doesn’t hurt that you have a spectacular view of the lake while you eat. When you go, be sure to try the tacos, they are my fave!
- See ancient ruins – A trip to Bacalar isn’t complete without visiting some of the amazing Mayan ruins in Mexico. The Dzibanche and Kohunlich Mayan Ruins are outside of the city, so the best way to experience both of these epic locations is by taking this full-day tour. You’ll have transportation covered along with a knowledgeable guide so you can find out how incredible these ruins are!
Where to Stay in Bacalar, Mexico
Regardless of whether your tastes lean towards luxury or you’re just looking for a comfortable and budget-friendly place to rest your head after all of the fun on the lake, Bacalar has a ton of awesome options. If you’re looking for where to stay in Bacalar, these are some of our favorite options.
Che Bacalar Hostel & Bar – $
We stayed at Che Bacalar Hostel & Bar and while it’s a budget-friendly option, it had absolutely everything we needed. The location is perfect as it’s only a 5-minute walk from the lagoon! There’s free Wi-Fi, lots of space to relax and mingle and the on-site bar and pool were a lot of fun. I can’t forget the view of the lake from the rooftop – stunning!
They organize regular free activities like karaoke, themed parties, and Meet&Eat Nights so you can hang with fellow travelers. This is an adults-only property with bunks at $20 USD and up and really nice private rooms around the $150 USD mark in peak season. You can easily book on either Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.
Blue Palm Bacalar – $$
A four-star hotel for $168 USD per night? Only in Mexico! This beautiful property at Blue Palm Bacalar features a restaurant, a huge swimming pool, a bar, and extensive gardens. It’s walking distance from the lagoon, and a stay here includes a delicious breakfast and great Wi-Fi, which is helpful for the digital nomads among us.
A King Suite with a balcony is only $168 USD – even in the busy season! You can grab a room on Booking.com before they all disappear!
La Albariña – $$$
For a luxurious stay that you’ll remember forever, head to La Albarina. This five-star hotel is one of the best hotels in Bacalar. It’s on the water, with suites that have a lagoon view from each room.
The staff speaks both English and Spanish, and the hotel has its own water sports facilities so that you can get out and enjoy the lake directly from your hotel. Other amenities include beautiful gardens, workout facilities, Wi-Fi, a restaurant, a bar, and a complimentary breakfast. Prices for a suite are around $400 USD a night, although I’ve found even better deals on Booking.com.
Renting a Car in Mexico
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car.
I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Cancun in 2023, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically.
I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend.
The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too.
Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit.
Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your rental will be much cheaper!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
The Bacalar Lagoon is a relaxing paradise that makes you wonder how something this remarkable even exists. Its calm water, turquoise water, and warm sun will make you want to stay forever, we sure did! Our Bacalar boat tour was icing on the cake because it let us get out and actually explore the lagoon to see some of its wonders.
We hope you found this blog helpful and inspires you to book a trip to Bacalar, you certainly won’t regret it. If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, check out our other blogs. We have a ton of resources about this amazing country that can be helpful for planning (and daydreaming)!