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If you’re looking for a magical destination that will take you far away from the hordes of tourists in Mexican resort towns, look no further than Bacalar, Mexico. A truly enchanting and off-the-beaten-path adventure awaits on a trip to Bacalar, located on the sparkling crystal waters of La Laguna de Los Siete Colores, or The Lagoon of 7 Colors.
The pristine blue waters of the natural lagoon are unforgettable, and the lovely and culturally rich Pueblo makes Bacalar one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets, with tourism only beginning to increase over the past few years. There’s no doubt that you’ll see this destination pop up on your Instagram feed before too long.
Even though the town is low-key, there are still plenty of things to do in Bacalar to keep you busy. It is a perfect place for those looking to immerse themselves in Mexican culture and try out adventurous activities like kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding.
In this blog, I’ll share all the best things to do in Bacalar, Mexico, as well as lots of info you need to know before you go. It’s basically the only Bacalar guide you need to read before you go!
About Bacalar, Mexico
Only an hour away from the Belize border, Bacalar, Mexico is quickly becoming a popular destination for those of us who prefer off-the-beaten-path parts of Mexico. It’s on the farthest tip of the Yucatán Peninsula in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo.
The small Pueblo is located on the gorgeous Laguna de Bacalar, also known as La Laguna de Los Sienna Colores, due to the stunning variance in the color of the water in the large lake. The name Bacalar comes from the Mayan language – b’ak halal translates to “surrounded by reeds.”
The area is traditionally Mayan, with a Pre-Columbian city that Conquistadores took over in 1543. The modern-day town is a Pueblo Magico – a designation by the Mexican government that highlights some of the country’s most enchanting towns based on their historical, cultural, and architectural importance. Visiting spots like Bacalar can offer a taste of the true spirit of Mexico, away from the tourist bubbles of the larger resort towns such as Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or even Sayulita.
The area is a nature lover’s paradise and an ecologically fragile environment that is home to many species of plants, animals, and aquatic life. If you decide to visit Bacalar, it’s important that you’re aware of the sensitive ecosystem and travel with respect for the earth and the people who call Bacalar Lagoon home.
Getting to Bacalar, Mexico
Bacalar, Mexico is about 5 hours from the bustling beach destination of Cancun by car. It’s possible to fly into Cancun International Airport and rent a car to do the trip yourself, hire a shuttle, or take the bus.
From Cancun, the easiest option is definitely renting a car from Cancun International Airport and driving to Bacalar yourself – just make sure that you stick to major roads and avoid driving at night.
If you’re nervous about doing the drive yourself or want to save money, the next best option is to take the ADO bus. From Cancun, the ADO bus will take you about 5 hours and 20 minutes and cost around $25USD. Rental cars can usually be found for around $40 USD a day.
Finally, you can book a shuttle from Cancun Airport, however, these cost around $350 USD per group of up to 8 passengers.
Tulum is the closest major Mexican tourist town to Bacalar and is only 2.5 hours away by car, while the bus will take a little longer. You can hire a taxi for about $170USD or take the budget-friendly bus for about $15USD. The total distance is about 133 miles.
The bus leaves directly from Tulum to Bacalar each day with several departures that will make it easy to find a time that fits your travel plans. The bus companies that operate on this route include ADO and AU (ADO is my preferred bus company.)
You can choose to rent a car in Tulum with rates starting at about $20 USD a day. It’s nice to have your own wheels so that you can choose to stop at any of the towns and beaches along the way.
Of course, driving in a foreign country can be scary so there is also this private shuttle from Tulum which costs $152 USD per person. It has the option to add some sightseeing along the way so it would be my preferred option if you don’t want to drive.
From Playa del Carmen
Similar to traveling to Bacalar from Tulum, you can choose to hire a taxi, rent a car or take the bus.
There are a few different car rentals in Playa del Carmen, all located around 5th avenue. Expect prices starting at $15USD per day.
For the bus ride to Bacalar, you will want to ensure that you head to ADO Playa del Carmen Alterna Station. There are a few departures each day, so check the schedule for your travel dates to see updated times that the bus leaves. The bus stops only once, in Tulum. The entire ride takes about 4 hours.
A shuttle is also a great option and Playa del Carmen Shuttles operates this route. They charge $350 USD per car which is overpriced in my opinion.
From other destinations
The quickest way to get to Bacalar from other parts of Mexico is to fly to the small nearby airport, Chetumal International Airport. It’s about a 45-minute drive from Bacalar.
You can connect to the airport from Cancun and then take a shuttle from the airport to Bacalar. There are also connecting flights through Mexico City, so when planning your journey, make sure to look at all the flight options and plan the route that works best for you. The flight from Mexico City is only 2 hours.
If you do decide to travel to Bacalar via Chetumal International Airport, there is a nice private shuttle with English-speaking drivers that can take you to and from the airport.
Things to do in Bacalar, Mexico
1. Relax in the pools of Cenote Cocalitos
A magical spot in Bacalar that’s well worth a visit is Cenote Cocalitos. Here you can share the waters with one of the most ancient organisms on the planet! Stromatolites are round stone-like organisms that grow from bacteria. Each one takes hundreds of years to grow, and they can only be found in a few special places around the world.
The stromatolites in Cenote Cocalitos are giant, and you can spot them emerging from the surface of the water in some spots. They even help to filter the water in Laguna Bacalar, which aids in creating the exceptionally clear waters visitors have fallen in love with.
It’s an incredible privilege to view them up close, and it’s important to be careful not to touch or stand on them, but take as many pictures as you want!
Other activities to enjoy at Cenote Cocalitos include swimming, boating, and hanging at the beach club. You can relax in a hammock at the public beach and take in the view before enjoying a tasty bite at the onsite restaurant.
The cenote is open from 9 am to 6 pm daily, and admission is around $3USD. You can easily visit Cenote Cocalitos before or after Cenote Azul (more on that further in this blog) since they are located only a few hundred meters apart.
If you’re interested in visiting all of the cenotes, consider hopping on this Bacalar eco boat tour. It will take you through the lake to three cenotes during a 3-hour trip. It’s the perfect way to spend a half-day with a small group and excellent guides. The tour includes transportation, life jackets, fresh fruit to snack on, and fruity drinks to quench your thirst. The best part is, the tour only costs $35 USD!
2. Go kayaking on the lagoon
If you’re visiting Bacalar lake, kayaking is a must. The sparkling crystal clear water is best enjoyed during a sunshine-soaked day paddling wherever your heart desires. You can jump in and swim as you please and just admire the gorgeous scenery.
Sustainability is a big concern around the lake, especially as more tourists begin to visit, and kayaking is one of the most eco-friendly ways to explore. The price for a full-day kayak rental costs only $22USD, and you should book it in advance to secure your rental. There’s no guide, so you can head off in any direction you please, letting curiosity lead the way.” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener sponsored nofollow”>book it in advance to secure your rental. There’s no guide, so you can head off in any direction you please, letting curiosity lead the way.
Couples might consider trying out a double kayak to enjoy a romantic afternoon or get a group together for a fun and social adventure. One of the main benefits of seeing the lake by kayak is that you can get to all of the little secret spots and coves that the larger boats can’t access. You might even pack a picnic and carve out a quiet little corner on the banks all to yourself.
This is without a doubt one of the best eco-friendly activities in Bacalar!
3. Visit Cenote Azul
Cenote Azul is one of the most popular cenotes in Bacalar. It looks like a small lake surrounded by forests, and it’s a gorgeous spot to spend the day swimming, snorkeling, diving, or just relaxing and admiring the view. Visitors are surprised by a truly unique experience at Cenote Azul; even with all of the other amazing Cenotes on the Yucatán.
It’s believed to be the deepest known cenote. You can view the depths from above, and the water is pleasantly warm for swimming. Cenote Azul was once a sacred place for pre-Colombian Mayans who used the area for religious rituals.
For experienced divers, Cenote Azul is a dream come true. Erosion has created caves and Cenotes within the Laguna de Bacalar, and Cenote Azul is more than 90-meters deep.
Entrance to Cenote Azul is only 25 pesos or just over $1 USD and the restaurant, Restaurant Eco Turístico Cenote Azul, also offers life jacket rentals for 50 pesos although they are not required. Cenote Azul is located around 4 kilometers from the southern side of Bacalar and can be reached by a 45-minute walk, 15-minute bike ride, or 5-minute taxi.
4. Spend the day at El Encanto
El Encanto is one of Lake Bacalar’s best-hidden gems and one of the best private beaches to enjoy a quiet day and have the lake’s beauty all to yourself.
It is also one of the cheapest places on the lake to rent kayaks at 150 pesos per hour. There is a tasty little eatery serving dishes like fried fish as well as wooden piers for sunbathing.
El Encanto is also the location of the famous two-person swing in the lake. It’s become famous with Instagrammers and makes for fantastic photos.
To reach the beach, just take a taxi from town, and the entrance fee is 40 pesos ($2 USD.)
5. Go on a SUP tour
If you’ve ever dreamed of trying out stand-up paddleboarding, Lake Bacalar is the perfect place. The calm waters and beautiful views make this an amazing location for beginners as well as experienced SUPs. Even I could stand up in Bacalar Lake! You can rent a SUP and explore on your own, or join a guided tour.
This specific tour starts early in the morning so that you can enjoy the lake at its most pristine before the tourists and boats are out. The guided tour will take you to several Cenotes, including the Black Cenote, which is an open sky cenote at the deepest part of the lake. You can try out a facial mask made from sulfur mud for a natural spa-like experience.
The tour includes breakfast and snacks as well as coffee and juice. It’s an amazing way to spend a morning in the Laguna while getting some gentle exercise.
6. Visit Fort San Felipe
History buffs will love visiting Fort San Felipe, also known as San Felipe Castle. The stone fortress built in 1725 by the governor of Yucatán, Antonio de Figueroa, remains remarkably intact. It was an important historical location as it helped protect the area from the assaults of the English.
The fort was converted to a museum in the early 1980s and now contains more than 250 years of historical artifacts and stories involving Mayans, Spanish settlers, and pirates. There are also bike rentals available so that you can bike the grounds and around the town of Bacalar.
The entrance to Fort San Felipe is 60 pesos per person and it is open from 9 am to 7 pm every day.
7. Go for a boat cruise
Boating around the lake is without a doubt the best way to explore Bacalar Lake, especially if you only have a limited amount of time in Bacalar. Even if you’re staying for longer, it’s a beautiful way to spend a day on the lake and see so much of this stunning area. Overall it was my favorite tour!
The half-day boat tour I did will take you through the Pirates’ Channel, Black Cenote, the Island of Birds, and Cenote Esmeralda. It basically covers a ton of the lake’s top attractions all in one tour, which is one reason it is so popular.
Snorkeling equipment is provided, and you’ll have the opportunity to stop and swim in two cenotes, view the stromatolites, and enjoy a full-body mud mask from the healing sulphuric clay.
The tour includes snacks and beverages as well as unlimited drinks from an open bar, all for only $45 USD per person! I personally really enjoyed it because everything was taken care of and the tour was so cheap!
8. Watch the sunrise in Bacalar
The nightlife in Bacalar is very relaxed, so you’ll have no problem waking up to a phenomenal sunrise on at least one morning during your stay. For many visitors, catching the stunning colors of the rising sun over the tranquil water is one of their favorite experiences.
Many enjoy swimming at sunrise before the crowds have arrived and floating around as the sun begins to illuminate the colors of the water. It’s a meditative and renewing experience that you can enjoy every day during your stay if you choose.
There are plenty of amazing places around the lake to catch the sunrise, so regardless of where you stay, you can wake up and enjoy the beauty of nature.
9. Spend the day at a Balnearios (Beach Club)
Spending some time at a Balnearios or beach club is a great way to socialize and make new friends while visiting Bacalar. The Balnearios are beach club-like hangouts where you can relax all day alongside the lake. You can eat, drink, and just play around in the water – it’s the perfect way to spend a day in Bacalar.
There are plenty of great options to choose from, so we’ve selected a few of our favorite spots to help plan your beach club experience.
- Rancho Alegre is a super popular spot with a delicious seafood restaurant. Admission costs about 30 pesos or about $2USD, and the facilities include bathrooms, seating, and docs that you can swim off of. It’s surrounded by extremely clear water, making it a perfect spot for snorkeling right off of the shore. You can even rent kayaks and head further into the lake.
- The Balneario Magico was the first beach club to open along the shores of Lake Bacalar and remains one of the most popular. It has a ton of attractions, including a big swimming area with water slides. The water is only 1 meter (3 feet) deep, so families love to bring their kids here for a day of splashing around. For grown-ups, there is an excellent seafood restaurant on site. It does get crowded on the weekends, but with an admittance fee of 15 pesos (about $1USD), that is to be expected.
- The Cocalitos Beach Club, located at the beloved cenote, is rustic compared to some of the more luxurious options, but it’s so much fun and worth a visit if you’re enjoying a day at Cocalitos with hammocks hanging over the water and plenty of other Instagrammable moments like wooden swings in the water.
These are just a few of the Balnearios in Bacalar so keep an eye out for a place that suits your style!
10. Eat vegan food at Mango y Chile
Mango y Chile is a beloved plant-based Mexican Kitchen that is as charming as it is delicious. The aim of the restaurant is to provide high-quality Mexican cuisine that is healthy for people and the planet. Enjoy delicious menu items like smoothies, Maya tortillas, and even burgers without guilt – everything is vegan!
My favorite thing to order is the tacos. They are so colorful and full of flavor. The waffles are also good if you’re coming for brunch!
Mango y Chile has a spectacular view of the lake and plenty of dining space on its beautiful patio. The restaurant is open from 1 pm to 9 pm every day except Tuesdays when they are closed.
11. Get professional photos taken
Bacalar Lake is, without a doubt, one of the most photographable places in Mexico. Having a professional photoshoot is an awesome way to make your memories last a lifetime. You can book a 1-hour photoshoot with a professional photographer for around $80USD. The photos will take place at Los Aluxes Bacalar, which is one of the most iconic spots on the lake.
You’ll love the experience of working with a professional photographer and taking home stunning photographs to show your friends and family. The beauty of your memories at Lake Bacalar can live on long after you return home.
Of course, I never did this because I have Daniel – he follows me around with his camera every day!
12. Swim in Cenote Esmeralda
Travelers love to visit Cenote Esmeralda because of the unique eye-like appearance caused by a gap where the cenote water merges with the water from the Laguna Bacalar. It offers one of the best views in the entire Laguna, and there are some amazing photo opportunities for amateur photographers and professionals alike.
The cenote is 70 meters deep, which is on the shallower end when it comes to Cenotes. It’s a great option for divers and snorkelers to explore the clear waters.
While visiting, keep an eye out for wildlife in the surrounding mangroves. We saw a huge iguana in the trees here!
Visiting the cenote is best done on this Bacalar eco boat tour. This is the same one mentioned above that visits all three cenotes in Bacalar.
13. Take a photo at the Bacalar sign at Bacalar Park
The colorful signs around Mexico are so much fun, and many travelers love to take a photo next to them wherever they travel. Get one at every place and create a collage!
The Bacalar sign is located at the Bacalar park and has vibrant colors that contrast with the blue water of the lake in the background. Stop by the park for a picnic and enjoy posing for photos next to the landmark!
14. Visit Dzibanche and Kohunlich Ruins
The Yucatán is scattered with incredible ruins from the pre-Columbian Mayan cultures, and the Lake Bacalar area is no exception.
The Kohunlich Ruins are a Mayan city located right in the middle of the lush jungles,1 hour outside of Bacalar. You can spend the day walking around, hearing howler monkeys in the distance, and enjoying the beautiful jungle and magical temples that remain standing even after so many years.
The Temple of Masks is one of the main attractions and is an Early Classic pyramid that dates back to 500 AD. The central staircase is embellished with large stucco masks that are around 8 feet high.
Dzibanche is another important area for archeology located just to the north of Kohunlich. The name Dzibanche means “writing on wood” in the Mayan language and references the large wooden beam that is carved with glyphs within the temple.
It was once believed that 40,000 people called this area home. If you want to experience Mayan ruins without the crowds, this is the perfect place for you. It’s under-visited, and you’ll probably have the grounds all to yourself.
The easiest way to visit both sites is to rent a car or join a tour. This specific all-day tour includes everything you need for a great day such as all entrance fees, transport, lunch, and a guide.
Entrance to the Dzibanche Ruins is available from 8 am to 5 pm every day for a fee of 70 pesos or $3.50 USD. Entrance to the Kohunlich Ruins is available from 8 am to 5 pm every day at a fee of 85 pesos or $4.50 USD.
15. Tirolesas Kan Kin Bacalar ziplining
Thrill-seekers rejoice; Chetumal Tours offers an insane zipline experience in the heart of the jungle just 12 miles outside of Bacalar. The experience includes five zip lines stretching over 1500 meters in length. Soar high above the treetops and take in the view of the Lake of 7 Colors in the distance as you enjoy the adventurous activity.
The entire experience takes a little over two hours, and guides are available in English and Spanish. The cost of this experience is about $35USD, and you can make reservations on their website ahead of time to ensure they don’t book up during peak tourist season.
16. Visit the Pirates Channel and Shipwreck (Canal de Los Piratas)
Don’t skip a visit to the Pirates Channel during your visit to Bacalar Lagoon. Aside from being absolutely beautiful, this is an important historical trade route that connected Mayan cultures during ancient times and allowed them to trade. It is the place where the Hondo River connects to the Bacalar Lagoon and is considered by many to be the natural border between Belize and Mexico.
Later on, after colonization, the channel was called the Canal de Salamanca and was used by famous pirates like Henry Morgan and Francis Drake.
The water is a bright light blue, and it is the only place on Bacalar Lake where these colors can be observed. To get there, you will have to kayak or take a boat, but it’s well worth the time and money to experience this beautiful location.
If you book this private boat tour on Bacalar Lake, you’ll visit the canal as well as lots of other attractions. Because it’s a private tour, you can choose to spend as much time as you want at each attraction.
If you choose to take a kayak, make sure you visit the Bacalar Rapids, which is a natural thermal spring in the channel. If you’re wearing a life jacket, you can even float in the current to take you for a ride until you reach the thermal springs!
17. Visit the Coba Ruins
For a full-day adventure just outside of Bacalar, take a tour of the Coba ruins. This huge ancient Mayan site is one of the most popular in the region and actually one of the best things to do in Tulum.
This specific tour is an amazing bang for your buck and includes so many amazing activities. In addition to a two-hour guided bike tour, you will actually get to climb to the top of Nohoch Mul, one of the tallest pyramids in the region.
You’ll also have the opportunity to explore Maya villages and take a traditional ceramics course before enjoying a traditional dinner and entertainment, including music, dancing, and a Maya ball game.
Best Restaurants in Bacalar, Mexico
Bacalar is best known for its natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you will have to make sacrifices when it comes to finding delicious food. With options ranging from fresh seafood to tasty traditional Mexican cuisine – the Bacalar food scene will have your mouth watering.
Los Hechizos: Los Hechizos is located on the water, with a beautiful open-air dining room that allows you to admire the view of the lake while you dine on tasty Mexican dishes like ceviche Adelina, octopus, and soap de lima. Save room for some of the tasty desserts!
Nao: The last thing you might expect to find in a small Mexican town like Bacalar is world-class Japanese cuisine, but that’s exactly what you’ll get at Nao. Lake view, tasty sushi, and unique cocktails make this one of our favorite picks for dinner in Bacalar.
Jaguara Cocina Mexicana: If you’re looking for a traditional Mexican kitchen with lots of healthy options, this Jaguara Covina Mexicana is it! They also serve up yummy cocktails and have a great wine menu.
Baraka: Baraka is the best place for breakfast and brunch with a variety of menu options, including Mexican and Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The atmosphere is relaxed, and the restaurant itself is beautiful. It’s well worth a visit. We loved the smoothie bowls!
Pizzeria Bertilla: We were so excited to find a great pizza on the lake. The laid-back Italian restaurant serves cocktails, pizza, and pasta dishes that taste perfect after a day of recreation on the lake.
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.
The Yak Lake House is arguably the most popular hostel in Bacalar. This budget-friendly option is only about two blocks from a public entrance to Bacalar Lagoon and is walkable to downtown Bacalar, the ADO bust station, Bacalar Fort, and the local market. They have onsite bike rentals as well as a large communal area and fun bar. There is a community kitchen that you’re welcome to use to enjoy a home-cooked meal during your stay in Bacalar.
Blue Palm Bacalar – $$
A five-star hotel for $123USD per night? Only in Mexico! This beautiful property features a restaurant, a huge swimming pool, a bar, and extensive gardens. It’s walking distance from the lagoon, and a stay here includes a delicious breakfast and great Wi-Fi, which is helpful for the digital nomads among us.
La Albariña – $$$
For a luxurious stay that you’ll remember forever, head to La Albarino. 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 $250 a night.
Thanks for reading!
With so many amazing things to do in Bacalar, Mexico, you’ll have trouble deciding which activities to choose from. It’s an adult playground for nature lovers and adventurous types. From kayak trips and swimming in cenotes to stand-up paddleboarding and relaxing at beach clubs – there is something for everyone to enjoy at Bacalar Lake.
If you found this blog helpful, then take a browse around our travel blog. We have so many more in-depth guides to fantastic destinations around the world and Mexico such as:
Best beaches in Mexico