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Traveling to Bacalar Lagoon in Quintana Roo, Mexico?
You’re in the right place for info about this pueblo mágico (magic town)!
👋 Hi, I’m Shelley. I have been living and traveling solo in Mexico since April 2018. I have visited 14 states now, and can honestly say that Bacalar is one of the best off the beaten path Mexico travel destinations, and truly a hidden gem! I loved traveling to Bacalar so much, that I’ve actually been twice now.
✈️ Curious about Mexico travel? This is the podcast for you!
Located in the southern part of Quintana Roo state, in southeastern Mexico, Bacalar is a few hours from many of Mexico’s best Yucatan Peninsula destinations — Cancun, Tulum, Merida, Playa del Carmen, Valladolid and more.
Bacalar lagoon has earned the nickname, the Maldives of Mexico, after the instafamous Maldives Islands, and their crystal-clear blue waters.
Though technically a pueblo (small town), there are quite a few things to do, eat and experience in Bacalar Quintana Roo Mexico.
In this article, you’ll discover the top things to see in Bacalar, the best Airbnbs, hostels, resorts and hotels, as well as learn how to travel to Laguna Bacalar Mexico from different places in the Yucatan Peninsula. By then end, you’re going to know exactly how to plan your ultimate Bacalar Lagoon Mexico trip!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Map of Bacalar Mexico
FREE DOWNLOAD ✈️ Venturing Off the Beaten Path: 10 Hidden Gems of Mexico
For your travel planning convenience, all places mentioned in this blog have been pinned to this Bacalar map for you! I hope this makes your Bacalar trip that much easier to envision.
Here, you’ll find things to do and see, including historic Fort San Felipe Bacalar, waterfront restaurants, cafes, Bacalar cenotes… basically everywhere you want to go in Bacalar and best all the best things to so you’ll have an amazing trip!
Have you visited the “Maldives of Mexico”!? This up-and-coming travel destination needs to be on your #BucketList 💙🇲🇽💙 #Travel #MexicoTravel #Mexico #YucatanTweet
How to Get to Bacalar Mexico
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Flying to Bacalar
The closest airport is Chetumal International Airport (code: CTM), located only about 30-45 minutes from Bacalar. Though labeled “international,” it is a small, regional airport. If you wan to fly here, you’d have to connect one of Mexico’s major airports, like Mexico City, Cancun, Tijuana or Guadalajara.
You can also fly into Cancun International Airport (code: CUN) and drive your rental car or take the ADO bus to Bacalar. Both rental car companies and bus companies are located right at the airport. Keep in mind there’s no Uber service in Quintana Roo state. If you’re leaving the Cancun Airport to get your rental car, make sure you have cash for the taxi ride from the airport.
🚙💨 Need some information on driving in Mexico? Head here for 12 useful Mexico driving tips.
Bus to Bacalar
Mexico’s largest bus company, ADO, has trips from basically everywhere in Quintana Roo state and the Yucatan to Bacalar. The price will vary depending on your origin point, but figure about $800-1000 pesos ($40-50) roundtrip.
There is only one bus station in Bacalar, and once you arrive there will be taxis waiting outside. Make sure you negotiate and agree on the price before getting in the car; keep in mind this is the same way taxis operate in all of Mexico.
Pro Tip: There is no Uber service anywhere in Quintana Roo state, so make sure you have cash for taxi rides.
✈️ Curious about solo travel? This is the podcast for you!
Driving to Bacalar
If you’re renting a car, driving within the Yucatan Peninsula is a very easy and quite safe! Below you’ll find maps to Bacalar from a few popular Mexico destinations not far from Laguna Bacalar. To those who have never driven in Mexico, check out this list of helpful tips.
Pro Tip: When you’re driving or just in the more rural parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, your cell phone signal will go in and out. Make sure to also download an offline map via Google Maps or Maps.me… as well as some Dream To Destination travel podcasts 💁♀️🎙
Cancun to Bacalar
Driving: From the north cities of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya, you basically just take Highway 307/Chetumal-Cancun all the way south to Bacalar. The drive will take about 4.5 hours with stops.
If you’re traveling from Playa del Carmen or Rivera Maya, you’d follow the same driving directions. These two cities are just south of Cancun, so the drive will take about 45 minutes less.
Bus: There are a few bus stations in Cancun, and most offer trips to Bacalar. If you’re flying into Cancun, you can take the ADO bus directly from the Cancun Airport to Laguna Bacalar.
Tulum to Bacalar
Driving: From Tulum, you basically just take Highway 307/Chetumal-Cancun all the way south to Bacalar. The drive will take about 2.5 hours.
Bus: If you’re taking the bus from Tulum to Bacalar, there is only one bus station in the city. It is conveniently located in downtown Tulum, so you’d go from there. Check the ADO website for the bus schedule.
☀️🏝Traveling to Tulum, Mexico? Head here for a complete Tulum travel guide… and everything you need to know about visiting this boho Caribbean Sea-side town, one of the best Mexico beach destinations.
Merida to Bacalar
Driving: From Merida, there are a few more highway changes, but still quite an easy drive — if you follow these driving tips. Check the map above for the exact route to take for your Merida to Bacalar drive, which will take about 4.5 hours.
Bus: If you’re taking the bus from Merida to Bacalar, you can depart from the main bus terminal in downtown Merida, Terminal de Autobuses de Merida or TAME (sometimes called CAME), or the Paseo 60 bus terminal on Paseo de Montejo. Check the ADO website for the bus schedule.
🧳Traveling to Merida, Mexico? Head here for a complete Merida travel guide… with everything you need to do, see and know about visiting this colorful colonial town, known as the safest city in Mexico.
Laguna Bacalar FAQ
Where is Bacalar?
Bacalar is located in the southern part of Quintana Roo state, in southeast Mexico in the Yucatan Peninsula. In fact, Bacalar is so far south that you’re only about 30-45 minutes from the border into Belize. Many travelers use Bacalar as a last stop in Mexico before containing to travel through Central America, as you can take a bus from the nearby city of Chetumal, if you’re planning to travel from Bacalar to Belize.
Bacalar Mexico Map
Is it called Bacalar Lagoon or Bacalar Lake?
Laguna Bacalar (Bacalar Lagoon) is actually a lake, not a lagoon! If you see it sometimes called Lake Bacalar in English, now you know why. The correct Spanish name, however, is Laguna Bacalar… but really, any name works. Do keep in mind that most people will just say “Bacalar” when referring to both the town itself and the lake, so always make sure to clarify.
It is actually the second largest freshwater lake on the planet. While it is nicknamed the “Maldives of Mexico” because of its gorgeous blue water, Bacalar’s freshwater, unlike the saltwater surrounding the Maldives Islands, means your eyes won’t burn when swimming. 🧜♀️Win!
Does Bacalar Lagoon actually have seven colors?
The original inhabitants of this part of Mexico, the Mayans, nicknamed Bacalar the “Lagoon of Seven Colors.” They say you can see seven distinct shades of blue in the water throughout the lake.
The reason for the extreme variations in colors is because of the varying depths of the lake. Bacalar Lagoon ranges from 0- to 200-feet-deep; in the shallower parts, the waters looks clear or bright turquoise, while in the deeper parts, you’ll see the dark, indigo blue shades. When you visit, try to spot all the shades of blue in the Lagoon of 7 Colors!
What are Bacalar’s stromatolites?
One of the most interesting features in Laguna Bacalar are its stromatolites, the large circular disks you’ll see close to the shore. They are among the oldest living things presently found on Earth, and also found only in a handful of places.
It’s not super easy to explain what they really do, but basically they filter the lagoon’s water and keep it so beautiful. Stromatolites basically do for Bacalar Lagoon what coral does for the ocean; among other things.
Please practice responsible and sustainable tourism in Mexico and do not touch them! In addition, rinse off before entering, and only use eco-friendly, biodegradable reef safe sunscreen when swimming in Bacalar Lagoon. Oh, and eco-friendly bug spray 🦟 too.
Is a Bacalar a pueblo magico?
Yes, Bacalar pueblo magico is a officially a magical place✨
Wondering just What is a pueblo magico? This prestigious title of “magic town” is awarded to pueblos (small towns) in Mexico by the country’s Secretary of Tourism. There are about 140 such towns that all have certain special characteristics including rich folkloric traditions, unique cultural history and amazing natural beauty — which Bacalar has in spades!
Is Bacalar Mexico safe?
The short answer: Yes — and in fact, I have found Mexico overall to be quite safe… and I say that even after visiting half the states in Mexico as a solo female traveler!
Now, just because Bacalar is considered safe, doesn’t you should travel there and assume your safety is a guarantee. On the contrary; you should follow the same general travel safety practices in Bacalar that you’d follow anywhere — because, in reality, no place is 100% safe.
But, in short: Yes, Bacalar Mexico is known to be quite safe, both for its locals and visitors. It even consistently ranks as not only one of the safest cities in all of Mexico. Bacalar is a pueblo (small town), and feels like it.
What’s the best time to visit Bacalar?
The best time of year to visit Bacalar is during the dry season, from mid-November to late-March. In the winter months, you can expect little to no rain and pleasant temperatures.
Though technically winter, Bacalar is still in the tropics, so plan for hot days and only-slightly-cooler nights. As far as Bacalar weather goes, below are the annual temperatures ranges you can expect.
Bacalar Mexico Yearly Averages
|MONTH||DAYTIME TEMP.||NIGHTTIME TEMP.||RAINY SEASON|
Is Bacalar worth visiting?
I have been to 14 states in Mexico now, which is more or less all the ones on anyone’s travel radar. There are only a few places everyone seems to agree on: Bacalar is on that list!
Now, if you’re looking for a late-night party town similar to Tulum and Cancun, then Bacalar isn’t your place. However, if you want to experience some of Mexico’s unspoiled, beautiful nature, and basically just chill, then Bacalar is your place.
Bacalar Packing List
- Bathing suits
- Dry bag — so you don’t travel with wet clothes
- Loose fitting clothes/Tropical clothes
- Sun hat
- Water shoes
- Towel — not all accommodations provide towels, or provide enough towels
- Eco-friendly reef safe sunscreen 🌎❤️
- GoPro, if you have one
- Laptop/tablet preloaded with movies, shows, and podcasts — the WiFi in Bacalar isn’t always great
- Waterproof cell phone holder
- CASH! There are no Ubers in Bacalar and Quintana Roo state, so bring cash for taxis, as well as the smaller cafes, tipping your tour guides, etc.
- Want more Mexico packing tips? Download my FREE Packing Checklist below.
Places to Stay in Bacalar
When I visit Bacalar, I always opt for an Airbnb, or just a BnB. I have found that as this pueblo magico increasingly becomes one of Mexico’s best travel destinations, the price of its hotels and resorts keeps going up as well! Though, so does the quality and amenities.
As this is a smaller town, there’s basically two options for Bacalar accommodations: directly on the lake or in downtown Bacalar.
I always opt for staying on Laguna Bacalar, and taking a cab/drive into town when I need to go there. If you opt to stay in downtown, you’d do the reverse and cab/drive to the lagoon. On my last visit, I stayed in this cute Bacalar bed and breakfast, Casa Sol y Luna, located right on the lagoon!
For me, I like to wake up to the gorgeous lake views! Also, staying on the lake makes it easy and convenient to see Bacalar’s epic sunrises.
Best Bacalar Airbnbs
Full disclosure: I’m a bit of an Airbnb pro. I managed to travel all over Mexico for about a year straight, and stay only in Airbnbs (rather than hostels).
Here is a list of places I hand-selected using my superpowers to find you the perfect places with the best ratings, in the best parts of Bacalar, hosted by Airbnb’s vetted Superhosts:
Best Bacalar Resorts & Hotels
Looking to splurge? While a few years back, Bacalar was a sleepy town, it is in fact becoming one of Mexico’s must visit Yucatan Peninsula destinations. The hotels are resorts of Bacalar are starting to reflect this as well. Use the search box below to find your perfect place, and keep scrolling for some of the noteworthy and best places to stay in Bacalar Mexico.
Best resorts in Bacalar ($$$$):
- Centro Holistico Akalki: Remember how I said Bacalar was the Maldives of Mexico, well Centro Holistico Akalki confirms it. Much like the famous resorts of the Maldives, this resort has the best overwater bungalows in Bacalar. In fact, this top-of-the-line resort has the only overwater Bungalows in Bacalar.
- Mia Bacalar Luxury Resort & Spa: Even though it’s not technically an all-inclusive resort, you’d really never need to leave the Mia Bacalar property. It is located right on the lagoon, has an onsite restaurant, pool bar, room service, and even a spa! Book your stay at Mia Bacalar now🏝
Best hotels in Bacalar ($$$):
- Los Aluxes: Looking for a fun, lively resort? Los Aluxes is your place. This resort is located right on Laguna Bacalar and has all of the iconic and instagrammable Bacalar water toys, like swings, water hammocks, etc. right outside.
- Casa Shiva: The place for Bacalar Mexico glamping! Wondering just what is glamping? It’s what you get when you mix luxurious glam with rustic camping to live your best eco-chic life! Enjoy shabby chic villas and luxury yurts at this Bacalar Lagoon resort. ☀️🏝 Book your stay at Casa Shiva now
Best hotels in Bacalar ($$):
- Kuuch Kaanil Eco-Cabins: Enjoy peaceful private villas and bungalows, complete with the lagoon swings and hammocks in the water that made Bacalar so instafamous! If you’re looking to do nothing at all besides reconnect with nature in the blue waters of Bacalar Lake, then this is a great option. ☀️🏝 Book your stay at Kuuch Kaanil Eco-Villas now
- Hotel & Suites Oasis Bacalar and Casa Chukum: Located just a block or two from Laguna Bacalar, these two hotels are the nicest off-lake options in town. If you wanted to stay anywhere off-lake, these are the two best options. ☀️🏝 Book your stay at Casa Chukum now …and use the widget below to book your Hotel & Suites Oasis Bacalar stay.
Best Bacalar Hostels
- Yak Lake House: Perhaps the most well known of the Bacalar hostels. The beautiful Yak Lake House has a shared dorm, private rooms, and like most hotels, a bar and tons of social activities and group tour options. ☀️🏝 Book your stay at The Yak Lake House Hostel now
- Yaxche Centro Hostal & Camping: Yaxche has both indoor rooms and outdoor camping options available. This eco-hostel also has mini-beach club on the lake, with hammocks, a nice dock and instagrammable water swings. ☀️🏝 Book your stay at Yaxche Hostel now
- Green Monkey Bacalar: A popular lakefront hostel with dorms and camping options. They offer free breakfast, but you’ll have to skip this one if you need a hot-water shower!
🇲🇽Curious about Mexico travel? This is the podcast for you!
Bacalar Things to Do
As you might have gathered, the main things to do in Bacalar involve being in/on/around the lagoon! There are also some cenotes in and near Laguna Bacalar that you’ll want to check out, and a couple of notable things to see in downtown Bacalar.
If this is only a quick trip to Bacalar, I’d recommend definitely doing a boat tour of the lagoon and/or heading to Los Rapidos Bacalar beach club.
As I mentioned, Lake Bacalar is the second largest freshwater lake in the world — large, as in, 26-miles-long. The best way to see it all is on a boat tour.
On nearly all tours of Bacalar Lagoon, you’ll take a motorboat ride to see some of the lagoon’s best sites, including the Canal de los Piratas (Pirate’s Channel), Cenote la Bruja (Witch’s Cenote) and Isla de los Pajaros (Bird Island). This is the standard Bacalar boat tour, with tour operators stationed all over the lake; though you do have other options.
If you’re looking for more unique, in-depth Bacalar excursions, consider one of the Airbnb Experience group tours below.
What is an Airbnb Experience?
Never heard of these? While most people have heard of Airbnb for home/apartment rentals, Airbnb Experiences are newer and lesser-known — but just as awesome.
Basically, these are small group tours; though I’m actually a bigger fan of Airbnb Experiences than more traditional group tours! I’ve done several of these all over Mexico, and think they’re great because:
- You’re directly supporting a local.
- They are smaller groups, which means a more personalized experience.
- You will have an English-speaking guide.
- Airbnb lets you pay with a credit card, whereas many Bacalar tour companies you’d book when you arrive don’t accept them.
- You can instantly book them online, so you won’t waste your precious travel time finding a tour company.
- Like with an Airbnb stay, the guide gets rated at the end, motivating them to do a great job.
- They are a great and easy way to meet fellow solo travelers!
Bacalar Standup Paddleboarding (SUP)
Ever wanted to try standup paddleboarding? Bacalar is the perfect palace because of the lagoon’s perpetually calm water.
Many Airbnbs, hotels and hostels have paddleboards available for free or rent. Also, several companies in Bacalar offer lessons, tours, and sometimes even SUP yoga classes.
Want to take a Bacalar standup paddleboarding tour? Check out the Paddle Board Bacalar Stand Up (SUP) Tour!
Kayaking on Lake Bacalar
Want a more sit-down type of activity? Besides standup paddleboarding, Lake Bacalar kayaking is very popular as well. Like the paddleboards, most Airbnbs, hotels and hostels have free or rental kayaks on site.
Your Airbnb host or hotel staff can also give you an overview of how far away from your accommodation venture while kayaking Bacalar Lagoon. Since the lake is so huge, you’ll want to have an idea of how far you’re planning to head out, keeping in mind you have to kayak that exact distance back!
Want to take a Bacalar kayaking tour? Check out the Bacalar Unforgettable Kayak Ride Tour!Cenote la Bruja (Witch’s Cenote) AKA Cenote Negro (Black Cenote), located inside Lake Bacalar Mexico.
In case you’re wondering What is a cenote? — they are basically underwater sinkholes filled with the fresh water that flows beneath the entire Yucatan Peninsula. In total, Mexico has about 6,000 cenotes!
There are a few cenotes in and around Bacalar, with three of them in the lagoon itself:
- Cenote la Bruja (Witch’s Cenote): Located inside of the lake, many of the boat tours will take you to see this cenote. Sometimes called Cenote Negro (Black Cenote), the water here is about 250-feet-deep so they don’t encourage swimming in it, but you will see the dark blue, almost black, water beneath you.
- Cenote Cocalitos: Head to Cocalitos balneario (beach/lagoon club) to swim in this cenote.
- Cenote Esmerelda (Emerald Cenote): You’ll find this cenote in Laguna Bacalar, between Cenote Cocalitos and Cenote la Bruja.
Besides Bacalar Lagoon itself, the second most popular place to swim is Cenote Azul (Blue Cenote). It is also one of the deepest cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, at about 300 feet! Cenote Azul is not connected to Bacalar Lake, though they share freshwater from the same underground source.
If you wanted, you could spend a good amount of the day here. There’s an on-site restaurant, lockers for your stuff and bathrooms.
Bacalar Beach Clubs (Balnearios)
FREE DOWNLOAD ✈️ Venturing Off the Beaten Path: 10 Hidden Gems of Mexico
It’s so hard not to call these beach clubs, but Bacalar is definitely not a beach! The technical name for these not-beach clubs is balnearios — and no trip to Bacalar is complete without checking out at least a few balnearios.
They vary in degrees of luxury/rustic’ness, but all will be located directly on the lake, and have some form of chairs/day beds, hammocks, food/drink options, usually music playing, bathrooms, etc.
- Cocalitos Bacalar: Perhaps the most rustic, but still, there’s something so charming about this place. Here, you’ll see one of the two cenotes in Laguna Bacalar, Cenote Cocalitos, as well as a bunch of stromatolites.
- Los Aluxes Bacalar: This isn’t a proper balnearios, but the Los Aluxes hotel has all the fun water stuff Bacalar is known for, including water hammocks and swings and a picturesque dock going out onto the lagoon. If you’re not a guest, you can come after 10am to enjoy the facilities.
- Bacalar Beach Club: Arguably the nicest and best beach club on Bacalar Lagoon! Bacalar Beach Club has gourmet food, comfy lounge chairs and tables, a pool, jacuzzis, a bar, nice bathrooms; basically everything you’d want in a balneario.
- Los Rapidos: Located on the southern end of the lake Los Rapidos (the rapids) is one of the most popular places to spend the day. There’s a restaurant, bar, kayak rentals, water hammocks, swings, bathrooms, and as the name implies, fast-moving rapids you play in!
While not a very large area, think 20 square blocks, there are a few things to do in downtown Bacalar.
Three of the top things to see are the Parroquia de San Joaquin (Saint Joaquin’s Parish), a Spanish colonial church, the big, colorful Bacalar letters sign and the Fuerte de San Felipe (Saint Felipe’s Fort).
If you do a Bacalar boat tour, you’ll definitely go see the Canal de los Piratas (Pirate’s Channel). Back in the day, this part of Mexico was very susceptible to pirate attacks. However, nowadays as pirates have become less of an issue, visitors can see the fort and cannons once used to defend the town.
Best Restaurants in Bacalar
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Best Restaurants in Bacalar
Looking to sit down and have a nice dinner? Though it’s a small town, don’t underestimate Bacalar in the food department. As with most of the Yucatan Peninsula, fresh seafood reigns supreme, though there’s actually a decent number of vegan restaurants in Bacalar to try.
🍽For a unique Bacalar culinary experience, check out the Secret Lunch in the Lagoon Dining Experience!
- Sisimite Caverna Moderna: The interior was made to look like a cave-meets-disco, and the food and drinks are just as fun.
- Nao Bacalar: Nao is the place to get the best sushi in Bacalar. They have unique and traditional rolls, and being that you’re in the Yucatan, the seafood is always fresh.
- La Playita: A lush jungle oasis right on the lake. La Playita is kind of a restaurant-meets-beach club, and it’s one of the nicest places you can eat at before hopping in the water.
- Nixtamal: While Bacalar seems to be big on ceviches and refreshing dishes, you can get your cooked meats fix at Nixtamal, which specializes in grilled dishes.
- Pizzeria Bertilla: Little known fact, but Mexico has a pretty sizable Italian expat population, including the owner of Pizzeria Bertilla. They specialize in brick oven pizzas, but serve delicious pasta dishes also.
- Cerveceria Bacalar: Bacalar has its own brewery! If beer’s not your thing, they also have fun cocktails, and a fun atmosphere overall. Cerveceria Bacalar turns into a club/neighborhood hangout with a DJ, movie nights, sports nights, and more.
🥃For a more curated adult beverage experience, and a chance to sample some local mezcal, check out the Cultural Mezcal Tasting Experience!
Best Cafes in Bacalar
Looking for a casual cafe to eat breakfast, brunch or lunch? Check out these places, known as some of the best places to eat in Bacalar.
- Marisquería El Taco Loco: The place for fish tacos, ceviches, whole fried fish, and basically all things seafood. Sample one of the dishes made a la pil pil, (with onion and herbs), the house specialty.
- La Piña: A favorite among locals and visitors. La Piña has nice views of the lagoon and serves fresh food to match the natural environment vibe. Enjoy pita sandwiches and pizzas, with plenty of vegan options.
- El Manatí: One of the most famous cafes in Bacalar, so during peak times, you can expect a bit of a wait. The tropical ambiance is beautiful though, so you can always enjoy the beautiful nature and cool artwork before your food arrives.
- Mango y Chile: The best vegan restaurant in Bacalar. Head there to try their famous veggie burger, loved by carnivores and vegans alike, and a large selection of yummy vegan desserts.
- Mi Borrito: If you want a burrito in Bacalar, you’re going to want to head to Mi Borrito. This is a food truck, but there’s outdoor seating at tables under a covered palapa.
- Bote de Leche: From the outside, it looks pretty unassuming, but one you enter, the ambiance is artsy and adorable. The food is shockingly gourmet for Bacalar, and honestly, this cafe feels like it was plucked straight from a big city. It is small — and amazing — so don’t be surprised if there’s a wait.
- Ixchel Bacalar: Ixchel serves traditional Mexican plates, but with a slightly more gourmet presentation. Head there for the delicious chilaquiles, molletes and huevos rancheros, three Mexican breakfast staples.
Have any tips on traveling to Bacalar Mexico and the Lagoon of Seven Colors?
Please let me know in the comments down below!
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