Bacalar Mexico: Your Ultimate Guide to a “Blue” Paradise
Welcome to Bacalar, Mexico – a serene haven nestled in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and mesmerizing shades of blue.
Known as the “Seven Colors Lagoon,” Bacalar enchants visitors with its crystal-clear waters, ancient Mayan ruins, and lush surroundings.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll delve into everything you need to know to experience the magic of Bacalar, from its rich history to its array of outdoor activities and hidden gems waiting to be explored.
Whether you seek relaxation or adventure, Bacalar promises an unforgettable journey through paradise.
Good to know…
Bacalar had already existed for the Mayan civilization, and from that language comes its name, which means “surrounded by reeds.”
It was the first city the Spaniards conquered in the middle of the 16th century.
Today, the population in Bacalar is around 11,000 people.
How to get to Bacalar, Mexico
Bacalar is just 40 minutes (drive) from Chetumal, the state’s capital.
There is also a small airport where you can take domestic flights.
If you come to Bacalar directly from abroad, you will probably land at Cancun airport, about 200 miles away.
The trip is straightforward: follow Highway 307; the road is safe and in excellent condition.
However, I suggest you visit nearby tourist sites such as the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Tulum, or Playa del Carmen for a few days.
That’s why car renting is more convenient (and cheaper than paying for cabs).
However, if you prefer not to drive, you can take a bus from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen and transfer to another bus to Bacalar.
I believe this bus runs once daily, taking quite a while. Anyway, as I didn’t try this route, it is best to check for yourself on the ADO bus website.
Where to Stay in Bacalar
Let’s be clear: the little town is charming per se, and there are more interesting places to visit in Bacalar besides the lagoon.
That said, considering that access is not entirely free, I cannot stress enough that you stay in one of the hotels overlooking the Seven Colors Lagoon.
Not only because you can bathe and enjoy it whenever and however you want. But it’s also because looking out the window and seeing it, especially at sunrise, is priceless!
Again, I stayed at The Yak Lakehouse Hotel, but you can choose any other in the area.
They have double, quadruple, and shared rooms (ideal for low budgets); it is a clean and comfortable place literally on the lagoon.
Imagine having your breakfast (included) in a hammock with those views or having a beer at night without leaving your hotel—a unique and “luxurious” plan to do in Bacalar at an affordable price.
If you want to look at other options, here are other hotels by the lagoon best rated by other travelers:
- Low Budget: Casa Sol y Luna Bacalar
- Medium budget: Hotel Casa Bakal or Amigos Hotelito
- To indulge yourself: La Albarina
10 Top Things to Do in Bacalar, Mexico
If you only want to visit Bacalar for the day, you can sign up for a tour.
You will be picked up and dropped off at your hotel in the Riviera Maya, and it includes all meals, free time, and one of the most popular things to do in Bacalar: A lagoon tour on a sailboat.
Now that you know how to get here, let’s get straight to the best things you can’t miss during your visit.
1. Explore the “Seven Colors” Lagoon
Contrary to what happens in most popular places of the Riviera Maya, Bacalar has no separate “tourist area” but the famous Seven Colors Lagoon in the village.
For this reason, I found it one of the most welcoming and “authentic” places.
Bacalar’s lagoon is narrow and long: just over 1 mile wide by 26 miles long.
Its crystal-clear, calm water and natural surroundings have made it one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Yucatan Peninsula, and no wonder!
It is known as Laguna de Los Siete Colores (Seven Colors Lagoon) because of the different shades of blue in its waters, depending on how deep the area is and the time of day and sunlight.
At first, I thought it was a bit of an “exaggerated” nickname, but now I can assure you that it is spot on.
Needless to say, if there is one thing you must do here, it’s to take a delicious swim.
The water is warm with no waves and barely deep, so it is super nice, and anyone can enjoy it.
However, the bottom seemed like stepping on wet dough or something weird and funny in some areas.
There are also stromatolites in this lagoon, ancient and rare organo-sedimentary structures, which should not be stepped on.
Some of the most popular spots to visit:
- Canal de Los Piratas: ideal for enjoying the views and, if you feel like mud, well, even better!
- Isla de Los Pájaros (Birds Island): as its name suggests, you will love it if you are an ornithology enthusiast
- Cenotes are somewhat integrated. The most famous is the Cenote de la Bruja
Entering one of the water parks is like having access to the pier overlooking the lagoon, hammocks, slides, restaurants, stores, games, kayak, and snorkel equipment rental.
Everything you want! Although tourists are spending the day in one of these parks, it is also a prevalent thing to do in Bacalar among the locals.
The most popular is the Balneario Mágico, but there are several others, including the Lasarch further out. I visited the first one and had a great time.
Public huts: provide free access to the lagoon and are usually just a hut and a dock.
I was not in any of them. But there are at least three.
The most notorious dock is the Muelle del Aserradero. Although staying in a hotel overlooking the lagoon was my best option.
2. Kayaking or paddle boarding
One of the most fun things to do in Bacalar is to rent a kayak and paddle around the lagoon.
Since the lagoon is shallow and has no waves, anyone can join you; it’s not dangerous at all.
You may want to read: TOP 10 Hotels in Bacalar Mexico to Stay at in 2023
The “worst” thing that can happen to you is that, like me, the kayak ends up spinning around, and you start laughing and can’t stop… seriously, it’s an enjoyable experience!
I rented the kayak in one of the resorts, although hotels and most accommodations also offer them.
Another cool activity to do in Bacalar Mexico is paddle boarding.
I didn’t dare because I had never done it before, but when I saw a group coming back just at sunrise, I was envious.
It looked so damn nice! Next time I will give it a try.
I stayed at the Yak Lake House Hotel (which I loved). It offers a nice activity at sunrise and sunset.
I recommend, of course, booking it in advance, as it is usually in high demand.
Another popular thing to do is tour the Bacalar Lagoon by sailboat.
It is usually an activity that is included in some excursions from the Riviera Maya, or you have to look for it directly there.
Since I didn’t do it, I recommend you ask your hotel and let me know how it goes!
3. Visit the San Felipe Fort in Bacalar Mexico
This fort is one of the main places to see in Bacalar. It’s right between the lagoon and the main square, so you won’t have trouble finding it.
The fort has four bastions and a typical star-shaped plan. It was built mid-18th century to protect the population from pirate attacks.
Paradoxically, today the fort of San Felipe is converted into a museum about the Caste War and piracy.
Although it is interesting and not very big, it did not seem to be an essential visit to Bacalar since I did not have much time.
That being said, it is apparently very well-kept and stands out for its mural and, of course, the views of the lagoon.
Open from 9 am to 7 pm. Closed on Mondays. 31 pesos for nationals (with a discount for children, students, and retirees) and 73 pesos for foreigners.
Prices usually change every year; you better check once you are there.
Next to the fort is a super nice little garden where you can lie down quietly for a while without any problem.
There is a kind of small stone amphitheater that I don’t understand very well; when I went there, it was full of children playing.
Also, you will be able to join one of the most common things to do in Bacalar: pose in front of the typical big colorful letters with the town’s name.
Yes, it’s “a touristy thing to do,” but it is still a lot of fun.
Actually, these colorful signs can be seen in many places throughout Mexico, and the truth is that they are kind of cute for a photo.
4. Admire the Cenote Azul near Bacalar
About a 5-minute drive from downtown, you will find one of the most striking and spectacular cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula.
As you can imagine from its name (blue cenote), its deep blue color is intense and contrasts with the jungle’s green.
Although it is very close to the lagoon, it does not connect with it at any point; it is a totally closed and almost perfect shape.
Cenote Azul is not only large in diameter. It is believed to be over 290 ft deep! If you think about it, it’s even scary.
That’s why swimming there is no joke: follow the indications and be cautious.
Don’t be surprised if you see it advertised as Restaurant Eco Turístico Cenote Azul since access is through this establishment.
Although it is not mandatory, you will soon feel like having a beer.
The atmosphere and the scenery are inviting, especially after a swim in the cool waters of the cenote!
Besides, it is not a particularly expensive place (although I didn’t order food). Can you think of a better plan to do in Bacalar?
You can go by car, following the same 307 road. There is free parking there, although not very big.
You can also take a cab, but in that case, I recommend you ask beforehand at your accommodation for an approximate price and a reliable driver.
Open from 10 am to 6 pm every day. Entrance costs 25 pesos per person
5. Try the Rapids
I must confess that when deciding what to do in Bacalar, I hadn’t even heard of Los Rápidos.
Once there, I didn’t have time to go, so I have it pending. Anyway, I wanted to share it with you, so you don’t miss it because it looks great!
Los Rápidos is a beach resort about 8 miles south of Bacalar (on Highway 307).
As in the previous case, access is through a restaurant, which apparently has more services, such as kayak rentals.
So basically, the main attraction here is the division of the lagoon and Xul-Ha.
Although both are peace havens, there is a constant flow of water between them, which makes the intermediate zone (aka Los Rápidos) more lively.
So much that some take a float or boat with them, can you imagine?
6. Explore Bacalar Centro
As I mentioned earlier, I liked that Bacalar, a town beyond the touristy, is very accessible.
Therefore, it is straightforward (and recommended!) to wander around aimlessly and discover taquerias, small grocery stores, small streets, etc.
I have to say that I took several walks, even at night, and I never had any problems or saw anything strange.
On the contrary, I felt safe everywhere I went, and the locals seemed like very friendly and good people.
Surely, you will first see the Zócalo or the main square after the lagoon.
As in the rest of the towns of the Yucatan Peninsula, this “main square” is the social and cultural center and a super nice place to sit and enjoy the fresh air and feel, almost like a local.
When I was there, I remembered they were celebrating Women’s Day with a mega Zumba class – I had a blast!
Also very popular is the Parroquia de San Joaquin, the patron saint of Bacalar Mexico. It is just 5 minutes from the plaza.
The church, built in the 19th century, has that characteristic colonial style I love, with the facade painted in light yellow.
It is quite simple and rustic inside, and there are always people praying, so you have to be respectful with photos and other things.
There is no problem entering the enclosure and walking around, so take advantage of it!
7. Get a popsicle at Annie’s Ice Cream Shop
Tasting the local gastronomy is one of the greatest pleasures when traveling, don’t you think?
One of the things I liked the most was the popsicles, a kind of creamy ice popsicle. You must eat at least 2 a day!
In addition to popsicles, they have fresh fruit water of different flavors (agua fresca) and ice creams that looked good, although I didn’t try them.
Annie Delicias Ice Cream Shop is great because, besides being a local, family-owned business, it is very close to the plaza.
So, you can buy your popsicle or ice cream to go and sit and enjoy the ambiance and the “people watching” that I like so much. An ideal plan to chill and relax!
Open daily, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., 22nd Street, Downtown
8. Eat Tacos, of course!
If you prefer to have some delicious tacos or tortas at a good price and in a place that is also 100% local, go to Taqueria El Socio, you will love it.
In addition, it is on a very lively street with a bookstore and several cafes… just a 5-minute walk from the Zocalo.
For dessert or a snack, nothing better than Marquesitas.
You will see that, especially at sunset, several stalls are selling this kind of crepe, but crunchier and very typical.
There are many toppings to accompany your Marquesita, but the classic one is ham and cheese.
Ordering one and sitting down to eat it on a bench in the plaza is a quiet, inexpensive, and very hedonistic plan in Bacalar, so enjoy it! It’s delicious!
9. Excursion to Calakmul
One of the great things to do in Bacalar was to escape to visit the archaeological site of Calakmul.
I tried to fit it into my trip itinerary but ran out of time. Next time!
Calakmul is located in the neighboring state of Campeche and is very close to the border with Guatemala. It was one of the main cities of Mesoamerica.
There you will be able to see, practically hidden in the jungle, an archaeological site of about 2 square kilometers, dominated by a huge pyramid almost 150 ft tall, 1/3 higher than that of Kukulkan in Chichen Itza!
To make everything as comfortable and easy as possible, you can sign up for this excursion to Calakmul from Bacalar.
I am sure it has to be well worth it. However, remember that it is a bit far away (about 143 miles), so driving there and back during the day must be a real pain.
As plan B, you have the archaeological sites of Becan and Kohunlich, two of the most unknown but equally incredible.
Besides, they are closer. You can take a look at this day trip to Becan from Bacalar.
10. Watch the sunset – and sunrise
I will top this list of things to do in Bacalar with one that, I believe, you simply can’t miss.
As I told you in the beginning, the Seven Colors Lagoon is named after the change of its color depending on the time of day, the light… and, of course, the best times are sunrise and sunset.
Even if you are not a morning person like me (although I usually get up early), I recommend that, at least once, you set your alarm early and enjoy the first rays of sun in Bacalar.
Don’t forget your camera, but don’t get too obsessed with taking the perfect picture, or you will miss the show… I assure you it will be a unique experience!
Bacalar, Mexico: Conclusion
In conclusion, Bacalar stands as a shimmering gem in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, offering travelers an unparalleled experience in natural beauty and cultural richness.
Its enchanting shades of blue, from the dazzling hues of the Lagoon to the historical treasures hidden within its town, create an unforgettable backdrop for exploration and relaxation alike.
Whether you seek adventure on the water, cultural immersion in the local heritage, or simply the serenity of a tranquil paradise, Bacalar promises to exceed your expectations.
Embrace the magic of this “blue” paradise and let its splendor captivate your soul, leaving you with cherished memories to last a lifetime.