Just two hours’ drive from Tulum lies the quiet town of Bacalar on the shores of a crystal clear freshwater lagoon. This place is ideal for those who are fed up with touristy places like Tulum and Playa del Carmen and want to relax a bit outside the glitzy hotel zones. Bacalar belongs to the group of Pueblos Mágicos (or magical cities), which the Mexican government has designated as culturally important places in Mexico. And what should you do in Bacalar?
1) Swim in a lagoon of seven colours
It was the lagoon that helped put Bacalar on the Pueblos Mágicos list in 2006. According to the locals, this long lake is at least seven shades of blue and its clarity will take your breath away. If you are not staying in a hotel that has access to the lagoon, you can use one of the public beaches (Balneario Ecologico), the entrance fee in 2019 was only 3 pesos (about 3.20 CZK).
2) Rent a kayak
One of the best activities in Bacalar is kayaking. Kayaking can be done either as part of an organized trip or on your own. We rented a kayak from Green Monkey Hostel Bacalar and it cost us 360 CZK (about 300 pesos) for three hours.
3) Explore the lagoon by boat or yacht
One of the best rated excursions is the lagoon sailing, where you are taken not only to the Pirate Channel, but also to the cenote. They will show you a place where you can take a mud bath and take you to the bird island. The range of boat trips is huge, you can take a romantic trip, a sunset cruise or charter a yacht and do whatever you want. Locals go on yachts to celebrate birthdays and to say goodbye to their freedom. If you’re in the vicinity, chances are they’ll invite you to have a tequila with them.
4) Visit the Pirate Channel
If you decide to go on a boat trip or organized kayaking, one of the stops will probably be the Pirate Channel. The water is only waist-deep in the channel, so it’s more for splashing than swimming, but the light blue colour in contrast to the white beach will tempt you. to stay as long as possible. We docked there alone and stayed sailing for an incredible three hours. It’s true that we were lucky with the weather, it was cloudy, which you will appreciate during a long kayak, even if you are lubricated with 50.
5) Visit Fort San Felipe
On the main square there is a huge fortress with a panoramic view of the lagoon. Inside the fortress there is also a museum where you can learn more about the pirate history of Bacalar. Entrance costs around 120 CZK (100 pesos).
6) Dive in Xul-Ha
If you don’t have enough water, head to the village of Xul-Ha, where Cenote Azul is the perfect place for swimming and diving.
7) Take the kids to Kan K’in Bacalar
15 minutes from Bacalar you will find a theme park with 5 zip-lines through the jungle, from which you have a great view of the surrounding area and from one of the amazing turquoise water of the lagoon. Entrance costs $55 for an adult and $40 for children. Expect to spend 2-3 hours in the park.
8) Visit the ruins of Kohunlich
One hour’s drive from Bacalar, located on 21 acres the huge archaeological complex of Kohunlich. It is the oldest ruins we have visited. People inhabited this city as early as 200 BC and as late as 600 AD. The complex is huge, and if you don’t arrive at the site just in time, several busloads of tourists will pile in, there’s a good chance you’ll be alone.
We arrived in Kohunlich around lunchtime, just as eight buses were leaving the place. But an organized trip is definitely not a bad idea, we caught a bit of the interpretation before the hikers left, and you’re sure to learn a lot more with a guide than if you were to look up the information on your own.
Where to eat in Bacalar?
The best pizza in Mexico at Pues Si
this little pizza place
that doesn’t have a great interior, we’ve been every day and I still dream about their pizza. So if you like pizza at least a little bit, we recommend a stop here. We haven’t had better pizza in Italy (I’m not exaggerating!). Plus they had fast stable wi-fi.
Not only vegans have to go to Mango Y Chile
Vegan bistro and café
Mango Y Chile
located next to Fort San Felipe, offers great burgers and amazing coffee. The outdoor seating area also offers views of the lagoon.
The best Mexican food you’ll find at La Piña
is renowned for great food, large and visually pleasing portions, low prices, but also for the wait. Mexicans generally don’t rush anywhere, but here, the menu warns you that you’ll have to wait for your food. And once that happens in Mexico (yes, we’ve seen more of these “we’re not fast food” signs), expect a long wait. But it’s worth it!
Where to stay
We have selected three specific accommodations that we would choose from if we were to go to Playa del Carmen again.[lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”33″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”]
Cheap hostel with a nice night bar and a swimming pool. You live in stylish concrete tubes where only the bed fits and the bathroom is in a shared space. Careful, not much internet going on here.[/lgc_column] [lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”33″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”false”]
Newly built apartments near Bacalar that really surprised us. They are modern, clean and quiet. Plus, you can count on stable wi-fi, which is often a miracle in the Yucatán. Unfortunately they are out of the centre, you can’t get to the bar for a drink. But the price is amazing.[/lgc_column] [lgc_column grid=”33″ tablet_grid=”33″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”true”]
Villa by the shore
If you’re coming to Bacalar for a holiday, we recommend checking out this gorgeous villa, which is a short walk from the centre of town in a quiet area right on the shore of the lagoon. And the view from the rooms is breathtaking![/lgc_column]
Tips and tricks for travelling around the area around Lake Bacalar
What to pack
Take a look at our
Where to get tickets
Reservation of accommodation
Don’t forget about insurance
Travel insurance is an absolute must. For shorter journeys, choose AXA (
Recommended Lonely Planet Yucatanguide