Seeing the stunning blue waters of Bacalar Lagoon should be high on your list of things to do in Mexico. The lagoon, often referred to as a lake, is known as ‘the lake of 7 colours’ thanks to the many different shades of blue in the water. To visit the lagoon you’ll want to stay in the small town of Bacalar – one of our top off the beaten path destinations in North America! The town is located on the shores of Lake Bacalar, which make it the perfect spot to take a tour to the cenotes or simply enjoy a relaxing few days swimming in the lagoon. With mesmerising crystal clear waters, you’ll never want to leave this unique paradise. Find out everything you need to know before you visit with this travel guide to the amazing things to do in Bacalar Lagoon, Mexico.
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Things to do in Bacalar Lagoon, Mexico
Enjoy Bacalar Lagoon – Bacalar Lagoon, also known as Lake Bacalar, is the town’s main attraction. As a result, one of the best things to do in Bacalar is simply chill out and enjoy the stunning blue waters of the lagoon. The main way to enjoy the lagoon is by going for a swim in its cool refreshing waters, which is a great way to cool off from the warm weather. Alternatively you can find a nice spot to sunbathe and just enjoy the view! There are a number of jetties around the lagoon that are perfect spots for sunbathing and jumping in for a swim. These jetties are completely free to use, so you may as well take advantage of them to make the most out of your stay. Unfortunately there isn’t much to see if you go snorkelling in Bacalar Lagoon, but it’s still a beautiful place to cool off from the Mexican heat.
Boat tour of Bacalar Lagoon – If you want to do a bit more exploring then take a boat tour of Lake Bacalar. These tours generally all follow the same itinerary with the main stops being Cenote Negro, Cenote Esmeralda, Cenote de Cocalitos and Canal de los Piratas. Tours start from around 200 pesos per person and can easily be arranged through your accommodation or vendors in the streets of Bacalar. Generally the tours will only last around 3 hours.
Cenote Negro – With a depth of around 90 metres, Cenote Negro is the deepest cenote in Bacalar and one of the deepest in the state of Quintana Roo. If you don’t already know, cenotes are deep natural wells of water. The cenotes of Lake Bacalar are easy to spot as the water appears to be very dark. This is due to the depth in comparison to the beautifully blue water found in the more shallow parts of the lake. Cenote Negro, which translates to ‘black cenote’ in English, was given its name due to the darkness of its water. The cenote is located in Lake Bacalar and is a common stop on boat trips around the lagoon. If you don’t plan on taking one of the boat tours then you can also kayak to the black cenote or easily walk there from Bacalar town. There is an entrance fee of 5 pesos at Cenote Negro if you choose to walk there.
Cenote de Cocalitos – Although there are many cenotes in the Bacalar Lagoon, Cenote de Cocalitos is the most unique. What makes it so special is the presence of Stromatolites – living rock-like structures made up of cyanobacteria. Evidence suggests these structures were present on earth around 3.5 billion years ago, meaning they are some of the oldest recorded life forms on the planet! Lake Bacalar is one of the few places in the world where stromatolites still grow. It’s important to take extreme care when seeing the stromatolites at Cenote de Cocalitos. Make sure not to touch, step or lean on them as they can easily be destroyed or damaged.
Another reason to visit Cenote de Cocalitos is to make use of the swings and hammocks in the area. Relaxing on a swing or hammock is a nice way to enjoy the stunning nature of Bacalar Lagoon. The entrance fee at Cenote de Cocalitos is 35 pesos. If you’re visiting on a boat tour then you shouldn’t have to pay an entrance fee as it should already be included in the price of the tour.
Cenote Esmeralda – One of the other cenotes in Lake Bacalar is Cenote Esmeralda. This cenote is notable for being quite wide in comparison to the other cenotes found in the lagoon. If you’re going on a boat tour then it should visit Cenote Esmeralda, but if not then it’s around a half hour walk from the centre of Bacalar.
Canal de los Piratas – During the 17th century pirates used to enter Bacalar Lagoon via a canal in order to raid the town. This canal is now known as the Canal de los Piratas, and is a popular stop on boat tours around the lake. The water here is shallow, making it a nice spot to just enjoy the clear water of the lagoon. Don’t be surprised to see people covered in mud when you visit the Canal de los Piratas as there is a special mud in the water that can be used to exfoliate your skin. Simply rub some on your skin and wait 5-10 minutes for it to work its magic!
Stand up paddleboarding – A different way to explore Lake Bacalar is on a stand up paddleboarding tour. Many of these tours are suitable even if you’ve never been paddleboarding before as an instructor will teach you the basics before you begin. These tours operate at sunrise and sunset, which are particularly nice times of day to enjoy the beautiful nature of the lagoon. Tours start from around 450 pesos and last for 3 hours.
Kayaking – If paddleboarding isn’t for you then another option is to kayak around the lake. Many accommodations offer free kayak rental when you stay there, which is perfect if you want to explore Bacalar Lagoon at your own pace. Kayak tours are also available from around 400 pesos, but we recommend kayaking independently as it gives you more time to enjoy the nature of the lake.
Balneario Ecologico – With a restaurant, designated swimming area and two water slides, Balneario Ecologico is a great spot for enjoying Bacalar Lagoon. It costs just 15 pesos to enter and is a great place to go for a swim or simply enjoy a drink or two by the shores of the lake. Very few tourists seem to visit Balneario Ecologico, so it can be a great place to meet locals too!
Los rapidos – Los Rapidos is another great spot to visit in Lake Bacalar. The water here flows faster than elsewhere in the lake, so you can simply drift along with the current. Like the other parts of the lagoon, Los Rapidos is beautiful thanks to its stunning blue water. You can easily spend a day here if you want to as there is a restaurant as well as sunbeds and hammocks available to use. The entrance fee at Los Rapidos is 50 pesos and a taxi from Bacalar town should cost around 150 pesos one-way.
Isla de los Pajaros – Known in English as Bird Island, Isla de los Parajos is a protected area due to the many bird species that nest there. Some of the bird species found on the island include spoonbills, storks, herons and parrots. As it is a protected area it isn’t possible to actually visit the island, but you are able to see it from your boat if you take a tour.
Fort San Felipe Bacalar – One of the best places to visit in Bacalar is Fort San Felipe Bacalar. The fort was built in 1733 to protect the town from pirate attacks. Visiting the fort gives you the chance to learn about the town’s history as well as providing lovely views of Lake Bacalar. Fort San Felipe Bacalar has an entrance fee of 60 pesos and is open every day of the week except Monday.
How to get to Bacalar Lagoon, Mexico
The easiest way to get to Bacalar is by bus, with daily departures from a number of places, including Cancun, Tulum and Belize City. If you’re travelling from Cancun, Tulum or elsewhere in Mexico you can book your bus in advance on the ADO website. Alternatively, if you’re coming from Belize City you will need to book in person whilst in Belize as you will be travelling between the two countries.
It takes around 3 hours to travel from Tulum to Bacalar and about 5 hours from Cancun. The journey from Belize City also takes around 3 hours, but you need to factor in time for the border crossing as well, which is likely to take at least an hour or two.
Obviously the ticket price will depend on where you are coming from. ADO Buses to Bacalar cost 274 pesos from Tulum, 460 pesos from Cancun or $34 Belize Dollars (BZD) from Belize City. Although there are slightly cheaper operators running some of these routes, we recommend travelling with ADO as the buses are reliable and have air conditioning.
The ADO bus station in Bacalar is around a kilometre away from the lake, so you may either have to walk to your accommodation or take a taxi. Thankfully taxis are relatively inexpensive and should only cost around 50 pesos if you don’t fancy walking.
If you don’t want to take a bus then another option is to drive yourself. Car rental prices in Mexico are very reasonable, and so if you’re travelling in a group it can be a good way to save some money. It also gives you the freedom to stop and explore the sights along your route to Bacalar. Click here to find great car rental deals anywhere in Mexico!
Although it’s possible to do a day trip or excursion to Bacalar Lagoon from Playa del Carmen, we’d recommend staying at least one night to make the most of your trip.
Best time to visit Bacalar Lagoon, Mexico
The best time to visit Bacalar is between December and March as these months are less humid and the temperature is relatively consistent around 26-29 degrees Celsius (79-84 degrees Fahrenheit). This is the peak season for Bacalar, and although it doesn’t get too busy, it is important to book your accommodation in advance. If you’re ok dealing with higher levels of humidity then April and May are also good months to visit as they are warm but still have fairly low levels of rainfall.
The low season in Bacalar runs from around May to November as these are the rainiest months. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad time to visit though, as it’s likely you will still get some sunny days as well. Accommodation will generally cost less during these months, which can make it a good time to visit Bacalar if you’re travelling on a budget.
Where to stay in Bacalar Lagoon, Mexico
If you’re looking for budget accommodation in Bacalar then make sure to check out Delmar Camping. Although staying in a tent isn’t necessarily ideal, it is a great way to save money. If you’re unsure whether camping is for you then perhaps the property’s consistently great reviews will help convince you! Tents start from 417 pesos ($22 USD) per night, with breakfast included in the price!
Yak Lake House Hostel
Yak Lake House Hostel is a brilliant budget option if you’re happy to stay in a dorm during your time in Bacalar. The best thing about the property is the location, as it’s right by the shores of the lagoon. Tours are available through the hostel, which makes it nice and easy to plan activities for your days in Bacalar. There are also regular events such as beer pong tournaments in the hostel bar, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for a social environment. The air conditioning in the dorms isn’t on all day, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue as you can simply cool off by going for a swim in the lake. Thankfully the air con is turned on at night to help keep the room a comfortable temperature while you sleep. Rooms start from 400 pesos ($21 USD) per night, with breakfast included in the price.
Posada Casa Madrid
Posada Casa Madrid is a great option for budget private rooms in Bacalar. It’s just a short walk from the shores of the lake and a number of restaurants. Rooms are fairly simple but represent good value at such a cheap price. Not all rooms come with air conditioning, so make sure to opt for it if you think you’ll get too warm! Prices start from 616 pesos ($32 USD) per night.
Located on the edge of Bacalar town, Hotel Balche offers great value private rooms. If you don’t mind having a little way to walk to reach the centre then staying here is a great option. Rooms are comfortable and fitted with air conditioning to help combat the Mexican heat. Staff at the property are really friendly and will help in any way they can during your stay. Rooms start from 921 pesos ($48 USD) per night.
Hotel el Manglar
Well-located in the centre of Bacalar, Hotel el Manglar is one of the best hotels in the area. All rooms are fitted with air conditioning, which is very much needed as even the nights are relatively warm in Bacalar. There are a variety of different room sizes, which is ideal if you’re travelling in a larger group and you all want to stay at the same property. Rooms start from 1,071 pesos ($55 USD) per night.
Hotel & Suites Oasis Bacalar
If you’re looking to treat yourself check out the Hotel & Suites Oasis Bacalar. The property is in a great location just a short walk from Lake Bacalar and has an outdoor swimming pool on site. Thanks to the good location in the centre of town, everything you need is just a short walk away. Staff at the property are very friendly and will help with recommendations of what to do and where to eat in Bacalar. Rooms start from 2,153 pesos ($111 USD) per night.
Where to eat in Bacalar Lagoon, Mexico
Bote de Leche – Bote de Leche was easily our favourite restaurant in Bacalar. Although it may not have the biggest menu, there’s still a good mix of food available, from steaks to chicken skewers to salads. There is also a good selection of beers, spirits and cocktails available if you’re looking to enjoy a drink with your meal. The staff are very helpful and happily learned how to make strawberry daiquiris especially for Natalia despite not having them on the menu!
La Playita – La Playita is one of the most popular restaurants in Bacalar. There’s a good selection of food available including tacos, pizzas, burgers, ceviche, empanadas and more. It’s a great spot for chilling out due to its location by the Bacalar Lagoon. We recommend ordering a drink or two, sitting back in one of their hammocks and enjoying the view!
Pues Si Restaurante Omnivoro Responsable – If you’re looking for good quality Italian food in Bacalar then this is the place for you! You’ll find a good selection of both pizza and pasta at very reasonable prices, especially considering they serve up generous portions. The service is of a good standard and in our experience the meals come out pretty quickly, so you won’t be sat for ages waiting for your dinner!
Want to check out more of the cenotes in Mexico? Check out our guide to the Gran Cenote in Tulum!
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