Just on the other side of the Bacalar Lagoon is the smaller Mariscal Lagoon. They are connected by a narrow canal called the Canal de Los Piratas (the Pirates’ Channel). Talk about an intriguing name. And it’s not just for fun. Real pirates historically used this channel.
Canal de Los Piratas History
Hundreds of years ago, the channel was used for trade. Thanks to optimal positioning, it gave access to the inland, opening up trade possibilities. It was often considered the natural border between Mexico and Belize and connected different populations who were previously separated by the water.
Both merchant and pirate ships frequently used the canal to move goods around. The natives often defended their lands against pirates and Spanish conquest ships.
Today, it’s considered a prime place to relax and hang out. You can get to Canal de Los Piratas Bacalar via kayak or boat. Once there, you can go up to the shore and explore on foot. In some areas, the ground becomes a sandbar, with the water barely covering your feet. You can walk so far out from the shoreline and still only wet your ankles.
The Bacalar Lagoon is famous for the seven vibrant different watercolors of blues and greens, and this is most noticeable in the Pirates’ Channel. The channel is also well-known for its sand, which is rich in minerals. You’ll often find people rubbing it on their skin for the benefit of natural exfoliation.
Bacalar Pirates Canal Tours
Shared Boat Tour – A boat tour is one of the best ways to see the Canal de Los Piratas. The standard boat tour in Bacalar is still super cheap, combines several attractions, and can be great value for money. If you book a Bacalar boat tour, Canal de Los Piratas Bacalar will always be the last spot the boat tours visit, so you can swim and enjoy this great spot. The only downside to a shared tour is that the time schedules are fixed, and there isn’t as much flexibility.
Private boat tours and private boat rentals – For a more relaxed and personal experience while visiting the Pirates Canal, hire a private boat or book a private tour. Prices vary and will depend on your negotiating skills, boat type, and how long you want to rent or tour the lagoon. In 2022 we rented a private pontoon-style boat for 2600 pesos, which was not the cheapest but was the most convenient for us. Expect to pay between 2500-3000 for a private pontoon boat for a standard 2.5-3 hours tour that includes a visit to Canal de Los Piratas.
Canal de Los Piratas by Kayak – Another fun way to explore and enjoy the Canal de Los Piratas is to do it yourself. A kayak is the easiest way to cross the lagoon to the canal. You can rent kayaks from Bacalar. Most kayak rentals range in price from 250-500 pesos or $12-25 USD. Make sure to add life jackets to your rental.
The water is shallow in the channel, but it’s always a good idea to come prepared with safety equipment like life vests. You’ll also be quite exposed to the sun, so bring sunscreen and plenty of it if you need to reapply. Don’t use any if you plan to visit the cenotes in Bacalar since they don’t usually allow sunscreen unless it is biodegradable.
Canal de Los Piratas Hours & Entry
Because this is an open area and part of the natural lagoon, there are no opening or closing hours and no entry fee. However, any equipment you want to rent, like paddleboards, kayaks, lifejackets, or snorkel gear, will cost you extra. There are plenty of places just on the other side of the lagoon in the city where you can rent this.
Some boating tours will take you on a tour of the channel, the lagoon, and even nearby cenotes for as little as $12 USD. You can also opt for longer private tours that include visits to some of the tiny islands on the lagoon. These will be much more expensive, but you get to see a bit more in a relaxed setting.
Amenities at Canal de Los Piratas
While exploring, you might notice what appears to be a piece of an abandoned ship’s bow in the middle of the canal. Your eyes are not deceiving you. There was once a plan to set up a floating restaurant in the middle of the water.
After considering the infrastructure that comes with a fully functioning restaurant, it was deemed too much of a risk for the marine ecosystem, and the project was abandoned. Instead, it now serves as a great hangout spot with makeshift platforms for jumping and diving into the water and a great spot to take photos (or selfies).
Again, because this is part of a natural environment with no opening hours or entrance costs, there is no admissions office or anything like that. So make sure to use the bathroom before you set out, and ask your rental shop if they offer lockers for your valuables or anything you don’t want to bring with you out on the water.