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Bacalar, Mexico – Everything you Need to Know | 2023 Guide

Bacalar, Mexico – Everything you Need to Know | 2023 Guide

We’ve been making the trip to Laguna Bacalar just about every year since 2018. Bacalar has quickly become one of our favorite places to visit in Mexico.

Locally known as Laguna Bacalar, ‘La Laguna de los Siete Colores’ (the 7 color lagoon), it’s a stunning freshwater lake that is so clear it lives up to its nickname. If you didn’t know any better, you would think that this place is an idyllic Caribbean seaside town. 

“Bacalar, The Maldives of Mexico”

It won’t be long before you see Laguna Bacalar popping up all over your Instagram feed. It’s really that beautiful! We’ve put together this Bacalar Mexico travel guide to answer all your questions and inspire you to add it to your Mexico bucket list!

If you’ve been to Cancun, Tulum, or Playa del Carmen and are looking for somewhere new – consider a few days in Bacalar, Mexico!

Jump to info on Bacalar, Mexico:

Pier of a hotel on Laguna Bacalar - places to stay on the lake in Bacalar Mexico

Where to Stay in Bacalar

Whether you are on a luxury honeymoon in Mexico or a simple eco-chic place to rest your head, there is something for everyone in Bacalar. We suggest spending three nights in Bacalar to see the highlights and have some time to enjoy the peaceful natural beauty of Bacalar. 

We have visited Bacalar every year since 2018 and have stayed at many places around the lagoon. Below are our top picks with stunning views of the lake, good value, and great locations. 

map of how to get to Laguna Bacalar Mexico - travel times from tourist areas in mexico

Where is Bacalar, Mexico

Bacalar in Quintana Roo State, South East Mexico, is near the border with Belize. Despite the absence of an actual beach, we think it’s an awesome tourist town. Its location on the impressive Laguna de Bacalar shores more than compensates.

The lake takes the same name as the town but is also known as the ‘La Laguna de Los Siete Colores’  (Lagoon of Seven Colors) due to its many blue and turquoise hues. If you gaze across its vast waters, you’ll feel like you’re chilling on the shores of the Caribbean.

This was a Mayan Region well before the Spanish arrived in the middle of the 16th Century and was a regular target for pirates who sacked it in the middle of the 17th Century. When Fort Felipe was built in 1733, it provided some protection from incoming pillagers. Cancun’s raucous spring break destination is only a five-hour drive away via Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Bacalar, Mexico, might be less accessible than some other more popular places to visit in Mexico, but there are still so many things to do in Bacalar. Bacalar is a great place for a vacation, whether you are traveling alone, with your loved one, or as a family.

How to Get to Bacalar, Mexico

There are no flights to Bacalar. You’ll have to fly to a nearby airport and come by rental car, shuttle, or bus. Whatever method you choose, it’s well worth the effort because Laguna de Bacalar is a truly memorable spot.

a couple sitting on the roof of a rental jeep in Aruba during a honeymoon
Explore on your own
#1 Tip – Rent a car in Mexico
Have ultimate freedom and save tons of money on tours with your own rental car! Don’t worry – It’s safe (we’ve rented 20+ times), the roads are good, and it’s easier than you think! We always rent from Discover Cars, it’s easy & they have the best prices.

Drive to Bacalar

The easiest way to Bacalar is by renting a car in Mexico and driving yourself to Bacalar. If you are staying in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum, you can easily rent a car or get a rental car at the Cancun airport when you fly in. Rental cars are typically very affordable and easier than you might think. 

We made the drive from Playa del Carmen 3 times now. The drive was easy. Roads are well-marked and easy to follow.

  • Cancun to Bacalar: 4 hours 15 minutes | 345 KM
  • Playa del Carmen to Bacalar: 3 hours 15 minutes | 279 KM
  • Tulum to Bacalar: 2 hours 20 minutes | 215 KM

Private Shuttle to Bacalar

The easiest way to Bacalar is by private shuttle. Arrange a private shuttle to pick you up at the airport or hotel and bring you directly to Bacalar. No need to worry about being on an overcrowded bus or worrying about driving in Mexico.

ADO Bus to Bacalar

Taking the bus in Quinto Rio is relatively easy & straightforward and way more comfortable than you think. Buses are air-conditioned with comfortable seating. You can travel to Bacalar by bus on an ADO bus. We’ve had to take ADO buses dozens of times between Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. Click here for the bus schedule and to book tickets online. Often there are specials online, and it’s cheaper to book there than at a bus station.

Fly to Bacalar

Chetumal is the closest airport to Bacalar, around 45 minutes by road. Chetumal does not have regular international flights but is served by Cancun and Mexico City.

Some of our favorite tours in Bacalar

When you roll into town, you will quickly notice all the people trying to sell you tours. Those tours aren’t terrible, but very pre-packaged and bare-bones (and sometimes not even in English). We’ve taken them too, but here are our picks for better options! 

white boat anchored near Cocalitos in Bacalar
#1 – Bacalar Boat Tour with Open Bar & Snacks
Must-Do Activity
This tour covers all of the highlights of the Bacalar Lagoon with a fun and informative guide – bonus snacks and an open bar! 

white and blue sailboat in the laguna Bacalar in Mexico
#2 – Bacalar by Sail Boat
All aboard for a fun afternoon of sailing on a luxury sailboat around the lagoon with several stops to check out Bacalar’s amazing cenotes and scenery!

3 people paddling on a sunrise SUP tour in Mexico
#3 – Sunrise SUP
Take in the peaceful sunrise aboard a SUP with a relaxing tour with a local guide. There is no better way to start your day in Bacalar!

Things to Do in Bacalar, Mexico

You’ll never run out of ways to fill your day while in Bacalar. Much of the appeal is Laguna de Bacalar – firstly because it’s stunning, but also because of the activities it provides for tourists. Check out a few options to whet your appetite before arriving in this lovely part of Mexico.

group of people on a day boat trip in Laguna Bacalar mexico - boat in aqua colored water with several passengers

1. Take a Boat Tour of Bacalar

It would be a crime to visit Bacalar without venturing out onto Laguna de Bacalar. It’s a great way to relax and enjoy the wonderful surroundings for a few hours. The waters are wonderfully clear, with the lake’s white limestone bed. The pristine base helps emphasize the clarity of the water even further.

The typical boating route includes visiting the channels used by pirates centuries ago and time spent exploring the mangroves. There is the chance to swim and snorkel and keep an eye out for birdlife. The boat trip includes much-needed refreshments and is crewed by an experienced captain, guide, and service staff. As a nice bonus, the boats are eco-friendly, avoiding damaging the environment as they sail.

It’s a great day out, and if you enjoy sunsets – who doesn’t – you should time your trip to be on the lake as the sun dips behind the horizon.

If you book a Bacalar boat tour in person, make sure you find out if it’s in English or Spanish. There are tours in both languages; typically, they don’t speak both. Click here to see all the Bacalar Boat tours. We’d suggest booking in advance online. We found it stressful doing it in person and finding an English one.

Drone photo of El Canal de los Piratas - Bacalar Mexico - Pirates Canal from above

2. El Canal De Los Piratas Bacalar

One of the most stunning sections of Laguna Balacar is known as the Canal de Los Pirates. Here a thin shallow strip of water runs through the land as the colors are out of this world. There are also a few old structures to jump off of into Laguna Bacalar. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon in Bacalar and is usually included with most boat trips in Laguna Bacalar.

On the center island, you’ll see the remains of a failed restaurant. The old cement walls are now covered with murals and add an interesting contrast to the natural beauty that surrounds them. 

Related Article: Things to do in Cancun

group of three paddle boarders on a sunrise SUP tour in Bacalar

3. Paddleboarding

Why not try paddleboarding if you prefer to travel using your own steam? Once you’ve managed to find balance on your board and can actually stand, you can enjoy the serenity of laguna Bacalar in almost complete silence, other than the sounds that nature creates and chatter from any guide you might bring along.

There is plenty to see in these lovely blue waters. Glide over the Black Cenote – an open sky cenote that is found in one of the deepest parts of the lake. Companies who organize these tours provide you with light refreshments, and you might like to have a Sulphur mud pack on your face from the rich mud at the bottom of the lake. You’ll arrive back to shore at the end of the day glowing, both from the mudpack and the refreshing peace of the lake.

group of people kayaking in Laguna Bacalar Mexico - Things to do in Bacalar

4. Kayaking Laguna de Bacalar

Why stand up when you can sit down? Yet another way to see Laguna de Bacalar is to rent a kayak and drift slowly and silently over its waters. Kayaking requires minimal tuition and is perfectly safe, even for a complete novice. If you’re a little nervous, make sure the waters are calm before you set out. We rented kayaks here online for the full day at a great price.

Related Article: Things to do Cozumel

Panoramic view of Cenote Azul looking onto the colorful waters of Laguna Bacalar

5. Cenote Azul

Cenote Azul is a deep well in Laguna de Bacalar. Over time, erosion creates caves and then modifies them. At over 90-meters deep, Cenote Azul is a must for experienced scuba divers visiting Bacalar and some visitors, one of the major reasons for coming in the first place.

Found close to the road as you head into Bacalar central, it’s beautiful, resembling a small lake with the forest around its edges. Make sure you bring along a guide who’s familiar with the area.

If you’re spending more time in the Yucatan, check out some of our favorite cenotes in Mexico. There are over 6,000 cenotes in Mexico, so you’re never far from one!

Related Article: Where to Stay in Tulum – Read before booking accommodation

Stone Pyramid at the Mayan Ruins of Kohunlich near Laguna Bacalar Mexico

6. Explore the Ruins of Kohunlich

The ruins of the Mayan City of Kohunlich are about an hour away from Bacalar, but it’s worth taking the time to visit and immerse yourself in the lush jungle with the howler monkeys who have now made it their home. You’ll see moss blanketing the land and temples which once stood proudly on it. Found just over a century ago by Raymond Merwin, they date back to 200 BC. Most of the buildings, however, were constructed between the 3rd and 7th Centuries.

Among the most interesting buildings is the Temple of the Masks – a pyramid – the oldest of Kohunlich’s buildings that have been excavated. Five of the original eight masks, each eight-feet high, remain today.

The 27 Steps is a platform where it is thought some of the city’s most impressive homes once existed, but the highlight is the enchanting view you’ll get over the jungle. Some of the engineering used is impressive, most notably the means of channeling rainwater into the reservoir.

Related Article: Top Mayan Ruins in Mexico To Visit

Aerial View of the San Felipe Fort in Bacalar Mexico

7. Fort San Felipe

Fuertes San Felipe is a beautiful stone structure near the town square. There’s an impressive, deep moat around the Fort, which has ramparts to get great views over Laguna de Bacalar. Take a look at the canons and the Costa Maya Museum, where you can see historical exhibits and murals depicting the history of Bacalar – including its pirates. There are muskets, navigational instruments, sabers, and models of the boats that sailed these waters during the 17th Century. There’s also an awesome pirate skeleton on display, found when they excavated the Fort. It is thought to be centuries old.

The Fort is open six days a week, and if you’re looking for a bit of culture and education, there is a program of lectures that may interest you. Take a look at the calendar of events when you arrive in Bacalar, Mexico.

view of the exterior view of the San Joaquin Parish Church in Bacalar Mexico

8. San Joaquin Parish Church

Parroquia de San Joaquin near the Plaza Principal in Bacalar was built in the 18th Century. It is one of many landmarks in the town. Wander around and check out the House of the International Writer, the House of Culture, and the Main Plaza too.

9. The Fair of San Joaquin

The Annual Fair in Bacalar takes place during the first two weeks of August. If you’re flexible on the dates you can visit, consider coming during these two weeks. The event includes music, entertainment, and all kinds of races. There’s a program of events throughout the year in Bacalar, so even if you can’t visit in August, there is a good chance of something happening – such as an open-air concert – when you visit Bacalar.

Aerial view of Thatched hut on the end of a dock in Laguna Bacalar Mexico - Aqua colored water and tan palm thatching

10. Just lounge on the docks

Surrounding Laguna Bacalar is many docks with thatched palm huts at the end, some even with hammocks. Spends some time just staring at this beautiful lagoon and see how many different shades of blue you can count!

Best Restaurants in Bacalar Mexico

Unsurprisingly, fresh fish is regularly featured on local menus. Restaurants specialize in locally-produced ingredients and fully cater to vegetarians and vegans. There are so many great restaurants in Bacalar to choose from, but here are three that we think you should try when visiting Bacalar.

1. El Manati Bacalar

This restaurant on Calle 22 – between Avenida 5 and 7 – has tables in charming garden surroundings. It’s open for breakfast and lunch. The menu is extensive, and wherever possible, all ingredients are sourced locally.

The house specials include a vegetarian burger, while eggs are served in several different ways. If you simply want a lunchtime snack, go for one of their delicious paninis or salads. There’s a range of smoothies, fresh juices, coffee, and some extremely tempting desserts. The restaurant also has a shop and art gallery with an emphasis on fair trade products and local crafts.

2. Kai Pez

Kai Pez on Calle 20 offers you the chance to soak in the stunning views over the lake as you eat. Impressive at any time of the day, but sunset is probably the best time of all. The menu includes some mouthwatering fresh fish – available for lunch or dinner.

There are a few typical Mexican dishes, with Tacos de Cochinita being the regional specialty, as well as shrimp and tuna, which you can enjoy with a salad or as a burger. Empanadas de Chaya, with its gouda cheese, is another dish worth a try!

3. Los de Atlixco

If you’re looking for a cool place to have lunch away from the heat of the day, Los de Atlixco is the place to go. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s a great place to relax after a hectic day exploring Bacalar, Mexico.

We dined for breakfast before getting out on the boat for the day. Los de Atlixco can cater to large groups and has a hip outdoor seating area. If you want a hearty meal before setting out for the day, Los de Atlixco has gained a reputation for a very filling and tasty breakfast.

Aerial photo of hotels in Bacalar Mexico on the lake or lagoon

7 Shades of Blue in Laguna Bacalar Mexico & why it’s special!

The lake, Laguna de Bacalar, has so much to offer those wishing to swim, sail or try out various watersports. But what makes Laguna Bacalar even more special is the watercolor. The lagoon of Bacalar is known for its seven shades of blue water. In Spanish, it’s known as Laguna de Los 7 colors, and the colors range from pale shades of baby blue to aqua to deep royal blues. 

Qualified scuba divers will find plenty of spots to explore. With the added bonus of the unique history associated with Bacalar, and the delicious food available, your time in Bacalar is guaranteed to leave you well-refreshed by the end of your vacation.

Mexico’s Department of Tourism named Bacalar a Pueblo Mágico (Magic Town) in 2006, one of a number of lesser-known towns given such a title in recognition of its importance to the country’s tourism industry. The town still attracts more Mexicans than foreign tourists, so it is great for tourists who seek off-the-beaten-track destinations – you’ll feel like you’re visiting real Mexico.

With fewer crowds, it’s easier to enjoy Bacalar, Mexico, and do so without breaking the budget. After a vacation in Bacalar, you may be faced with a tough choice –  should you tell anyone else about this magical place or keep it to yourself?! Another one of our favorite places in Mexico that is not yet on the radar is Isla Holbox. Trust us, it’s amazing. 

History of Bacalar

Mexico has a well-developed tourist industry. In the early days, it was Acapulco on the Pacific Coast that caught the attention of travelers. At the same time, in the ’90s, small villages like Cancun expanded into resorts offering top-quality hotels facing out into the Caribbean, catering to the party crowd.

Bacalar may be a late developer in Mexico’s tourist trade, but in some ways, that is to its advantage. Bacalar can offer an authentic Mexican ‘’feel’’ that is unlikely to disappear any time soon. Combining some historical gems with a wonderfully unspoiled natural environment, it’s ideal for travelers who simply want to relax during their time in Bacalar, Mexico.

The weather in Bacalar has temperatures around 86 degrees all year round, only falling to 68 degrees at night – so you can soak in the sun all day and sleep like a baby in the cooler evenings. Between November and May, there are largely cloudless skies and little rainfall, certainly not enough to spoil a trip.

Don’t Forget to Pin me for Later!

Drone photo of the teal and blue waters of Laguna Bacalar with shoreline and small island in view  Long dock extending into the 7 shades of blue in Laguna Bacalar - Pinterest Pin for Bacalar Mexico

Places in Mexico to Visit Before or After Bacalar

If you’ve got more time to explore Mexico, there are some beautiful places in Mexico nearby you should check out. If you can’t it on this trip, consider them on your next trip. Make sure to check out some of our other Mexico articles to fuel your wanderlust.


Wednesday 1st of June 2022

Bacalar looks stunning through your eyes and we are definitely going to put this gorgeous lagoon on our list of must see places. Thank you very much for a very informative post!


Sunday 20th of February 2022

Sounds magical Hannah! My wife found this gem randomly...and we are planning a trip there - and now that we have read your review it sounds like a no brainer. Just the two of us. Your review is so wonderful :) A few questions for you if you would not mind: 1) Would 5 nights at Bacalar at either Mia Bacalar Luxury Resort & Spa or Hotel Rancho Encantado be too long? Is this more of a 2 or 3 day getaway? 2) When you share the info about all the nearby restaurants, are these all walking distance from the above mentioned resorts - if not how would you suggest getting to each of them. You mention "calle's" - what are those? Thank you so much!

Hannah Lukaszewicz

Sunday 6th of March 2022

I am glad you found us! Are you going anywhere else in the Yucatan? You could easily split your time and spend only 2/3 nights in Bacalar and then the other 3 nights in another area. Both of those hotels are great BUT you will either need to drive/taxi to the town. They aren't in walking distance to the center of Bacalar. Calle is street, so Calle 22 is like saying 22nd street in the USA. Hope that helps, safe travels!


Thursday 22nd of April 2021

We are planning a trip to Playa Del Carmen and we definitely have to go check this place out. We will most likely spend a day or two there because of your post. What a great review of this amazing location.