Everything you Need to Know BEFORE Visiting Bacalar, Mexico

Mexico is one of our favorite places in the world and every time we go back we try and visit a few new places. Ever since we saw photos of Bacalar Mexico we knew we had to visit. If you’ve been to Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen and are looking for somewhere new – consider a few days in Bacalar, Mexico!

“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 awesome! We’ve put together this Bacalar Mexico travel guide to answers all your questions and inspire you to add it to your Mexico bucket list!

Jump to info on Bacalar, Mexico:


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 shores of the impressive Laguna de Bacalar more than compensates.

The Lake takes the same name as the town but is also known as the ‘’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. The raucous spring break destination of Cancun 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.

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 there or get a rental car at the Cancun airport when you fly in. Rental cars are typically under $5 a day (yes, you read that right), click here for Rentalcars.com to get the best rates.

We made the drive from Playa del Carmen. The drive was relatively easy, but we have rented cars in Mexico 10+ times and feel comfortable on the roads and understand how locals drive. The 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 to have a private shuttle 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 to take ADO buses dozens of times between Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. Click here for the ADO 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. However, it doesn’t have regular international flights, so overseas visitors have three more realistic choices. One is to fly into Belize – but then there’s the hassle of clearing immigration and customs twice before you get to Bacalar, and even then the drive is around three hours.

Cancun is a similar distance away by road and it does have a daily connection by air with Chetumal, however, it’s an early morning flight that may not fit well with your international arrival. The alternative is to fly via Mexico City to Chetumal – there are a number of domestic flights throughout the day. 


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

Where to Stay in Bacalar

No matter if you are on a luxury honeymoon in Mexico or backpacker looking for a cheap hostel, there is something for you in Bacalar. We’d highly suggest spending a night or two in Bacalar if your itinerary Mexico allows.


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 of the 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 simply take in the wonderful surroundings for a few hours. The waters are wonderfully clear, with the bed of the lake white limestone. The pristine base helps emphasize the clarity of the water even further.

The typical boating route includes a visit to see the channels used by pirates centuries ago, and time spent exploring the mangroves. There is the chance to swim and snorkel, as well as keeping 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 doing any damage to 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 decide to 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 and 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 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.


3. Paddleboarding

If you prefer to travel using your own steam, why not try paddleboarding? 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.


Aerial View of Cenote Azul in Bacalar Mexico - Dark blue sinkhole surrounded by shallow aqua colored water

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 for 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 make sure to check out some of our favorite cenotes in Mexico. There are over 6,000 cenotes in Mexico, so you’re never far from one!


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 really 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, which was 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 which may interest you; take a look at the calendar of events when you arrive 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 going on – such as an open-air concert – when you are visiting.


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 are 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 regularly features on local menus. Restaurants specialize in locally-produced ingredients and fully cater to vegetarians and vegans. There are so many great restaurants 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 a number of 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. El Fogon del Sur

If you’re looking for a cool place to have lunch away from the heat of the day, El Fogon del Sur is the place to go. It’s another restaurant on Calle 22 and opens for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s a great place to relax after a hectic day exploring Bacalar, Mexico.

Family-friendly El Fogon del Sur can cater for large groups and has a hip outdoor seating area. If you want a hearty meal before setting out for the day, El Fogon del Sur 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. 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 tourist so 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 not yet on the radar is Isla Holbox, trust us it’s amazing. 

Mexico has a well-developed tourist industry. In the early days, it was Acapulco on the Pacific Coast that caught the attention of travelers, while in the ’90s, small villages like Cancun expanded into resorts offering top quality hotels facing out into the Caribbean, catering to the party crowd. The added attraction of that part of Yucatan was the Mayan history and the wonderful sites that remained in good condition.

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 are 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.


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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.

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