Bacalar is sometimes referred to as the Maldives of Mexico, and for good reason. This beautiful lake is a paradise tucked into the southern end of Quintana Roo. Still relatively quiet compared to Tulum and Playa del Carmen, Lake Bacalar is known as La Laguna de Siete Colores (The Lagoon of Seven Colors). With beautiful views and amazing sunsets, it’s an absolute must-visit.
Bacalar – The Lagoon and Town
Bacalar is the name of both the lagoon and the town. With history as a Mayan settlement, the town is now home to many people who live and visit Laguna de Bacalar. Lake Bacalar is just east of the quiet town, and is simply one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Yucatan peninsula.
The lagoon, or lake, is a freshwater body of water with a limestone bottom. Because the limestone filters the water, the lake is incredibly clear. During sunrises and sunsets, the colors reflect in a truly mesmerizing way, earning it the nickname of the Lagoon of Seven Colors.
The town of Bacalar is full of little hangout spots, restaurants, and some tours. It certainly isn’t much, but more than enough for a relaxing time. The atmosphere down here is tranquil. You won’t find perfect cell service, and you won’t find people rushing about. Bacalar is a town and area for people to relax at the lake and unwind.
Traveling to Bacalar
Getting to Bacalar is a bit of a task, as it is far from nearby airports and towns. There are multiple ways to go. First, you can rent a car in Playa del Carmen. Frankly, this is the way that many people choose to go. However, it’s incredibly expensive when compared to other options. Although the prices for car rentals may look approachable, insurance can be rather expensive.
In our opinion, the best way to go is via the ADO bus. I don’t know what your car rental will cost, but the ADO will run you about 220 pesos from Playa del Carmen. It’s hard to beat. The bus is comfortable, air conditioned, and a pleasant experience. It’s much nicer than normal buses you will find in the United States! You can buy tickets online at https://www.ado.com.mx/ or at the terminals in town.
Note: As of this writing, I have recently heard that ADO is requiring photo identification when boarding, and that a foreign driver’s license or ID card is okay. I have not been on the bus in the past few weeks, so do not know this to be true. Rather safe than sorry, and I will update if I hear any news!
Getting to Bacalar takes about 3 hours in a car, or 4 on the bus. It’s a long trip down to the south end of the state, but well worth the drive. As it is a rather long drive, we recommend going to Bacalar for a few days or a weekend to make it worth the trip! Keep in mind there are also tours from Playa del Carmen that will take you to Bacalar and back included in the tour!
Things to Do in Bacalar
First, let’s just say that Bacalar is certainly not Tulum or Playa. There are things to do, but Bacalar is small and focused on chilling. That being said, don’t get overwhelmed with trying to decide what to do while visiting. Instead, take it easy. Relax. You’ll enjoy just sitting around on this beautiful Mexican lake!
That being said, the thing to do in Bacalar is to get in the damn water! You can simply sit and relax, swim around, kayak, watch the sunset, or just float. You can take one of many tours (links in a moment) across the lagoon to see different places. One popular place you should check out is Pirates Channel. The water is super shallow and mineral-rich, and nearly every tour will have a stop here.
For tours in Bacalar, here are a few from Viator (TripAdvisor’s tour company) you can check out:
You can also find local kayak, snorkel, and sightseeing guides once you get to town. If you’re looking to learn a little bit about the history, you can visit El Museo del Fuerte de San Felipe Bacalar. This fort was completed in 1733, and is home to a museum about the history of Bacalar. In addition to learning quite a bit, the fort has incredible views of the surrounding area. Another thing worth doing is ziplining! Just 15 minutes out of town is Tirolesas Kan K’in, a zipline experience that is sure to entertain.
Feather and Wind has a great guide to restaurants in Bacalar if you’re looking for great local eats. Another great way to go is to bring your own food and stay at one of the little AirBnBs. We love to stay in a little casita on the water, bring our own food, and essentially only leave the house to explore the lake. It’s a nice escape from the everyday, and we super recommend visiting!
Overall, the idea of visiting Lake Bacalar is to relax. You will feel it as soon as you arrive. Bacalar is not full of huge hotels, all-inclusive resorts, and the parties you may find in other tourist towns. Chill out, take a break from life, and enjoy one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever visit!