Bacalar is a hidden gem in Mexico that will surely captivate your heart. Located in the southern part of Quintana Roo, Bacalar is known for its stunning Lagoon of Seven Colors, a natural wonder that rivals even the most renowned Caribbean beaches. When I visited in 2023, I couldn’t believe such a place existed! Now that you know about this underrated destination in the Americas, delve into planning your next getaway with insights on what to do in Bacalar.

For a more sustainable approach, consider choosing activities that will have a low environmental impact on the lagoon. Don’t worry, I will be giving you my eco warrior tips :).

Pin image featuring a woman sitting on the edge of Bacalar Lagoon in a bacl swimming suit. The title of the pin at the bottom of the image says: What to do in Bacalar, Mexico. An eco friendly guide.

Forget scanning through endless posts of “1001 Things to Do in Bacalar!” When it comes to this hidden gem, you can truly focus on two main experiences: exploring the Lagoon of Seven Colors and soaking up the atmosphere of the quaint town centre.

Of course, exploring the lagoon offers a variety of options in itself. We’ll delve into those sustainable adventures next…

A woman in a black swimming costume sitting by the shore of Bacalar Lagoon.

Indulge in a day at a Balneario

A balneario essentially is an area with a jetty, often with shaded areas, where you can relish the lagoon’s beauty for a small fee (from 50 to 100 pesos). Pack your beach essentials – a towel, some water, and snacks. While I haven’t explored all of them personally, a swift Google search will provide you with an idea of their appearance as well as prices. If you’re budget-conscious yet wish to enjoy the lagoon fully, this is an excellent choice for you.

Spend a day at a Beach Club

If you would like to spend time by the lagoon but don’t want to worry about the food just go to a restaurant/beach club. You can eat at one of these restaurants right next to the lagoon and then spend as much time as you like there and use their jetty to refresh yourself. I went to La Playita and I really liked it, but don’t let me tell you what to do, another Google search will give you the best options along the shore.

Eco Warrior Note

There is a well-known beach club, named Los Rápidos for its location, that everybody recommends as a must-do activity in Bacalar, which honestly concerns me. It is conveniently located by a canal section with a current that creates a lazy river. This, along with the presence of stromatolites, is the lure the beach club uses to attract tourists.

While the lazy river section is a fun activity, the business’s lack of care towards preserving the delicate ecosystem where the stromatolites inhabit is appalling. Having a few warning signs telling is not enough. Despite its fame as an attraction in Bacalar, I must strongly disapprove of supporting such destructive practices.

Kayak or Paddleboard on the Lagoon – best eco friendly option!

This is by far the best way to sustainably explore the lagoon and I highly recommend it. There are many kayak rentals in town, however, when I was there, the only way to get a paddleboard was by joining a tour. The most popular tours are sunrise and sunset.

Hop on a boat tour – the most popular choice!

Get ready for a thrilling boat ride that will whisk you away to various parts of the lagoon, offering you multiple spots to take a refreshing dip. Don’t sweat over the prices – they’re pretty much the same across all tour companies. You’ve got options galore when it comes to boats – motorboats, pontoons, and sailing boats.

Regardless of your choice of vessel, rest assured that all tours cover the same must-see spots: the cenotes, Pirate Channel and Bird Island. So, no need to play detective figuring out who’s offering what!

Explore some of the cenotes in Bacalar

Cenotes are natural sinkholes filled with crystal-clear water, perfect for swimming, snorkelling, and diving. The cenotes are much deeper than the general depth of the lagoon in itself, so their colour range from blue to almost black. The most famous cenotes in Bacalar are Cenote Negro, Cenote Esmeralda, Cenote Azul and Cenote Cocalitos, where some stromatolites can be found. Cocalitos Beach Club is currently closed (at the time of writing this post). According to a guide, it was due to people not respecting the stromatolite area, so I am glad to hear action was taken.

Enjoy the golden hours by the lagoon

There is a reason there are sunset and sunrise kayak tours, the colours over the lagoon are mesmerising! For a more tranquil experience, head to one the beach or jetty areas of the lagoon and enjoy the sunrise. For a chill evening, head to any restaurants by the lagoon and see the sun go down as you sip your favourite drink.

As the sun gently rises over the tranquil Bacalar Lagoon, two kayaks glide peacefully across its azure waters, offering a serene moment amidst nature's splendor, exemplifying what to do in Bacalar.

Walk downtown

There is not much to see in the tranquil town of Bacalar so you can easily cover all the interesting points in half a day (and return to the ones you loved the most!). The main attractions are:

  • The Fort San Felipe: a 17th-century fortress built to protect Bacalar from pirates. It’s museum opens from Tuesdays to Sundays and costs 55 pesos for nationals and 110 pesos for foreigners. Learn about the region’s past while enjoying panoramic views of the lagoon from this strategic vantage point.

The Fort San Felipe is located on the main square, plaza del Zócalo, where most of the action takes place, especially during the evenings.

  • Right behind the fort, snap a shot of the colourful Bacalar letters.
  • Zócalo: Evenings at the Zócalo are quite alive, especially during the weekends. I love to walk around and see local artisans’ creations and maybe indulge in a sweet treat.
  • Local Art Gallery: For those with a passion for art, the CAB, a local art gallery nestled just a block away from the Zócalo, awaits your discovery. This haven of creativity showcases stunning and affordable masterpieces crafted by talented women artists. Each piece not only serves as an exquisite gift or keepsake but also contributes to uplifting the local economy. Your visit is not just an exploration of art but also a meaningful gesture of support for these artists and their community.
Two persons posing in front of the Bacalar town letters sitting back to back. One of the many things to do in Bacalar.

Indulge in the Local Cuisine at the best restaurants in Bacalar

Treat your taste buds to traditional Yucatan dishes and fresh seafood at local eateries around Bacalar. Support sustainable tourism by opting for restaurants that prioritize locally sourced ingredients and eco-friendly practices. My favourites are the plant-based restaurants Agni Vital Kitchen and Mango and Chile. This last one did the right thing and ditched single-use plastics.

There are many other great options, especially around Plaza del Zócalo. Ask your friend Google what the current best places are but here are my personal picks: try El Manatí for breakfast, La Playita for lunch and Mr. Tacos for dinner.

Vegan burger at Mango y Chile

A vegan dish prepared at one of the best restaurants in Bacalar.

Mexican vegan food at Agni Vital Kitchen

Day trips from Bacalar

If you want to add a twist of adventure to your stay in Bacalar, consider going on a day trip to any of the surrounding areas for a little change of scenery.

These two Mayan city-states are located close together and can be visited on the same day trip. While I have not personally visited these two archaeological zones yet, I cannot recommend enough that you give a chance to lesser-known prehispanic ruins. There are fewer visitors and you can still learn about ancient cultures and be mesmerised by their history.

Dzibanche has a cost of 80 pesos while Kohunlich is currently free.

Insider tip: When hiring a driver or renting a car, be prepared to pay a small fee to the Morocoy community for passage through their land on the way to Dzibznche. If this is your first encounter with this practice, don’t be alarmed; it is common in some rural areas of Mexico with public interest areas on their land. Opinions on this practice vary among international travellers and Mexican nationals as it is not government-regulated.

The amount charged is unpredictable, so it’s your choice whether to contribute. If you opt for a tour from Chetumal, the fee will already be included in the total price. As of now, they are charging 50 pesos per person and 50 pesos per car. For the latest information, refer to recent Google reviews.

Add a half to two hours to get to the ruins by car, with a full day to explore both sites. The roads are not well maintained, so expect a bumpy ride with many potholes.

This coastal town south of Bacalar offers a beautiful beach with calm turquoise waters, perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkelling. You can also visit the Maya Cacao Museum to learn about the history and production of chocolate in the region.

It takes roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes to get to Mahahual by car. Aim to spend at least half a day here to fully enjoy the beach and the museum.

This adventure park located about an hour from Bacalar offers zip lines, suspension bridges, and rappelling through the jungle canopy. It’s a perfect activity for those seeking an adrenaline rush and it is just 15 minutes away from Bacalar.

Getting to Bacalar is quite easy. The closest airport is in Chetumal and the only direct flights are from either Cancún International Airport, just one hour flight, or from Mexico City, which takes around 2 hours and a half. From there, the drive to Bacalar takes about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can also take a scenic road trip from Cancun of about 4 hours.

Remember, when travelling sustainably, consider taking eco-friendly transportation options such as buses or carpooling to reduce your carbon footprint. Book a trip with the ADO bus from the most convenient location; there are plenty of options. From Chetumal, there are more than ten daily trips to Bacalar.

The weather in Bacalar is tropical with warm temperatures year-round, making it a perfect destination for a relaxing getaway at any given time.

The best time to visit Bacalar is during the dry season from November to April when you can enjoy sunny days and clear skies. However, I visited Bacalar in August and I enjoyed it just as much.

When it comes to accommodation options, Bacalar offers a range of choices for different budgets. Whether you prefer a luxurious hotel, a cozy guesthouse, or even camping under the stars, there’s something for everyone.

When I visited, I ended up staying at an Airbnb, but I was considering The Yak Lake House Hostel, which has superb reviews and is right by the lagoon. Hostels tend to be more centric, while more expensive hotels are located on the outskirts; however, some of them may offer incentives such as free kayaks or bikes to get around.

Aerial view of a beach with boats in the water

Bacalar is considered a safe place to visit in Mexico. According to the Mexico Peace Index, the Yucatan peninsula, which is comprised of three states, is relatively safe in comparison with other areas of Mexico. In addition, small tourist driven towns like Bacalar have low crime rates. That being said, it is important to always exercise caution. Keep your valuables safe, do not walk through empty and poor illuminated streets at night… You know the drill.

Depending on how much time you have, you could spend as little as a day if that’s the only time you have. Given the choice, I’d say the sweet spot is three to four days. Find below my list of what to do in Bacalar and then decide how long to stay.

Absolutely! Visiting Bacalar is an experience like no other – a perfect blend of relaxation by stunning crystal waters and cultural immersion. All without the crowds! However, this peaceful retreat might not be for everyone. To reach Bacalar, you will need to go out of your way, so it is important to determine if it is worth the detour. While Bacalar is a stunning location, the activities are limited to enjoying the lagoon and marvelling at its sights.

If you intend to include Bacalar as part of a multi-destination trip to Mexico, I would recommend scheduling this visit after a period of high activity. For example, I visited Bacalar after a week in Mexico City, which was perfect as I was quite exhausted from walking around, visiting museums, and taking day trips.

I hope this guide is useful in planning your trip to Bacalar and helps you make your visit to this Mexico hidden gem not only memorable but also environmentally conscious. Embrace sustainable travel practices and leave a positive impact on this enchanting destination!

Leave your comments and questions below!

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