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Things to Do in Bacalar

When I first arrived in South America, I had never heard of Bacalar. But as I started asking fellow backpackers for the best spots in Mexico, especially in the Yucatan Peninsula, I kept hearing about the lagoon in Bacalar. So obviously, I decided to check it out! Bacalar is a freshwater lagoon with a limestone bottom fed by underground waterways. It’s called “the Maldives of Mexico.” And before all the other tourists find this hidden gem, you should check out this amazing list of things to do in Bacalar.

jordan and friend kayaking at sunset on the lagoon with title "things to do in bacalar mexico"

How to Get to Bacalar

The easiest way to travel to Bacalar is by ADO bus. Mexico’s premier bus company offers easy booking to all your favorite Mexican destinations. Bacalar is only 3 hours by bus from Tulum, but you can also get buses from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The bus station is just outside of town, about a 20-minute walk to the lagoon.

 

Once you are in Bacalar, the town is walkable, but many people like to use bicycles to explore the area. Check with your accommodation as many provide for free or reduced prices. There are also taxis available as needed. Remember to negotiate price before getting inside or ask your accommodation for price estimates.

 

Staying in Bacalar

As a #solofemaletraveler on a budget, I wanted to find a spot on the lagoon for easy access to water activities and swimming. I chose the Yak Lake House Hostal and couldn’t recommend it enough due to the vibes and daily activities offered. They have a kitchen available for guest use, as well as a full restaurant and bar on site open all day. Adventure Labs is also housed on the property offering sunrise or sunset kayaking or SUP tours, as well as boat trips. I really enjoyed the sunset kayak tour. They offer private rooms, as well as dorms, at various budgets. I would note every Wednesday night they have a blow-out party until 2 am, so if that’s not your vibe be sure to arrange your travel around it. If none of this sounds appealing (but really, why wouldn’t it be?), you can find other options for different budgets on my favorite site – Booking. 😊 

 

Things to Do in Bacalar

Bacalar is still a bit of a snoozy town, with only 35,000 residents. The primary draw to the area is the beautiful blues of the lagoon – they call it the 7 colors, but it’s really 7 shades of gorgeous blues. The lagoon gets the shades from the various depths, the minerals in the water and the sunlight hitting the water.

 

NOTE: THE LAGOON IS CLOSED ON WEDNESDAYS TO ALL BOATS AND NON-MOTORIZED ACTIVITIES. ONLY SWIMMING IS ALLOWED THROUGH PRIVATE ENTRANCES TO THE LAGOON. IF YOU DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO THE LAGOON THROUGH YOUR ACCOMMODATION, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ENTER THE WATER ON WEDNESDAYS AS PUBLIC ACCESS POINTS ARE CLOSED AS WELL.

 


Swimming

If you’re not staying at the Yak Lake House or don’t have lagoon access from your accommodation, there are a few public access points in the town. One of the largest piers in the area is the Balneario Municipal de Bacalar, with a nice swimming area, picnic tables and even a small restaurant. They don’t allow any food or drinks on the pier due to littering (except for reusable water bottles). You can eat on the grassy shoreline. The other large pier is across the street from Hijos del Cocho (a great little spot for tacos). It shows up on Google Maps as Ecoparque Bacalar. The smaller pier is free, but the long one to the right has a 200 pesos entry fee. It wraps around the mangroves and has plenty of space to spread out and swim. As of May 2024, the Yak Lake House was allowing in outside visitors to use their lagoon access with food or beverage purchase at the restaurant.

 

Get Out on the Water

Boat trips

I really enjoyed this sailing tour with Wild Wave Bacalar. It was a small group tour that included beers, water and fresh fruit. You can take a pontoon tour for cheaper, but I really wanted to be a sailboat and this tour was the cheapest in town I found. The guide was amazing, speaking both English and Spanish and we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon the water.

 

Kayak or SUP

You can rent your own kayak or SUP at several shops, but I decided to take a sunset tour with Adventure Labs. They have a tour desk at the Yak Lake House. They also offer a sunrise tour when the water is extremely calm, making the kayak much easier to paddle. We experienced some wind in the afternoon making the lagoon a little choppy and harder to get across, but I would still recommend renting a kayak or SUP and getting on the water.

 

Los Rapidos

South of Bacalar town is a canal that connects to the lagoon. Los Rapidos utilizes a small section of the canal as a lazy river, allowing you to float down the river to a restaurant and bar area. We visited when it first opened at 10 am (wayyyy less crowds) and floated down the allocated section 4-5 times. When you get to the end you can relax in a hammock in the water or walk back up the boardwalk and climb in again. Entry is 200 pesos per person and includes a life jacket. Lockers can be rented for 50 pesos (plus an additional 50 pesos deposit for the lock, which is returned when the lock is). Taxis from center of town are 200 pesos each way.

 

Cenote Azul

There are four main cenotes in Laguna Bacalar: Cenote Negro, Cenote Esmeralda, Cenote Cocalitos, and Cenote Azul. The first three are connected and open to the lake, meaning you can see them by boat or kayak, but you can’t swim in them. The last one, Cenote Azul, is the farthest south and separated from the lagoon by a small strip of land. You can swim in Cenote Azul for a small fee (as of May 2024 it was 150 pesos).



Fort San Felipe

The fort sits next to the town square just a few blocks from the Lagoon. There is a moat, lookout points and canyons. While it’s not a big site, you can spend a little time enjoying the views. There is a small entrance fee to enter which includes the museum.

 

This hidden oasis is a good blend of slow activity and beautiful scenery. Bacalar is a nice change of pace from Tulum or Cancun and offers cheaper activities, food and affordable accommodations. Relax by the water, get out on the lagoon and enjoy the slower pace of life in Bacalar. These things to do in Bacalar can be done in a few days but take your time to rest in this hidden gem.


 

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