Bacalar – a.k.a. the Maldives of Mexico – is a small town located directly at the bluest lagoon you’ll ever see. This town is relatively unknown in Mexico, hence it is one of the most authentic places you’ll experience during your trip in Yucatan area.
The first time exploring the main square area you might think: is this it? At first glance, it doesn’t seem that appealing but you’ll grow to love this place for sure. Although it doesn’t have a proper beach, it does have the clearest and bluest fresh water you’ll ever see and it’s pure magic! Also, it doesn’t have fancy beach clubs, but it does have great restaurants and the friendliest people. Last but not least, Bacalar is far cheaper than any other place in Yucatan (enough said right?!).
Bacalar is the perfect place to combine enjoying the sun in a hammock with activities at or around the lagoon. I’d recommend going here two full days and this destination guide of Bacalar will show you where to go and what to do during your stay.
Where to stay in Bacalar?
As Bacalar is not a busy tourist destination (yet), the choice of hotels is rather limited compared to places such as Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Nonetheless, there’s enough great options to choose from, ranging from budget hostels to luxury boutique hotels. When looking for an accommodation in Bacalar you can either choose one located directly at the lagoon or in town. Expect to pay a lot more when you want a hotel at the lagoon compared to a hotel in town.
We stayed at Hotel Aires, and I think this is the best option for an accommodation in town. It’s a fairly small hotel with friendly staff, breakfast included (this is rare), and it’s located perfectly only one block from the lagoon. Moreover, the rooms are brand new, airy and all have 12 a balcony (hammock included) with lagoon view. Ask for a room upstairs for the best views over the blue lagoon. Prices are 35-40EUR per night. Tip: if rooms are sold out on Booking.com, try their own website.
Looking for a hotel directly at the lagoon? Have a look at the Yak Lake House Hostal or Casa Bakal, who both have a variety of rooms such as dorms but also private rooms. Another great option is Sun Ha Bacalar.
Where to eat & drink in Bacalar?
There’s relatively few restaurants and bars to choose from in Bacalar, but the places we’ve been to are honestly some of the best we’ve encountered in Mexico. You shouldn’t miss any of the following cafes and restaurants in Bacalar:
Bote de Leche – dinner
This is my absolute favorite in Bacalar and you simply can’t skip this place. The location is nothing special, but the food is unique and so tasty. Also, the owner is such a friendly woman who was really interested in all of her customers. She got help from her brother and he was the sweetest guy too! The menu is written on a large chalkboard and ranges from the best steaks to fish dishes and Mexican food. Also, their freshly baked bread as a starter is to die for! Another bonus is that prices are good, especially compared to other places in Mexico. We came here two nights in a row because we loved it so much.
Nixtamal – dinner
This one is located a bit further out from the main square, but it’s worth going here. At Nixtamal you can have some of the best food in town in a cosy courtyard setting. They’re famous for their steaks (from the BBQ) and excellent service.
La Piña – lunch and dinner
La Piña is next door to Hotel Aires and is set in a cosy back garden. You can eat simple but great pizzas and Mexican food such as tacos and enchiladas. They only use fresh and local products and the place is runned by friendly guys. It has a chilled backpackers vibe and is very affordable.
Enamora – breakfast and lunch
Enamora is the best place to go to for breakfast or lunch. The place is runned by a Swedish woman, hence the menu is mainly Swedish-oriented. They offer a great variety of dishes, from home-made granola to sandwiches, great coffee and fresh smoothies. You can also get delicious pies, cakes and other sweets. Enamora is located one block away from the main square.
La Playita – all day
This place feels a bit like a fancy beach club, with a romantic terrace and deck looking out on the lagoon. In the middle of the terrace there’s a giant tree which gives it a cool jungle vibe. They have different areas for you to relax such as hammocks and lounge sets on the deck. It is more expensive than other (better) places elsewhere in Bacalar. Here, you definitely pay for the location as we thought the service was actually slow and rude. Maybe we were unlucky so based on the location and vibe you should definitely give it a try.
What to do in Bacalar?
Go on a sailing trip
One of the highlights in Bacalar is to explore the lagoon on a sailing trip. As Bacalar is a very environmental friendly town that truly cares about the well-being of the lagoon, it is best to book a non-motorized boat to go on the lagoon with. Unfortunately, as more tourists come to visit Bacalar, there are more motor boats that ruin the state of the lagoon. Therefore, try to avoid these tours and book yourself a non-motorized boat such as a catamaran.
We booked a private sailing tour with Bacalar Sailing and highly recommend doing the same. The people are very friendly and have so much knowledge about the lagoon, the area and the history of it. They will take you to three different places on the lagoon: Cenote Negro, Bird Island and Pirates Channel.
You will start at cenote negro (the black cenote), which has its name because it’s such a deep hole that the water is almost pitch black. The cenote is located in the lagoon and the swimming area around the cenote is not that deep. You can feel the water getting colder as soon as you swim into the big black hole. Such a weird but unique experience!
Next stop is Bird Island which is nothing more than a bird island with more than 40 species of birds on it. You can’t visit the island anymore as it scared away the birds. However, the water surrounded by the island is shallow and crystal clear making it perfect stop for a swim.
The last stop is El Canal de Los Piratos (Pirates Channel). This is one of the best spots of the lagoon and used to be the gateway to Central America and Europe. It’s called the Pirates Channel as this was the canal through which the pirates came to attack the harbor of Bacalar. Bacalar used to be a good area to pick up wood that was taken to other parts of the world (and to repair boats with). Here you can have a swim, enjoy the sun and exfoliate your skin (due to the high content of minerals).
The sailing tour takes half a day (departure is either at 11AM or 15PM) and snorkel gear, water and fresh fruits are included. Prices are 600MXN (30EUR) per person or 2400MXN (110EUR) for a private tour. Simply send them a message on Facebook to receive more information and book a tour with them.
Sunbathing and swimming at Los Cocalitos
If you want to just soak up some sun whilst swimming in the lagoon, then Los Cocalitos is the best place to go to. If you expect something fancy, then this might not be the place for you. There’s one restaurant where you can basic food and some drinks, but other than that there’s just a grass area to relax and a beautiful swimming area. Make sure to jump on the swings in the water and enjoy the sun in one of the hammocks in the water.
What makes this place extra special are the stromatolites, the oldest living fossils in the world. Please be aware that you can’t touch them, otherwise they will die and this will impact the state of the lagoon.
Stromatolites are structures made by bacteria, currently known as the Earth’s earliest signs of life on Earth. They can only be found in certain parts of the world.
You can take a taxi that brings you here in about 5-10 minutes from the town centre. Also, you can let the restaurant call a taxi to pick you up or arrange a pick-up time with your taxi driver.
Drift snorkeling at Los Rapidos
Another must-see 15 km south of Bacalar is Bacalar Rapids, a small canal of the lagoon where you can go drift snorkeling. Drift snorkeling is snorkeling in the current of the water. The current will do most of the work for you so all you have to do is let the water take you from the beginning all the way to the end. The current in this part of the lagoon is quite fast as the canal is small, which makes it a fun spot spend your day. There’s only one restaurant at the site and for a small fee you can use their hammocks and sunbeds the whole day to enjoy the sun and swim in the canal. You can take a taxi that brings you to Bacalar Rapids within 15 minutes (approximately 150MXN). Opening times: daily from 09:00-18:00.