Top 5 Things To Do In Bacalar Mexico – A Complete Travel Guide
Bacalar is a small town in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, located on the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Although it’s not as popular as some of Mexico’s larger tourist destinations, Bacalar has a lot to offer visitors who are looking for an adventure off the beaten path.
Bacalar, is a hidden gem that often goes overlooked. With its crystal clear blue waters and stunning limestone formations, Bacalar is a must-see destination for all travelers.
If you’re looking for an exciting and adventurous getaway, look no further than Bacalar, Mexico. This beautiful town is home to some of the best outdoor activities in the country, and there’s something for everyone in the family here. You’ll never run out of things to do in Bacalar. So add this destination to your travel list and explore everything it has to offer. You won’t regret it!
Top Rated Things To Do When Visiting Bacalar
From exploring ancient forts to swimming in crystal-clear waters, here are five things you can do in Bacalar that you won’t want to miss.
- Go sailing and see the top sites around the lagoon
- Paddleboard and Kayak
- Visit the fort
- Float down the rapids
- Spend the day relaxing at a beach club
No matter what you choose to do during your visit to Bacalar, be sure to relax and take in the natural beauty of this wonderful town. It’s definitely a place where the locals know how to kick back and enjoy life so try to fit in!
What you should know before visiting Bacalar
Bacalar is the second-largest municipality in Quintana Roo, and it’s home to about a dozen different indigenous tribes. The town was founded in 1543 by Spanish conquistadors who were searching for gold, silver, and other precious metals in Mexico. It wasn’t until 1618 that Bacalar became officially recognized as a settlement due its unique location between two lagoons: Laguna de Términos (Terminos Lagoon) on one side of town and Lake Bacalar (or Lago Bacálar) – yes, it’s freshwater not saltwater – on the other. In addition to these bodies of water, there are several nearby cenotes (sinkholes) that provide access to underground rivers which make it impossible to know the depth in some areas!
As far as getting to Bacalar, it takes about 3.5 hours to drive from Playa Del Carmen to Bacalar, passing through Tulum and Muyil and the Mayan Area. You’re pretty much a half hour away from the Belize border! It’s not the shortest drive so a day trip would not really be worth it because unlike a day trip to Chichen Itza, there is so much to do in Bacalar. If you’d rather not drive, it is easy to get there with ADO buses.
We were spending two months in Mexico and used Playa Del Carmen as a “base” to explore the surrounding areas. Taking a trip to Bacalar is one of the many things to do when visiting Playa Del Carmen for those staying for a week or more.
So, how many days do you need in Bacalar? I would recommend at least 3 full days for maximum enjoyment. You would probably be OK if you just did it in two days as well.
There isn’t much on the route to Bacalar. You will want to make sure you have a full tank of gas and some snacks to get you through the drive as there are no gas stations or stores for the majority of the way.
You will see a few pineapple stands along the way as you are getting closer. This would be a good spot to purchase some yummy fruit or cake from the locals. Also, keep in mind that cell service will also be nonexistent, so download maps and know your way (very straightforward and easy) before you set off on your drive.
Public access to Laguna is limited. This is something we didn’t expect, but luckily, our hotel had direct access. The town has recently renovated free access points to the lagoon with docks that you can lounge and tan at. Look for signs reading “balnearios” located on Avenida 1 (the Costera) and Calle 14, Calle 16, and Calle 18. This is a great alternative if your accommodations are not along the water.
Alternatively, you can hang out and dine at one of the lagoonfront restaurants. Most of them have access to the lagoon with swings and hammocks on the dock.
The town of Bacalar has a square with restaurants and shops. It’s a great place for a stroll and is very kid and stroller-friendly. Make sure to stop by and grab some ice cream to enjoy!
Know that it’s not critical to book a place on the lagoon, unless you want to. If you stay in town, the lagoon is still within walking distance. You’ll be able to enjoy what the lagoon has to offer either on a bout tour, kayak, or spending the day at a beach club.
Activities In Bacalar
Visit the Laguna de Siete Colores (Seven Colors Lagoon or Laguna Arcoiris) which is one of the most popular things to do in Bacalar. The water is a beautiful sapphire blue color due to its high concentration of calcium carbonate, and it offers excellent visibility for snorkeling. The lagoon is sometimes even referred to as a lake and is a collection of waterways that eventually leads out to the sea. The depths and loaction of the sun (when it’s not a cloudy day) determine the shades of blue that you’ll isee on a given day and it is a sight to see!
1. Sail the Lagoon
Book a boat tour and spend the day exploring every amazing corner of the laguna. The boat tours take you to the main sinkholes like Cenote Azul and the famous Pirate’s Channel (the channel connects the lagoon to the Hondo River). You’ll even get to stop at a shallow swim area that is absolutely breathtaking! Make sure to rub the soft “sand” on your body for exfoliation! We booked a private tour and loved the hospitality of our guide as well as the information he shared with us about the lagoon as we sailed around.
We would suggest getting a private pontoon boat (with captain) so you can have the whole boat to yourself. It was perfect for our family and allowed us to to really enjoy it and let our little one run around. It also gave us flexibility to customize how long we wanted to stop and where we wanted to spend more of our time (swimming, etc).
2. Spend the day at a lagoonside restaurant or beach bar.
There are places where visitors can relax, eat, and drink while having access to swim in the lagoon. You can choose a popular place like Cenote Cocalitos where you can pay a small fee to hang out on the “beach” of the lake and enjoy the hammocks and swings they provide. There are also restaurants in town with wooden pathways that lead into the lagoon which also offer swings and hammocks for their guests to use when they dine.
We enjoyed some time at KATX Restaurant which offers a great menu and family vibe. The weather was not warm enough that day for us to swim in the water, but there were locals that did participate in that activity which looked fun!
3. Paddleboard or Kayak the lagoon and take it slow.
If you are a morning person, try SUP for a spectacular sunrise over the lagoon. Whatever time of day you decide to go, whether you kayak or SUP, the water activities can’t be beat in Bacalar Lagoon! Being able to take your time and go at your own pace will allow you to really take in all the beauty of this place which is unforgettable! See if you can spot the wildlife, don’t worry, no crocodiles here!
4. Explore Fuerte San Felipe and its museum.
The fort is located right next to the town square so it’s not easy to miss. Wander around the fort and enjoy some beautiful views of the lagoon as well. This fort serves as an important historical landmark because it was constructed in the seventeen hundreds in order to serve as protection from looting of the pirates.
The museum is not very big but worth a quick visit just to give you an idea of the history behind this lace and this town. All in all, you only need about an hour to visit the fort and museum and it doesn’t cost very much either. Make sure to go in the afternoon for a more enjoyable experience since there isn’t much shade available. I would recommend it for families as it is a great place for the kiddos to run around and play in a real-life fort!
After checking out San Felipe Fort, go for a stroll through the centro of Bacalar. At the time we visited there was some construction which looked like they were making major improvements on the town square, making it very visitor-friendly. Around the square you’ll find lots of great eateries and places for grab snacks and desserts. The town is quaint and charming which makes it perfect for a family to spend some time in (and it’s stroller friendly!).
5. Float down Los Rapidos.
Last, but not least on our list of top things to do in Bacalar is the Rapids. We had no idea of this amazing attraction which is a little ways out of town. If you drive to Bacalar with a rental car, it will be an easy 15 minute drive south of town (you can grab a taxi there, too). There is a great restaurant located at the rapids called Los Rapidos Lagoon Club. This is where you will pay an entry fee (whether you dine or not) which will give you access to the life jackets, lounge chairs, and hammocks along the water.
We visited Los Rapidos during a very rainy day and planned on just having some lunch and viewing the rapids. However, the sun came out as we finished up our lunch and we were able to float down the water a few times. It was great just having lunch there because the food was delicious and the views are gorgeous. We got lucky and were able to swim and float which made it an absolutely unforgettable experience.
The water in the narrow channel is so clear and beautiful, surrounded by the stromatolite rocks (be careful not to touch them as they are an ancient form of life), it is amazing to see it and experience the slow float of the moving water!
This is an activity everyone in the family can enjoy and is suitable for any level of fitness. Just hanging out and watching people float by is also a great pastime!
Where should you stay in Bacalar?
When we were planning our trip to Bacalar, it was hard to figure out what area would be the best place to book a hotel in so that we would be close to everything. We wanted to stay at a place which had access to the lagoon, however, a lot of people choose to stay in town which can be a cost savings.
There are a variety of Airbnbs and hotels available all along the lagoon. You can even stay at a hostel if you choose. We booked Casa Aakal and found that the room was spacious and bright. Having a dock to hang out at over the lagoon was a nice perk to have since we were traveling with a toddler. We spent a lot of time just relaxing and enjoying the dock!
Here are some other options for booking in Bacalar:
Where to eat in Bacalar
Here are our recommendation for some great food in Bacalar:
- Chile y Mango – best vegan burgers and shakes with a view!
- Enamora for breakfast
- Lagoonfront bar – KATX restaurant (swings and hammocks in water)
- Los Rapidos Restaurant
- Nixtamal – high-end dining and drinks
Packing For Your For Visiting
So if you were wondering if Bacalar is worth visiting, hopefully, by now you know that the answer is YES!
We suggest the following items to make your visit more enjoyable: water shoes, bug spray, swim attire, hat, reef-friendly sunscreen, and a waterproof phone case. You may also want to wear breathable clothing as it is pretty humid in Bacalar. Make sure to be protected with clothing if you plan to be out in the sun (on a boat) for a few hours!
The town of Bacalar is a unique and super underrated place in the Yucatan. It was refreshing to visit a quaint town that was not overrun with commercialism. It was a delight to sail in the lagoon and only see a couple of other boats around. At times, it felt like we were the only ones there! Visiting Bacalar was one of the biggest highlights of our trip to Mexico and we would suggest a trip for anyone who loves nature and a laid-back destination that has a lot to offer!
Bacalar is also one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos, so like visiting Valladolid, it gives you a chance to experience something new with so much culture, natural beauty, and history. You can choose to take it easy or be active with all of the different water adventures that are offered. So what are you waiting for? Head down to “the Maldives of Mexico” and take a plunge into the crystal clear blue waters of this lake and see for yourself!
More help planning your trip:
About the Author
Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!