Nearly every backpacker we met travelling around Mexico told us, you just HAVE to go to Bacalar Lagoon in Quintana Roo, it is soooooo beautiful. And they weren’t wrong. Laguna de Bacalar, also known as the ‘Lake of seven colours’ is nothing but magical. The water is warm and beautifully crystal clear, morphing from bright turquoise to deep indigo colours as the depths of the lake change.
We spent just over a week finding out what the best things to do in Bacalar are and spent much of that either in, on or next to the stunning water. And what’s more, this luxurious but rustic spot in the west of Mexico and close to the border with Belize, is far quieter than the busy tourist areas of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. It is definitely one of our favourite places to to visit in Mexico.
In this Bacalar travel guide we’ll tell you the best place to stay, the best places to eat and the best activities to get up to while you are there. Here we go!
Okay, so we think we found the perfect place to stay in Bacalar. Magic Bacalar is set in tropical gardens right on the edge of the lagoon and is just that, magic. We didn’t receive a complimentary stay or payment to recommended this place, we just simply thought it was awesome. We love camping so opted for that, but they also have a dorm room and private cabins.
The facilities are great and really clean, they have lockers, wifi, a delicious two course breakfast included with coffee and juice, and a kitchen. It’s also just a ten minute walk into town, and did I mention it’s right on the lake with its own private jetty?! And all that for $300MXN ($15USD/£11.50GDP) per night for two people camping. And if you happen to have your own tent it’s even cheaper. You have to stay at Magic Bacalar when you visit Bacalar Lagoon.
What To Do In Bacalar
To get to this place you’ll need to either hire bikes, grab a taxi, or hitch a ride. From Magic Bacalar we paid $50MXN ($2.60USD/£2.00GDP) one way then hitched a ride back. The entrance fee is $25MXN ($1.30USD/£1.00GDP) and there’s a restaurant on site. We didn’t eat there but it looked good and had a spectacular view. Apart from a few slippy steps, the cenote is safe and you can swim around the whole thing.
It’s not like some of the smaller cenotes we visited further up the Quintana Roo coast in Tulum. It’s much bigger and more open, but it’s still a very pretty spot to hang out in for a few hours. It’s really deep so the visibility isn’t amazing for snorkelling but there’s plenty of fish in there. Remember not to wear suncream or mosquito repellant so you don’t kill them off.
If you have no idea what these are, you’re not alone, we’d never heard of them before visiting Bacalar Lagoon. And to be honest if no one told you about them you could easily just pass by them and think they were just some old rocks. Well they are, but they are also the oldest living fossils in the world. And you can just go right up and swim by them, pretty incredible right? Take care not to touch the stromatolites though as this will damage them and has a detrimental effect on the health of the lagoon.
To see them you’ll either need to arrive at Cenote Cocalitos by kayak or on a boat from the lagoon, or enter from the road through a restaurant and camping ground called the same name - Cocolitos. There is a $25MXN ($1.30USD/£1.00GDP) entrance fee and you can also hire 2 person kayaks from here for $100MXN ($5.20USD/£4.00GDP) per hour. The food at the restaurant is also delicious, be sure to try the Camarones Al Mojo De Ajo (garlic shrimp).
Canal De Los Pirates
You’ll have to cross the lake to get to this secluded spot but it’s well worth the effort. You can go by boat if you’re arms aren’t feeling up to powering a kayak for the 20 or so minutes it will take you. But if you’re skin is feeling a little worse for wear from all the Mexican sun, it is a must to get a natural, DIY full body mask and exfoliation in the sulphur rich mud here.
We stopped off here on the day we rented kayaks and it was a pretty incredible sight. As mentioned, due to the varying depths of Bacalar Lagoon, the water changes colour and here it is so deep that the water is almost black. As you enter it you’ll literally go over the edge of the lake bed and see it drop into oblivion. It’s pretty damn cool.
Fort of San Felipe
Built in 1733 to defend the region from the frequent pirates attacks it had long been receiving, it’s an impressive structure to wander around. There is also a small but interesting museum detailing the history of the area that is worth a visit. The museum entrance fee is $60MXN ($3.10USD/£2.30GDP) and it’s closed on Mondays.
Laguna de Bacalar is so serene and peaceful that one of the tops things we would also recommend to do there is to just relax. Watch the sun rise over the beautiful lake, go for a morning swim, and just relax in a hammock by the water and read a book, listening to abundance of wildlife all around you. It’s impossible not to relax at Bacalar Lagoon.
Where To Eat near Lake Bacalar
Christian's Tacos - Calle 18 165, Centro
Head here for some tasty and seriously affordable pastor tacos. A meal for two here with a beer each cost us just $173 ($9USD/£6.80GDP). It’s open late into the evening.
El Socio Taqueria - Calle 20, Centro
This place has some of the best sopes we have tasted in Mexico, they really are that good. And an absolute steal too at $15 ($0.80USD/£0.60GDP) each. It’s open 7am-5pm and 2pm Sundays.
La Pina - Av 3 206, Centro
For sure one of the best places to eat in Bacalar, we went back a few times. Make sure you try their speciality La Pina pizza which has garlic prawns, pineapple and bacon on it, it sounds crazy but it’s seriously good ($95MXN/$5USD/£3.80GDP). The beers are $23 MXN ($1.20USD/£0.90GDP) and they even brought us very welcome free tequila one evening.
Los Bacalares - 77930, col. Mario villanueva
If you like seafood this is the place to go, the sopa de Cameron is incredible, they definitely don’t scrimp on the shrimp here and it’s reasonable at $120MXN ($6.30USD/£4.80GDP) for a main. Beers are $25MXN ($1.30USD/£1.00GDP).
Mango y Chile - Av.3 Fuerte San Felipe, entre calle 22 y calle 24, Centro
If you are vegan, this is going to be your go to place in Bacalar to eat. The burgers ($130MXN/$6.80USD/£5.20) and coffees ($30MXN/$1.60USD/£1.20GDP) are great and they have excellent wifi. They are closed Tuesdays & only open 1pm - 9pm.
Pues Si - Calle 20 115, Centro
This Italian joint was also one of our favourite restaurants in Bacalar. It has a huge menu and seriously tasty food. The focaccia is $70MXN ($3.60USD/£2.80GDP) and the pasta $100MXN ($5.20USD/£4.00GDP). It also has great internet.
Bacalar Lagoon Facilities
Bacalar town has everything you need in terms of backpacker facilities. There are two ATM’s right in the centre, just near the tourist information point. There’s a pharmacy, a supermarket selling toiletries and dry goods, lots of fruit and veg shops, off licences and a couple of launderettes.
If you have a Mexican SIM card and need to topup your phone go to Banco Azteca and they’ll do it there for you. If you need a good internet connection to work or back up photos etc head to Pues Si or Mango y Chile restaurants.
Getting In and Out
When visiting Bacalar Lagoon you’ll probably either be on your way between Tulum or Mahahual and Chetumal or Caye Caulker in Belize. We got an ADO bus direct from Mahahual which is about and hour and a half north and cost us $84MXN ($4.30USD£3.30GDP) each. The ADO terminal is on the highway which is about a 20 minute walk, or there are taxi’s knocking about.
From Bacalar we went south to Chetumal to catch a ferry to Caye Caulker and took a taxi-collectivo from the main square right in front of the colorful Bacalar sign. It was $45MXN ($2.35USD/£1.80GDP) each and they leave as soon as the taxi is full, we were only waiting for a few minutes. Or you can take a collectivo bus from near the ADO station for $37MXN ($1.90USD/£1.50GDP) each. We were told that this doesn’t drop you in the centre of Chetumal though.
Let us know in a comment if you found this guide useful and what you thought of Bacalar Lagoon!