Get your bucket list ready. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in Bacalar and how to experience them. Need help planning your trip? Check out our tips for visiting Bacalar — you’ll find the best restaurants, where to stay, how to get around and more!
What to expect from Bacalar
Most travellers tend to visit Tulum as their last destination in the Quintana Roo region, but they’re missing out.
Continue south and you’ll stumble upon the Lagoon of 7 Colours, also known as Bacalar. The lagoon’s turquoise hues and crystal clear waters are what attract most people to the area. It’s perfect for those looking for the chance to laze in a water hammock or paddle in its shallow waters.
A great thing about Bacalar is that it’s not on most people’s radars yet. This means the town allows you to escape the craziness of the rest of Quintana Roo and experience a more traditional Mexican town.
Apart from water-based activities around the lagoon, there’s not much else going on in Bacalar. This just makes Bacalar the perfect place to relax and enjoy the tranquillity of the area.
Top tours in and around Bacalar
#1 Spend the day exploring Bacalar lagoon on a boat trip
Bacalar lagoon can be explored by cycling, driving or by kayak, but we think you’ll get the best experience by boat. It allows you to visit multiple areas of the lagoon, and it’s a really fun way to spend the day.
The lagoon is renowned for its crystal blue waters and its famous cenotes. During the boat trip, you’ll get the chance to swim and snorkel in the gorgeous water and cenotes.
Where you visit on your boat tour will depend on which tour you join. Below we’ve summarised the places the majority of tours will visit:
Cenotes are sinkholes that result from the collapse of the bedrock exposing groundwater. Cenote Esmerelda, Cenote Negro and Cenote Coclitos are all set within the lagoon. You’ll be able to distinguish where a cenote is by the change in the colour of the water.
If you don’t join a boat trip, you can also visit the cenotes by kayaking on the lake or driving/cycling to their locations.
Isla de Los Pájaros
Isla de Los Pájaros is an island paradise for migratory birds that flock to Bacalar. Amongst the many types of birds who’ve made the island their home, you’ll find parrots, owls and calendar hawks.
Canal de Los Piratas
Canal de Los Piratas was originally used as a trading channel between the Mayans in North and Central America. Now the channel is a stunning place to see and go swimming in. The lakebed in this area also has high mineral content, perfect for exfoliating your skin.
If you want to turn the trip into a boat party then the Viator tour includes an open bar!
Book your tours here:
#2 Go with the flow at Los Rápidos de Bacalar
Located at the southern end of Bacalar lagoon is Los Rapidos, a set of slow-flowing rapids. Just like the rest of the lagoon, the rapids also boast a beautiful azul colour.
The experience is pretty simple. You get your lifejacket and walk upstream along the banks of the rapids (which can be quite a task against the current).
Once you reach the start of the rapids, you’ll realise the effort was worth it! All you have to do now is sit back in your life jacket and let the rapids take you downstream. Floating down the river is the epitome of peace and relaxation as you’re surrounded by the towering reeds on the banks and birds flying overhead.
You can repeat this as many times as you like, or instead relax in the onsite restaurant which is the perfect place to spend the day.
Entrance into the rapids is 160 MXN ($9.00).
#3 Stand-up paddleboard during sunrise
One of the top things to do in Bacalar is simple yet magnificent: see the sunrise.
You can do that from the dock but ot take the sunrise to a whole other level, opt to go paddleboarding instead. This way you’ll experience the true peacefulness of Bacalar lagoon.
The paddleboard tours of the lake tend to last for around 3 hours and can cost between 400 MXN ($23.00) – 500 MXN ($28.50). You should be able to organise a tour through your accommodation or one of the street tour vendors.
Alternatively, you can book your sunrise paddle boarding in advance, which also includes breakfast and refreshments.
Book here: Sunrise Stand Up Paddle Board Tour for $26
#4 Admire Bacalar’s cenotes from land
If you don’t want to join a boat tour or go kayaking, you don’t have to miss out on the cenotes. You can still visit them independently by driving or cycling to different locations. You may even get a better view from the land. From the water, you can only really identify the cenote by a change in the water colour so it’s hard to truly appreciate the beauty.
Cenote Azul — is one of the deepest cenotes in Yucatan, reaching depths of around 90 metres. Due to its depth, visibility isn’t great for snorkelling but divers love it.
Cenote Esmerelda — is a relatively shallow cenote with crystal clear waters. It’s a lovely place to relax and just float around in the refreshing waters of the lagoon.
Cenote Negro — most travellers visit this cenote on a boat trip, but as the cenote is right next to land, it’s also possible to just hop in and swim around. The interesting thing about this cenote is the contrast of the black of the cenote against the rest of the lagoon.
Cenote Cocalitos — this cenote has the added bonus of containing stromatolites, some of the oldest living fossils in the world. Be a responsible traveller and don’t touch or step on them.
New to Bacalar? Our compact Bacalar guide shows you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to Bacalar!
#5 Enjoy some of Bacalar’s outstanding food
When travelling to such a small town like Bacalar, many travellers won’t have high expectations for the food. Bacalar defies this assumption.
There are so many amazing restaurants that you’ll want to extend your stay just to visit more of the restaurants.
One of our favourites is Mango y Chile, a vegetarian/vegan burger restaurant that makes the best burgers and huge portions! Another one not to miss is Mr Taco, who doesn’t just serve your standard taco. They have 15 different filling options from mole to chorizo and potato.
#6 Spend the day lounging at La Playita
Continuing with the food theme, La Playita is a restaurant set on the lagoon.
They describe themselves as ‘the place to eat, drink and swim: that sums it up!’ And that’s exactly what you can do all day.
Sit back and relax in one of the hammocks whilst enjoying the great choice of music and unbeatable atmosphere. In between your lounging sessions in the hammock or swims in the lagoon you can indulge in the Latin fusion cuisine on offer. Sounds like a perfect day, right?
#7 Explore the lagoon by kayak
If paddleboarding or joining a boat trip is not your thing, you can hire a kayak for a few hours and explore the lagoon yourself.
It’s a great form of exercise and can be another way to explore some of the lagoons cenotes that you can also visit from the land (mentioned in #4).
You can hire a kayak for around 100 MXN ($5.50) per hour.
#8 Visit San Felipe Fort in the centre of town
Situated right next to the Zocalo (main square) is San Felipe Fort. No more excuses not to visit it!
The fort’s original purpose was to protect Bacalar’s Mayan community from attacks by English, French and Dutch pirates. Now the fort has been converted into a museum that houses a collection of Mayan and colonial artefacts, such as ammunition, weapons, blueprints and maps. To really bring the fort to life, they also project recreations of what the pirate attacks would have been like.
The fort is open every day apart from Mondays between 09:00 to 19:00 and costs 50 MXN ($2.80) to enter.
#9 Adventure through the jungle admiring the ruins of Kohunlich
An hour south of Bacalar you’ll find the Archaeological Zone of Kohunlich. The archaeological site is set across twenty acres of flat terrain with trails winding through the rainforest.
There are a number of structural groups to explore, but one of the main attractions of the site are the large Sun God masks that aren’t featured in many other ruins in Mexico. You can also climb some of the pyramids here.
The ruins are open between 08:00 to 17:00 and entrance costs 85 MXN ($4.90).
Rounding it up
Now you’ve picked the best things to do in Bacalar, it’s time to start ticking off that bucket list. Not sure how to plan your trip? Our Bacalar guide is here to help! You’ll find out how long to stay in Bacalar, where to eat, how to get around and more. Happy planning!
Agam Hotel - Treating Yourself
This place is just wow! Agam hotel boasts a bright and stunning decor that will make you feel like you’re staying in one of the fancy Tulum hotels. The difference is that the price tag is a lot lower!
There’s a swimming pool and a number of comfy loungers to spend the day on, soaking up the sun. After one night here, you’ll be looking to book more!
- Stunning swimming pool
- Delicious à la carte breakfast
- Bike rental available
- Beautifully decorated, modern rooms
Double rooms start from $80 per night
Casa Zazil - Mid Range
The ladies running this hotel provide an unforgettable service, and are great at recommending things to do in Bacalar. The hotel feels brand new with it’s light and airy rooms that boast a modern flare.
Added bonus: one of the host’s talents is preparing delicious vegan smoothies, coconut bowls and paninis. Waking up in the morning has never been so easy!
- Attentive and friendly hosts
- Delicious breakfast
- Newly renovated rooms
- Close to the bus stop
Double rooms between $40-$80 per night
Hotel Ma Alob Che Bacalar - Mid Range
Hotel Ma Alob Che provides everything you could ask for at a very good price — spacious rooms, comfy beds and excellent hosts. It is slightly further out of town, but as Bacalar is so small, you’re never far from the action.
This comes with the advantage that you’ll be surrounded by only peace and quiet. The large and lush garden in the hotel is the perfect place to relish in this tranquility.
- Large and modern rooms
- Relaxing communal courtyard and garden
- Peaceful atmosphere
- Bicycles available to rent
Double rooms between $40-$80 per night
Zayali - Budget Friendly
The owners of Zayali homestay welcome you as if you’re part of the family, making you instantly feel like you’re at home. The rooms are clean, spacious and well air-conditioned, guaranteeing a great night’s sleep.
The rooms also include a fridge, microwave and coffee-making facilities. Plus, there’s a great communal hangout area with hammocks and a rustic bar.
- Super friendly host family
- Big and clean air conditioned rooms
- Great location
- Free water and coffee
Double rooms between $15-$40 per night
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