9 Best Things to Do in Bacalar

What to expect when visiting Bacalar

Most travellers tend to visit Tulum as their last destination in the Quintana Roo region, but they’re the ones that are 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 tranquility of the area.

For such a small town, the selection of food and quality is both surprising and outstanding. Some of the best dishes in Mexico can be found in Bacalar. Continue reading this post to find out about the restaurants you can’t miss!

Lake Bacalar in Quintana Roo Mexico
Swings in the blue lagoon of Bacalar

How many days should you spend in Bacalar?

Bacalar is the perfect place to spend 3-4 days, exploring the lagoon by boat, kayak or paddleboard and visiting some of the surrounding attractions like the nearby rapids.

Alternatively, you can just grab a book and a hammock and just relax. Sounds pretty perfect, doesn’t it?

Note: Unfortunately, a big proportion of the lake has lost its turquoise colour that Bacalar is famous for due to the hurricane in July 2020. Despite this, we still think it’s worth the trip, as there are still spots that have managed to maintain their spectacular colour.

Top tours in and around Bacalar

New to Bacalar? Our compact Bacalar Travel Guide helps you decide where to stay, where to eat and how to get around Bacalar.

#1 Spend the day exploring Bacalar lagoon on a boat trip

Bacalar Lagoon and Cenote Azul Mexico
The lagoon of Bacalar

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.

Note that the hurricane in July 2020 brought a large amount of silt into the lake. Unfortunately, this has caused a big proportion of the lake to lose its turquoise colour that it’s famous for. Despite this, we still think it’s worth the trip because there are still destinations that have managed to maintain their spectacular colour.

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:

Bacalar’s Cenotes

Cenotes are essentially a sinkhole that results 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 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.

Bacalar Lagoon and Cenote Azul Mexico
Aerial view of Bacalar Lagoon and Cenote Azul

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.

La Isla de los Pajaros in Bacalar Mexico
Birds flocking around the coast of Isla de Los Pajaros

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.

Yachts and boats in Canal de Los Piratas

To join a boat tour you can either book it with one of the street vendors in the main square for around 350 MXN ($17.50) for 3.5 hours, or book it online via Viator.

If you want to turn the trip into a boat party then the Viator tour includes an open bar!

Book your tours here:

Bacalar Lagoon Boat Tour with Open Bar for $36
Sailboat Tour of Bacalar Lagoon for $40

#2 Go with the flow at Los Rápidos de Bacalar

Drone view of Los Rapidos in 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 tranquility 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 100 MXN ($5).

#3 Stand-up paddleboard during sunrise

Paddleboard in Bacalar Lagoon Mexico
Woman paddleboarding on Lake Bacalar

One of the top things to do in Bacalar is to see the sunrise. Seeing the day in as the sun rises over the lake is the perfect way to start your day.

To take the sunrise to a whole other level, you can opt to go paddleboarding instead. This way you’ll experience the true peacefulness of Bacalar lagoon, away from the town’s noise.

The paddleboard tours of the lake tend to last for around 3 hours and can cost between 400 MXN ($20.50)500 MXN ($25.50). You should be able to organise a tour through your accommodation or one of the street 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, then you can still visit Bacalar’s cenotes independently by driving or cycling to different locations. From the land, it’s still easy to enter the water and swim in the cenotes.

If you want to get a good view of the cenotes, you may get a better view from the land than when visiting the cenotes with a boat or kayak. From the water, you can only really identify the cenote by a change in water colour.

If you’ve forgotten, cenotes are essentially a sinkhole that results from the collapse of the bedrock exposing groundwater.

Bacalar’s Cenotes

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 Azul in Bacalar Mexico
Deep blue coloured Cenote Azul

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 Negro in Bacalar Mexico
Drone view of Cenote Negro in the famous Lake Bacalar

Cenote Cocalitos – this cenote has the added bonus of containing stromatolites, some of the oldest living fossils in the world.

Cenote Cocalitos in Bacalar Mexico
Cenote Cocalitos – the Lagoon of the Seven Colors in Bacalar

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

Mango y Chile Vegetarian burger in Bacalar Mexico
Mango y Chile vegan burger

When travelling to such a small town like Bacalar, many travellers won’t have high expectations for 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

La Playita pier in Bacalar Mexico
La Playita pier in Lake Bacalar

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

Kayaks on Bacalar Mexico
Explore Bacalar lagoon kayaking and paddle boarding

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) per hour.

#8 Visit San Felipe Fort in the centre of town

Castillo San Felipe in Bacalar Mexico
Castillo San Felipe on the edge of the cliffs in Bacalar

Situated right next to the Zocalo (main square) you’ll find 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 artifacts, 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 21:00 and costs 70 MXN ($3.55) to enter.

#9 Adventure through the jungle admiring the ruins of Kohunlich

Ruins in Quintana Roo Mexico
Kohunlich – ruins of the ancient Mayan city

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 is the large Sun God masks that aren’t featured in many other ruins in Mexico.

The ruins are open between 08:00 to 17:00 and entrance costs 80 MXN ($4.10).


Our favourite places to stay in Bacalar

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.

  • Stunning swimming pool
  • Delicious à la carte breakfast
  • Bike rental available
  • Beautifully decorated, modern rooms

Double rooms start from $80 per night

Check Latest Price

Casa Zazil - Mid Range

The ladies running this hotel provide a top service and are great at recommending things to do in Bacalar. The hotel feels brand new with light and airy rooms that boast a modern flare.

Extra plus: One of the hosts 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

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Hotel Ma Alob Che Bacalar - Mid-Range

Enjoy spacious and modern private rooms that all offer private bathrooms as well. It’s slightly further out of town, though Bacalar is so small that you’re never far from anything.

This comes with the advantage that you’ll be surrounded by only peace and quietness. The large and lush garden in the hotel is the perfect place to relish in tranquility.

  • Large and modern rooms
  • Nice communal courtyard and garden
  • Peaceful and relaxing atmosphere

Double rooms between $40-$80 per night

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Zayali - Budget Friendly

The owners of Zayali homestay welcome you as if you’re part of the family and make 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 also 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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How to get to Bacalar

Leaving fromDurationPrices fromSee details
Palenque7.5hrs – 9hrs 5mins736 MXN ($36)1,750 MXN ($85)Palenque to Bacalar
Tulum2.5hrs – 3hrs310 MXN ($15) – 3,500 MXN ($170)Tulum to Bacalar

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