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A Quick Guide To Bacalar – Mexico’s Pristine Lake


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Trisha Stroup



Welcome to Bacalar, a hidden gem nestled in the southern part of Mexico. With its crystal-clear waters, lush greenery, and rich history, Bacalar offers a unique and breathtaking experience for visitors. Known as the “Lake of Seven Colors,” Bacalar is famous for its stunning shades of blue that change throughout the day.


Steeped in history, Bacalar was once a Mayan settlement and an important trading route. The town still retains its old-world charm, with remnants of ancient forts and watchtowers dotting the landscape. The tranquil atmosphere and stunning natural beauty make Bacalar an ideal destination for nature lovers, history buffs, and those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.


Geographically, Bacalar is situated near the border of Belize and is part of the Yucatan Peninsula. The town is blessed with a unique geographical feature – a large lagoon known as Laguna de Bacalar. Spanning over 40 kilometers, this lagoon boasts pristine waters that invite visitors to take a dip and explore its hidden treasures.


Whether you’re seeking relaxation or adventure, Bacalar has something to offer everyone. The town is a haven for water activities such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling. You can also take a boat tour of the lagoon and discover the mesmerizing cenotes, underwater caves with stunning stalactites and stalagmites.


In addition to its natural wonders, Bacalar is home to a remarkable variety of wildlife. Keep an eye out for the exotic birds, iguanas, and even crocodiles that inhabit the area. The town’s dedication to conservation and sustainable tourism ensures that this ecological paradise remains unspoiled.


No visit to Bacalar would be complete without indulging in the local cuisine. The town boasts numerous restaurants and street vendors offering delicious dishes that blend traditional Mexican flavors with Caribbean influences. Be sure to try the fresh seafood, mouthwatering tacos, and refreshing fruit juices.


When it comes to accommodation, Bacalar offers a range of options to suit every budget and preference. From boutique hotels and eco-lodges to cozy guesthouses and campsites, you’re sure to find the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate after a day of exploration.


Getting to Bacalar is relatively easy. The nearest international airport is in Cancun, approximately a 3-hour drive away. From there, you can either rent a car or take a bus to Bacalar. Alternatively, you can opt for private transportation or join a tour from popular tourist destinations in Mexico, such as Tulum or Playa del Carmen.


Before embarking on your journey to Bacalar, it’s important to keep a few tips in mind. Respect the local culture and traditions, bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent, and be mindful of the environment by practicing responsible tourism.


Now that you have an overview of what Bacalar has to offer, it’s time to dive deeper into its history, geography, activities, and more. Get ready for a journey of discovery and relaxation in this enchanting destination.


History of Bacalar

Bacalar has a fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. The area was inhabited by the ancient Maya civilization, and evidence of their presence can still be found in the region. The town was originally known as Sian Ka’an Bakhalal, which translates to “place surrounded by reeds near the sky.” It served as an important trading center, connecting the Maya city-states of the Yucatan Peninsula with other regions.


During the Spanish colonization, Bacalar became a strategic outpost for the Spanish conquistadors. The town was fortified with a fort, known as Fuerte de San Felipe Bacalar, to protect it from pirate attacks. The fort still stands today and offers panoramic views of the lagoon and the surrounding area.


One of the most significant events in Bacalar’s history occurred during the Caste War in the mid-19th century. The Caste War was a rebellion by the indigenous Maya people against the Mexican government and the European-descendant population. Bacalar played a crucial role in this conflict as it served as a refuge for the rebels. The war resulted in the destruction of many towns in the Yucatan Peninsula, but Bacalar managed to survive largely intact.


In recent years, Bacalar has experienced a resurgence in popularity as a tourist destination. The town’s rich history and natural beauty have drawn visitors from all over the world. Efforts have been made to preserve the town’s historic buildings and promote sustainable tourism, ensuring that Bacalar’s charm and authenticity are maintained.


Exploring the historic sites in Bacalar is a must for history enthusiasts. Apart from the Fuerte de San Felipe Bacalar, there are other noteworthy landmarks such as the Museo de la Pirateria, a museum dedicated to the history of piracy in the region. Here, you can learn about the exploits of famous pirates like Jean Lafitte and gain insight into their impact on Bacalar’s history.


Bacalar’s past is shaped by its indigenous heritage, Spanish colonization, and the struggles of the Mayan people. By delving into its history, visitors can gain a deeper appreciation for the town’s cultural significance and the resilience of its people.


Geographical Features of Bacalar

Bacalar is blessed with an array of geographical features that contribute to its breathtaking beauty. At the heart of Bacalar is the Laguna de Bacalar, also known as the “Lake of Seven Colors.” This expansive lagoon stretches over 40 kilometers and offers an enchanting display of varying shades of blue.


The unique colors of the lagoon are a result of the varying depths of the water and the white limestone bottom. The sunlight reflecting off the limestone creates a stunning spectrum of blues, ranging from turquoise to deep sapphire. Exploring the lagoon is a must for visitors to Bacalar, whether it’s by boat, kayak, or paddleboard.


One distinct feature of the lagoon is its cenotes. Cenotes are natural sinkholes formed by the dissolution of limestone rock. Bacalar is home to several breathtaking cenotes, each with its own unique charm. These underwater caves are a paradise for snorkelers and scuba divers, offering crystal-clear waters and incredible rock formations adorned with stalactites and stalagmites.


In addition to its lagoon, Bacalar is surrounded by lush vegetation and mangroves. These mangroves serve as an important ecological habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Exploring the mangroves by boat allows visitors to observe the diverse flora and fauna, including colorful birds, fish, and even crocodiles.


Bacalar’s location on the Yucatan Peninsula also offers easy access to other natural wonders. The town is situated just a short distance from the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its pristine beaches, wetlands, and diverse ecosystems. Exploring this natural reserve is an opportunity to witness untouched beauty and encounter rare wildlife.


For those seeking a more active adventure, Bacalar is also surrounded by lush jungle and cenotes, making it an ideal destination for hiking, zip-lining, and exploring hidden waterfalls. These activities allow visitors to immerse themselves in the natural wonders of Bacalar while enjoying an adrenaline rush.


Overall, Bacalar’s geographical features provide a stunning backdrop for exploration and relaxation. Whether you’re marveling at the vibrant colors of the lagoon, diving into cenotes, or immersing yourself in the mangroves, Bacalar offers an unforgettable experience for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.


Activities in Bacalar

Bacalar offers a plethora of activities that cater to a wide range of interests and preferences. Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, there’s something for everyone in this idyllic town.


One of the main attractions in Bacalar is, undoubtedly, the Laguna de Bacalar. The crystal-clear waters of the lagoon are perfect for a refreshing swim or a leisurely float on an inflatable raft. You can spend hours simply basking in the sun and enjoying the tranquil atmosphere that surrounds you.


Exploring the lagoon is a must-do activity in Bacalar. You can rent a kayak or a paddleboard and navigate the calm waters, discovering hidden coves and deserted beaches along the way. As you paddle, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the different shades of blue that define the lagoon.


If you’re a fan of water activities, snorkeling in Bacalar is an experience not to be missed. Put on your snorkel gear and dive into the crystal-clear waters to discover the underwater world. The lagoon is teeming with marine life, including colorful fish and vibrant coral formations.


For the more adventurous souls, Bacalar offers the opportunity to take a boat tour of the lagoon. From sailing to motorized boats, there are various options to choose from. A boat tour allows you to explore different areas of the lagoon, visit cenotes, and even stop at the famous Bird Island, where you can observe numerous species of birds in their natural habitat.


Speaking of cenotes, Bacalar is home to several magnificent underwater caves. These cenotes are surreal and offer a unique opportunity to dive or snorkel in crystal-clear waters, surrounded by ancient rock formations. The cenotes in Bacalar are known for their impressive stalactites and stalagmites, creating a magical ambiance.


If you’re interested in learning more about the local culture and history, make sure to visit the Fuerte de San Felipe Bacalar, a historic fortress that offers panoramic views of the lagoon and town. You can also explore the Museo de la Pirateria, where you’ll discover the fascinating tales of piracy that were prevalent in the region.


For nature enthusiasts, Bacalar is a paradise. Take a boat ride through the mangroves and immerse yourself in the diverse ecosystem. Keep an eye out for the various bird species that call Bacalar home, including herons, kingfishers, and even toucans.


Lastly, don’t forget to indulge in the local culinary delights of Bacalar. Treat your taste buds to traditional Mexican cuisine with a Caribbean twist. From fresh seafood dishes to delectable street tacos and refreshing fruit juices, Bacalar offers a gastronomic experience that complements its natural beauty.


Overall, Bacalar offers a myriad of activities that allow you to connect with nature, dive into its rich history, and create unforgettable memories. Whether you’re looking for relaxation, adventure, or cultural exploration, Bacalar has it all.


Cenotes in Bacalar

Bacalar is not only famous for its stunning lagoon but also for its mesmerizing cenotes. These natural sinkholes are unique geological formations that have captivated explorers and nature enthusiasts for centuries. Bacalar is home to several remarkable cenotes, each with its own distinct beauty and allure.


One of the most popular cenotes in Bacalar is the Cenote Azul. This cenote gets its name from the intense blue color of its waters. It is surrounded by lush greenery and offers a serene and peaceful atmosphere. Visitors can take a refreshing swim in the cool, clear waters or simply relax on the rocky ledges and marvel at the natural beauty.


Another stunning cenote in Bacalar is Cenote Negro. As the name suggests, the waters of this cenote appear black due to the depth and the lack of sunlight reaching its depths. The cenote is surrounded by ancient trees and offers a unique and mystical experience for those who dare to explore its depths.


For a truly magical experience, visit Cenote Esmeralda. As the sunlight filters through the trees above, it creates a dazzling display of emerald green colors in the water below. This cenote is enveloped by lush vegetation, providing a serene and picturesque setting for swimming and snorkeling.


If you’re seeking a more adventurous experience, head to Cenote Pirata. This cenote is perfect for thrill-seekers as it offers opportunities for cliff jumping into the crystal-clear waters. It’s a popular spot for those looking to get their adrenaline pumping while enjoying the natural beauty of Bacalar.


Additionally, Cenote Cocalitos is a popular spot for both tourists and locals due to its shallow and warm waters. It is an ideal spot for families with children to swim and play, as well as an excellent spot for snorkeling. The cenote is surrounded by lush vegetation and offers a peaceful retreat from the heat.


Exploring the cenotes in Bacalar is an incredible experience that allows you to connect with nature and witness the wonders of underground caves and water formations. Snorkeling or diving in these cenotes reveals a whole new world of underwater formations, including stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over thousands of years.


Whether you’re seeking a tranquil swim in crystal-clear waters, an adrenaline-pumping cliff jump, or an underwater adventure exploring unique rock formations, Bacalar’s cenotes offer something for everyone. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty and magic that these cenotes provide, and create unforgettable memories in this stunning part of Mexico.


Wildlife in Bacalar

Bacalar is not only known for its stunning lagoon and rich history but also for its incredible wildlife. The town is nestled in a region that boasts a diverse ecosystem, making it a paradise for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.


One of the most fascinating aspects of Bacalar’s wildlife is its bird species. The area is home to a wide variety of colorful and exotic birds, making it a haven for birdwatching. From elegant herons and vibrant parrots to elusive toucans and magnificent eagles, Bacalar offers ample opportunities to spot and admire these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.


As you explore the lagoon and its surrounding mangroves, keep an eye out for other wildlife. Iguanas can often be spotted sunbathing on the branches of trees or swimming in the lagoon. These fascinating reptiles are an iconic sight in Bacalar and contribute to the town’s unique ecosystem.


For those with a love for marine life, snorkeling in the lagoon and its cenotes provides the chance to encounter a diverse array of underwater creatures. Colorful fish, such as angelfish and snappers, dart among vibrant coral formations, creating a mesmerizing underwater spectacle. If you’re lucky, you may even come across turtles gracefully gliding through the water or harmless freshwater rays resting on the sandy bottoms.


One of the more elusive inhabitants of the Bacalar region is the American crocodile. While encounters with crocodiles are rare, they do inhabit some parts of the lagoon and its surrounding areas. If you embark on a boat tour or venture into the mangroves, you may catch a glimpse of these prehistoric creatures basking in the sun or silently gliding through the water.


Aside from the visual delights of Bacalar’s wildlife, the sounds of nature fill the air, creating a symphony of natural melodies. The harmonious songs of birds, the gentle rustling of leaves, and the soothing sound of waves lapping against the shore provide a serene and calming ambiance.


Bacalar takes great pride in its commitment to environmental conservation and sustainable tourism. Efforts are being made to protect and preserve the natural habitats of wildlife in the region. By practicing responsible tourism and respecting the local flora and fauna, visitors can contribute to the preservation of Bacalar’s wildlife for future generations to enjoy.


Exploring the wildlife in Bacalar is an incredible experience that allows you to connect with nature on a deeper level. Whether it’s birdwatching, snorkeling, or simply taking a leisurely stroll along the lagoon, Bacalar offers a chance to witness the beauty and diversity of its wildlife in a truly captivating environment.


Local Cuisine in Bacalar

Bacalar is not only known for its stunning natural beauty and rich history but also for its delectable local cuisine. The town offers a gastronomic experience that combines traditional Mexican flavors with Caribbean influences, resulting in a unique and mouthwatering culinary journey.


One of the highlights of Bacalar’s cuisine is its fresh seafood. Being located near the coast, the town boasts a wide variety of seafood dishes that are a delight for seafood lovers. From succulent shrimp cocktails and ceviche to grilled fish and octopus tacos, there is no shortage of options to indulge in the flavors of the sea.


Another must-try dish in Bacalar is cochinita pibil. This traditional Yucatecan dish consists of slow-cooked, tender pork marinated in a flavorful blend of spices, including achiote paste, citrus juices, and herbs. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth dish that is full of rich and savory flavors.


Tacos are a staple in Mexican cuisine and Bacalar is no exception. Whether it’s al pastor, carne asada, or cochinita pibil, there are plenty of taco stands and street vendors where you can savor these handheld delights. Add some freshly chopped onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime, and you’re in for a taste bud explosion.


For those with a sweet tooth, Bacalar offers a range of delectable desserts. One dessert that stands out is marquesitas. Similar to a crispy crepe, marquesitas are filled with a variety of sweet fillings such as Nutella, cheese, or caramel sauce. This delightful treat is perfect for satisfying your sweet cravings.


Don’t forget to try some refreshing fruit juices while in Bacalar. The town is home to an abundance of tropical fruits, including mangoes, coconuts, and pineapples. From freshly squeezed juices to smoothies and agua frescas, these fruity concoctions are the perfect way to cool down and quench your thirst in the tropical climate.


When it comes to dining options, Bacalar offers a range of choices to suit every taste and budget. From cozy local eateries serving traditional dishes to upscale restaurants that combine international flavors with local ingredients, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


Immerse yourself in Bacalar’s local cuisine and discover the unique flavors and culinary traditions that make this town a food-lover’s paradise. With its tantalizing seafood, flavorful tacos, enticing desserts, and refreshing fruit juices, Bacalar promises a memorable and delicious culinary adventure.


Accommodation Options in Bacalar

When it comes to accommodations in Bacalar, there are a variety of options available to suit every budget and preference. From boutique hotels to eco-lodges, cozy guesthouses to campsites, Bacalar offers a range of choices for visitors looking for a comfortable and memorable stay.


If you’re seeking a luxurious and indulgent experience, Bacalar is home to several boutique hotels that offer world-class amenities and stunning views of the lagoon. These hotels often feature beautiful infinity pools, private terraces, and luxurious spa facilities, ensuring a truly unforgettable stay in Bacalar.


For those looking for a more eco-friendly accommodation, there are numerous eco-lodges in Bacalar that prioritize sustainability and immersion in nature. These eco-lodges are often nestled within lush jungles or along the lagoon, providing a unique and immersive experience that allows guests to connect with the natural beauty of Bacalar.


If you prefer a more intimate and home-like setting, consider staying in one of Bacalar’s cozy guesthouses or bed and breakfasts. These establishments are often family-run and offer a warm and personalized experience for guests. They provide comfortable rooms, home-cooked breakfasts, and a friendly atmosphere that will make you feel right at home.


For budget-conscious travelers or those seeking a more adventurous experience, Bacalar offers campsites where you can pitch a tent or park your RV. These campsites are often located near the lagoon, allowing you to wake up to breathtaking views and the soothing sounds of nature. Camping in Bacalar is a great way to immerse yourself in the outdoors and make memories under the starry night sky.


Regardless of the accommodation option you choose, you can expect warm hospitality, attentive service, and a focus on creating a memorable stay for guests. Many accommodations in Bacalar also offer activities and excursions, such as boat tours, snorkeling trips, and yoga classes, to enhance your experience even further.


Booking your accommodation in advance is recommended, especially during peak travel seasons, as Bacalar’s popularity continues to grow. Whether you’re seeking luxury, eco-friendly options, cozy guesthouses, or camping adventures, Bacalar has a range of accommodation options to cater to your needs and preferences.


Embark on your Bacalar adventure and find the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate after a day of exploration and relaxation. Whichever option you choose, you’re sure to find comfort and hospitality as you immerse yourself in the beauty of Bacalar.


How to Get to Bacalar

Getting to Bacalar is relatively easy, with several transportation options available to suit your travel preferences and budget. Located in the southern part of Mexico, Bacalar is well-connected with major tourist destinations and transportation hubs in the region.


If you are arriving from outside of Mexico, the most common way to reach Bacalar is by flying into Cancun International Airport. Cancun is a major international gateway and is serviced by numerous airlines from around the world. From Cancun, you have a couple of options to reach Bacalar.


Renting a car is a popular choice for travelers who want the flexibility to explore at their own pace. From Cancun International Airport, you can easily rent a car and drive to Bacalar, which is approximately a 3-hour drive. The highway is well-maintained and offers scenic views along the way.


For those who prefer not to drive, there are also several bus options available. From Cancun Airport, you can take a taxi or shuttle to the Cancun bus station and catch a bus to Bacalar. The journey takes approximately 4-5 hours, depending on traffic and stops along the way. Several bus companies operate routes to Bacalar, including ADO and Mayab.


Alternatively, you can also opt for private transportation services that offer convenient and comfortable transfers from Cancun to Bacalar. These services provide door-to-door transportation and can be arranged in advance to ensure a hassle-free journey.


If you are already in Mexico, you can also reach Bacalar from other popular tourist destinations in the region, such as Tulum or Playa del Carmen. From Tulum, Bacalar is approximately a 2-hour drive, while the journey from Playa del Carmen takes around 3-4 hours by car or bus.


Once you arrive in Bacalar, getting around the town is relatively easy. The town itself is compact, and most attractions and amenities are within walking distance. You can also rent bicycles, scooters, or golf carts to explore the town and its surroundings.


Before planning your trip to Bacalar, it’s advisable to check the latest travel advisories and road conditions, as well as make any necessary reservations in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.


With its accessibility and various transportation options, reaching Bacalar is a straightforward process. Whether you choose to drive, take a bus, or use private transportation, the journey to this enchanting town is part of the adventure and sets the stage for an unforgettable experience.


Tips for Visiting Bacalar

Visiting Bacalar is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and rich history of this charming Mexican town. To make the most of your trip and ensure a smooth and enjoyable visit, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Protect yourself from the sun: Bacalar enjoys a tropical climate, so it’s important to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses, and seek shade during the hottest parts of the day.
  2. Bring mosquito repellent: As Bacalar is surrounded by nature, mosquitoes can be present, especially during the evenings. To avoid mosquito bites, make sure to bring mosquito repellent and apply it before heading out.
  3. Respect the local culture: Bacalar has a rich indigenous heritage, and it’s important to respect the local culture and traditions. Be mindful of local customs, dress modestly when visiting temples or historic sites, and ask for permission before taking photos of people.
  4. Practice responsible tourism: Bacalar is committed to sustainable tourism and preserving its natural beauty. Be mindful of the environment by avoiding littering, using eco-friendly products, and following any guidelines or regulations set by the local authorities.
  5. Try the local cuisine: Bacalar offers a range of delicious local dishes that blend traditional Mexican flavors with Caribbean influences. Don’t miss the opportunity to try fresh seafood, cochinita pibil, and local street food such as tacos and marquesitas.
  6. Stay hydrated: With its tropical climate, it’s important to stay hydrated while exploring Bacalar. Carry a refillable water bottle and drink plenty of fluids, especially during outdoor activities and under the sun.
  7. Plan your activities in advance: Bacalar offers a wide range of activities and attractions. To make the most of your time, plan your activities in advance and consider booking tours or boat trips ahead of time, especially during peak travel seasons.
  8. Respect wildlife: Bacalar is home to diverse wildlife, including birds, reptiles, and marine life. Respect their natural habitat by observing from a distance and not disturbing or feeding the animals.
  9. Bring cash: While some businesses in Bacalar accept credit cards, it’s always advisable to carry some cash, especially for small purchases or when visiting local markets or street vendors.
  10. Take precautions for water activities: When engaging in water activities such as swimming or snorkeling, ensure your safety by following instructions, wearing appropriate gear, and being mindful of your surroundings.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can make the most of your visit to Bacalar and have a memorable and enjoyable experience. Respect the environment, the local culture, and take the time to appreciate the natural wonders that this stunning town has to offer.