With turquoise blue color, Eco-friendly hotels, and adorable hammocks hanging over the water you could call Bacalar the Maldives of Mexico.
Not many international travelers know about Bacalar and even though we spent almost 6 months in Mexico searching for unique places to visit, rarely anyone mentioned Bacalar Lagoon.
If it wasn’t for a photo in a guide book we might have even skipped it. Which is crazy because Bacalar is now one of my favorite places in Mexico and I can’t stop raving about how amazing it is.
If you’re reading this article you’ve probably seen one of the insanely blue photos of Lake Bacalar floating around the internet. And YES, it is that blue and it is that picturesque. Plus visiting Bacalar costs a fraction compared to what going to Fiji or Maldives would.
In this post, we cover everything you need to know for visiting this beautiful paradise on Earth and one of the best-hidden gems of Mexico – Laguna Bacalar.
Where Is Bacalar Located
Bacalar Lagoon is located in the Quintana Roo State, which is part of Eastern Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Bacalar is situated just 3 hours south of Tulum, 5 hours south of Cancun, and 5 hours south of Merida making it a great addition if you’re already planning a trip to either of these locations.
It’s also less than an hour from the Mexico-Belize border so some people add Bacalar as a stop-over after visiting Caye Caulker, Ambergris Caye, or Belize City.
If you’re planning a trip specifically to Bacalar without heading anywhere else, Chetumal International Airport would be your closest airport option.
To really enjoy everything Bacalar has to offer we recommend spending at least 2 days in the area but you can certainly visit it as a day stop as well.
How To Get There
We ventured down to Laguna Bacalar for a week after spending some time in Tulum. Although we loved Tulum, it was a bit out of our budget range for an extended stay.
We had our own personal car with us so getting to Bacalar after Tulum was super easy.
Highway 307 is the main road that leads all the way from Cancun to Chetumal and passes right next to Bacalar Lagoon.
Unlike other areas in Mexico, most roads in the Yucatan Peninsula are well taken care of including Highway 307 so you don’t need to worry about your car hitting random speed bumps or potholes.
For traveling in the Yucatan Peninsula we suggest getting a rental car to make your vacation more enjoyable. Most major tourist attractions are pretty spread out so it’s much easier to get around if you have your own car.
But a lot of people don’t like the idea of driving in Mexico. So if you’re looking at public transportation options, ADO buses run quite often to Bacalar from several locations in Mexico and you can look up their bus schedule online on the ADO website here.
The ADO website is in Spanish which makes it a bit difficult to navigate for English speakers.
In the first search box type in where you’re coming from (ex. Tulum, Cancun) and in the second box select your destination (Bacalar) and then select the date of your trip.
Then click on “Buscar Viaje” (Search Trip) and it will show all available bus time options. Keep in mind that the prices are shown in Pesos so before you panic, divide the price by 20 to get the approximate price in USD.
What To See & Do In Bacalar
Each major location within the Yucatan Peninsula has its own vibe. Cancun is known for having all-inclusive mega-resorts, Tulum is your cute Instagrammable “Coachella-esque” spot and Bacalar is where you go to relax, get away from the crowds and swim in pristine turquoise waters.
Bacalar Lagoon itself is quite large but most of the attractions and hotels are located along the lakefront within a 6-mile span.
Besides just lounging on the lakefront or floating in baby blue water, here are the top things to see and do around Lake Bacalar in Mexico.
Balneario Municipal El Aserradero
Balneario Municipal El Aserradero is one of the most popular places to visit in Bacalar.
When we arrived at Bacalar Lagoon we didn’t know where to go for the best lake access and this is where all of the locals pointed us to.
Essentially Balneario Municipal El Aserradero is just a public pier but it’s free and it’s located in the middle of Bacalar providing visitors with easy lake access.
The pier is made of wooden beams and a straw palapa where visitors can take a much-needed break from the sun and heat. Surrounded by turquoise blue water, this public pier looks like something I’d expect to see on an exotic island (and not in Mexico).
We spent a whole afternoon hanging out at this pier swimming and enjoying the beauty of Lake Bacalar. Although there are other more private places to access the lake, Balneario Municipal was my personal favorite.
Cenote Cocalitos was another wonderful spot that we visited at Lake Bacalar. Along with swimming, kayaking, and snorkeling Cenote Cocalitos serve as a sanctuary for stromatolites which are unique fossilized rocks that form in shallow water.
Cenote Cocalitos does not look like your “typical” underground cenote that we were used to seeing in Tulum. But a part of this bay has a section that reaches up to 60 meters in dept and is round-shaped earning it the “cenote” classification.
We spent a few days hanging out at Cenote Cocalitos and stayed at their campground that’s located right next to the lake.
Camping here cost us 150 ($6 USD) Pesos per person per night which is quite expensive for Mexico given that there are only basic facilities at this campsite. But it was pretty great waking up next to this gorgeous lake and jumping in for a quick swim before the crowds arrived.
Day visitors are also welcome and it costs 25 Pesos ($1 USD) to visit Cenote Cocalitos for the day. The lakefront has a lot of picturesque swings and hammocks where visitors can relax and enjoy the pretty scenery.
Cenote Azul is located next to Cenote Cocalitos so it’s easy to visit both on the same day.
Cenote Azul is round-shaped and a dense jungle separates Cenote Azul from the rest of Lake Bacalar. Unlike Bacalar Lagoon that’s mostly shallow and turquoise colored, Cenote Azul is over 90 meters deep and as a result, it has a dark blue shade to its water.
Despite the drastic color difference, the water at Cenote Azul is very clean and clear. In fact, visitors are not allowed to enter Cenote Azul after using sunscreen or bug repellant to protect the natural state of this cenote.
The water at Cenote Azul is so clear that visitors can see the nearby tree roots underwater that span in all directions.
The entrance to visit Cenote Azul costs 25 Pesos ($1 USD) and you don’t need more than a couple of hours to visit this location, go for a swim or grab lunch at the on-property restaurant.
Have Lunch At Mango y Chile
We like to try different foods when traveling and Mango y Chile restaurant kept popping up in our Google search as one of the top places to eat in Bacalar.
Mango y Chile is a vegan joint that serves delicious veggie burgers, tacos, smoothies, and coffee.
We’re not vegan but this place is one of the best budget-friendly restaurants that we’ve been to in Mexico and we highly recommend checking it out for lunch.
The plates at Mango y Chile come packed full of flavor and fresh, colorful ingredients. We tried both the burger and tacos and we agreed that the burger was the clear winner.
As a bonus, Mango y Chile restaurant has a beautiful view of Laguna Bacalar from its patio and an overall laid back vibe which is perfect after spending a few hours down at the lake swimming and soaking up the sun.
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Where To Stay In Bacalar
During our time in Bacalar we stayed at two different campgrounds.
Along with hanging out for a couple of days at Cenote Cocalitos, we also stayed a few days at Ecocamping Yaxche campground located in the northern part of Lake Bacalar.
Ecocamping Yaxche is slightly outside of Bacalar’s downtown so it’s more remote and doesn’t get the crowds that Cenote Cocalitos does. But it’s also 10 minutes away from the center of Bacalar which might be an inconvenience if you don’t have a car and want to go do activities or grab food.
Ecocamping Yaxche is very charming and has adorable swings, palapas and hammocks in the water (for those perfect Instagram shots).
I even ventured around the corner from this campsite in the lake and came across some abandoned swings in the water that looked very picturesque.
If you’re looking for something a bit fancier, Casa Chukum is one of the top-rated hotels in Bacalar and still comes at a reasonable price so you can treat-yo-self without feeling guilty about it.
For budget hotels, Yak Lake House is one of the most popular hostels around Bacalar Lagoon. The Yak Lake House is an “Adults Only” hostel so it’s great for couples or younger people.
Is Bacalar Safe
One of the most frequently asked questions we get about traveling in Mexico is “Is it safe?”. While there are areas that you certainly want to avoid, we spent a week in Bacalar and we felt very safe the whole time.
Bacalar Lagoon is a tourist attraction so most people that you’ll encounter here are vacationers, locals that work in tourism, and other travelers.
But as a general guideline when traveling abroad we rarely stay out past sunset, we don’t get drunk and we try not to draw attention to ourselves.
These few tips have helped us stay out of trouble for 15 months as we traveled down the Pan American Highway through all of Central and South America.
Mexico is pretty awesome and is one of our favorite countries to visit in the world. It’s cheap, the weather is always tropical and the tacos are to die for.
If you’re looking for more Mexico inspiration don’t forget to check out some of our other popular Mexico posts below:
- 10 Unique Places To Visit In Mexico You Didn’t Know Existed
- Top Things To Do In La Huasteca Potosina, Mexico
- 10 Best Cenotes To Visit In Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
- Guide To Visiting Valle De Guadalupe Wine Region
- 10 Unbelievable Places To Visit In Chiapas, Mexico
Interested in how I capture photos on my trips? Here is my suggested camera gear that I use to create my images:
- Main camera: Sony a7II Camera With 28-70 mm Standard Lens
- Polarizer Filter for the standard lens (helps eliminate reflection and enhance color especially on super bright days): Amazon Basics 55 mm
- Wide Lens (great for nature shots): Sony 16-35 mm F4
- Polarizer Filter for the wide lens: Amazon Basics 72 mm
- Small Tripod (to stabilize photos and eliminate blur): JOBY Gorrilapod
- Memory Cards: SanDisk 32 GB
- Batteries: Wasabi Power battery charger and extra battery pack
- Camera Bag: Lowepro weather-resistant bag
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