Before arriving in Mexico 3 weeks ago I was pretty clueless. I only knew a handful of places to visit in Mexico, namely Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. I could never have imagined there would be so many hidden gems to discover, many of which I seem to have found my accident or thanks to the recommendation of a local. I was lucky enough to spend my first few weeks with a very close Mexican friend, whose dream it had been to visit Bacalar Lagoon for many years.
I presumed it was just a pretty lake and would have nothing on those turquoise blues to be found up and down the Riviera Maya. I mean could anywhere really compare with the never-ending white sands of Cancun or the wild and wonderful coastline of Tulum?
Turns out Bacalar Lagoon has more shades of blue than your wildest dreams could ever visualise. The water is clearer than a freshly polished wine glass at a 5 star resort and the best part of all is you don’t have to share the magic with anybody else as there are hardly any other tourists there. Wondering where to stay? Choose from one of these top hostels!
Where is Bacalar Lagoon? Map of the area
Bacalar Lagoon, or Lake Bacalar is located on the very South Eastern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula about 3 hours south of Playa Del Carmen or 4 hours south from Cancun. It’s slightly inland, and can easily be accessed on a day trip from Tulum.
Looking for more of Mexico’s hidden gems? Pay a visit to Isla Holbox!
The only other destination in the world that comes close to the unique beauty of this lake would be the Maldives, and I can assure you that a trip here will cost you a lot less! I believe this
If you have not rented a car in Mexico, the easiest way to get here is on one of the daily ADO buses that leaves from Tulum or Playa Del Carmen which take about 3 or 4 hours. The bus leaves you off in town, and from here you can get a taxi for a few dollars to your hostel or hotel easily enough. once at your accommodation, most things are walking distance or you can rent a bike to get around the lake.
Best Time to Visit Lake Bacalar
The best time to visit Bacalar is between December and March as it is less humid and the temperature is consistent between 79-84 degrees Farenheit. Although it is peak season during this time, it usually doesn’t get insanely busy. However, you should still book ahead. If you can handle high humidity, April and May are also decent.
Low season is from May to November because they are the rainiest months. The good news is, that also means accommodation is generally cheaper, so if you’re on a budget that may suite you.
Where To Stay at Bacalar Lagoon
We stayed at a hostel called Blue Monkey that was right on the lake and had a cute pontoon and swing with a small swimming area and hammocks. It wasn’t exactly the cleanest or most pro-active hostel in the world but the location was amazing and it was super cheap. If you’re on a budget, check this place out or check into the Green Monkey Backpackers which also has a camping ground.
If you have more money to burn there are some really cool hotels and resorts dotted around the lake.
Where to Eat near Lake Bacalar
If you’re in the mood for food at Bacalar Lagoon, dining options are plentiful and there is a good selection to choose from.
La Playita is one of the more popular restaurants in Bacalar. The menu selection is wide and varied with tacos, pizza, burgers, ceviche, and more. The location right next to the Lagoon is prime for ordering a cocktail and kicking back in a hammock!
La Pina is a small and healthy restaurant for vegans and vegetarians, but if not a vegan, you might also appreciate a clean meal. They have a nice garden in the back with casual seating.
Lastly, El Manati is a restaurant where you can get food that is fresh tasting for an amazing value. Even better, all of the food comes locally sourced and the atmosphere is wonderful.
Things To Do in Bacalar Lagoon
Bacalar Lagoon is the place to go if you just want to chill out and relax. Rather than write at length, I think these photos should sum up all the fun things to do there – most of which revolve around the lake – be it swimming, snorkelling, boat trips, cliff jumping, kayaking, lazying in hammocks, camping or stand up paddle boarding at sunrise.
Don’t forget to try the amazing seafood to be found at the restaurants in the area – the Ceviche is unbelievable and so cheap!
20. Enjoy the sevens shades of blue
Sitting back and relaxing in the seven shades of blue lagoon while admiring the crystal clear waters is the perfect way to unwind. Hey, there is a reason Bacalar is one of 111 towns that Mexico has highlighted as an important cultural landmark.
Be prepared to be mesmerised by this lagoon and the various shades of blue it turns throughout the day. Be it relaxing, walking, swimming or taking photos – this place will forever remain etched in your memory.
19. Have a peaceful escape
Bacalar is not overloaded with tourists like some other places in Mexico (ahem Cancun!) so you can actually escape to peaceful seclusion. You can really take in the scenery without any distractions and get grounded.
As I work online, I was able to get some work done in peace and quiet each morning, and I say some other people going for walks, meditating or even practicing yoga by the pier at our hostel.
18. Wake up for sunrise
The early bird certainly gets the worm in Bacalar. You will never want to miss a sunrise with crystal clear waters like these. It’s the quietest time of day and the only time that the lake appears to be orange and red and yellow instead of blue!
17. Kayaking adventures
A great way to explore the lagoon is by kayak. There a plenty of lake-front shops that offer kayak rental services. You could kayak to the black cenote which is rather interesting. The water goes from turquoise to inky black because a limestone tavern collapsed onto itself.
16. Early morning SUP
This is another reason you need to be up by sunrise! The Green Monkey and Blue Monkey hostels both offer paddleboarding tours for only $20 if you leave just before sunrise. It is a guided paddleboarding trip that lasts about 3 hours and is one of the most fun activities in Bacalar for the adventurous traveller!
15. Check out the Pirate Canal
Visit sandbars and jump from the remains of a pirate ship into the crystal clear waters! This spot was once notoriously used by pirates to hide out adjoining but smaller Mariscol Lagoon. Also, the rich mud in pirates channel makes for a great exfoliation treatment.
14. Pier jumping paradise
Yes, you can definitely jump off the dock at one of the 4 public docks located in Bacalar that allow you to enjoy the views for free. It’s one of the most fun activities in Bacalar and best of all it’s FREE!
We did this as part of our boat trip but some places are now starting to charge tourists to Hang out and jump.The tourism booth can point them all out to you! Others may charge $10 or $15 pesos to access the pier.
13. Find the secret swimming spots
There are cenotes galore in Bacalar Lagoon, but these ones haven’t been hijacked by hundreds of tourists like some locations in Mexico have! For instance, there is one called the Cenote Esmeralda with a depth of 45 meters.
At the “Cenote Cocalitos” you can see stromatolites that are actually the oldest form of life on the planet and considered living stones.
12. Amazing boat trips
One of the best ways to capture the beauty of Bacalar is to take a boat tour. Most of them will take you to all the best spots on Bacalar Lagoon. That includes: the pirates channel, the black cenote, cenote esmeralda, and cenote cocolitas. Generally, the tours cost from 200 pesos per person and are about 3 hours. All can be easily arranged through street vendors or hotels!
11. Hostels with a view
As mentioned before, I stayed at the Blue Monkey Hostel which was right on the lake! Another good option might be the Yak Lake Hotel for its design, reputation, rating, and location. The hostels are super cheap and they all have amazing lake side views.
If you’re on a tight budget some will even let you camp in the garden for a few dollars!
10. A piece of history
Near Bacalar’s Zocalo you can find the ruins of an old fort called Fort San Felipe. Although it is currently an open air museum, it was built in the 1700’s after the town was ransacked by pirates. Pirate skeleton wall surrounds the fort and it even includes a moat.
9. Underwater life
Of course, no trip to Lake Bacalar would be complete without a snorkelling trip. You can easily rent a mask and snorkel from your hostel or hotel and just wade out into the lake from any of the piers!
8. Hammock heaven
Why not just chill out in a hammock for a few hours sipping on cold beers?! Paradise!
7. Colourful buildings
6. Beautiful hotels
If money isn’t an issue, there are some truly beautiful hotels located around Lake Bacalar. Private swimming pools, exclusive jetty access, bars and restaurants with stunning views and waking up to a view of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world!
5. Private jetty’s
4. Mystical Cenotes
As with everywhere in Mexico, there are always amazing cenotes to explore!
3. Swing your worries away
2. Sail into the sunset
1. Bathe in the bluest waters on earth