Exclusive Bacalar Guide: You’ll Regret Not Going!
BUT! If you drive just two hours past Tulum, you’ll see a glorious natural wonder that I’m positive will put you in awe! Bacalar is a hidden gem that is quickly gaining popularity, so be sure to go visit it before it becomes the next Tulum!
In this exclusive Bacalar guide I’ll go over how to get there, where to stay, best places to eat, and must-see locations!
How to Get to Bacalar
It’s a bit of a drive, but probably not much farther than what you’re used to driving or commuting back home! From Cancun airport it’s 4 hours, but you can break up the drive with stops in Playa del Carmen and/or Tulum!
There’s only a couple slight turns but otherwise it’s a straight shot down the main road that connects all of the main cities! You should use Google maps to find where your accommodation is, then download it to use offline, in case you lose service!
Transpotation-wise, here are your options:
- Rent a car from the airport and drive(I suggest Firefly BUT they charge extra insurance at the airport versus where I rent in Playa del Carmen) for about $15 USD/day (not including insurance)
- From the airport, take a bus all the way there for about $25 USD
- Take a bus to Playa del Carmen, then rent a car
- Or take a bus to Playa del Carmen, then pay for a day tour to Bacalar
How Many Days Should You Spend There
While many of the tour companies offer Bacalar as a day trip, I would highly recommend spending at least one or two nights there. Especially if the lake is blue (happens when there haven’t been any storms, usually late November or before September).
I recommend this because you’ll need a full day just to see Lake Bacalar itself! Then there are several other places to see that will require a second day. Plus you’ll want some time to relax and enjoy the stunning “Laguna de los 7 Colores” (Lake of 7 colors), and hit up some of the delicious restaurants!
Why is Lake Bacalar the Main Attraction?
Aside from being a hidden gem, and “The Next Tulum”, Bacalar’s main attraction is of course, Lake Bacalar. It might sound a little strange that a lake is the main attraction along the Caribbean (instead of a beach), but if you look at the map, you’ll understand based on Bacalar’s location!
Lake Bacalar, also known as “Laguna de los 7 Colores” is very special for many reasons! Not only is it a stunning blue color thanks to the white sediment bottom, but it served as an important trading route for the Mayans with the rest of the world!
Lake Bacalar has several attractions to see in and around it such as:
The Top Things to See in Bacalar:
This may get confusing so read carefully! Also, you need to take a boat tour to see all of the things in the lake! I recommend Day Tour Bacalar, which offers group tours starting at $40 USD and private tours (what I did) starting at $180 USD. They’re also pet friendly, so Oscar got to come as well!
IN Lake Bacalar there are several things to see, such as:
- Laguna de los 7 Colores: This refers to the entire lake, so don’t think it’s just one place to go look for!
- Canal de las Piratas (Pirates Channel): Man-made canal built by Mayans for a trade route, later overtaken by pirates using slender canoes.
- Black Hole Cenote: a scary looking cenote IN the actual lake!
- Stromatolites : a type of rock/fungi that grows in the lake and produces tons of oxygen!
- Mangroves : essential for the absorption of carbon and production of oxygen!
AROUND Lake Bacalar there is:
- Cenote Azul : a massive open-top cenote near the lake
- Cenote Cocalitos: a nice cenote for swimming
- Los Rapidos : fun for floating and relaxing (AKA not like rapids at all)
Where to Stay in Bacalar
In the three nights that I was in Bacalar, I stayed at three different accommodations. I liked each one for different reasons and they were each in a different price range, depending on what you’re looking for!
My absolute favorite was Hotel Makaaba because of it’s fabulous eco-chic vibe, and sincere dedication to sustainability! This boutique hotel is almost 100% sustainable, which is EXTREMELY impressive!
From filtering its own waste water, and re-using it to water the fruit trees, which then get eaten in the restaurant, to using fish ponds to filter the water for the fresh water pool! Makaaba definitely gained my approval and I WILL be going back there!
I also really loved the personal touches for both the Mayan culture and well-being of the guests. The rooms are compact, and meant to encourage guests to spend time outside in one of their many swanky outdoor spaces.
There’s a diving platform into a 3 meter pool that’s meant to represent the depths of the cenotes. And hanging wooden sun beds meant to symbolize the trading that used to be done on Lake Bacalar!
To be completely honest, I stayed here because we were fleeing a hurricane that was going to hit us in Playa del Carmen. I found it last minute using filters for all-inclusive (since we didn’t have time to get food or wine) and pet friendly, since I had Oscar with me.
It’s a bit further outside of town, so you can’t really walk to restaurants, which is fine since it’s all-inclusive. There is only one restaurant though with the same menu every day, so you’d probably only want to stay a night or two!
They are also right on Lake Bacalar, and they have a super cute dock with hammocks and swings over the water! Plus you can use their kayaks or paddleboards for free!
We were a little confused when we first pulled up since the photos showed the lake, and we definitely were not on the lake. But we quickly found out that there is lake-access! They have a little house on the lake-front, with a similar dock and free kayaks / paddleboards as well.
You do need to either drive, bike, or walk to reach the lake front though! The road is a bit rough so we drove, and we also drove to the downtown area to eat, as there wasn’t a restaurant on site.
Where to Eat in Bacalar
There weren’t a ton of options open when I was there (due to Covid). But I found a restaurant I liked so much, that I decided to add this section especially for it!
We were also a bit confused as to where the “good area” was in Bacalar for food and drinks, so hopefully this will help you with that as well!
The restaurant we found and loved the most is called La Playita and i couldn’t recommend it enough! The entrance is like walking through a jungle, which then opens up into an outdoor dining space encircling a massive tree! Then it overlooks Lake Bacalar from a social-encouraging dock!
The food was delicious and fresh, I got fish each time! It was also nice to be able to walk out onto their long dock to look at the water while waiting!
Another place that was recommended and looked popular was a vegan restaurant called Mango y Chile. It’s right next to the Fort and a couple blocks from La Playita!
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