You’ve heard of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, but have you ever heard of Bacalar? If it doesn’t ring a bell, the next time you’re in the Yucatán Peninsula, venture to this quiet little town for some R&R. The landscape will take your breath away. I went there last time after I was down in Belize.
Tucked away close to the border with Belize, Bacalar still seems to be a hidden gem in Mexico. I only found out about this little town through other backpacker friends when I began my trip on Central America’s “Gringo Trail”. I had to see the lagoon, they said.
And man, they were right. The water in the lagoon is so crystal blue and turquoise, it’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Nicknamed the “lagoon of seven colors”, the water appears to be a variety of shades of blue and green due to in part to the underground cenotes – natural sinkholes – that feed into the lake. It is almost as if a stream of bright turquoise was painted straight into the water. The sand underneath is white and you can venture out far into the lake before it gets deep.
I can’t say I did a whole lot in Bacalar. My days mostly consisted of early morning wake up calls to watch the sunrise over the lagoon, lounging in a hammock, and dipping my toes into the pristine water. The water looked like an ocean but was so warm under the September sun that it felt like bath water!
I didn’t do too much in Bacalar because there are not many activities to do in this sleepy town. If you’re looking for a quiet place to relax and hide from the hustle and unavoidable hustle and bustle in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, head to Bacalar. When in Bacalar don’t miss out on these activities:
Kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddle board in the laguna
Rent a kayak, canoe, or SUP from your accommodation and take to the laguna. The lake current isn’t strong but you will find yourself drifting further away at a faster rate as you the shore dwindles in the distance. If you’re adventurous enough, make your way to the cenote close to shore. You’ll know you’re there when the water changes from light blue to very dark – the cenote is deep! I could only linger in the cenote water for so long before feeling uneasy about the depth of the water below me.
Visit the Fortress de San Felipe Bacalar
If you walk around the center of Bacalar once, you won’t miss seeing the Fortress de San Felipe Bacalar. Inside you’ll find the Museum of Pirates and many old relics local to Bacalar. Cultural festivals and really anything exciting that will be happening in Bacalar will occur near the fortress. Make a point to see it lit up at night, too!
Watch the sunrise
It might sound overrated, but it is always worth it to wake up to watch the sunrise. I myself find it difficult to wake up to see the sunrise, but I am so glad I didn’t miss it in Bacalar. If a place like Bacalar is so stunning during the daytime, it had to be beautiful to watch night transition into day. The sky turned a deep shade of purple before the sun rose over the laguna. It took my breath away. This was the first of many stunning sunrises and sunsets I witnessed in Central America.
Eat the tacos
It comes as no surprise that the tacos in Mexico are delicious. I had some of the best at the roadside restaurants in Bacalar while waiting for the bus! There are a few tourist-laden restaurants in Bacalar, but my best recommendation is to venture off the beaten path into the smaller restaurants and see what they have to offer. I was rarely disappointed by the local restaurants in Bacalar, or Mexico as a whole!
Have I convinced you to venture out of Cancun and toward Bacalar yet? Trust me, you’ll want to stay awhile.