You have probably heard of Tulum, Isla Mujeres, and Isla Holbox as popular boho towns to visit in Mexico. But what about the pueblo magico “magic town” of Bacalar? Bacalar is an underrated travel destination within a few miles of the Mexico-Belize border. But not for long! As more and more outdoor lovers discover Bacalar for its pristine lake ideal for kayaking, paddleboarding, and boating, Bacalar will soon become another must-stop destination on any Riviera Maya road trip.
But until then, if you ever hear of Bacalar, it’s probably because it’s 1.) a pueblo magico recognized by the Mexican government and 2.) it has a vivid teal-turquoise freshwater lagoon known as the Lagoon of 7 Colors. When you hear it, you think seven colors, wow?! But actually, it’s more like seven different types of blues and greens.
Here’s my guide on how to visit Bacalar, what to do and where to stay, and the best tips for kayaking on its Laguna de Siete Colores!
How to Experience the Lagoon of 7 Colors in Bacalar
Bacalar is most popular for its kayaking adventures on the Lagoon of 7 Colors. So you can’t go to Bacalar and not kayak. Plus, getting out on the lagoon is a bucket list checkmark in and of itself!
Kayaking is the best way to explore the lagoon, but you can also stand-up paddleboard or take a sailboat tour, or even go snorkeling!
So when it comes to kayaking Bacalar’s laguna, you have two main options.
- Kayak rentals in Bacalar range from $250-500 pesos (12-25 USD)
If you’re like me, you tend to take matters (including tours) into your own hands. We just wanted to have a fun, relaxing kayak experience and see where our paddles could take us.
The pros of renting a kayak and exploring on your own are that you can have free time and do as you please. You might also have a longer time limit with the kayaks. The cons of renting on your own kayak are that 1.) I felt like I missed out a lot from the magic of the lagoon by doing this and 2.) the price you pay isn’t that much cheaper than a guided tour.
The lake is also quite big, and we were tiring ourselves out to see a lot of it. Without a guide, we kinda just explored around with no end goal. If we had a guide, at least we would have learned cool facts and probably got to see more interesting highlights of the lagoon, such as its unique mangroves.
With that said, we rented kayaks from our eco-lodge at Casa Lamat (actually, I think the kayak rental was included) and accessed the lake there. Perhaps there were better places to kayak than this?
Bacalar’s lagoon is insanely clear and varies in hues of blue-green!
Book a kayak tour (or SUP, sailboat, snorkel, etc.)
As I said, Bacalar’s Lagoon is quite big! In fact, it’s Mexico’s second-largest freshwater lake. So keep that in mind when you are planning a kayak trip. More than meets the eye in the lagoon, so having a local guide can turn a DIY experience into an unforgettable travel adventure.
Because kayaking is one of the top things to do in Bacalar, you can imagine you have quite the choice of tours to choose from.
Here are some suggestions for tours to experience the Lagoon of 7 Colors in Bacalar. These tours have expert guides who practice sustainable tourism as part of their business values:
- Active Nature Bacalar – offer low-impact kayak tours of the laguna and mangroves
- Eco Sailing Tours by Casa Lamat – give unique no-emission eco sailing excursions
- The Sailing Colibri – sustainable sailing and snorkeling tours in the lagoon
- Eco Experience – tour the lagoon at sunrise on an aqua bike! How cool is that?
Whether it’s by kayak, paddleboard, sailboat, or even a bike on water, getting out on the Bacalar Lagoon is a must!
Where to Stay in Bacalar
With such a unique ecosystem in Bacalar’s backyard, many tours and hotels are turning over a new leaf toward sustainability. Which is fantastic! But buyer beware: Make sure where you stay is actually eco-conscious and apply this into how they operate their business.
Use this interactive map to find the best eco-friendly accommodation in Bacalar:
How many days do you need in Bacalar?
Visiting Bacalar is best when you have at least two full days. That way, you can experience a full-day excursion out on the lagoon and then explore the magic town on your second day. More time is always nice and there is plenty to do in Bacalar to keep you busy.
How to get there
Getting to Bacalar is easy! You just follow the Riviera Maya south. Here are average times traveling by car or bus to reach Bacalar from popular destinations.
- Cancun to Bacalar: 4 – 5 hrs
- Playa del Carmen to Bacalar: 3.5 – 4hrs
- Tulum to Bacalar: 2.5hrs
- Chetumal to Bacalar: 45m – 1hr
- Valladolid to Bacalar: 3.5 – 4 hrs
- Calakmul / Xpujil to Bacalar: 1.5hr
5 Things to Do in Bacalar
Other than kayaking and spending time out on the laguna, what is there to do in Bacalar?
Explore the historic San Felipe Fort
The fort is both a historic site and museum with tales about pirates, the Spanish, and the best part is you can see the lagoon as you explore around! It only costs $200 pesos to enter. It’s well worth your time for a quick morning or afternoon visit.
Check out Cenote Cocalitos and Cenote Azul
The Laguna de Los Siete Colores also holds other magic than just the lagoon. There’s also great hangout spots at cenotes Cocalitos and Azul where you can snorkel, explore the caves, or just hang out! There is a small entrance fee to see the stromatolites at Cocalitos and get access to the hammocks in the water. Cenote Azul is great for snorkeling and cave diving for its underwater sea life. Food options are at both locations but they are expensive.
Take a picture with the Bacalar sign
I always thought it would be a great bucket list adventure and scrapbooking idea to take a picture with every colorful city sign in Mexico! As a magic town, Bacalar has its own so don’t miss out on this photo op!
Discover the Mayan ruins at Kohunlich
Kohunlich is a large Mayan ruins archaeological site in the nearby city of Chetumal. If you’ve exhausted the things to do in Bacalar (which I don’t think you will), or simply want to explore nearby ruins, go here! Make sure to arrive early though (8 am) as this is a popular site.
Dig into the local foodie scene
Bacalar sits right next to the sea and so the seafood is fresh and delicious here. Plus, Bacalar is stepping up its game when it comes to trendy cafes and bars to get tasty Mexifusion cuisine. The chili relleno tacos at the La Piña vegan/veggie restaurant was delicious. They also serve craft beer and they have delicious homemade salsa testers. Also, breakfast at Enamora was a killer! Get the scrambled eggs with sesame, avocado, and cream.
Highly recommend eating at La Piña in Bacalar, Mexico
Visiting + Kayaking Bacalar, Mexico
All in all, if you get the chance to visit Bacalar then take advantage of the opportunity. Especially now, as Bacalar will soon grow into other resort towns like Tulum. Despite the increase in visitors, it seems like Bacalar will safeguard its local vibe and values of eco-tourism!
From everything we got to see and do in Bacalar, our DIY kayaking trip was definitely a highlight. That, plus lounging around in hammocks and eating out at local restaurants in town!
Have you ever been to Bacalar? If I get the chance to, I hope this mini Bacalar travel guide helped you plan your trip! As for me, I would go back and explore the lagoon via an aqua bike. 😉