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Our Favorite Things to Do & See in Bacalar

Bacalar: What Makes It So Special

Nestled in the embrace of Mexico's Costa Maya, Bacalar is a destination that whispers tales of serenity, beauty, and hidden treasures waiting to be uncovered. This enchanting town, often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors, holds a magic all its own, inviting travelers into a world where time slows down, and nature reveals its most intimate secrets. As you consider embarking on a journey to this lesser-known gem, let me share with you the myriad of reasons Bacalar has captured my heart and why it might just capture yours too.

The Lagoon of Seven Colors

The centerpiece of Bacalar's allure is undoubtedly its magnificent Laguna de Bacalar or the Lagoon of Seven Colors. This natural wonder, a tapestry woven with varying shades of blue and turquoise, stretches as far as the eye can see, its colors shifting with the sun’s dance across the sky. Each hue tells a story of ancient waters, mesmerizing those who gaze upon them, inviting swimmers and kayakers to glide through its tranquil embrace. My first dip into its cool, welcoming arms felt like being enveloped in a world where time stood still, and all that mattered was the here and now.

Echoes of the Past

But Bacalar is more than just its lagoon. It is a place where history and nature intertwine seamlessly. Strolling through the town, you'll encounter remnants of a rich past, from the imposing Fort of San Felipe, a guardian of stories from the pirate era, to the smaller, more intimate ruins that dot the landscape, whispering tales of the Maya civilization. Each stone and path invites you on a journey back in time, offering a glimpse into the lives of those who walked these lands before us.

A Sanctuary of Natural Wonders

The charm of Bacalar extends to its vibrant ecosystem. The lagoon itself is home to stromatolites, rare geological formations that are among the oldest forms of life on Earth. Kayaking at dawn, I marveled at these natural wonders, feeling a deep connection to the very essence of life and the timeless beauty of our planet. It's moments like these that Bacalar offers in abundance – moments of profound peace and reflection.

Gateways to Adventure

Bacalar also serves as a gateway to adventures that lie beyond the lagoon. Cenotes, those mystical natural pools sacred to the Maya, offer refreshing escapes and a peek into the underground rivers that crisscross the Yucatan Peninsula. Each cenote has its own character, from the hidden depths of Cenote Azul to the intimate charm of Cenote Cocalitos, where the water gently caresses the roots of mangroves, creating a sanctuary for both thought and leisure.

The Heart and Soul of Bacalar

What makes Bacalar so special is not just its physical beauty but the sense of community and sustainability that thrives here. The people of Bacalar, with their warm smiles and stories, are the heart of this place. They welcome travelers not just as visitors but as part of a larger family, sharing their traditions, cuisine, and ways of life that are in harmony with nature. It's this spirit of preservation and respect for the environment that makes each experience here not only enjoyable but meaningful.


As a traveler, Bacalar offers you not just a destination but a journey. A journey of discovery, where each day unveils new wonders and simple pleasures. Whether it's the serene sunrise over the lagoon, a leisurely boat ride under the canopy of stars, or the taste of local delicacies that seem to carry the very soul of the region, Bacalar invites you to slow down, breathe, and immerse yourself in the beauty of the moment.


So, to those considering a visit to this enchanting corner of the Costa Maya, I say: come with an open heart and a curious spirit. Bacalar is more than a place to see; it's a world to be felt, explored, and cherished. Through its waters, its people, and its land, you'll discover not just the magic of Bacalar but perhaps a piece of yourself, forever intertwined with the story of this special place.

Where Is Bacalar?

Bacalar is a hidden gem located in the southern part of Mexico's Quintana Roo state, a region renowned for its breathtaking Caribbean coastline and rich Mayan heritage. This tranquil town is perched on the edge of the stunning Laguna de Bacalar, also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colors, due to its mesmerizing shades of blue and turquoise. Situated approximately 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) north of the Belize border, Bacalar offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of more crowded tourist destinations.


The town lies roughly 350 kilometers (around 217 miles) south of the bustling resort city of Cancun, a journey that takes you through the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, offering glimpses of lush jungles, hidden cenotes, and quaint villages along the way. It's a scenic drive that transitions from the lively energy of Cancun to the peaceful, laid-back vibes of Bacalar, making it a journey as rewarding as the destination itself.


Close to Bacalar, you'll find the town of Chetumal, the capital of Quintana Roo, which sits on the border with Belize. Chetumal serves as a gateway for travelers coming from or going to Belize, adding an international flavor to the region's cultural tapestry. The proximity to Belize offers adventurous travelers the opportunity to easily explore two countries in one trip, combining the best of Mexico's Caribbean coast with the diverse landscapes and cultures of Belize.


For those seeking to immerse themselves in nature and history, Bacalar is also a stone's throw away from several significant Mayan archaeological sites. These ancient ruins, nestled in the jungle, tell the stories of a civilization that once thrived in this region. Exploring these sites offers a unique glimpse into the past, enriching your Bacalar experience with a sense of wonder and discovery.

Visiting Bacalar Today

When to Visit Bacalar

Choosing the perfect time to visit Bacalar can greatly enhance your experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty and tranquility this destination has to offer. Bacalar enjoys a tropical climate year-round, with distinct dry and wet seasons that each bring their unique charm to the lagoon and its surroundings. Here are some tips and insights to help you decide when to plan your trip:

Dry Season (November to April):

  • The dry season offers sunny days and cooler nights, making it the ideal time for outdoor activities like swimming, kayaking, and exploring nearby ruins.

  • This period sees the least amount of rainfall, ensuring clear, sunny skies over the Lagoon of Seven Colors, perfect for those breathtaking photos.

  • Tip: Early December and late March are particularly delightful times, as you can avoid the peak tourist crowds while still enjoying the beautiful weather.

Wet Season (May to October):

  • The wet season brings heavier rainfall, especially in the late afternoons and evenings, which can bring a different kind of beauty to the lagoon and lush surroundings.

  • This time of year is less crowded, offering a more intimate experience of Bacalar's natural and cultural attractions.

  • Tip: If you're a nature enthusiast, the wet season is when the region's flora and fauna are most vibrant, and you might find better deals on accommodation.

Key Considerations:

  • Peak Tourist Season: Late December through early January, and the weeks around Easter, see a significant increase in visitors. If you prefer a quieter visit, plan your trip outside these periods.

  • Weather Patterns: While the dry season boasts more consistent weather, the wet season can offer sunny mornings and early afternoons, making it possible to enjoy outdoor activities before any potential rainfall.

  • Cultural Events: Keep an eye on local festivals and events, such as the Festival of the Candelaria in early February, which can offer a unique cultural experience but also mean busier times in Bacalar.

Final Tips:

  • Advance Booking: Regardless of when you decide to visit, it's wise to book your accommodations well in advance, especially if you're aiming for the dry season, to secure the best spots.

  • Flexibility: If you're traveling during the wet season, plan a flexible itinerary that allows for indoor activities or relaxation during rainy afternoons.

Visiting Bacalar Today

So, what exactly can you expect when you arrive in Bacalar? Here’s a closer look.

What You'll See When You Arrive in Bacalar

Arriving in Bacalar is like stepping into a vivid painting where the blues of the sky and lagoon blend seamlessly with the lush greens of the surrounding jungle. This tranquil town offers a sensory feast that immediately signals to travelers they've arrived somewhere truly special. Here's what stands out and makes visitors feel they've truly arrived in Bacalar:


  • The Lagoon of Seven Colors: The star attraction of Bacalar is, without doubt, its breathtaking lagoon. As you approach, the myriad shades of blue and turquoise water create a striking visual spectacle that's both calming and awe-inspiring. The lagoon's crystal-clear waters invite you in for a swim, a kayak adventure, or a leisurely boat ride, making it the perfect introduction to Bacalar's natural wonders.

  • The Fort of San Felipe: Overlooking the lagoon, the historic Fort of San Felipe stands as a testament to Bacalar's rich history. Built in the 18th century to protect the town from pirates, the fort now houses a museum that offers insights into the area's past. Its imposing structure and strategic location offer panoramic views of the lagoon and the town, serving as a reminder of Bacalar's historical significance.

  • Stromatolites: As you wander along the shores of the lagoon, you may notice unusual rock-like formations in the water. These are stromatolites, ancient microbial structures that are among the oldest forms of life on Earth. Their presence in Bacalar is a rare and fascinating glimpse into the planet's early life, highlighting the lagoon's ecological importance.

  • The Town's Vibrant Heart: The charm of Bacalar extends beyond its natural beauty to the streets of the town itself. Colorful murals, quaint cafes, and artisanal shops line the streets, inviting exploration. The town square, with its laid-back atmosphere, is a gathering place for both locals and visitors, offering a taste of the community's warm hospitality.

  • Cenotes and Natural Wonders: Just a short distance from the main town, the allure of hidden cenotes awaits. These natural swimming holes, each with its unique ecosystem, offer serene spots for cooling off and connecting with nature. The Cenote Azul, one of the largest and most popular, is a must-visit for its clear, deep waters and enchanting surroundings.

Staying Safe & Fitting in While in Bacalar

Bacalar is generally considered a safe and welcoming destination for travelers. However, as with any travel, it's important to be mindful of your surroundings and respect local customs to ensure a pleasant and secure experience. Here are some actionable tips to help you stay safe and fit in while exploring the enchanting town of Bacalar:

Staying Safe:

  • Stay Informed: Before and during your trip, keep an eye on travel advisories and local news. Check with your accommodation for any specific advice or rules to follow in the area.

  • Secure Your Belongings: Use safes in hotel rooms if available, and always keep your valuables secure, especially when out exploring or swimming in the lagoon.

  • Travel Insurance: It's always a good idea to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, theft, and any adventure activities you plan to undertake.

  • Be Water-Wise: When enjoying the lagoon or cenotes, always be aware of your swimming abilities and environmental conditions. Use life jackets if necessary, especially on boat tours or when kayaking.

Fitting in With the Local Community:

  • Respect the Environment: Bacalar is renowned for its natural beauty. Always follow guidelines for preserving the environment, such as not using sunscreen before swimming in cenotes to protect the water quality.

  • Learn Some Spanish: While many locals speak English, learning basic Spanish phrases can enhance your experience and show respect for the local culture.

  • Embrace Local Traditions: Bacalar has a rich cultural heritage. Participate in local events, try traditional dishes, and take the time to learn about the area's history and customs.

  • Support Local Businesses: Choose to eat at local restaurants, shop from artisanal vendors, and use local tour operators. Your support helps the local economy and allows for a more authentic experience.

Additional Tips for a Smooth Experience:

  • Dress Appropriately: Lightweight, breathable clothing is best for the climate. However, remember to dress respectfully, especially when visiting religious or cultural sites.

  • Stay Hydrated: The tropical climate means it can get very hot, especially around midday. Always carry water with you to stay hydrated.

  • Keep It Slow: Bacalar’s charm lies in its laid-back atmosphere. Don’t rush; take the time to soak in the surroundings and interact with locals.

Bacalar’s Weather & Climate

Bacalar enjoys a tropical climate, characterized by warm temperatures year-round, with a distinct dry season and wet season. Understanding the weather patterns can help you plan your activities to make the most of your visit. Here’s a brief overview of what to expect weather-wise throughout the year and some activity suggestions for each season.

Dry Season (November to April):

  • Weather: This season features sunny days with clear skies and cooler evenings. Temperatures range from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F), making it the most comfortable time for exploring.

  • Activities: It’s the perfect season for outdoor adventures. Enjoy swimming, sailing, and kayaking in the Lagoon of Seven Colors, exploring nearby Mayan ruins, or cycling around the town. This is also an ideal time for bird watching as many species migrate here during the winter months.

Wet Season (May to October):

  • Weather: The wet season brings higher temperatures, ranging from 25°C to 35°C (77°F to 95°F), and increased humidity. Afternoon showers are common, though they usually pass quickly, leaving fresh evenings.

  • Activities: Morning is the best time for activities to avoid the rain and the heat of the afternoon. Explore the cenotes, which are especially refreshing during this time. The lush landscape is perfect for nature walks and photography. Rainy afternoons are great for visiting local museums or enjoying the culinary delights of Bacalar.

Year-Round Tips:

  • Sun Protection: No matter the season, the sun can be strong. Always wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat when outdoors.

  • Hydration: Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, particularly during the hotter months or when engaging in outdoor activities.

Seasonal Considerations:

  • Travel Planning: If you prefer fewer crowds and cooler weather, plan your visit during the early or late dry season. For those who don’t mind the heat and occasional rain, the wet season offers the advantage of fewer tourists and more vibrant nature.

  • Wildlife Observations: The region’s diverse ecosystems are alive year-round with unique flora and fauna. The dry season is best for birdwatching, while the wet season offers lush landscapes and blooming flowers.

Getting To & Around Bacalar

Bacalar, a hidden gem in the Costa Maya, might seem tucked away, but getting there and exploring its beauty is part of the adventure. Whether you’re flying in from afar or making your way from within Mexico, here’s your guide to reaching this serene destination and navigating its surroundings.

Getting to Bacalar:

  • By Air: The nearest major airport is Chetumal International Airport (CTM), located about 40 minutes away by car. Another option is flying into Cancun International Airport (CUN), which is approximately a 4-5 hour drive but offers more international and domestic flights. From either airport, you can rent a car, take a bus, or arrange for a shuttle service to Bacalar.

  • By Bus: ADO and other bus companies offer comfortable and affordable services from cities like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Merida to Bacalar. The journey from Cancun takes around 5-6 hours but is a scenic and convenient option.

  • By Car: Renting a car provides flexibility for exploring Bacalar and its surroundings at your own pace. The roads are in good condition, and the route is well-signposted. Just be sure to have a map or GPS handy, especially if you’re driving from Cancun or Chetumal.

Getting Around Bacalar:

  • On Foot: Bacalar is a small, laid-back town where many attractions, especially around the lagoon, are within walking distance. Strolling through the streets allows you to soak in the local atmosphere and discover hidden gems.

  • By Bicycle: Renting a bicycle is a popular and eco-friendly way to explore Bacalar and its nearby attractions. It’s perfect for short trips around town or to some of the closer cenotes and gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace.

  • By Taxi: Taxis are available for getting around Bacalar and to more distant attractions. They are relatively affordable, but it’s always a good idea to agree on the fare before starting your journey.

  • By Car Rental: For those looking to explore beyond Bacalar, renting a car is advisable. This is especially useful for visiting remote cenotes, nearby Mayan ruins, or even day trips to neighboring towns and cities.

  • By Boat: Don’t miss out on exploring the Lagoon of Seven Colors by boat. You can join a guided tour or rent a kayak or paddleboard for a more personal experience on the water. It’s a unique way to see the lagoon’s stunning shades of blue and explore hidden corners not accessible by land.

Tips for Travelers:

  • Plan Ahead: Especially during peak travel seasons, it’s wise to book your transportation and tours in advance to ensure availability.

  • Stay Informed: Check local travel advisories and transportation schedules as they can change due to weather or other factors.

  • Be Eco-Conscious: Bacalar’s ecosystem is delicate. Whether you’re on land or water, respect the environment by following guidelines for trash disposal, noise levels, and interaction with wildlife.

FAQs for Traveling to Bacalar

Q: Do I need a visa to visit Bacalar, Mexico?

A: Whether you need a visa to visit Bacalar depends on your nationality. Many visitors, including those from the United States, Canada, and the European Union, do not need a visa for tourist stays of up to 180 days. However, you must have a valid passport and, upon arrival, fill out a Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM) tourist card. It's always best to check the latest visa requirements with the Mexican embassy or consulate before traveling.


Q: What is the best time of year to visit Bacalar?

A: The best time to visit Bacalar is during the dry season, from November to April, when the weather is more temperate and there's less chance of rain. This period offers the most comfortable conditions for exploring the lagoon and surrounding attractions. However, visiting during the wet season (May to October) can also be rewarding, with fewer tourists and a lush, vibrant landscape, as long as you're prepared for occasional rain showers.

Q: How can I get to Bacalar from Cancun?

A: To get to Bacalar from Cancun, you have several options:


By Car: Renting a car and driving is a popular choice, offering flexibility and the opportunity to enjoy the scenic route. The drive takes about 4-5 hours via the 307 highway.

By Bus: ADO and other bus lines operate direct services from Cancun to Bacalar. The journey takes approximately 5-6 hours.

By Private Shuttle: You can also book a private shuttle or transfer service for a more comfortable and direct route to Bacalar.

Q: Are there ATMs available in Bacalar?

A: Yes, there are ATMs available in Bacalar, primarily in the town center. However, it's advisable to withdraw cash before arriving, as the number of ATMs is limited and they can occasionally run out of money, especially during peak tourist seasons.


Q: Is Bacalar safe for tourists?

A: Bacalar is generally considered safe for tourists. Like any travel destination, it's important to stay aware of your surroundings, especially at night, and take standard safety precautions, such as not leaving valuables unattended and using reputable transportation services.


Q: Can I drink tap water in Bacalar?

A: It's not recommended to drink tap water in Bacalar. Bottled water is widely available and is the safest option for drinking and brushing your teeth.


Q: What kind of activities can I do in Bacalar?

A: Bacalar offers a wide range of activities for visitors, including:


Swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding in the Laguna de Bacalar.

Visiting ancient Mayan ruins and exploring nearby cenotes.

Taking a boat tour to discover secluded areas of the lagoon.

Biking around the town and to nearby attractions.

Enjoying local cuisine and shopping for artisanal crafts.

Q: Is Bacalar suitable for families with children?

A: Yes, Bacalar is a great destination for families with children. The town and its attractions offer a relaxed and safe environment. Many activities, such as swimming in the lagoon, exploring cenotes, and visiting forts, are family-friendly and enjoyable for all ages.

Written by: Julia

Julia is the Content Marketing Manager at Tourbase. With a passion for wandering the world, she is especially drawn to the paths less traveled. On two wheels or two feet, she loves biking and exploring locales both near and distant.

All of our content at Tourbase is written by experienced travel writers who have visited all of the locations we recommend. And our review board of local tourism experts ensure that all the information we provide is accurate, current and helpful

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