Bacalar is located 2.5 hours South of Tulum near the Belize border, and was stop #2 of 6 on our two-week road trip around Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo (pronounced “Keen-tana row”, not “roo”). Also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colors, this beautiful gem is starting to gain popularity as one of the Yucatán’s next must-visit destinations. The colors of the water reminded us of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.
To set the right expectations, if you’re coming to Bacalar, you’re coming to not do much at all, besides relaxing and swimming in one of the most unique and clear lagoons you’ll ever see. People come here to escape the noisiness of Playa Del Carmen, the crowds in Cancún, and the loud music and hipster gringos in Tulum. So if peace and nature is what you’re seeking, grab your book, your towel (leave your sunscreen behind), and come to Bacalar.
You may be wondering why I told you to not bring your sunscreen in a place that is warm and sunny near all year long. The reason is because of one word: stromatolites. This living organism uses water, carbon dioxide and sunlight to create their food, and as a by-product, expel oxygen. Stromatolites are some of the earliest fossil evidence on earth, and they photosynthesize and produce free oxygen. Because they are living organisms, similar to a reef, you don’t want to wear chemical products in the water.
For a fun and relaxing day, visit Los Rápidos where you can kayak, bird watch, or relax in hammocks over the lagoon to your heart’s desire! Entry fee is $150 pesos per person (approximately $7.50 USD), which gets you all-day admission, plus an additional nominal fee if you’d like to rent kayaks, which I highly recommend, as it’s a great way to see the various colors in the lake. The water is insanely clear!
Los Rápidos gets its name because of the natural soft current that swiftly carries you down the river. I recommend wearing water shoes, and definitely don’t step on the stromatolites! You can get in and out as many times as you’d like!
Where to Eat in Bacalar
Nixtamal – farm-to-table dinner with adorable outdoor area and sculptures
Their salmon mole was to die for. I was a bit hesitant about fish and chocolate, but it was outstanding. Truly complex and fresh flavors that burst into your mouth!
El Manati – great for breakfast and coffee. This is also an art gallery, so there’s lots of fun murals and installations to look at while you’re waiting for your meal.
El Finnestre – so-so Italian food, but lovely ambiance with a rooftop deck
Mango y Chile – smoothies & vegan burgers
Archaeological Zone of Kohunlich
Just one hour’s drive from Bacalar is a more remote Mayan ruins called Kohunlich. The site covers around 21 acres and is surrounded by lush jungle (bring your mosquito repellant!)
Admission: $75 pesos per person (approximately $3.25 USD)
These structures aren’t as tall as the ones you would see in Chichenitza or Uxmal, for example, but you can walk up to the top. When we visited on a weekday at 9:30 AM, we were literally the only people on the premises and had the entire place to ourselves. It was almost eerie!
Two days was the perfect amount of time in Bacalar, before moving on to our next destination: Campeche!
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