Bacalar is a really unique spot in southern Mexico, just an hour from the border to Belize. It’s a standard stop off point for all backpackers traversing Belize and Mexico and unbelievably beautiful. Known as the Lagoon of Seven Colours, it’s crystal clear, shallow freshwater invites everybody to jump in or relax on the swings dangling above the surface. At sunrise, it becomes a whole new place was by far my favourite time on the lake.
KEY INFORMATION ABOUT BACALAR
- You can reach Bacalar by bus easily from Cancun, Playa and Tulum – there are a number of buses per day. There are also very frequent buses from Chetumal if you’re coming from the south.
- We took a Mayab bus from Valladolid. There was only one departure per day, and it’s the only direct bus to Bacalar. It was much cheaper and easier than going via Tulum, which is what we were advised.
- The bus was at 2:25pm and we arrived in Bacalar before 8pm. It was just over 200 pesos.
- It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk from the bus terminal to the shore, where most hostels/hotels are located.
- DO YOU NEED TO STAY DIRECTLY ON THE LAKE?
- In a word, no. We were advised to book a hostel directly on the lake, mainly for the benefit of direct access via a private dock. We tried to book the Yak Hostel but it was sold out.
- However, we actually found it’s not necessary. There are public docks/parks, which I’ll explain later on, and these are perfectly fine. Then you can save a lot on accommodation.
- We stayed in Hacienda Bambu in a dorm and paid about £10 per night.
- The hostel was slightly strange but it warmed on us. There is a nice common area (though not a good kitchen) and good bathrooms. There’s also a huge balcony over looking the lake which was great for drying washing!
Enjoying the lake by day
There are plenty of things to do in Bacalar. You can explore the lake by boat, kayak or paddle board, you can take a bike and visit the nearby cenotes or even climb up the fort in the centre of the town. What did we do? Absolutely nothing. We spent our two full days in Bacalar lounging by the lake, swimming in the gorgeous water and indulging at the local restaurants and stalls.
As our hostel wasn’t right on the lake (though it was only a 30 second walk), we didn’t have a private dock or anything. We were surprised to find that it’s actually quite difficult to access the lake without your own area, as most are private. However, there are public areas, you just have to know where to find them. Some cost a small entrance fee, like the family-friendly amusement-style one towards the north, and some are completely free. We spent our days at the Municipal beach which is at the end of Calle 14. Spoiler alert – it’s not really a beach, but there’s a big dock perfect for sunbathing and taking a dip.
Sunrise over Bacalar
My favourite thing about Bacalar was the sunrise. It’s the perfect place to start the day, watching the sky illuminate all different colours, and taking a refreshing dip before everyone else has even woken up. We actually found that just after sunrise is the best time to be out and swimming. Some early birds wake up for the sunrise, watch it and then quickly head back. We stayed for an hour or two enjoying the peace and quiet, and the still, empty water.
There isn’t much more to say about Bacalar. It’s a stunning place not to be missed on the route from Mexico to Belize and has definitely been a highlight of my trip. We actually ended up staying longer than we thought due to a number of factors:
- We had intended to leave on a bus that ended up not existing
- Then we tried to book another bus that did exist but it was full
- Finally we decided to alter our destination slightly and booked on a bus that existed, had space and was going to the correct city, ensuring we had enough time to see one last sunrise
Bacalar is a place you can do in one day, or you could stay for weeks. It’s so relaxing, there’s things to do (if you can tear yourself away from the water’s edge) and it’s got a great atmosphere with lovely places to eat, drink and chillout.
It was a great end to a fantastic 2 weeks in Mexico.
Next stop: Belize!!