From the Serene Bacalar Lagoon to Ancient Mayan Ruins. Our Comprehensive Best Things to Do Guide Covers All the Best Local Activities and Hidden Gems. We Can't Recommend Bacalar, Mexico Enough!
Bacalar's claim to fame is undoubtedly the mesmerizing spectacle of the Seven Colors Lagoon - a spellbinding natural phenomenon that changes hues throughout the day from deep blue to turquoise to emerald green, offering a visual feast for every intrepid explorer. Yet this captivating lagoon is but the first chapter in the book of natural wonders that Bacalar has to offer.
We visited Bacalar, Mexico on a whim when looking to experience a new side of Mexico and haven't stopped thinking about it since. It's easy for us to go back to our favorite spots in Mexico each time we feel inspired to visit but visiting Bacalar was a friendly reminder that Mexico offers non-stop travel inspiration. We took along Indy when he was just seven months old and we also discovered that Bacalar, Mexico is one of the most family-friendly destinations in all of Mexico. Read about our adventure, here!
In this comprehensive guide, we'll navigate you through an incredible lineup of the best things to do in Bacalar for all those who have a profound love for nature. From trail-blazing hikes that will have you traversing through lush, unspoiled flora and fauna, to serene birdwatching experiences where you can witness a myriad of unique and exotic species in their natural habitat, Bacalar promises a gamut of activities that will captivate your senses.
So, pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and don your swimsuits – it's time to submerge yourself into the awe-inspiring beauty and diversity that Bacalar has to offer. This is your chance to reconnect with the natural world and experience first-hand the enthralling allure of Bacalar like never before!
The Best Things to Do on a Trip to Bacalar, Mexico Jump To:
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Enjoy a Swim in Laguna Bacalar
Whenever we first show up to a destination with a body of water, Bre immediately asks, "where and when can we go swimming?" Our hotel informed us that the best place to go swimming was right down the hill from where we were staying.
Balneario Ejidal Mágico Bacalar has a small entrance fee of 15 pesos per person but will give you direct access to the lagoon. It also has picnic tables (you are supposed to pay a little extra for these but they didn't always charge us), changing facilities, and a restaurant right on site. The food and facilities are nothing special, but the beers are cheap and it was worth it to take a dip in the water!
Cenote Azul & Cenote Cocalitos
You've likely heard of all the cenotes in the state of Quintana Roo and these are two of the best. We visited both of these cenotes in the same day since they are close in proximity. You can take a short taxi from Bacalar town, which will take 10 minutes, or you can take a long walk, like we did, and arrive in about an hour.
We started the day at Cenote Azul which carries an entrance fee of 25 pesos per person. They have plenty of access points into the dark blue water, a restaurant, and bathroom facilities. There is more shade available at Cenote Azul, so if you are someone who is looking to hide from the hot Mexican sunshine, then this is your spot! This is one of the deepest cenotes in Mexico and it looks like a large lake. You can swim in the deep waters and even jump off of a palm tree into the water!
We then walked about 15 minutes over to Cenote Cocalitos, which carries an entrance fee of 35 pesos per person. This cenote is more like a cove on the lake with some of the clearest blue water you can find right off the shore. There is less shade here, but they do have a restaurant that serves food and drinks. For all you sun lovers out there, this is a good place to work on that Mexico tan! This location has a beach club kind of atmosphere.
Sunset or Sunrise Boat Tour
Enjoying a sunrise or sunset boat tour is an absolute must while visiting Bacalar! Although tours are offered all over town, we booked our sunset boat tour through our hotel. The boat tour company, called Summertime Boat Tours, is owned/run by Casa Chukum. This worked out to our advantage because not a lot of the other travelers around town know about this tour unless they are staying at the hotel. Needless to say, the day we went sailing, we paid a group tour price but had the boat all to ourselves.
We set off in the late afternoon and had a perfectly clear and sunny day. The tour guide was open to take us to different spots (wherever we wanted), but we just kept telling him to take us somewhere where we can swim in perfect blue water with no one else around. We enjoyed fresh fruits, some beers, and just being able to genuinely enjoy the magic of this place.
For sunset, our boat driver took us over to Pirate's Bay where we watched one of our favorite Mexican sunsets ever.
When booking a boat tour in Bacalar we recommend asking some questions:
How many people are allowed on the tour/boat?
Is the itinerary flexible?
Is it a motorized boat or a sailboat (we much preferred the sailboat)?
What food/drinks are provided?
Exploring the Ancient Mayan Ruins of Chacchoben
If you're interested in history and archaeology, a visit to the ancient Mayan ruins of Chacchoben is a must. Anyone planning a trip to this Latin American region likely has some Mayan ruins on their bucket list. Mayan culture is absolutely captivating with their affinity to nature, Gods, astronomy, sweat baths and chocolate rituals, and ritual sacrifice. Visiting some Mayan ruins is the perfect way to understand the rich history of this region.
The Chacchoben Mayan Ruins are located about an hour from Bacalar, these ruins date back well before the pre-Columbian era. It's estimated they date back to 200 BC and offer a glimpse into the lives and culture of the Mayan people.
You can explore the pyramids, temples, and other structures that make up the Chacchoben archaeological site. After having toured several of the ancient ruins sites around this region we do recommend finding a local guide who is able to provide you with the history and significance of the Mayan ruins.
Birdwatching in the Bacalar Jungle
The Bacalar Jungle is a paradise for nature lovers. This lush and biodiverse ecosystem is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, including toucans, parrots, and monkeys. Even more interesting in terms of birding is that Bacalar, Mexico is actually home to quite a few endemic species of birds such as the Yucatan Jay, Yucatan Fly Catcher, and Rose Throated Tanager. January and February provide the best opportunity for birding in this area as some of the trees shed their leaves which makes nesting easier for birds.
You can explore the jungle on foot by taking a guided hike. Along the way, you can discover hidden waterfalls, natural pools, and other wonders of the jungle. You can also go birdwatching and see some of the most beautiful and exotic birds in the world.
Once again, do your research to find a good local guide who will be an expert on the best bird watching in the area. This also supports the local economy and usually provides for the best preservation of the species in the area.
This adventure comes with very mixed reviews. We spent the better part of a day debating if we should embark on the journey to float down the rapids. Ultimately, we decided not to go. If Indy were a little bit older, we might have decided to go. On top of our safety concern with a baby, we read there isn't much shade there and sometimes it can turn into a drunk party scene.
That being said, we have also heard some amazing recommendations about this place and it looks stunning in photos.
Do your own research and decide for yourself. If you've been, do you recommend it? As of June 2022, the most recent TripAdvisor reviews give very low ratings with comments like these:
"classic tourist trap"
"biggest disappointment ever"
"wouldn't go back or recommend"
All in all, we are happy that we skipped Los Rapidos.
Explore Bacalar Town, Try Some Street Food, and Check out the Ruins (Fuerte San Felipe de Bacalar)
Bacalar town is extremely walkable, has an island life vibe, and has lots of street art. When we were there in February 2022, the town square was under construction to include more vegetation and beautiful open space. There are tons of shops around town to stop into.
Right on the town square is an old Spanish fort Fuerte San Felipe de Bacalar. The fort, built in 1725, protected the Mayans from constant attacks from the English, Dutch pirates, and French. For a small entrance fee, you can learn a little bit more about the history of this place and support the preservation of this landmark.
Indulge in Bacalar's Unique Cuisine
Bacalar, Mexico is a hidden gem that offers travelers a chance to experience the unique cuisine of the Yucatan Peninsula. We were shocked at how endless the Bacalar food scene was and the diversity offered. Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan, meat eater, etc. you'll will find plenty of options and Bacalar will leave you inspired to re-create some of the unique flavors in your own kitchen.
Yucatecan cuisine is known for its bold flavors and unique ingredients, many of which are sourced from the local area. One must-try dish is cochinita pibil (vegetarians and vegans, there are options around Bacalar town to experience this dish), a slow-roasted pork marinated in achiote paste and sour orange juice, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground. Another popular dish is salbutes, a crispy tortilla topped with shredded meat, pickled onions, and avocado. And for dessert, try the Xtabentun liqueur, made from fermented honey and anise.
Visit the Local Market
The local's market, Mercado Municipal de Bacalar, and is on the corner of Av.9 and C.28. Here you will find fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and goods. If you are looking to see a more authentic side of Bacalar and how the locals go about their day-to-day lives, this is the perfect place to do that. There is a juice bar inside that sells some of the freshest and most delicious juices without the high prices!
We hope you've enjoyed our blog about the best things to do on a trip to Bacalar, Mexico. We recommend adding Bacalar to the top of your bucket list before it explodes with tourism. It's such a gem and the water alone makes it a dream destination!
in love and adventure,
Daniel, Bre, and Indy