Visit Bacalar: Top 18 Things To Do and Must-See Attractions


Things to do in Bacalar: The 18 Best Places to Visit

Bacalar is a hidden gem in the south of the Yucatan Peninsula, near the border with Belize.

Unlike many other places in Quintana Roo, it has not been overrun by mass tourism. Bacalar is a paradise for nature lovers, where you can admire the Lake of the Seven Colors, swim in its cenotes and the Pirates Channel, and watch the breathtaking sunset.

In this guide, I will share with you the 18 best things to do in Bacalar, as well as how to get there from Chetumal or the Riviera Maya, where to stay for any budget, and all my tips to make your trip unforgettable.

Ready to discover Bacalar? Let’s go!

Visit Bacalar: all Must-See Attractions

1. Lagoon of the 7 colors

The Bacalar Lagoon, also known as the Lagoon of the Seven Colors, gets its name from its seven shades of blue due to the different depths of the water.

It is the largest lake in Bacalar, with 28 miles of length, and it has some islands and 4 cenotes.

It is the main tourist attraction of Bacalar where you can do many activities: kayaking, sailing, catamaran, swimming, snorkeling and stand up paddle.

In Bacalar there is no beach, but the “balnearios” offer access to the lagoon with docks and various facilities.

To make your trip even more memorable, book this boat ride on the Seven Colors Lagoon. It will take you to explore the lagoon and swim in its clear waters:

laguna bacalar
laguna bacalar

2. The Pirates’ Canal

The Canal de los Piratas (Pirates’ Channel) is a historic site in Bacalar, where many battles with pirates and corsairs took place during colonial times.

Some of them were famous figures like Henry Morgan and Francis Drake. Nowadays, the Pirates’ Channel is a must-see place in Bacalar and a popular attraction for travelers.

You can marvel at the different shades of blue and green of the water, swim and enjoy a natural exfoliation with its sulfur-rich sands.

How to get to the Pirate Channel:

  • By kayak or paddle board, rented from a lagoon hotel (no need to be a hotel guest)
  • Swimming if you are fit
  • By boat (2h30 or 3h) or by sailboat (longer), this is the most common way to get there!

It is public and free of charge.

canal de los piratas Bacalar
Bacalar pirate channel

3. Fort of San Felipe

The fort of Bacalar is a historic landmark that was built to defend the city from the frequent pirate attacks.

Today, you can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the lagoon and its cenotes from the top of the fort. You can also visit its museum, which is a must in Bacalar.

It displays the history of the city, with artifacts from the Mayan and colonial times, such as ammunition, weapons, maps, and more.

  • 3rd Avenue, between 20th and 24th Streets
  • Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m
  • Admission 120 pesos
fuerte san felipe bacalar
El Fuerte de Bacalar. Photo Mexico es cultura

4. The cenotes of Bacalar

Swimming in a cenote is a must-do activity in Bacalar, where the water is so clear and refreshing. Cenotes are natural wells of water (they can be open, underground, or hidden in caves) that are found by the thousands all over the Yucatan Peninsula.

These are the cenotes of Bacalar:

  • Cenote Azul: this cenote is surrounded by trees and is the only one without direct access to the lagoon.

Entrance 25 pesos, from 10 am to 6 pm, Carr. Federal 307, Chetumal-Cancun Km 34, Bacalar. Don’t confuse it with the Cenote Azul in Playa del Carmen!

cenote bacalar
cenote bacalar
  • Cenote Cocalitos (temporarily closed) is also known as the Sanctuary of the Stromatolites – these are ancient living fossils that are 3.5 billion years old.

They arevery delicate: please do not touch them or harm them in any way. At Cenote Cocalitos, you can have fun with the hammocks and swings in the water, or go kayaking and snorkeling.

The entrance fee is 50 pesos, and it is open from 9am to 6pm. It is close to Cenote Azul, so you can easily visit both places.

bacalar cocalitos
bacalar cocalitos
  • Cenote Esmeralda: it is different from the other cenotes because it is located in the middle of the Bacalar lagoon. It is unique and has a beautiful blue contrast where the water flows into the lagoon.
  • Cenote Negro, also known as Cenote la Bruja, is the closest cenote to the center of Bacalar. It is famous for its deep underwater abyss of 328 ft. It is now only accessible by a boat tour on the lagoon.
bacalar cenote negro
bacalar cenote negro

5. Enjoying the beach clubs

The “balnearios” are small beach clubs that offer access to the lagoon.

They are not very fancy, but they have some facilities like docks, bathrooms, and restaurants. You can find them along the lagoon, and they are a good option if you want to enjoy the water and the views.

Here are the best balnearios in Bacalar:

  • Balneario Municipal is one of the closest beach clubs to downtown Bacalar. You can walk there in just 10 minutes, and the best part is that it’s free! That’s why it’s very popular with locals and families.
  • Balneario Municipal El Aserradero: located right next door, it has a long wooden dock to make it easy to swim in the lagoon. There is a picnic area with tables, very convenient if you want to bring food and drink (non-alcoholic). Free admission, parking 10 pesos.
  • Balneario de los Azucareros: a large resort mainly visited by workers of the union that owns it and by locals. Here you can see stromatolites as in Cocalitos! The entrance fee is 15 pesos. It is located north of the Mirador, just after the police station on the way to the lagoon.
  • Balneario de Lasarch (or the Saarch): next to the Balneario de los Azucareros is this well-kept and very quiet beach, which belongs to a workers’ union. The space is large, with several shaded areas and a long pier. It is also possible to bring your own hammock and hang it in the palm trees. Admission 20 pesos, kayaks $100 per hour or $150 per day, 8am to 7pm
  • Balneario Ejidal Mágico: this is the best known in Bacalar as it is ideal for families with a restaurant, dock and pontoons, all under the supervision of a lifeguard. Entrance fee 60 pesos
  • Balneario Ecológico: surrounded by mangroves that give it a slightly wild feel, it is more intimate and smaller than most public beaches. It is one of Bacalar’s most popular beaches, but there is nothing on site. Entrance is 3 pesos, parking is 10 pesos.
  • Balneario Sac Ha: it is a little less crowded than the other beach clubs, has fewer facilities, but is perfect if you want some privacy.
balneario bacalar
balneario bacalar

6. Kayak Your Way Through Bacalar’s Lagoon

Kayaking is one of the best ways to explore Bacalar!

You can enjoy the scenery with more stability than on a stand up paddle, and visit the cenotes, the Pirates’ Channel, the Bird Island, and more. You can join a tour or rent a kayak on your own (click here!).

It’s a fun and adventurous activity that you will love.

bacalar kayak
bacalar kayak

7. Watch the sunset over the lagoon

With the amazing orange tones of the sky reflecting over the lagoon, watching the sunset is a must-do activity in Bacalar.

Of course, you can do it on your own with no problem but there are also several tours (for stand up paddle beginners like me! 😬) that take you to the Pirates Channel: the best place to admire the sunset in Bacalar.

The guide I had, Miguel, was really nice and told us many stories about the lagoon.

I loved my experience. You can book the tour here:

atardecer bacalar
sunset bacalar

8. Island of the Birds

This is the best place for bird watching in Bacalar!

At least 15 species of birds settle here during the nesting season or as a stopover on their migratory route.

As the island is protected, it is only possible to observe them from a boat (on a day or half-day tour of the lagoon).

isla de los pajaros bacalar
isla de los pajaros bacalar

9. Take a Sailing trip

Sailing is one of the best things to do in Bacalar!

It is an eco-friendly way to explore the lagoon, its wildlife and plants, while relaxing and enjoying the scenery. You can also jump into the turquoise water whenever you feel like it. The weather and wind are ideal for sailing all year round.

velero bacalar
bacalar sailboat

10. The Maya site of Chacchoben

Chacchoben was the largest and most important city in the “Lake Region”. It was a center of civic and religious activities.

If you love history and architecture, you will enjoy visiting this ancient Mayan site. You can see the impressive pyramids, temples, and stelae that date back to the Classic Period.

  • Entrance fee 75 pesos.
  • 40 minutes from Bacalar on Highway 307.

My advice
If you are a fan of archaeological sites, have a car and some extra time, you can also visit Kohunlich, Dzibanche and (soon!) Ichkabal.

These are ancient Mayan cities with impressive pyramids, temples and palaces. You can learn more about their history and culture, and enjoy the scenery of the jungle.


11. Admire the sunrise from a cenote

If you are an early riser like me, I highly recommend watching the Bacalar sunrise.

It is a magical moment because there is hardly anyone around and you feel very lucky.

The stand up paddle tour I chose took me to the Canal de los Piratas and then to Cenote Negro, before finishing with breakfast on the way back.

I loved my experience. If you want you can book the tour here:

amanecer en Bacalar
sunrise in Bacalar

12. The Ecotourism Park of Uchben Kah

This 290-hectare park is an ideal place for adventurers: between the jungle and the lagoon, you can go hiking, biking, diving and, of course, swimming.

The wildlife and plants are very well preserved, as no motorized vehicles are allowed.

I recommend you take the guided kayak tour following a small river that takes you to the lagoon.

You can also kayak at night with a headlamp to observe the crocodiles, in complete safety of course.

  • Located in Pedro Antonio de los Santos (25min from Bacalar town): Carr. Chetumal – Felipe Carrillo Puerto km 77
uchben kah bacalar
uchben kah bacalar

13. Catamaran Ride

A catamaran tour is one of the most comfortable and eco-friendly ways to discover Laguna Bacalar.

It’s not like the catamaran tours in Cancun or Isla Mujeres, which are more for partying (and there’s nothing wrong with that 🥳).

But the catamaran tour in Bacalar is different: it’s a small group, with fruits, water and a bottle of wine. It’s perfect if you want to enjoy the sun and the tranquility, snorkeling and discovering Cenote Negro, Bird Island and Pirates’ Channel.

Book the catamaran tour here:

My advice
Usually a catamaran tour has two departures, at 11am and 3pm.

If you can, I suggest you book the 3pm tour. It’s much better than the 11am one.

Why? Because the sun is very high and strong at 11am, and it reflects on the lake. There is no shade at all on the catamaran, so you will feel very hot and uncomfortable.

But at 3pm, the sun is lower and cooler, and you can enjoy the beautiful sunset over the lagoon. Trust me, it’s worth it.😆

bacalar catamaran

14. Rent a bike

The bike is the best way to get around Bacalar and visit the different cenotes, the Bacalar rapids or Fort San Felipe, for example.

There is a small bike path between Highway 307 and the downtown streets. The Avenida Costera, which runs along the lagoon, is also nice for biking.

In general, the streets are in good condition and traffic is not heavy.

Don’t forget to bring enough water, as it can get very hot.😅

  • Bicycle rentals in Bacalar cost around 150 pesos per day.

15. Ride down the Bacalar Rapids

This is a must do activity in Bacalar!

It is a tourist complex with a restaurant located in a narrow channel between Bacalar Lagoon and Xul-Ha.

These beautiful crystal clear waters surrounded by vegetation and stromatolites are the perfect place to swim or rent a kayak following the current.

Visit the Bacalar Rapids:

  • Entrance 150 pesos adults, 100 pesos children
  • Lockers 50 pesos
  • Kayak 1 person 300 pesos per hour approximately.
  • Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m
  • Located 8 miles south of Bacalar. By car it is about 15-20 minutes on the Chetumal-Cancun Highway 307. You can also go by colectivo to Chetumal, but then you will have to walk a little longer than a mile.
Rápidos de Bacalar
Rápidos de Bacalar

16. Xul-Ha

Xul-Ha is a lovely village about 15 minutes south of Bacalar.

It has a peaceful lagoon that is perfect for relaxing away from the crowds. You can have fun at one of its 20 “balnearios”, rent a kayak, take a boat ride with the locals, swim, bike, and more.

For a truly relaxing experience, I recommend going to the Balneario Azul, which is one of the quietest spots (but you’ll need a car to get there).

If you want to stay longer, you can also find some cozy accommodations there. For example, the Pepos Xul-Ha offers cute little cabins facing Xul-Ha, with kayak and paddle rentals included. Book the hotel here:

laguna Xul Ha
laguna Xul Ha

17. Kan K’in

If you’re looking for some ziplining fun, this is the perfect place for you, just 15 minutes away from downtown Bacalar. It’s a park with 5 ziplines in the heart of nature, where you can also kayak on the lagoon and bike through the trails.

The best part? Flying over the jungle with the lagoon in the background for almost a mile. This is a must-do activity in Bacalar, especially if you love adrenaline 😎

  • You can choose between two tours: 4 hours (zipline and kayak) for 950 pesos adults or 750 pesos children, or 3 hours (zipline only) for 750 pesos adults or 650 pesos children
  • The park is open daily from 9am to 3pm
  • You can find it on the Federal Highway Bacalar – Carrillo Puerto km 32.5
kan kin bacalar
One of Kan K’in’s zip lines in front of the lagoon. Photo: Faceobok website

18. Stroll in downtown Bacalar

Bacalar’s town center is also worth a visit, besides its many attractions. You can stroll around the park, shop for souvenirs, and try some local dishes. I was impressed by some of the beautiful colorful murals there. They are very artistic and expressive. They add a lot of charm and character to the town!

My advice
 I also recommend stopping by Mascota Caribeña.

It’s a store that supports the association Huellitas en Casa, which helps with sterilization campaigns and other causes that Bacalar really needs. If you have a dog or cat at home, you can buy a cute souvenir or make a donation there. ❤️

arte bacalar mexico
arte bacalar mexico
street art bacalar
street art bacalar

Where to stay in Bacalar- the best hotels

I share with you my recommendations for accommodation in Bacalar for all budgets, from backpackers to luxury hotels:

  • The Yak Lake House – Adults Only: the best hostel in Bacalar located in front of the lagoon. Festive atmosphere, very clean, various activities offered, bar with good cocktails, from only 14 usd in dormitory!
  • Agam Hotel: well located hotel, close to the lagoon and very good value for money. Spacious and well equipped rooms, nice swimming pool with bar, garden with sun beds. from only 62 usd per night!
  • Royal Palm Bacalar Cabañas & Lagoon Club: for more comfort, I recommend this nice hotel in Bacalar with a private dock within walking distance. Free rental of kayaks and stand up paddle to explore the lagoon. Swimming pool, spacious air-conditioned room with balcony and hammocks,from only 155 usd per night!

  • Villa Marilu B&B: if you are on a budget, I recommend this hotel for a romantic stay in Bacalar. It is a very quiet hotel, with kayaks and a bar with excellent cocktails. Very good breakfast included, room with king size bed and lagoon view, from 180 usd per night!
  • Casa Bakal: if you are looking for a luxury hotel in Bacalar, I suggest this charming little hotel with a large private area in front of the lagoon, swimming pool, a good restaurant, lounge chairs, free kayaking and paddle boarding, morning yoga classes and massages. Breakfast on the terrace facing the lake included, from 215 usd per night.

Where to eat in Bacalar

One thing you’ll notice when you visit Bacalar is that distances can be a challenge if you don’t have a car.

I had a list of restaurants in Bacalar that I wanted to try (like El Manatí, which was highly recommended to me) but I didn’t go to any of them because they were too far away. I love walking, but not under the Caribbean sun in the middle of the day, no thanks. 🥵

That gave me the chance to discover other places:

  • Maracuyá National Park: food trucks, a cafe, a bar and vegan ice cream, with free access to the lagoon. You can enjoy the dock without having to buy anything, and they also offer 30 minutes of free kayaking.

This place (which is definitely not a national park) is a great option if you’re visiting Bacalar with your family or friends.

In the morning, you can also do yoga with Jessica (whatsapp: +52 984 311 8269) on the dock in front of the lagoon. It’s a wonderful way to recharge your energy and start your day.

parque nacional maracuya bacalar
parque nacional maracuya bacalar
bacalar foodtrucks parque maracuya
bacalar foodtrucks parque maracuya
helados veganos bacalar
bacalar vegan ice cream
  • Chacá: a new and colorful terrace with a good brunch in Bacalar.

You can find all the classics: huevos rancheros (pesos), chilaquiles, hotcakes, avocado toasts, French toast, etc.

My advice
They also sell Chicza, a 100% natural and biodegradable Mexican chewing gum.

I bought several because it’s not easy to find (I had only seen them in the Choco-Museo in front of Uxmal, Mérida, before). It’s a great way to support the local producers and the environment! You can choose from different flavors, like mint, cinnamon, or lime.

chaca restaurante bacalar
chaca restaurant bacalar
  • Nao Bacalar: in the evening, I tried this nice Japanese restaurant in Bacalar.

A nice terrace with a few tables and an intimate atmosphere, very good tataki tuna, and cocktails.

I was impressed by their selection of artisanal mezcals with a section of “ancestral mezcals” produced with traditional methods of grinding and distilling agave.

It’s not very common to find this kind of product in Bacalar, so I congratulate whoever came up with this idea.

nao restaurante japonés bacalar
nao japanese restaurant bacalar

This is a cozy hotel and restaurant with a lovely garden facing the Bacalar lagoon.

They have a day pass for 300 pesos (150 pesos for kids), which lets you use their facilities and gives you the same amount of credit to spend at their restaurant (drinks and food).

It’s a great deal for a day out! You can enjoy the lagoon, the pool, the hammocks, and the delicious food. It’s one of the best places to relax and have fun in Bacalar.

The day pass is a great option if you’re not staying in a hotel by the lagoon. In fact, it’s a smart way to save money, since hotels with direct access to the lagoon tend to be pricier than others.

I compared other places that offer the day pass (between 200 and 800 pesos) and Los Aluxes seemed to be the best with excellent service!

  • They also offer paddle board rentals and private tours of Bacalar lagoon (2200 pesos)
restaurante bacalar aluxes
bacalar aluxes restaurant
los aluxes bacalar
los aluxes bacalar

My opinion about Bacalar

Bacalar is one of the most beautiful places in Quintana Roo, and also much less crowded than Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres and Tulum. It’s a treat!

It’s the perfect place if you want to spend 2 or 3 days relaxing in the sun and the clear water with some peace and quiet.

Of course, being less crowded, it also has fewer accommodation options. But the only real downside, in my opinion, is that Bacalar is far from the other destinations and attractions of the Yucatan Peninsula.

This means that it takes a bit more time to get to Bacalar from other places, especially if you don’t have a car.

For your trip in Mexico, you can visit Bacalar after driving along the Riviera Maya from Cancun, as a final stop of your journey or as a break before continuing to the state of Campeche.

How to get to Bacalar

Bacalar is located in the south of the Riviera Maya, near the border with Belize: 215 miles from Cancun, 175 miles from Playa del Carmen and 135 miles from Tulum.

Here is how to get to Bacalar by car, bus and plane:

How to go to Bacalar by car

  • From Cancun (4 hours), Playa del Carmen (3 hours and 20 minutes) or Tulum (2 hours and 30 minutes), drive south on Highway 307. You will see clear signs along the way, and the roads are in good shape.
  • From Chetumal (40 minutes), take Route 186 and then Highway 307 north.
  • From Mahahual (1 hour and 17 minutes), take Carretera El Cafetal-Mahahual and then Carretera 307.

Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore Bacalar and make the most of your stay!

To rent a car, personnally, I always use Cars, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Booking Cars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

My advice
You should know that you will need to rent a car in Cancun or Chetumal (where the nearest airport is), but there are no car rental agencies in Bacalar.

How to get to Bacalar by bus

If you are traveling to Mexico by bus, I recommend ADO because it is the most comfortable and safest company.

  • From Cancun to Bacalar by bus, it is a 5h15 hour trip from 512 pesos
  • From Playa del Carmen to Bacalar by bus, it is a 4 hour trip for about 396 pesos
  • From Tulum to Bacalar by bus, it is a 2 hour and 50 minute trip for 292 pesos
  • From Chetumal bus station to Bacalar, it is a 45 minute wait for 65 pesos. Or directly from Chetumal airport to Bacalar 130 pesos.
  • From Mahahual to Bacalar: daily departures with Caribe 6h, 12h, 16h and 18h or with ADO at 15h30 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
  • Ticket 90 pesos.
autobus ADO Bacalar
autobus ADO Bacalar

How to get to Bacalar by plane

The closest airport to Bacalar is Chetumal (24 miles). There are direct flights from Mexico City, Merida, Cancun, Guadalajara and Belize City.

To find a cheap flight to Chetumal or Cancun, and other domestic flights in Mexico, I recommend you to use our flight comparator, in partnership with Skyscanner. It’s the best way to get the lowest price!

aeropuerto chetumal
airport chetumal

How to get from Chetumal airport to Bacalar

  • The fastest and easiest way is to take a cab from the airport. It will take you about 30 minutes to reach Bacalar.
  • If you want to save some money, you can walk for 7 minutes to a local cab stand outside the airport. The rates are lower than the airport cabs.
  • The most economical option (130 pesos, 50 minutes trip) is to catch an ADO bus from the airport to Bacalar. There is only one departure at 12 pm (noon) on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • You can also find cheaper bus tickets at the ADO bus station on Insurgentes, near Avenida 4 de marzo (from 45 pesos). However, this station is 2 miles away from the airport.

If you want to save time and hassle, book a van transfer from the airport to Bacalar (or vice versa):

Take a day-trip to Bacalar from Cancun

Another option if you are short on time, or just want to relax and enjoy the trip, is to take a tour to Bacalar from Cancun.

It’s a very complete tour with transportation from Cancun and lunch on a boat. It includes the boat tour of the lagoon, visit to the cenotes, the fort of San Felipe and free time for swimming.

Book the Bacalar tour here:

How do I get from Bacalar to Belize or Guatemala?

The Marlin Espadas bus company offers the following routes:

  • Bacalar- Corozal (Belize) in 2h20 – departure 7 am, arrival 9.20 am
  • Bacalar- Belize City (Belize) in 5h – departure 7 am, arrival 12pm (noon)
  • Bacalar-Belmopan (Belize) in 6h30 – departure 7 am, arrival 1.30pm
  • Bacalar-Flores (Guatemala) in 10h30 – departure 7 am, arrival 5pm

Buy your bus tickets here:

How long to visit Bacalar?

I suggest spending 2 or 3 days in Bacalar to enjoy it fully.

The town is small and easy to explore in a short time.

The main attraction is the beautiful lagoon and the many activities you can do there.

Of course, it also depends on your personal interests and how much time you have for your trip in Mexico.

My advice
You should also note that activities on the lake (with or without motor) are prohibited on Wednesdays!

Since 2020, this measure has been in place to give the lagoon a break. ❤️

What is the best time to visit Bacalar?

Bacalar has a warm and pleasant climate all year round (between 82°F and 93°F)

If you want to avoid crowds of tourists, don’t go at Christmas or Easter. February is also busy, as it is carnival time.

The hottest months are from June to August, and the rainy season is from May to September.

The best time to visit Bacalar is from October to April, when it is not too hot and not too rainy.

Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Mexico: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Mexico are listed there.

You’re using Pinterest? Here is the picture to pin!

visit Bacalar Mexico
visit Bacalar Mexico

I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

Leave A Reply