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Bacalar Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated February 2023

Bacalar Visitors Guide
Bacalar Visitors Guide

Welcome to Bacalar

Bacalar is a tropical destination you have to see to believe. This quaint Mexican town is famous for its otherworldly freshwater lake known as Laguna Bacalar or “La Laguna de Los Siete Colores” (The Lagoon of 7 Colors). The mesmerizing gradient blues of the lake and inlets are known to leave visitors awe-inspired. Bacalar is also quickly becoming one of North America’s adventure hubs. Come explore the magic of breathtaking Bacalar.

Bacalar is a tropical destination you have to see to believe. This quaint Mexican town is famous for its otherworldly freshwater lake known as Laguna Bacalar or “La Laguna de Los Siete Colores” (The Lagoon of 7 Colors). The mesmerizing gradient blues of the lake and inlets are known to leave visitors awe-inspired. Bacalar is also quickly becoming one of North America’s adventure hubs. Come explore the magic of breathtaking Bacalar.

Bacalar Visitors Guide

A Bit Of History

Bacalar is a town steeped in history dating back to the Mayans in pre-Columbian times. In fact, the name Bacalar comes from the Mayan word: bʼak halal, meaning “surrounded by reeds.”

When the 16th century brought the arrival of the Spanish, Bacalar was the first city in the region that the Spanish Conquistadores succeeded in taking. Holding it until around 1543.  The town was later ransacked by pirates in the 17th century, leading to the Fortress de San Felipe Bacalar being completed in 1729. Visitors can still visit the fortress today.

Bacalar Visitors Guide

Bacalar Today

Today Bacalar is known as the place for adventurers to explore the magical Bacalar Lake. Once a hidden gem, Bacalar is quickly becoming a must visit destination on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Bacalar town is fairly small, and was first listed as one of Mexico’s beloved Pueblo Magicos in 2006. That distinction signifies Bacalar’s designation by the Mexican government as one of the country’s most enchanting towns based on its architectural, historical, and cultural importance.

Where is Bacalar?

Cozumel on a Map

Bacalar is located in the southern part of Quintana Roo state, in the southeast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It lies only about an hour north of the Belize border, and around 4 hours south of Cancun.  Bacalar is also a short drive from many of the most popular destinations on the Yucatan including Tulum, Merida, and Playa del Carmen.

The Best Time to Visit Bacalar?

Bacalar has a tropical climate, giving it warm temperatures and relatively low rainfall, although there is a rainy season. Average temperatures vary little throughout the year, hovering in the mid 80s with nighttime temperatures dipping to the low 70s.

Bacalar has a tropical climate, giving it warm temperatures and relatively low rainfall, although there is a rainy season. Average temperatures vary little throughout the year, hovering in the mid 80s with nighttime temperatures dipping to the low 70s.

January – February – Best Time to Visit

You’ll find more travelers in Bacalar during this peak time of year since the weather is absolutely perfect. The average highs are in the low 70s, but you will also likely find higher room rates and larger crowds. This is the time of year that you have the lowest chance of seeing any rainfall during your stay.

March – June

The spring weather is sunny and breezy, and by April the crowds of Bacalar begin to dissipate. April temperatures remain in the low 80s with a very low chance of rainfall, but it can be quite windy. It’s important to keep in mind that June is one of the hottest months in Bacalar, but visiting during the late spring, temperatures begin to steadily climb before reaching their peak in summer.

July – August

During the summer months the high temperatures in Bacalar are hot and range from high-80s and low-90s. Summer months see the most precipitation with an average of 6 to 7 days of rain per month. July through August is a slower season due to the heat, so lodging and other accommodations may cost slightly less.

September – November

Fall brings daily high temperatures between 82°F – 89°F, which feels great given the humidity and wind. Fall is the rainiest season in Bacalar, and in the month of October it’s not uncommon to have around 21 days of precipitation. If you are looking for minimal crowds, tourism is the slowest during these months due to the weather, so flights and accommodations are more affordably priced.

January – February – Best Time to Visit

You’ll find more travelers in Bacalar during this peak time of year since the weather is absolutely perfect. The average highs are in the low 70s, but you will also likely find higher room rates and larger crowds. This is the time of year that you have the lowest chance of seeing any rainfall during your stay.

March – June

The spring weather is sunny and breezy, and by April the crowds of Bacalar begin to dissipate. April temperatures remain in the low 80s with a very low chance of rainfall, but it can be quite windy. It’s important to keep in mind that June is one of the hottest months in Bacalar, but visiting during the late spring, temperatures begin to steadily climb before reaching their peak in summer.

July – August

During the summer months the high temperatures in Bacalar are hot and range from high-80s and low-90s. Summer months see the most precipitation with an average of 6 to 7 days of rain per month. July through August is a slower season due to the heat, so lodging and other accommodations may cost slightly less.

September – November

Fall brings daily high temperatures between 82°F – 89°F, which feels great given the humidity and wind. Fall is the rainiest season in Bacalar, and in the month of October it’s not uncommon to have around 21 days of precipitation. If you are looking for minimal crowds, tourism is the slowest during these months due to the weather, so flights and accommodations are more affordably priced.

  When Is Bacalar Hurricane Season?

Bacalar’s hurricane season begins in late May and lasts until early November, with the peak occurring between September and October. The odds of a hurricane hitting Bacalar are fairly low, but hurricanes traveling near Bacalar can cause inclement and severe weather. Be sure to check weather reports ahead of time and we always suggest getting travel insurance during these months just in case.

Hurricane Season

How To Get to Bacalar

Getting to Bacalar is simple and this charming lagoon town will be well worth the journey.

Mexico Airport

Arrival By Air

The closest Bacalar airport is Chetumal International Airport (code: CTM), located less than 45 minutes away. This is a small airport, and you’ll likely need to make a connecting flight through either the Cancun, Mexico City, or Guadalajara Airports.

Most travelers find it easier to fly directly into Cancun International Airport, as it has many more daily flights. Although Bacalar is around a 4 hour drive from Cancun, you won’t need to make any connecting flights.

  Search for great deals on flights here.

Bacalar Visitors Guide

Airport Shuttles to Bacalar

Private transfers are by far the easiest and most recommended way to get from Cancun to Bacalar. While there are cheaper ways to get to Bacalar, they often take triple the amount of time.

For up to 3 passengers, the total cost will be around $135 USD round trip. For those with 4 to 6 passengers, the trip will cost about $160 USD round trip total. And for 7 to 9  passengers, it is around $185 USD round trip total. For couples and groups, a private shuttle from Cancun to Bacalar is the way to go.

You’ll need to book your private transfer in advance, and they are typically vans that give you the added convenience of set prices, bilingual drivers, comfortable seating, and discounts for round trips.

  You can easily book ground transportation from the airport to your hotel here.

Island Life Mexico

Rental Cars in Bacalar

It’s easy to rent a car for your time in Bacalar. You’ll find most of the major rental car companies at Cancun International Airport, though some of the rental companies are located along the highway. The added bonus of the freedom to stop at cenotes along the way is another plus. If you choose to drive, stick to the main highways/roads and avoid driving at night.

The typical price for a car rental is about $20-$40 USD per day depending on how long you rent the car and the size. You’ll need a valid driver’s license and to be at least 21 years old to rent a car in Mexico, and anyone between the ages of 21-24 will need to pay an additional daily fee.

  Search for great deals on rental cars here.

Puerto Morelos Visitors Guide

ADO Bus

Buses can be a great and affordable way to get around Riviera Maya, including to Bacalar. This is far and away the cheapest and slowest way to get there. It’s a good idea to buy the best class ticket you possibly can to get the most direct and best service.

From Cancun bus stations, you can go anywhere you please in Mexico. You can check the ADO website for prices and schedules. From Cancun to Bacalar, the ADO bus will take about 5 hours and 20 minutes and cost around $25 USD.

Things To Do in Bacalar

Bacalar Top Highlights

Bacalar is a charming, small town with an amazingly beautiful lagoon and a number of things to do!

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1. Take A Boat Tour of Bacalar Lagoon

Perhaps the single best way to explore Bacalar is by taking a boat tour of the lagoon. There are so many options when it comes to boat tours, but if you ask any of the locals you’ll find a hidden gem in the lagoon.

“Canal de los Piratas” also known as Pirates Channel was once upon a time thought to be a major trading channel within the Mayan Empire. Thanks to its location between the main lake and the Laguna Mariscal to the east, it’s a local favorite. It’s now a place where you can wade through the turquoise waters with a refreshing beer in hand.

  There are so many options when it comes to Bacalar Lagoon Tours that you really can’t go wrong.

  This is considered one of the Best Sailing Tours of Bacalar Lagoon.

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2. Relax in the Pools of Cenotes Cocalitos

At Cenotes Cocalitos you’ll be sharing the magical waters with one of the oldest organisms on the planet, Stromatolites. No need to worry, these won’t hurt you, they are giant and you can spot them emerging from the surface of the water in certain spots. It’s important not to touch them or swim in them but take all the pictures you want!

Other activities to enjoy at Cenote Cocalitos include swimming, boating and hanging out at the beach club. How does relaxing in a hammock and taking in the beautiful views sound?

The cenote is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily, and admission is about $3 USD.

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3. Visit El Encanto

One of Bacalar’s best hidden gems, El Encanto is one of the nicest private beaches in the area. You may have seen photos at El Encanto as it is the location of the famous two-person swing on the lake. It makes for a fantastic photo opportunity and has become famous with Instagrammers.

El Encanto is also one of the cheapest places on the lake to rent kayaks at just $7-$8 USD per hour. Enjoy dishes like fried fish at one of the tasty little eateries or sunbathe on the idyllic wooden pier.

  ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

When planning an international vacation, Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Since your health insurance likely doesn’t cover you while outside of the country, travel insurance makes sure if you accidentally break a bone or get food poisoning, your medical needs are covered. Travel insurance also typically covers you for trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage (it happens), Covid issues, flight delays, missed connections and more. We think it’s a no brainer and should be factored into any international trip budget. You can easily compare the top-rated travel insurance plans here.

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4. Explore Fort San Felipe

You’ll find Fort San Felipe behind the colorful main square of Bacalar. The fort was built in the 17th century to protect Bacalar from endless pirate raids. It was completed in 1733 and enabled the Spanish to defend the area successfully.

While the fort isn’t large, it’s very picturesque due to the turquoise water shimmering in the distance. There is a small museum within the fort where you can learn more about the pirate history of Bacalar. The fort is closed on Monday and the entrance fee is around $5 USD.

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5. Enjoy the Cenote Azul

Only 4 km from Bacalar, the Cenote Azul is a beautiful large open air cenote. Open air cenotes tend to look more like a lake than a cave and this particular cenote is stunning. Swim in the turquoise waters or grab a bite at the on-site restaurant.

They ask that you don’t wear sunscreen in this cenote (not even reef safe) so it’s best to swim here early in the day before the sun reaches its peak. The cost of visiting is about $1 USD.

 For more cenote info and great local cenote recommendations, be sure to check out our Ultimate Cenote Guide.

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6. Have a Blast at Los Rapidos

Los Rapidos is essentially a natural lazy river and is in a stunning location near Bacalar. In fact, this riverside club is perched on part of the river that feeds into Bacalar Lagoon. Lounge in a hammock, sit back and relax in a lounge chair, or grab a table and a bite.

The most fun and famous thing to do at Los Rapidos is to let the river take you downstream. You can either rent a kayak or life jacket, and there are ropes to catch you should the water become too fast.

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7. Try Stand Up Paddleboarding or Kayaking

Bacalar is a fantastic place to try Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUPing) or kayaking. You can rent either a Stand Up Paddleboard or kayak at the Lake of 7 Colors.

A popular way to explore the lake is by taking a Sunrise Stand Up Paddleboarding Tour with breakfast included. You can also take this Sunrise Paddle Tour through the Lake of 7 Colors.

  Or take in a Bacalar sunrise on this Transparent Kayak Tour.

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8. Check Out the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins

The Yucatan is full of Mayan Ruins, and you can visit some while visiting Bacalar. Kohunlich is the closest site to Bacalar and is just a one hour drive away. Visitors will discover the amazing Temple of Masks, an awesome pyramid that is flanked by human like mask carvings.

While they aren’t the most dramatic Mayan Ruins on the Yucatan, if you are looking for something fun to do and have a few days in Bacalar, Kohunlich is worth a visit. The cost to visit the Kohunlich ruins is $8 USD for adults, and children get free entrance.

  Don’t want to explore on your own? Take a Guided Historical Tour At The Mayan Cities.

What To Pack For Your Trip!

The Mexican Caribbean is an enchanting wonderland of relaxation and adventure, one can easily have the trip of a lifetime here. Packing for such a vacation shouldn’t be hard, so we’ve put together a list to help you pack and included some of our favorites as well. Check out our What To Pack For Your Mexico Vacation Guide.

What To Pack For Your Mexican Vacation

Check out our Packing List For Beach Vacation!

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