Bacalar and Lagoon of Seven Colors – must visit paradise in Mexico

On the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo, right on the border with Belize, there is one of the most breathtaking natural wonders of Mexico – Lake Bacalar (Spanish: Laguna de Bacalar). According to some sources, the Maya peoples described this place as the place where heaven was created. This freshwater lake shimmering with a range of colors is best known as the Lagoon of the Seven Colors (Spanish: La Laguna de los Siete Colores). The colors of the lake’s water vary from emerald, through turquoise, to light blue. The variation in the color of the water is influenced by the differences in the depth of the lagoon. The town of Bacalar is located on the shores of the lagoon. 

Lake Bacalar is the second largest freshwater body of water in Mexico, giving first place to Lake Chapala in Ajijic, Jalisco state. 

Bacalar is relatively far from most Yucatan attractions, but it’s definitely worth your time as it still offers an authentic Mexican experience that will likely be gone in the near future. Combining several historic gems with a wonderfully unspoiled natural environment, this is the perfect destination for those looking for more of a local Mexican experience.

I enjoyed it a lot! 

How to get to Bacalar in Yucatan, Mexico?

By plane

There is no airport in Bacalar, you must first reach Chetumal Airport which is approx. 45 minutes by car from your destination. There are several options for getting to Chetumal:

  • from Cancun – there are daily flights from Chetumal, but the flight is in the early morning
  • from Mexico City there are many domestic flights 
  • from Belize – a possible, but quite troublesome option, because there will be double immigration and customs clearance. Getting to Bacalar can take approx. 3 hours; 
By car 

If you are staying in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum, there is an option to rent a car. Bacalar is approximately 5 hours (345 km) from Cancun, 3.5 hours (279 km) from Playa del Carmen, and 2.5 hours (215 km) from Tulum. I highly recommend this option, and before you ask – yes, it is safe to drive rental car in the Yucatan.

By bus

Traveling by bus in Quintana Roo state is relatively easy. The buses are air-conditioned and have comfortable seats. You can take, for example, the ADO bus to get to Bacalar. 

Click here to see the ADO bus timetable and book tickets online. There are often special offers online and booking is cheaper than at the bus station.

Private transport to Bacalar

You can also consider getting to Bacalar by private bus. Private transportation from the airport or hotel can be booked online. You don’t have to worry about driving in Mexico if you choose this option. Click here to check private transport rates.

If I were you, I would combine visiting Bacalar with other places and the general sightseeing of the Yucatan. You can also buy a day trip to Bacalar from Cancun, Tulum, or Playa del Carmen. 

When is the best time to visit Bacalar?

In Bacalar, the average air temperature during the day is around 30 degrees Celsius throughout the year, while at night it is around 20 degrees Celsius. Thanks to the tropical climate, you can come here almost any time of the year, but the best time is between November and May. Holidays in these months offer the best chance of clear skies and little rainfall. Also, remember about Mexico’s hurricane season from June to November, with the highest hurricane risk between August and October.

Where to stay in Bacalar –  different options to choose from

It doesn’t matter if Mexico is your romantic trip for two or you travel alone with a backpack, because in Bacalar everyone will find something for themselves. You can feel the vibe of Bacalar in one day, but if you have the time it would definitely be great to stay for a night or two just to enjoy what this stunning place has to offer.

Below are some accommodation offers in various price ranges:

Luxury hotel in Bacalar | Mia Bacalar Luxury Resort & Spa 

Mid-range Bacalar hotel | Hotel Rancho Encantado 

Affordable Bacalar hotel | Hotel Hacienda 

Where to dine in Bacalar – the yummiest restaurants

La Pina: Reasonably priced large portions in a lovely courtyard setting under trees. The restaurant offers wholesome dishes prepared with fresh ingredients, and a large selection of smoothies, pizzas, and huaraches. La Pina is open daily for breakfast and lunch, and the menu changes for supper. 

Enamora Bacalar: This cafe and bakery is a great choice for breakfast, lunch, or a good coffee break. Thanks to the staff and attention to detail, it feels like everything is done here with love. The wordplay in Enamora Bacalar is that mora means blackberry in Spanish and enamora means to fall in love – and you will likely fall in love with their signature cinnamon rolls. 

Picaflor Cafe: beautiful boho-style cafe. It has a cozy garden in the back. The cafe offers great coffee and even better brownies. The breakfasts are also very good.

Chacá: I highly recommend it for breakfast. They make great avocado toasts and serve coffee so nicely that you feel bad for drinking such a masterpiece.

Mango Y Chile: very popular plant-based cuisine near the lagoon.

Marquesitas San Joaquin: local food truck serving the best marquesitas in town. This pancake-like dessert is popular in the neighboring Yucatan state and is a snack I recommend while in Mexico. Nutella and cheese is a combination that is a must here, if only for the experience.

La Playita: A delightful restaurant and bar located right by the lagoon, offering a Fusion-style menu. The food and cocktails were amazing. Fish and shrimp tacos and watermelon margarita – well, little drops of heaven. In addition, chillout music, atmosphere, and access to the marina make La Playita a great place to relax throughout the day.

The biggest attractions of Laguna de Bacalar

Boat or catamaran tour

A must for any stay by the lake and a great way to relax and enjoy the wonderful surroundings. The water is clear and the bottom is white thanks to the limestone rocks. A typical boat tour includes a visit to canals used by pirates centuries ago and a tour of mangrove forests. There is also the possibility of swimming, snorkeling, and bird watching. The boat or catamaran tour takes place with the captain (it is not possible to rent a boat or catamaran on your own). In my opinion, this is the best attraction when staying at Bacalar and it would be a shame not to experience these stunning lagoons. 

When it comes to renting, Bacalar itself is full of offices that organize such tours. The same online – if you tape “rent a catamaran in Bacalar” in Google, a long list of places where you can book such a tour will appear. Looking for some option for myself, I did in-depth research and my conclusion is that companies offering tours are practically the same, and the prices are similar, so just take what is available and that’s it. However, it is worth booking a few days in advance, especially in the high season, to make sure that the tour will be available on a given day.


Another great way to get to know Bacalar! Paddle boarding is simply amazing here. You can get on a board to the Cenote Negro, which is located in one of the deepest parts of Lake Bacalar. A trip that can be purchased: Stand Up Paddle Board Trip at sunrise


Canoes are as popular as paddle boarding and are a more comfortable and faster way of exploring the lagoons. You can also go deeper and farther towards the mangrove forests by canoe because boats and catamarans cannot enter there. In my opinion, the only downside is that the sun literally burns you alive.

The most beautiful must-see places of Laguna de Bacalar 

El Canal de los Piratas Bacalar

It is one of the most beautiful places. It is made up of a narrow and shallow canal of water that crosses the land and shimmers with incredible colors. There are old platforms here from which you can jump straight into the lake. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon and is usually included in most lagoon boat tours. There are remains of an unfinished restaurant on the central island. The old cement walls are now covered with paintings, adding an outstanding color to the natural surroundings. 

Los Rapidos

There are rapids at the southern end of Lake Los Rapidos. These are places in the river flow where the water current accelerates. There is also Bacalar balneario, but it is quite far from the others. There is a possibility to go to a restaurant and bar as well as a kayak rental. This is a starting point for most of people who decide to explore the area on a canoe.


There are several cenotes around Bacalar, three of which are in the lagoon itself:

  • Cenote Negro, or Cenote la Bruja (Cenote of the Witch) located in the lake. You can see it during a boat tour. The water here is about 76 meters deep and the color is dark blue, almost black, hence its name. 
  • Cenote Cocalitos – you can swim in it
  • Cenote Esmerelda – located between Cenote Cocalitos and Cenote la Bruja.

In the Bacalar area, there is also the Cenote Azul – not connected with the lake. Over time, erosion created a cave and then modified it. The cenote is over 90 meters deep and is a popular diving destination.

Mayan ruins 

There are several well-preserved archaeological sites of the Mayan culture near Bacalar. The Maya peoples inhabited the area of Lake Bacalar from the 5th century. The Spaniards came here in the middle of the 16th century.

The most interesting are the ruins of the Mayan city – Kohunlich, about an hour from Bacalar. It’s worth taking the time to visit them, immerse yourself in the lush jungle, and hear the monkeys howling. The ruins, discovered less than a hundred years ago by Raymond Merwin, date back to 200 BC. Most of the buildings, however, were built between the 3rd and 7th centuries. Among the most interesting buildings is the Temple of the Masks – the pyramid, the oldest excavated building of Kohunlich. Five of the original eight masks, each eight feet tall, remain to this day. There is also a platform here. In the past, it was believed that some of the most impressive houses stood here. There are many engineering solutions there that you may find fascinating, especially the way rainwater was drained into the reservoir.

Other interesting Mayan archaeological zones are located in Chacchoben, Dzibanche, Oxtanka, Kinichna, and Santa Rita. 

Fortress of San Felipe

In 1733, the Spaniards built a stone fortress in Bacalar to protect the city from pirates. The fortress was surrounded by a deep fosse. The building was almost impregnable at that time. Today, the main building houses museum of piracy and the Bacalar region, which includes, among others, muskets, navigational instruments, sabers, and models of boats that sailed these waters in the 17th century.  A pirate skeleton found during the excavation of the fort is also a part of the exhibition.

San Joaquín Parish Church 

The Iglesia parroquial de San Joaquin near Plaza Principal in Bacalar is a Catholic temple built in the 18th century. It is one of the many beautiful monuments of the city of Bacalar, because it is also worth seeing the Casa de la Cultura or the Palacio Municipal.

San Joaquin Market 

The annual Bacalar fair takes place in the first two weeks of August. There is music, there are various races as well as open-air concerts.

Island of the Birds and birdwatching

Various species of birds migrating north or south stop at this small cluster of rocks in the middle of Lake Bacalar. You can see here multi-colored parrots and green jays here. Birdwatching tours can be booked and purchased at local travel agencies.


About 15 minutes north of Bacalar there is an amusement park that offers ziplining in the middle of the jungle. There are 5 short zip lines, one of which even cuts across the turquoise waters of the lagoon.


Bicycles are almost always the perfect way to explore the area. Bike rentals are available throughout the city. Some accommodations include bicycle or canoes rentals included in the room rate.


Stromatolites are the earliest fossil evidence of life on Earth. At the bottom of the Bacalar Lagoon, there are many such fossils that can be admired during a boat tour, canoeing or paddleboarding.

Balnearios Bacalar – the equivalents of beach clubs

There are no sandy beaches at Lake Bacalar, but there are clubs that are equivalent to beach clubs. Locally they are known as balnearios and no trip to Bacalar is complete without visiting at least a few of them.

The best balnearios in Bacalar: 

Cocalitos Bacalar: Perhaps the most rustic, but nonetheless, there’s something cute about the place. You will see one of the two cenotes in Laguna Bacalar, Cenote Cocalitos, as well as several stromatolites.

Los Aluxes Bacalar: It is not an actual balnearios, but the Los Aluxes Hotel has all the awesome water attractions that Bacalar is famous for, including hammocks and water swings, and a stunning dock overlooking the lagoon. If you are not a guest of the hotel, make sure to arrive after 10 am to be able to use the attractions.

Bacalar Beach Club: Probably the nicest and best beach club in Bacalar lagoon! At Bacalar Beach Club the food is amazing, there are comfy loungers and tables, a pool, jacuzzi, bar, nice bathrooms; basically everything you could want in a balneario.

Balneario Municipal El Aserradero: It is a public pier with some nice jetties over the lake where you can lie down. Apart from wooden jetties and palm trees that give shade on sunny days there is not much more to do – but admission is free!

Trip to Mahahual and Xcalak

It is worth visiting the real Mexican beach on the lagoon, which is located in the towns of Mahahual and Xcalak on the Costa Maya. 

It’s just over an hour’s drive from Bacalar to the seaside town of Mahahual, which is great news because it’s a Caribbean paradise.

Once a fishing village, it is now becoming one of the fastest-growing seaside resorts. However, it is still a much less crowded than Playa del Carmen or Cancun. The water is azure and the sand on the beach is incredibly white. There are many luxury hotels in Mahahual, and Airbnb offers easy access to apartments with terraces overlooking the Caribbean Sea. This place also offers a great gastronomic base, so you will not run out of delicious food and cocktails options.

It is also a fantastic starting point for diving and snorkeling on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

Things to keep in mind before visiting Bacalar Lagoon

1. Take enough cash with you in pesos. Infrastructure in Bacalar is not very developed, with a limited number of ATMs. In small towns in Mexico, you never know when the ATMs will stop working so it is safer to have enough cash just in case.

2. Keep in mind that the lagoon is a protected environment and is seriously threatened with destruction by too rapidly growing tourism. If you come here, make every effort to protect the beauty of this place. Do not litter, do not pour alcohol into the water, and do not use toxic sunscreen before swimming in the lake.

3. The water is not safe to drink here. Drink bottled water, use it to brush your teeth, and be careful not to swallow it when taking a shower.

4. You will definitely need mosquito repellants. Pack a lot of mosquito repellent, preferably one with a high DEET content, such as Mugga! In Mexico, you can get Zika and Dengue, so you have to really take care of prevention.

5. When it comes to the equipment, I recommend taking GoPro and a drone, because the lagoon really looks the most stunning from a bird’s eye view.

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Welcome on my blog about traveling, active lifestyle and chasing all the crazy dreams. I have been on 6 continents and in more than 100 countries so far, but I still have so much to explore :)

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Author picture

Welcome on my blog about traveling, active lifestyle and chasing all the crazy dreams. I have been on 6 continents and in more than 100 countries so far, but I still have so much to explore :)

< read more >