Known as the ‘Maldives of Mexico’, this article will tell you some of the must-do activities in Bacalar. The town of Bacalar is small and pretty and lies next to a huge expanse of water called ‘The Lake of 7 Colours’. The lake is beautiful and the different hues of blue you see, give the lake its name.
We loved this quiet town and did loads of activities on the lake. Although the views are excellent from the shoreline, we really felt that being on the lake and in the water showcased the wonderful variety of colours best. Although more tourists are heading to the town, it is a lot more chilled in comparison to Tulum which we’d just arrived from. We loved the small-town feel and the beautiful, freshwater lake and the many activities on offer.
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How to get to Bacalar
Most buses going to Chetumal, will stop off in Bacalar, so it is very easy to get to from any of the major towns in the Yucatan Peninsula. We got the bus from Tulum and it took 3 hours and was extremely straight forward.
When the bus stopped in Bacalar and the driver shouted out the town’s name, a lot of tourists looked out of the bus looking quite confused. It looked like the bus had just stopped at the edge of a motorway and was chucking people out. Checking on Google Maps I could see that we were in fact in Bacalar, just on the outskirts.
There were lots of taxis waiting to ferry people into town, although some people were braving crossing the busy motorway to make the short walk into the centre. We opted for a taxi (50 pesos) to take us to our hostel and it was well worth the money.
So, if you are taking the bus to Bacalar, don’t worry if they seem to stop at the side of a motorway, this is the main ADO bus station for Bacalar!
Looking at Bacalar on a map you will instantly see how far down the Yucatan Peninsula the town lies. It is extremely close to the Belize border, so if you are planning on visiting straight from arriving in Cancun, prepare for a drive!
Bacalar is 40 minutes from Chetumal, 2 and a half hours drive from Tulum, 3 hours and 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen and 3 and a half hours from Valladolid. Cancun is a 4 hour and 10-minute drive from Bacalar.
The nearest airport to Bacalar is Chetumal International Airport. Once you land, Bacalar is only a 40-minute drive away.
Catch de Marisqueria de Barrio
We headed down to the lake for a view and saw this bar with great views over the lake. The bar has wooden swings that seat two people and allow you to sit and enjoy the view. In comparison to many bars in Mexico, the beers were relatively expensive beers at $40 pesos. There is a pier to take pictures of the lake.
We didn’t have food because the prices looked quite expensive but what people ordered looked good. The only issue was that the music was quite loud at 4 pm in the afternoon and detracted slightly from the beautiful views.
Absolutely stunning. You walk through large plants and trees, which give the restaurant a jungle feel before reaching the waterfront. Festoon lighting and colourful furniture complete the aesthetic and there is even a pier for you to take pictures. Beers were $30 pesos – so instantly better value than the place next door.
We ordered food. Got free tortilla chips and dips. Green habanero, tamarind, papaya habanero & chipotle mayo sauces are on the table in squeezy bottles so you can smother your tortilla chips as you choose. We loved the chipotle mayo.
We decided to eat here after looking at the amazing menu. For main courses, we chose the shrimp burger and prawn stew. The shrimp burger was full of sweet, juicy prawns accompanied with lots of cheese and chipotle mayo and crispy french fries on the side. Indulgent and fabulous.
The prawn stew was piping hot and full of prawns & sweet potato. It was hearty and full of flavour.
We loved the very chic feel of this place. A lot of the exclusive beachfront properties in Tulum had the same aesthetic but they were expensive to eat in and hard to get to. Playita is accessible to even travellers on a budget.
The fish tacos were as little as $110 for 3. We saw them bought out and they were enormous portions. They looked so good we went back again to try them & they were as good as we’d hoped they’d be. The fish was generous and was seasoned with….we couldn’t even tell, but it was delicious.
We also ordered the prawn tempura taco and the prawns were enormous. So fresh the prawns tasted sweet, it was hard to choose which taco was better. After saying it a lot, we finally found the best fish tacos we ate in Mexico. The tacos were filled to the brim and were incredibly satisfying.
So if you enjoy beautiful surroundings and great food, then make a visit to Playita one of your must-do activities in Bacalar.
Rasta Fish Tacos
We tried to go the Rasta Fish Taco place but it was shut. It is a little hut on the street leading to La Pina restaurant and we heard great reviews so check it out and let us know your thoughts!
After reading good things about La Pina and having found Rasta Fish Tacos closed, we headed to the restaurant. It had a lovely outdoor area with wooden tables and wooden seats. We were given the menu and as we were making our decisions we saw some huge salads being delivered to the table nearby and some incredible fruit smoothies.
The menu was varied and had something to suit everyone. We chose Diabla fish and a pizza. The fish dish when it arrived was two huge fillets, beans and salad ($150 pesos) and came with tacos. The sauce was so spicy and went perfectly with the fresh fish fillet. The pizza was full of toppings and really large. We were full all day after that meal.
Taqueria El Trompo De K’los
We were planning on going to another Tacqueria next door but it was closed. As we walked down the road we saw lots of locals eating, which we took as a good sign. The tacos were all between 15 -20 pesos. There were 5 main fillings and you could choose between a corn or flour tortilla and came with or without cheese. We went for the corn tortilla option with cheese and ordered 4 each. We had no idea what we ordered but we went for every option bar the vegetarian one and they were so good. Chicken, pork, a spicy pork option and a beef – lots of yummy chilli sauces. It was fantastic value.
Checking out our neighbour’s plate we also saw the locals eating the mole chicken enchilada and we wanted to try it too. It was also excellent. It had quite a bit of cinnamon in the mole and lots of cheese on top. It certainly wasn’t how we were expecting it to taste and we were glad we tried it.
Most of the must-do activities in Bacalar revolve around the lake to do and although it looks pretty from the shore, we advise you to get on the lake to appreciate all the beautiful colours. Be it by boat, kayak or Stand-Up Paddleboard. You won’t regret it. There is a reason it’s called the Maldives of Mexico.
The lake is a very fragile environment so mindful of this we ensured that we wore our reef-safe biodegradable sunscreen.
Boat trip on the lake
We did this the day before we rented kayaks and it was great. It gave us an idea of how big the lake was and where all the major sights were. We did the tour through our hostel who charged $250 pesos for a 3-hour tour that took you to 7 different spots. Most boat tours in town will offer the same thing, although we only got to swim at one point, whereas some other tours did offer more time out of the boat at the different sights.
We were taken in a car to a hotel on the edge of Cenote Esmeralda. The boat was lovely and we got a seat where we could lie down and take in the view and wow, were the views spectacular. We then got a chance to swim and do a mud pack at the pirate’s channel. You’re told to walk over to an area until the ground feels like you’re sinking into it, then you’ve found the mud. The mud stinks but it was a great free beauty treatment and our skin felt so soft afterwards. You must try it!
We saw a lot of families doing boat trips on the lake because it allows you to be as active as you want. Therefore, if you’re travelling with various ages in your group, is one of the must-do activities in Bacalar, to allow everyone to enjoy the lake together.
Kayaking on the lake
Kayaks were $600 pesos for a double kayak for the day. Lots of places will try and rent them to you for $250 pesos an hour! However, if you walk down to Playita, just beside it on the left-hand side of the entrance is a little entrance to an area that hasn’t been developed yet. If you look inside the entrance to this plot of land you’ll see the lake and you will see a couple of kayaks of varying sizes. They have great prices, so go here. Ask to see the price list for the kayaks and they have differing prices for the singles, which are generally more expensive than the doubles.
Kayaking is so much fun, the views are stunning and we thought it was the best way to appreciate the ever-changing blues on the lake. It’s also pretty amazing exercise! We did 4 and a half hours and we were shattered by the end. Went to the Cenote Negro, Isla de los Paraiso, the Pirates Channel and then back. It rained a bit whilst we were kayaking but this was actually really lovely and cooled us down perfectly. The colours were still mind-blowing in the drizzle.
We had done the boat trip the day before on Friday and the Pirate’s Canal had been busy but not too packed. On a Saturday when we went there were a lot of people, lots of boats and loud music blaring. Depending on whether you want peace and quiet or a party, you can choose your day to go! On a list of must-do activities in Bacalar, this came very high!
Also worth noting is that some hostels include free kayaks in their daily room rates. The Yak House, which is near Playita and right on the lake, has free kayaks included in their daily rate.
Sunrise or Sunset SUP
We were very tempted to do a Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) tour which takes you on the lake to watch the sunrise. At only 450 pesos per person, we thought that this 3-hour tour was great value. We spoke to lots of people who said how much they loved it and you’ll find various tour companies in town offering this excursion. We opted for the kayaking instead but I definitely would have done the SUP if our budget had allowed it.
Also worth noting is that some hostels include sunrise SUP tours in their daily room rates, so if this is an activity you definitely want to do, you may want to find a hostel that offers this free of charge.
The beach club was included in the price of our stay at our accommodation. People not staying at the hostel have to pay $95 per person for the day. There was a free shuttle to the beach club each day, leaving at 10 am and returning at 3 pm. The ride there is fun as you’re all piled into the back of an open-air truck for the 7 km ride to the beach club. It was pretty cloudy when we went, so a jumper is advisable for that bit of the trip as the wind made it quite chilly.
The beach club is right on the lake. Hammocks, sun loungers and swings in the water are all available. Stunning lake views. Food is available too. We tried the hot dogs which were great and very cheap. Do not try the nachos!! They were cold and soggy and genuinely the worst nachos we’ve ever had anywhere. Everything else was excellent. Lying in a hammock looking at the lake and appreciating the Maldives of Mexico, was a fantastic start to our trip in Bacalar.
One of the many Cenotes in or around Bacalar, Cenote Azul is a stunning aquamarine Cenote. About a 45 minute walk out of town along the shores of the Lake of Seven Colours, you can swim in the cenote and the water is very warm. There is a rope to aid people swimming and life jackets are also offered if required. There is also a restaurant nearby if you don’t fancy a dip but just want to take in the view.
The Fort and the Bacalar sign
Just off the main square is a huge fort that was built by the Spanish to keep the English out! When the English came to Belize and they found out about the Pirate’s Channel lead straight to Bacalar they advanced towards the town. The fort was built to protect the town and still stands on the shores of the lake today. Nearby is the ‘Bacalar’ sign, so you can see two sights at once!
Yaxache Hostal y Camping
After 5 nights in a large dorm in Tulum, we were ready for a private room. A lot of hostels on the lake have expensive dorm rooms & had very varied reviews.
Then we found Yaxache Hostal & Camping. They had a nice private room in our budget but upon reading some reviews we also found out that they have a private beach club on the lake, which if you stay is included in the price. A free shuttle leaves at 10 am and returns at 3.00 pm.
The hostel is in town and is lovely. There are a large bar and a kitchen area for socialising with lots of plants and trees giving it a jungle feel. Breakfast is included in the rate and is served here in the morning. The bar is reasonable and the WiFi was great after Tulum.
Our room was perfect. Great shower (when the water is working), an open wardrobe with hangers to hang up our things and a comfy double bed. The room is a good size so there’s enough room to move around. Towels and toiletries were also provided.
- Great location in town. 3 blocks from the lake but close to lots of shops and restaurants.
- Pretty hostel with a lovely outside area and chill out area. Hammocks hang from the trees.
- WiFi available. Sometimes temperamental!
- Bar for socialising – reasonable drinks prices. 2 large bottles of beer for $80. Different events are (supposedly) put on e.g. beer pong Thursdays, Karoke Saturdays, Movie night Sundays, etc although we never saw any actually take place.
- Good sized kitchen – clean. Clearly marked what food has been left and can be taken and what can’t.
- Good sized private room with a comfy double bed.
- Open wardrobe with shoe hanger and hangers for clothes. So useful!
- Great shower. Toiletries and towels included.
- Good breakfast included – toast, biscuits & yoghurt. Juice, coffee and tea available.
- Beach club included in the price of your stay. People not staying have to pay $95 per person. Free shuttle to the beach club each day. The beach club is right on the lake and has stunning lake views.
- Bikes can be hired from the hostel.
- Boat tours of the lake are available for $250 pesos per person. Tour is fantastic and a must do whilst visiting Bacalar.
- Great value for a private room including breakfast and the beach club. USD $34.50 a night but the beach club alone would be USD $10 for 2 each day anyway.
- Helped us arrange a transfer to Belize City that could collect us directly from the hostel. Trying to leave Bacalar on a Sunday we found out the only direct bus with ADO leaves at 4.45am. The Bacalar ADO bus station is literally on the side of the road and when we were dropped off everyone questioned whether we’d arrived. Not too keen on an early start walking in the dark to a road side bus station we were willing to pay the 570 pesos versus 405 to set off at 7.20am.
- Very relaxed vibe.
- No alcohol bought outside the hostel can be consumed inside the hostel. But this is because there is a very cheap bar…..
- Hilariously there is a small sign right next to the bar offering 2 Pina Coladas for $90 pesos. When we asked they said nothing but beer was available…😂
- So also ignore the massive blackboard advertising margaritas, etc 😂 There is literally nothing but large bottles of (very cheap but good) beer!
- One day as we went to have showers there was no water in the shower or from the taps, but by the next day it was working again.
- Kitchen is not very well equipped. Small fridge for everyone’s food.
- Not the friendliest of hostels. This may not always be the case, but whilst we were there barely anyone mingled, just staying it their groups. This could also be seen as a bonus if you just want some chill time.
- WIFI stopped working entirely on our last night. Turned out they just decided to turn it off. Pretty frustrating when trying to work out what you need to cross the border, exchange rates for a new country, etc
We loved the range of must-do activities in Bacalar because they centred around that gorgeous lake whose colours change every time you look at it. We really liked this small Mexican town after previously being in Tulum. We stayed for 4 nights and enjoyed 3 days of activities on the lake which for us was the perfect length of time. The food was delicious and affordable and we were so happy that we chose to visit the Maldives of Mexico. Bacalar was our last stop in Mexico before crossing the border into Belize and concluded an amazing journey around the Yucatan Peninsula.
Have you been to Bacalar? What were your favourite must-do activities in Bacalar and the best way to view the lake and all the wonderful colours? Let us know…