A hidden gem in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula is the lovely town of Bacalar, located around the Bacalar Lagoon that consists of uniquely pale azure blue water. The main attraction in Bacalar is the lagoon. However, the city also has a unique history best represented by the Fortress de San Felipe Bacalar.
Bacalar, meaning “surrounded by reeds” in Mayan, was a city of the Maya in Pre-Columbian times. It was the first city in the region that was successfully taken by Spanish Conquistadores in 1543. The town was also sacked by pirates in the 17th century, which is also when the Fortress de San Felipe Bacalar was completed; today the fortress still stands and can be toured.
The town and lagoon of Bacalar can be reached via highway 307, which has been expanded to accommodate a total of four lanes of traffic, two flowing each way. This area of Mexico is under the tourist radar, but it is a popular destination for those traveling south from Playa del Carmen or Tulum. From Playa del Carmen, Bacalar is about a three hour and fifteen-minute drive north; from Tulum, it is about two and half hours away. Most people reach the area by catching the ADO bus in Mexico or taking a rental car. When driving down from Playa del Carmen, much of the drive takes place near the famous Sian Ka’an Biosphere Nature Reserve. When you arrive in the area, you can walk around on foot, bicycle, or local taxis, most of which are affordably priced.
Things to See and Do
Top attractions involve water sports that take advantage of the gem-like waters of Lake Bacalar. A mesmerizing rainbow of blue colors defines the lagoon waters. Thus, it is an ideal destination for photography as well as swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and snorkeling. The lake is decently shallow on the shores, but there are many sinkholes or cenotes lining the shores. Much of the sand in the lake smells of minerals or sulfur. A patch of sand in the middle of the lake can be traversed to experience the skin nourishing benefits of the sand.
The small town contains restaurants and bars, as well as the ruins of the Fortress de San Felipe Bacalar. Other attractions nearby include expeditions to the nearby Mayan ruins of Chaccoben, Dzibanché, and Kohunlich.
Where to Stay in Bacalar
The Western coast of Bacalar contains numerous hotels and bed and breakfast accommodations for visitors. Recommended lodges in the area include Pehaltun, Casita Carolina, and Casa Caracol. Budget travelers and campers also have access to the nearby site of Yaxche Centro.