Weekend In Bacalar: A Breathtaking Lagoon 20 Miles North Of Belize
Published July 26, 2018
Greetings amigos! If this is your first time visiting Caffeinated Excursions, welcome to my travel blog! Today I’ll be sharing one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets with you: Bacalar! This little village is located only half an hour’s drive north of Mexico’s border with Belize in the state of Quintana Roo, which is home to internationally-renowned vacation destinations such as Cancún, Cozumel, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen.
What makes Bacalar a unique destination among these shining stars is the fact that it’s situated on the shores of a lagoon. Not only is Bacalar Lagoon a perfect place for outdoor activities, but its beauty rivals some of the most gorgeous beaches throughout the Caribbean. What’s more, it really has a low profile even within Mexico: some of my coworkers in Mexico City hadn’t even heard of it before. Although there were clearly a lot of visitors there, Bacalar didn’t feel at all overrun by tourists, tacky resorts, and the like.
This was my second excursion based out of Mexico City, and it very well may end up on my list of all-time favorite destinations in the country. I only spent a weekend here, but I felt like two days was the perfect amount of time to soak up the sun and the chill vibes of this little town! Even though it was a good place for a solo traveler, I hope to bring friends real soon!
The Lagoon of Seven Colors
Bacalar Lagoon will undoubtedly be the highlight of your trip. Normally I spend my weekend trips running around towns trying to absorb as much of the culture and atmosphere as I can in a 48-hour period, but not in Bacalar. Here, the lagoon is what took up most of my waking hours in some form or another. It is known in Spanish as “la laguna de los siete colores” due to the strikingly distinct shades of blue that can be seen on the water’s surface.
For a Truly Outdoors Experience, Try Camping
No matter what you do, stay at a lodging on the waterfront. There aren’t really public beaches on the lagoon, so it’ll be hard to access the beach if you stay elsewhere. It also looked like most hotels on the water offered boat tours, kayaking, and paddleboard rentals. Your best bet is to stay on the Costera, a road that runs south of town along the shoreline adjacent to Highway 307.
I ended up at a unique place on Costera called Blue Bird (shown on map above), which offered cabanas as well as tents for camping (tent reservations available on Airbnb). It was a bit rustic, but still a lot of fun! As far as campgrounds go, this one felt pretty luxurious (the tents had electric outlets, lights, and fans; the bathroom was indoors; and the showers were clean).
Blue Bird has a dock right on the lagoon shore as well as complimentary kayak rentals among other amenities. The water was super warm, so be sure to spend some time on/in the lagoon in some form or another!
Los Cocalitos (A "Public" Beach)
This was the closest thing I found to a public beach despite the small entrance fee to get in (35 pesos per adult). The views inside are definitely worth it, though. There is also a little café inside where I had lunch on Sunday.
If you travel further south on the Costera than Cocalitos you’ll eventually end up at the Cenote Azul. Cenotes are similar to blue holes, and this one functions as a freshwater source to the adjacent lagoon. You can get a good view from the parking lot up on the hill, but if you want to swim in it you have to pay 50 pesos.
It’s interesting and there’s a bar and grill past the entrance gate, but if you’re short on time I’d say you can skip this one. Cocalitos, which is only a ten or fifteen minute-walk from the Cenote Azul, is definitely a better place to spend an afternoon.
The Center of Town
I honestly didn’t spend much time exploring the center of town. You may venture over here for breakfast or lunch, but a bunch of the hotels on the Costera have their own restaurants (more on food below) so you don’t have to if you don’t want to make the half-hour trek north. I had brunch at El Manatí, which I honestly liked more for its atmosphere than the fairly average molletes I ordered.
The other main attraction in town is a fort called the “Fuerte de San Felipe Bacalar.” It’s pretty typical as far as forts go, but there is one watchtower that has a pretty nice view of this portion of the lagoon. Entrance was 100 pesos for foreigners.
I would’ve tried another place in town or two, but many of the hotels near Blue Bird had good-quality restaurants (unfortunately, Blue Bird only seemed to serve drinks in the afternoon). My favorite was the Casa Tortuga, where I had a really satisfying burger and fries for a late lunch on Saturday.
I also liked the simple yet fresh breakfast I had at Casa Lahar, and the spicy shrimp I had at the Cocalitos was pretty good too. Feel free to have a drink as well – they’re cheap no matter where you go!
The map to Paradise
I was able to find a round-trip nonstop flight from Mexico City to Chetumal on Interjet that left on Friday night and returned on Sunday night. When you get to the airport in Chetumal, inquire about a shared taxi. It will only cost you 150 pesos and if you are the only one headed to Bacalar, you’ll still get a private taxi without having to pay more.
On the way back, Blue Bird called a taxi to return to the airport which cost 300 pesos. The ride between Chetumal International Airport and Bacalar should take about thirty or forty minutes. Within Bacalar, you can take taxis if you want or need to, but everything of interest is within walking distance, especially if you stay roughly halfway between the center of town and Cenote Azul.
In Bacalar, you’ll find a laid-back town, welcoming locals, and a lagoon that is honestly prettier than most oceanside beaches. Like in Puerto Escondido, I never ran into any safety concerns but remained alert. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below! If you want to stay up to date with future adventures including explorations of the “real” Mexico, follow Caffeinated Excursions on Facebook and Instagram! Gracias y hasta luego!
This post was published on Jul 26, 2018