10 Things to Know Before Visiting Lake Bacalar, Mexico

Bacalar | © Lara Danielle/Flickr
Bacalar | © Lara Danielle/Flickr
This stunning town in Quintana Roo sits next to a beautiful blue lagoon that offers the ideal space for swimming, diving and snorkeling. The historic fortress of San Felipe offers impressive views of the lagoon and will transport you back to an age when pirates were a constant threat to the region. The dense jungle that surrounds Bacalar is also home to some fascinating Mayan archaeological zones. Here are 10 things to know before you visit the town.

The lake has seven tones

The lake of Bacalar is one of the most stunning spots in the Riviera Maya – and there are seven reasons why. The lengthy, narrow lake is comprised of no less than seven different shades of blue. With its white limestone bottom, the water is famously clear, and is an excellent place for diving, snorkeling and swimming.

Bacalar, Quintana Roo © rey perezoso/Flickr

Bacalar is a “Magic Town”

Bacalar was named a Pueblo Mágico or Magic Town by Mexico’s Department of Tourism in 2006. The designation marks the town’s importance as an important landmark that lies outside Mexico’s network of obvious tourist must-sees. There are currently 111 Magic Towns in the country and the certification attracts infrastructure upgrades designed to draw more tourists to the Mexican interior.

You can kayak on the lake

Many lakefront shops offer a kayak rental service. Some of the larger hotels in the area also offer them for guests. Kayaking is an excellent way to get up close to the lake, and explore its strikingly clear waters.

Kayaking on Bacalar © Juliane Schultz/Flickr

Boat tours are another option

Boat tours across the lake are also very popular. Bacalar Lagunakristal Tours offer excellent boat trips with highly knowledgeable guides who provide information on the ecological system of the lake as well as offering you the chance to swim, sample local fruits and try mud facials. You can contact the guide Kristal through her email at lagunakristal@gmail.com.

Cavern diving is amazing

Fifteen minutes by car from Bacalar city center, the Cenote Azul offers a once-in-a-lifetime cavern diving experience. At 90 meters or 295 feet, the cenote is one of the deepest in the Yucatán and boasts stunning illuminated caverns. The site is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and is a must-visit for divers.

Cenote Azul © biajoe/Flickr

Bacalar was sacked by pirates

The town of Bacalar was raided throughout the 17th century, as pirates would enter the lagoon via a canal that is now known as Pirates Canal. Diego de Los Reyes, a famous pirate who was a native of the coastal state of Campeche, devastated the town in 1642. It was not until the completion of San Felipe’s Fort in 1733 that the Spanish crown was able to successfully defend Bacalar.

San Felipe’s fort offers amazing views of the town

Nestling the shores of the lagoon, the Fort of San Felipe offers some of the most spectacular views of the lake. Today it contains a small museum of piracy, including the display of a pirate skeleton that was excavated from the area. The fort and museum are open every day of the week except Monday.

Fort of San Felipe © Adam Jones/Flickr

The area is filled with Mayan ruins

Archaeological site
Carved stone masks in Kohunlich
Carved stone masks in Kohunlich | © WikiCommons
Bacalar is just a short distance from a wide roster of impressive Mayan ruins. The ancient sites of Kohunlich, Becan, Chicanna, Dzibanche and Chacchoben are all less than two hours away by car. Kohunlich is a particularly large and impressive site and is well worth a day trip from Bacalar.
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Do try the food

Unsurprisingly, seafood is the name of the game in Bacalar. Kai Pez offers a range of truly memorable dishes in a pleasant, laid-back setting. The restaurant and shop El Mananti is another popular and affordable eatery, offering options for vegetarians and vegans. As a general rule, tip waiters a minimum of 10 percent.

Don’t drink the tap water

Enjoy as much local food as possible, but steer clear of the tap water which could make you very sick indeed. As well as drinking bottled water, it’s best to check that salads are not washed under the tap and ice cubes are made from purified water.

Bottled water © Marcelo Jorge Vieira/Flickr