Bacalar was one of our favourite places in Mexico, so a guide is appropriate, right?
There’s just something in the air in Bacalar. It’s a small town and everything revolves around the beautiful blue lagoon. It’s not very crowded (yet!) and the tourism is mostly young backpackers and Mexicans from all over the country.
We stayed for four days, but could easily have stayed for weeks. We had some tranquil days, that would always start by the tiny public dock at Avenida 1/Calle 36 (named Muelle Ecológico), where we bathed in the clear water (often by ourselves). Then we would go for coffee and croissants, to the playground and then head home for lunch and Julian’s nap. Afternoons were spend on the main square, where there would often be some small stalls selling crafts and plenty of kids playing.
Bacalar is nice, easy and has everything within walking distance.
Guide to Bacalar
where to Stay
There is one thing to bear in mind when visiting Bacalar: You cannot access the lagoon from everywhere. Many hotels/houses/beach clubs own the piece of land that leads to the lagoon, so you need to pay to get access or use the public dock.
I would recommend to stay somewhere between the city center and the public (free) dock on Avenida 1/Calle 36. That way you can easily walk down to the dock for a swim and to the city center.
We stayed in this Airbnb, which was good.
If you can splurge and stay at a hotel by the lagoon, then you won’t have to think about staying close to the public dock obviously.
Things to do
Sunrise SUP tour
I went on a SUP tour at sunrise tour at 6 a.m.. It was AMAZING. Absolutely one of my personal highlights of the entire trip. There are various companies offering tours. I went with a young local guy who really took good care of everyone (we had one person on the team that couldn’t find the balance and kept falling off the board. The guide was extremely patient and helpful).
I booked the tour on Airbnb here
Catamaran sunset tour
There are dozens of boats crossing the lagoon, some more crowded than others. We decided to do a catamaran tour as we thought it would be the best option for the whole family. And it certainly was. Julian enjoyed the trip, which was 2-3 hours on the boat including a dip in the famous “pirates bay” and some snacks. The captain has kids himself, so he’s used to having small children onboard. Very recommendable.
It was this tour.
I think Julian could have joined for free as he was only 2, but we decided to buy a real ticket for him (it was fairly cheap), because that way we knew there would be one adult less on the boat (there are 10 spots available in total). Maybe exaggerated, but when travelling with a small child, then it’s just nicer with a bit more of space.
One thing one should know, is that this tour starts 15 minutes out of town, so you’ll need a taxi to get there.
There is a large public area by the lagoon (I believe you have to pay a small fee to get in). There are waterslides and other fun stuff. However, we never went as this is where busses from the inland arrive every day. So we found it quite busy. And as Julian was still small, he couldn’t use the waterslides anyway. For older kids, I think it would be great.
It’s called Balneario Ecológico and is on Av. 1/Calle 32. Very close to the little public dock we used every day.
They open at 10 am.
Eat & drink
Masa Madre was our go-to place for coffee and croissants after our morning swim. Very high quality of pastries (not much variety, but the quality is good!). The croissants were fresh from the oven when we arrived around 10 a.m.
Kai pez (Incl. lagoon access)
When eating here you also get access to their dock, from where you can bathe. It’s a nice space for families as the garden is huge with plenty of space to play around. Nothing fancy, but a very nice atmosphere. The food quality is good and the prices reasonable. We went twice and had one amazing experience and one less amazing (the waiters forgot our order etc.). Maybe we were just unlucky the second time around. Would go again though 😊
We came here twice and enjoyed it both times. The food is healthy-style and the garden is nice and quiet. Only negative is that the waiting time is looooong! Gosh, we waited a long time for our food on both occasions. So don’t go if you (or your kids!) are too hungry.
La Playita (Incl. access to the lagoon)
This place is a fancy restaurant/beach club with amazing interior design. We loved it! We “celebrated” our last night in Bacalar there with a delicious dinner and drinks. There is access to the lagoon from La Playita, so it would also be a nice place to come for breakfast and a swim.
Mango y Chile
A popular vegetarian place with a nice view of the lagoon (the typical place that pops up in every guide to Bacalar currently😍). Veggie burgers, juices etc make up the menu. Branding wise they are very concerned about the environment (good!) and only use biodegradable material. All good, BUT they only use disposable things. So if you want a glass for your water, then is thrown away afterwards. WHAT?!? It’s biodegradable, yes, but still? Wouldn’t it be better to use real glasses and wash them? The place creates a massive amount of waste by doing this. We went there one evening for coffee and a juice for Julian and this was what we got: Two coffees in disposable cups. A juice in a disposable glass for Julian. A bottle of water + two disposable glasses for Lasse & I. That made it FIVE glasses/cups that were just trashed afterwards. Insane if you ask me 😳 I have a hard time with companies that use a certain branding strategy to get that “perfect” image and then do crazy things like this … Food and drinks are very good though!
El Manatí is a combination of gallery, shop and restaurant right in the city center (very close to the main square). There is even live music in the garden some days. A very nice large space for a late breakfast or lunch.
By the end of 2018 we quit our jobs to travel and work online. Read about the decision here