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Bacalar, Mexico is a great place for a two or three day escape from Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Cancun, or anywhere else in the Riviera Maya.

The main draw of this sleepy town is Laguna Bacalar, also known as the lake of seven colors.

In the sun, it shimmers between stunning shades of blue, green an turquoise – I couldn’t believe I was looking at a lake and not the Caribbean Ocean!

All it took was one photo of Bacalar, Mexico to convince me I needed to see it for myself, and I’m so glad I did. Dan and I had a fantastic weekend relaxing here and this guide has all the info you need to know to plan your own trip!

Want more of the outdoors? Join our new Sustainable Hiking Collective on Facebook to connect with the international hiking community, discover new destinations, join virtual trail cleanups, and take part in monthly sustainability challenges. 


Girl in Laguna Bacalar


How to Get to Bacalar from Playa del Carmen

Laguna Bacalar is three hours from Tulum, four hours from Playa del Carmen, and five hours from Cancun by bus.

In Playa del Carmen, you can take the ADO first class bus from the station on Calle 12 and Avenida 20. The cost is 322 pesos / 17 usd for a one way trip.

The buses leave every two hours, and you can see the full schedule here. There are also second class busses called Mayab that run the route. These cost 222 pesos / 12 usd if you’re really on a budget.

I strongly recommend choosing the first class bus because it’s more comfortable, has a bathroom, and most importantly… it’s faster.

We missed the first class bus on our way home and hopped on a Mayab instead. It ended up taking an extra hour because it was late and had so many extra stops, so honestly I’d rather spend the extra five bucks for a faster trip.


Shores of Laguna Bacalar


Where to Stay at Laguna Bacalar

There are tons of gorgeous places to stay in Bacalar on Airbnb, like this overwater bungalow and this tropical waterfront property… but, Dan and I stayed at a budget hostel called Yaxche Centro.

I chose it because it has a central location within walking distance to the central square and because they have their own private beach on the lake with free transportation, a bar, and water swings. To save even more money, you can camp in tents on their beach, which is cheaper but located outside of town.

Bacalar also has a range of accommodation for any budget. Hotel Wayak Bacalar is an all-inclusive resort on the shores of the lake while the serene Hotel Aires Bacalar is the top-rated hotel in the area. 


water swings in Laguna Bacalar


What to Do at Laguna Bacalar

The number one activity in Laguna Bacalar is relaxing. However you like to unwind, you can do it here.

Swimming? Check.

Water swings? Yep.

Hammocks, sun chairs, quiet restaurants? Yes, yes, and yes.

Come to Laguna Bacalar to spend your days by the gorgeous fresh water lake where there is so much to do! The colors are seriously stunning, and I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Even when it was cloudy and storming, the turquoise water seemed to glow with an ethereal look. To be honest lakes are not usually my favorite place to be, but this is the clearest, cleanest, most beautiful water I’ve ever seen.

Yaxche Centro had a shuttle to their own private spot on the beach where we spent two days swimming, kayaking (100 pesos / 5 usd per hour), reading, and relaxing on the water. 

More popular activities in Bacalar include renting stand up paddle boards, visiting the San Felipe Fort, day drinking, snorkeling, boat tours (you can find operators on the street corner by the fort, tours cost 250 pesos / 13 usd per person), visiting the nearby Cenote Azul, or even going down the giant water slide into the lake!


girl jumping into the lake


Where to Eat at Laguna Bacalar

I was surprised because every meal I had in this small town was delicious. I shouldn’t have been, though, because this is Mexico and the food is just consistently on another level than the rest of the world.

We got the shrimp ceviche and beef tacos at Mexico Gourmet (so good), enjoyed the sopes and burritos at Ojitos La Catrina, and tried the vegan burgers and milkshakes at Mango y Chile, which also had a beautiful view of the lake.

Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to snack at Akira Ice Rolls, sooo I guess I’ll just have to come back for another weekend in Laguna Bacalar someday!


View from Mongo y Chile cafe


Nightlife at Laguna Bacalar

Laguna Bacalar is a pretty quiet town, so don’t expect Cancun or Playa del Carmen level parties.

I recommend having a few beers and watching the sunset at La Playita restaurant, located in a jungle ambiance right on the water. Afterwards, just walk down the street to enjoy live music and cheap drinks at Ojitos La Catrina, which was packed both nights we stopped in.


The Complete Guide to Bacalar, Mexico

Have I convinced you to add Laguna Bacalar to your Mexico bucket list?

This place is definitely off the beaten path but it’s so worth taking the time to explore! You will never see a more beautiful lake than this, I promise. If you want to disconnect from the real world and recharge, Bacalar, Mexico is definitely the place to do it. 


Ready to go?

Explore unique stays on Airbnb – like this overwater bungalow and this tropical waterfront property – and the top hotels on to plan your trip to Laguna Bacalar.

Then, check out more food, cultural, and outdoors experiences on the lake to round out your itinerary (orb, book a multi-day Mexico tour to finish your travel planning with one click!).

Finally, join our new Sustainable Hiking Collective on Facebook to connect with the international hiking community, discover new destinations, join virtual trail cleanups, and take part in monthly sustainability challenges! 


This article is part of the Riveting Riviera Maya series. Read the rest below:

Coba Travel Guide: How to Get to the Coba Ruins from Tulum

How to Visit the 3 Coba Cenotes Near Tulum

How to Swim With the Turtles in Playa del Carmen

Then, explore the complete Mexico Series for more to insider tips on what to see, do, eat, drink, and discover in Playa del Carmen and beyond! 


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  1. where exactly are the Swings in the Lagoon? I’m taking my GF for her B-Day in June, so I want to know the perfect pic spots and I have already pin the restaurants you recommeded.


    • Our hostel (Yaxche Centro) had a private beach with the swings you see pictured here but they aren’t the only ones on the lake. I saw more when we were kayaking as well. If your accommodation has a beach ask if they have swings and if not they may be able to tell you where you can find public ones.


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