Destination

Sitting by the turquoise water at Los Rapidos Mexico

Los Rapidos Bacalar (Rápidos de Bacalar) is a truly magical place where you can float down a natural lazy river beside some of the world’s oldest living organisms, stromatolites!

Yet most visitors to Los Rapidos don’t know what these ancient organisms are and that touching them can be detrimental to Bacalar’s delicate ecosystem.

Despite several signs posted throughout Los Rapidos Beach Club warning visitors not to step on or touch the stromatolites, people still do it! Within minutes of arriving here I saw a family of four crawling along the stromatolites besides the wooden pathway, and I’m sure this happens dozens of times a day.

Seeing that made me wonder whether I’d even want to promote Los Rapidos on my travel blog. Ultimately, I decided to create this Los Rapdios travel guide because I know people are still going to visit, but I want to provide information on how to visit responsibly.

Note: This article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases through these links, at no cost to you. But don’t worry, I only share products I’d truly recommend to a friend.

Los Rapidos Bacalar

Floating through the turquoise blue water at Los Rapidos is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Bacalar!

But before we get into how to visit Los Rapidos, I want to tell you about about the area’s stromatolites and how you can protect them during your visit.

Los Rapidos is one of the few places on earth where you can see stromatolites. Stromatolites look a bit like rocks, but are actually alive!

Los Rapidos Stromatolites

Those white formations along the edge of the lagoon are stromatolites. In person they look like rocks.

About Stromatolites

Stromatolites are microbial reefs that form through sediment deposits over thousands of years. They are believed to be the oldest living lifeforms earth, and are also believed to have played an essential role in making the earth a place where humans and other life forms could flourish.

Before stromatolites, scientists believe that earth’s air only contained 1% oxygen. Over two billion years, the oxygen in our air increased to 20% through stromatolites photosynthesising, which pumped oxygen into the oceans and later the air.

Apparently, you can still observe stromatolites releasing oxygen into the water. Read more about stromatolites here.

Fun fact: You have the stromatolites (and minerals) to thank for Bacalar lagoon’s beautiful blue color!

How to Protect Bacalar’s Stromatolites

Human interaction is the the most pressing threat to stromatolites. In other areas with stromatolites, such as at Hamelin Pool in Australia, touching or walking through stromatolites is strictly forbidden. Instead, you can only observe them from a boardwalk above.

Yet at Los Rapidos Bacalar we have the opportunity to swim and snorkel besides these ancient beings. However, that luxury comes at a cost.

As I mentioned before, many tourists don’t know what stromatolites are and walk across them.

Unfortunately, the oils on our skin can be damaging to stromatolites, especially when so many people are touching and walking on them.

With that in mind, please do not touch the stromatolites and if you see someone else touching them, tell them about these incredible life forms and why we shouldn’t touch them.

It is also important to not wear sunscreen, bug spray, or any sort of lotion on your skin. Similar to how sunscreen can damage reefs, it can damage these precious stromatolites. And no, not even reef-safe sunscreen! Just avoid anything on your skin and if in doubt, rinse off before entering the way.

Sadly, the Los Rapidos Bacalar beach club doesn’t seem to enforce this at all. They do have several signs warning visitors not to touch in Spanish, English, and French, but clearly people are still doing it.

I hope in the future the beach club will tell visitors about the stromatolites when they enter, making sure they understand what they are since stromatolites are easy to mistake for rocks!

Crystal Clear Waters at Bacalar Los Rapidos

How to Visit Los Rapidos Bacalar

The easiest way to access Los Rapidos is through the beach club with the same name.

While the water way is public, the boardwalks and other amenities around this area of Bacalar lagoon are exclusively for guests of the beach club.

Los Rapidos Bacalar Beach Club Information

💵 Entrance Fee: $200 MXN for Adults, $150 MXN for Children (2-10)
🌊 Included With Entry Fee: Access to water, wooden boardwalk, lifejackets (required), parking
🍔 Extra Cost: Seats at restaurant
🗝 Lockers: $50 MXN plus deposit
🛶 1 Hour Kayak Rental: $200 MXN for Single, $400 for Double
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm daily
🗺 Address: Carretera Xulha, 77965 Bacalar, Q.R., Mexico

Keep in mind that there is a minimum spend limit for the seating at the beach club. It varies from table to table, but expect to spend $200-400 pesos at the restaurant for a seat. This is in addition to your entry fee.

Also Read: 7 Incredible Bacalar Restaurants (Vegan-Friendly)

Swimming at Los Rapidos Bacalar

Lifejacket Tip

You are required to wear a life jacket when floating down the narrow channel of Los Rapidos but I have a fun tip that I learned at the Muyil River Float in Tulum (another natural lazy river that is 100% worth visiting!)

Instead of wearing the lifejacket around your chest, slide your legs through the armholes and wear it like a diaper. It sounds weird, I know, but it makes floating so much more pleasant. Since the lifejacket is lower is lower on your body, you float like you’re in an inner tube rather than a life vest.

Just trust me and try it! Also, if you are staying in Tulum and want to explore a nearby lagoon similar to Bacalar and float through Mayan-made canals, be sure to read my full article on the Muyil River Float at Sian Kaan!

How to Get to Los Rapidos Bacalar

Los Rapidos from Bacalar Town

You can either drive to Los Rapidos from downtown (about 20 minutes), or if you don’t have a car, you can take a taxi. Expect to pay about $200 pesos one way, and make sure you get your a taxi drivers’ number to contact for the way back!

The beach club is located a few miles down a gravel road off the main road, so catching a taxi back to town is difficult unless another tourist is being dropped off at the same time.

Los Rapidos from Tulum and Playa del Carmen

To visit Los Rapidos from Tulum or Playa del Carmen, follow Google Maps directions to Bacalar. It is about 3 hours from Tulum and four hours from Playa del Carmen.

Given the length of the drive, I recommend renting a car. You can do it as a day trip but it will be 6-8 hours of driving round trip.

Alternatively, you can take an ADO bus, but keep in mind that the bus schedules are limited and may make it difficult to do as a day trip.

Los Rapidos from Chetumal and Belize

Los Rapidos is only 40 minutes from Chetumal, and 35 minutes from the Santa Elena Belize/Mexico border crossing. You can visit by driving your own car or taking a taxi, which could cost anywhere between $200-500 pesos.

Also Read: How to Visit Fort San Felipe in Bacalar, Mexico

Walking beside Los Rápidos Bacalar

What to Bring to Los Rapidos

👙 Bathing suit: Of course you’ll want a swim suit to enjoy floating through the currents!

💦 Travel towel: I love this fast drying, sand resistant travel towel. I bring it everywhere!

📷 GoPro or waterproof phone case: I have a GoPro Hero11, which has 27 megapixels and screens on both sides, and I love it!

🩹 Travel insurance: While it is not a physical item to pack, please don’t forget to purchase travel insurance in case something happens! I always buy a policy with SafetyWing.

🎒 Dry bag: A dry bag like this can be very helpful if you want to bring your phone or anything else along for the ride.

🥾 Water shoes (optional): I didn’t bring my water shoes here since the bottom of the lagoon is soft, but I definitely recommend these water shoes for other water activities in Mexico!

Do not bring/use sunscreen, bug spray, etc.

Standing on a wooden dock at Bacalar's Los Rapidos

Los Rapidos Bacalar FAQs

When is the best time to visit Los Rapidos?

I recommend visiting Los Rapidos right at opening time (10am) so you can get some photos and enjoy the water before too many people arrive.

How much time do you need to spend at Los Rapidos?

You can spend anywhere from an hour to a whole day here! At minimum, stay an hour to float down the canal a few times.

Keep in mind that there is a minimum spend to use the chairs at the restaurant but if you’re okay with that, Los Rapidos Beach Club would be a lovely place to spend the day.

Do you need to be a good swimmer to float down Los Rapidos?

Not necessarily, since there is fairly shallow water and life jackets are included, but keep in mind that the current can be a little strong at the end and you will need to be able to swim to the side to get out!

Are there other entry points to Los Rapidos besides the beach club?

Yes! You can access Los Rapidos via the Bacalar lagoon or Laguna Bonanza, but you will likely need a kayak or paddle board to get there.

Kayaking through Los Rapidos Bacalar

Final Thoughts: Los Rapidos Bacalar

Los Rapidos is a unique area of the Bacalar lagoon that you must visit on any trip to this area of the Yucatan Peninsula! But if you do visit, it is essential to embody responsible tourism practices and do you part to protect the ancient stromatolites that call this lagoon home.

I hope this Los Rápidos de Bacalar travel guide helped you plan your visit to this magical part of Mexico. As you plan the rest of your travels, be sure to check out my other Mexico and Belize travel guides:

★ How to Visit Xcacel Beach Turtle Sanctuary Near Tulum
★ The Ultimate Guide to Renting a Scooter in Tulum
★ Visiting the Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Northern Belize
★ 7 Unforgettable Stops Along the Belize Hummingbird Highway
★ The Ultimate Puerto Escondido Itinerary: 3-10 Days
★ 10 Things to Know Before Visiting Sumidero Canyon in Chiapas

Essential Mexico Travel Resources

Have a Mexico trip coming up soon? There are a lot of travel companies out there, but some are better than others. After traveling to dozens of countries and living abroad on several continents, here are some of my favorite websites and resources for planning unforgettable trips.

🗺️ Hotels + Vacation Rentals: I always use this site for hotels. They have an easy-to-use platform and great rewards. When I’m looking for a vacation rental, I compare Vrbo and Airbnb.

💪 Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is essential for any trip! I use SafetyWing, which has affordable rates and coverage for many adventure sports.

🚠 Tours + Activities: Viator (owned by Trip Advisor) is the best site for comparing and booking experiences with local tour operators.

🚗 Car Rentals: Use DiscoverCars, a highly-rated platform for comparing and booking rental cars around the world.

📱 Easy phone plans abroad: Use this company to get an eSIM for phone coverage while traveling—without getting a SIM card or canceling your existing plan (unless you want to!)

🎒 Essentials always in my bag: Check out my ‘in my bag‘ page for the items I always have in my carry-on.

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