Destination

Standing on a sailboat on laguna Bacalar, a must do activity on any Bacalar itinerary

Trying to figure out a Bacalar itinerary for an upcoming trip to Mexico’s beautiful lagoon of seven colors?

You’ve come to the right place! I’ve had the privilege of visiting Bacalar two times during my 8+ months of living and traveling in Mexico. On my most recent trip to Bacalar I set out to create the perfect itinerary for Bacalar with all the best adventures and plenty of relaxing, too.

Before you read on, be sure to bookmark or pin my other Bacalar and Mexico travel guides:

★ 7 Incredible Bacalar Restaurants (Vegan-Friendly)
★ How to Ethically Visit Los Rapidos Bacalar
★ Mexico City Off The Beaten Path: 21 Hidden Gems
★ How to Rent a Scooter in Tulum
★ The Ultimate San Cristóbal de las Casas Itinerary: 3-10 Days
★ The Ultimate Puerto Escondido Itinerary: 3-10 Days

Couple at Bacalar lagoon

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Bacalar Mexico Itinerary

Bacalar has been called ‘the Maldives of Mexico’ and it is one of Mexico’s official pueblo magicos (magical town). It is quickly becoming one of the most popular places in the state of Quintana Roo, particular among travelers who want an alternative to Tulum that is safer, less gentrified, and more down-to-earth.

Whether you’re spending a day in Bacalar, a week, or more, this flexible itinerary includes all the unmissable spots, plus my favorite Bacalar hidden gems.

Customize it based on your interests, and check out my combo itineraries at the end, which include a mix of Bacalar adventures along with visits to some of my favorite nearby destinations like Belize, Valladolid, and Tulum.

Bacalar Itinerary Overview:

Day 1: Lagoon boat tour
Day 2: Los Rapidos and El Centro
Day 3: Maya ruins day trip
Day 4: Sunrise SUP and Cenote Azul
Day 5: Relaxing by the lagoon

Visiting Bacalar for more or less than five days? Jump forward to my other itineraries:

★ One day in Bacalar Itinerary
★ Bacalar 3 Day Itinerary
★ One week in Bacalar Itinerary

Essential Things About Bacalar

A few last things before we get into the itinerary. Trust me, these are important!

Plan around weekly lagoon closures: Bacalar lagoon is closed to boat traffic all day on Wednesdays. Make sure to schedule your boat tours, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding for other days!

☀️ Don’t use sunscreen, pack alternative sun protection: You’re not allowed to use sunscreen in Bacalar lagoon for environmental reasons. Plan ahead and a sun shirt (or two), a sun hat, and other clothing that can protect your skin without damaging local ecosystems.

Sailboat ride during my Bacalar itinerary

Day 1: Lagoon Boat Tour

Getting on the water is the perfect way to get acquainted with the lagoon on your first day.

Renting your own private boat or joining a group Bacalar boat tour is probably the most popular thing to do in Bacalar, and for good reason!

There are dozens of Bacalar boat tours to choose from. I’ve done a few myself, and have also did quite a bit of research to figure out the very best ones to recommend in this Bacalar travel guide!

🛥 Best Private Catamaran: Spend four idyllic hours on the lagoon with your own luxury catamaran, private captain, and whoever you invite to join (up to 12 people). The typical itinerary includes visits to the iconic Canal de los Piratas, cenotes, and Isla de los Pájaros. Drinks and snacks are provided. Details here.

⛵️ Best Private Sailing Tour: Enjoy all lake Bacalar has to offer on a private sailing tour. This is perfect for a couple or a small group of up to six. I went on a boat trip with this company and had a lovely experience! Details here.

⚓️ Best Group Sailboat Tour: A budget friendly yet highly rated sailing tour of Bacalar lagoon that includes visits to three different cenotes, the pirates channel, and bird island! Three beers are included per person, and you can use the company’s kayaks for free for the rest of your trip! Details here.

🧉 Best Bacalar Booze Cruise (Open Bar): If you want to see all the sights on the lagoon, meet other travelers, and indulge in an open bar, this is the Bacalar boat tour for you! Details here.

Quick note: There are no boat tours on Wednesdays as the lagoon is closed to all boat traffic for environmental reasons. If your first day in Bacalar is a Wednesday, be sure to swap your activities with another day’s plans!

After a few hours on the water, you may want to go back to your hotel to rest, but eventually, you’ll need grab a bite to eat! I share all my favorite Bacalar restaurants in this guide.

If you have some extra energy, this is also a great time to explore downtown Bacalar a little bit. It is a small town, so you can easily get your bearings on a few walks.

Los Rapidos, a must visit place with 5 days in Bacalar Mexico

Related: Float Down the Muyil Canals at Sian Kaan Near Tulum

Day 2: Los Rapidos and El Centro

Start off day two with a hearty breakfast at your hotel or in town (a few breakfast recommendations here) before heading to my favorite place in Bacalar: Los Rapidos.

This narrow channel near the southern part of Bacalar lagoon has a natural lazy river effect where you can gently through down the turquoise blue water.

If that’s not enough, Los Rapdios is also one of the rare places in the world where you can see stromatolites, the oldest living organisms on earth!

I have a full guide to ethically visiting Los Rapdios Bacalar that I recommend reading before going. But if you’re short on time, here is everything you need to know:

Arrive Early: Floating Los Rapdios is much more enjoyable with less people! The Los Rapidos Beach Club opens at 10am and I recommend getting there right at 10am for the best experience. Keep in mind that it is ~20 minutes from downtown Bacalar.

Do Not Touch The Stromatolites: Stromatolites are an ancient life form that look a bit like normal rocks, but can be damaged when touched by human hands. Learn to identify them and avoid touching or stepping on them at Los Rapidos — and please share this info with others!

☀️ Avoid Sunscreen: As with all other parts of Bacalar lagoon, you should avoid using sunscreen as it damages the ecosystem, including the precious stromatolites.

💰 Pay the $200 MXN Entry Fee + More: It costs $200 pesos to visit Los Rapidos via the beach club, and there are additional fees to use lockers or rent a kayak. Also, the tables at the restaurant have a minimum spend fee that varies.

🚗 Plan Ahead for Transportation: The best way to get to Los Rapdios is in your own rental car. However, you can also take a taxi. Just be sure to get the taxi driver’s number so you can call them to pick you up when you’re done. The beach club is a few miles from the main highway so catching a taxi here is challenging.

Read more details and tips on my Los Rapidos Bacalar guide.

You can spend anywhere from an hour to a whole day at Los Rapidos, and I’ll leave that up to you! There is a restaurant at the beach club but outside food is not allowed.

After a magical time at Los Rapidos, you may want to head back to your hotel to freshen up before heading into El Centro (downtown).

Some places to explore in downtown Bacalar include:

🏴‍☠️ Fort San Felipe + Pirate Museum: Bacalar’s main historical site, located in the main square overlooking the turquoise lagoon. This colonial fort was built to protect the town of Bacalar from pirates and you can learn all about the area’s pirates and general history in the small pirate museum inside the fort. Read my full guide to visiting Fort San Felipe.

🌳 Zócalo: Bacalar’s Zócalo, or main square, is the center of activity for locals, with food stands, and sometimes events! It’s worth wandering through even if there is nothing going on.

🛍 Local goodies + shopping: There isn’t a lot of shopping to do in Bacalar, but if you’re like me and you’re always on the lookout for locally made goods, take a peek at the shop inside El Manatí Restaurant, Turquesa Maya Eco Store, and Portal Natura Eco Store.

🌊 Ecoparque Bacalar: Several blocks north of the Zocalo you’ll find one of my favorite places in Bacalar, a public park with a large boardwalk over the lagoon and through the mangroves. For only $20 pesos, this is a lovely place to spot wildlife, swim in the lagoon, or relax on the dock. Keep in mind that it can get very busy here but it is still worth visiting!

💃🏽 La Catrina: La Catrina is the place to dance in Bacalar. This salsa bar is a must-visit if you’re looking for something to do after dark. Sadly I never made it La Catrina though it was recommended to me by both locals and tourists. It is on my list for next time I’m in Bacalar!

🍹 La Playita: La Playita is a lagoon front restaurant that seems to be wildly popular. The service is slow — in a good way — so you can enjoy the lagoon and grab a drink or something to eat without feeling pressured to give up your seat in a hurry.

El Castillo at Chichen Itza, one of the best Bacalar day trips on a Bacalar itinerary

Day 3: Maya Ruins Day Trip

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and nearby Belize are teeming with Mayan ruins. Yet few Bacalar vacationers realize that they can easily visit some of the ancient ruins on a guided day trip.

This day trip from Bacalar includes a visit to both Dzibanche and Kinichna where you can learn about the historical significance of these two Mayan cities while wandering through their ruins.

These archeological sites are also a great place to see wildlife, including howler monkeys, toucans, and other tropical birds.

The guided tour includes roundtrip transportation from Bacalar as well as entry fees, snacks, water, and binoculars.

While I highly recommend this Mayan Ruin day trip for folks visiting Bacalar (since the ruins are nearby), there are plenty of other Mayan ruins worth visiting on the Yucatan peninsula. Here are some other places that might be the worth the journey:

Chichen Itza: One of the new Seven Wonders of the World, and Yucatan’s most iconic ruins. It’s a long drive from Bacalar but certainly an interesting place to visit if you’re able.
Tulum Ruins: The seaside ruins in Tulum are perhaps the most picturequse ruins I’ve seen in all of Mexico.
Muyil: A very small archeological site next to the Sian Kaan lagoons, which is one of my favorite places in Mexico! The ruins are not as impressive as other sites, but Sian Kaan is worth visiting. Read all about it here.

Bacalar's Cenote Azul

Day 4: Sunrise Paddle Boarding and Cenote Azul

Wake up nice and early and head straight to the lagoon of seven colors to watch the sun rise on a paddle board.

Be sure to book this sunrise SUP tour ahead of time as it sells out, which makes sense given its 250+ five star reviews!

I know getting up early can be difficult on vacation, but trust me, this is an experience you won’t regret!

Led by an incredible local guide, you’ll paddle onto the lagoon before the sun rises when you can star gaze and spot shooting stars. Of course, the highlight will be watching the sunrise over the lagoon, and you’ll get to see Cenote Negro as well!

After a few early morning hours on the lagoon you may want to go back to your hotel for a little nap. Either way, be sure to grab some delicious breakfast or brunch before our next activity, swimming in a deep blue cenote!

When you’re ready, put on a bathing suit, grab a towel and head straight to Cenote Azul (Blue Cenote). You can reach this gorgeous cenote via rental car, taxi, bike, or walking. It is a little over 2.5 miles south of downtown Bacalar.

There is a 35 MXN (~$2 USD) entrance fee and it is best if you have small change to pay. After paying, you’ll walk through the onsite restaurant/bar to the platform on the edge of the cenote.

It is important to know that Bacalar’s Cenote Azul different from the types of Instagram-famous cenotes you’ll find around Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Valladolid. With a depth of 300 feet, it is actually believed to be the deepest cenote on the Yucatan, and its depth gives it a dark blue color, rather than the vibrant turquoise you’ll find at the more popular cenotes.

But even with its darker color, Cenote Azul is so worth visiting! It is a completely different experience than swimming in the lagoon, and makes for a nice change of scenery!

After swimming, maybe you’ll grab a drink at the bar or head back into town for dinner. Remember to check out my article on the best restaurants in Bacalar as you make your dinner plans!

Relaxing by the lagoon at Habitas Bacalar, the best place to stay on the lagoon

Days 5: Relaxing at Your Lagoon Front Resort or Beach Club

Take it slow on your last day in Bacalar and enjoy the gorgeous lagoon that brought you here in the first place! The best way to do this is to stay at a resort or hotel with lagoon access.

Some lagoon-front hotels, resorts, and hostels to consider include:

🥂 Our Habitas Bacalar: Bacalar’s most luxurious eco resort, twenty minutes south of town on a quiet, secluded part of the lagoon with no other buildings in sight. The property has a restaurant, bars, a yoga classes, kayaks and paddle boards, and the gorgeous waterfront dock for lounging all day long. Check prices.

🌊 Hotel Rancho Encantado: Another incredible lagoonfront hotel in Bacalar. If you’re looking for a little luxury, be sure to book one of their deluxe bungalows with a private jacuzzi and lagoon view. Some rooms also have their own private piers! Check prices.

🌿 Hotel Boutique Aurea: A boutique lagoonfront hotel with a gorgeous dock, onsite restaurant, standup paddle boards, and kayaks. The lagoon near Aurea is a little less secluded compared to Habitas, but this is still a lovely place to stay if you’re looking for a highly-rated boutique hotel in Bacalar! Check prices.

🧉 The Yak House Hostel: This highly-rated hostel is a great place for social budget-minded travelers who want to stay on the lake. The hostel is located right in the heart of downtown Bacalar, just a few blocks from the Zocalo, so you get the best of both worlds—the lagoon and the town. Check prices.

I stayed at Habitas Bacalar, and had a lovely experience—their property overlooks the lagoon with no other businesses or hotels in sight, which makes it incredibly peaceful.

If you prefer to stay at an inland hotel, you can still chill by the lagoon on your last day by visiting a beach club. Just keep in mind that most Bacalar beach clubs tend to be a bit a bit loud and crowded, whereas Habitas, where I stayed, was peaceful and secluded. If you are looking for a beach club, here are the best options:

🐠 Beach Club Blú: Bacalar’s most premium beach club, situated on the lagoon near Cenote Azul. Entry costs $500 pesos, which includes $250 pesos of consumables. You also get access to their sunbeds, umbrellas, and water access. However, if you don’t plan to eat or drink at the beach club, this isn’t the place for you.

🍹 Bacalar Beach Club: A nice beach club with an affordable entry fee of $150 pesos, which includes 45 minutes of kayaking on the lagoon. Unlike Beach Club Blú, Bacalar Beach Club has a pool.

Sailboats on Bacalar lagoon

How to spend one day in Bacalar

Only have 1 day in Bacalar? Well, my number one tip is to arrive as early as possible to make the most of your time on the lagoon!

As I’ve mentioned before in this Bacalar travel guide, the lagoon is closed for boat traffic every Wednesday, so if you’re hoping to join a boat tour, be sure to come on another day of the week.

However, my ideal one day itinerary for Bacalar would not include a boat tour, actually. If you only have one day, I reccomend:

🌊 Starting at Los Rapidos: Get to Los Rapidos as soon as it opens at 10am and enjoy floating down the natural lazy river. Be sure to read my whole Los Rapidos Bacalar guide to learn about the stromatolites here and how to protect them (plus all my insider tips for visiting!)

🥑 Getting lunch in El Centro and seeing the fort: My favorite place for lunch in downtown Bacalar is Mango y Chile, which is a vegan burger spot, but given how excellent their food is and their picturequse view, it is one of the most popular restaurants in Bacalar even amongst meat eaters! It is also conveniently located right next to Bacalar’s colonial fort, which is worth seeing even if you only have one day in town.

👙 Swimming and birdwatching at Ecoparque: Then spend the rest of your day chilling at Ecoparque Bacalar, a public park ($20 peso entry fee) with a long boardwalk that goes through both the mangroves and out into the turquoise blue lagoon. It is one of the best places to swim in Bacalar, as long as you don’t mind it getting a little crowded mid-day.

🐠 Stopping by Cenote Azul (if you have extra time): If you still have some extra time, swim at Cenote Azul, which is one of the best things to do in Bacalar.

Sitting on a dock during my Bacalar itinerary

How to spend three days in Bacalar

If you’re spending a weekend in Bacalar, or three days sometime else during the week, here is how I recommend dividing up your time:

Day 1: Start off your first at Los Rapidos (arrive at 10am), then spend the afternoon swimming at Cenote Azul. Be sure to read about these two activities above in the main 5 day Bacalar itinerary!

Day 2: Book a lagoon boat tour for your second day (as long as it isn’t a Wednesday). This private catamaran is a great option if you’re looking for luxury, or join a group sailing tour or this popular booze cruise on the lagoon. Before or after the boat tour, spend some time exploring downtown Bacalar, and perhaps check out the San Felipe Fort!

Day 3: Wake up early for this sunrise stand up paddle boarding experience on the lagoon. Then take the res of the day to relax by the lagoon, either at a hotel or beach bar (see my suggestions on day five of the main itinerary above!)

A week in Bacalar Mexico Itinerary

How to spend a week in Bacalar

If you have a whole week in Bacalar, you’re in for a treat! I recommend following my 5 days in Bacalar itinerary above, and adding on another day to relax by the lagoon at your hotel or a beach club.

Then, if you’re interested in taking another day trip during your seven days in Bacalar, choose from the following:

🌿 Tulum: Visit the seaside Tulum archaeological site, swim at Cenote Aldea Zama, and float down the Muyil River Float at Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve. A few more outdoor activities in Tulum to consider.

👙 Mahahual: A fishing-village-turned-resort-town just over an hour away from Bacalar. This is the closest notable beach town if you want to visit the Caribbean ocean.

🇧🇿 Corazal (Belize): Journey to another country for the day! Bacalar is less than an hour from the border, so why not! You can take an ADO Bus or taxi to Chetumal, cross into Belize at the Santa Elena crossing, then hire a taxi on the other side to take you to Corazal, a low-key Belizean town on the Caribbean. Be sure to factor in border crossing times and fees!

🌺 Valladolid: Explore one of my favorite places in Mexico, the charming colonial town of Valladolid, which is just under four hours from Bacalar (yes, it is a long drive) and close to the famous Chichen Itza archeological site. If you’re driving to Cancun international airport on your last day, Valladolid is a great stop along the way.

Wading in the water in the Bacalar lagoon of seven colors

Bacalar Mexico Itinerary FAQs

How many days do you need in Bacalar?

To experience all that Bacalar has to offer, be sure to spend at least three days in Bacalar. That gives you enough time to see Los Rapidos, Cenote Azul, go on a boat tour of the lagoon, explore the town, and relax beside the lagoon. However, if you want to enjoy Bacalar without being in a rush, spend five days here.

What is Bacalar known for?

Bacalar is known for its freshwater lagoon, which is often called the lagoon of seven colors because the many different shades of the lagoon. Bacalar town is also one of Mexico’s pubelo magicos (magic town) as designated by the Mexican government.

Is Bacalar expensive?

Bacalar is less expensive than nearby Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun, but it is not as cheap as places like San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. In the years to come, as Bacalar becomes a more popular destination, expect prices to increase.

How do you get to Bacalar?

The closest airport is in Chetumal, less than an hour from Bacalar. From the airport you can take a taxi or shuttle to Bacalar.

Alternatively, many visitors fly into Cancun or Tulum airport and take a shuttle, rental car, or ADO Bus to Bacalar.

What are the best places to stay in Bacalar?

Some of the best places to stay in Bacalar include:

🥂 Our Habitas Bacalar: Bacalar’s most luxurious eco resort, twenty minutes south of town on a quiet, secluded part of the lagoon with no other buildings in sight. The property has a restaurant, bars, a yoga classes, kayaks and paddle boards, and the gorgeous waterfront dock for lounging all day long. Check prices.

🌊 Hotel Rancho Encantado: Another incredible lagoonfront hotel in Bacalar. If you’re looking for a little luxury, be sure to book one of their deluxe bungalows with a private jacuzzi and lagoon view. Some rooms also have their own private piers! Check prices.

🌿 Hotel Boutique Aurea: A boutique lagoonfront hotel with a gorgeous dock, onsite restaurant, standup paddle boards, and kayaks. The lagoon near Aurea is a little less secluded compared to Habitas, but this is still a lovely place to stay if you’re looking for a highly-rated boutique hotel in Bacalar! Check prices.

🧉 The Yak House Hostel: This highly-rated hostel is a great place for social budget-minded travelers who want to stay on the lake. The hostel is located right in the heart of downtown Bacalar, just a few blocks from the Zocalo, so you get the best of both worlds—the lagoon and the town. Check prices.

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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