Last Updated on December 11, 2023

A less-visited paradise, Bacalar is most famous for its Lago de Siete Colores–Lake of Seven Colors. Located in southeastern Mexico near the Belize border, the city is a little slice of heaven that has managed to escape the stampede of thousands of tourists that flock to the Mexican Caribbean every year. 

It’s one of those places that is so beautiful you wonder how it’s not flooded with tourists. Plus, you know you’ve hit a great destination when nearly all of the tourists you do see are Mexican. One of those coveted places that locals treasure, hardly any travelers get to see it so it feels like undiscovered magic. 

Full of stunningly beautiful nature, healing waters, and amazing food, it should be on your ‘must-see’ list. Whether for relaxing in a lakeside villa or something more exciting like rafting down rapids, Bacalar is the oasis for you. 

Here is my list for the best things to do in Bacalar, Mexico.

1. Sail the Lake of Seven Colors, Laguna de Bacalar

Catamaran view of Laguna de Bacalar.
Catamaran is the perfect way to see the lake. © Belinda Woodhouse

I’ve traveled all over Central America and nowhere have I seen such clear, pristine water in every shade of blue. You guessed it, the Lake of Seven Colors gets its name from the stunning blue hues created by its varying depths.

The water ranges from almost white and sky blue through to the deepest sapphire and cobalt as you sail into freshwater cenotes in the lakebed. It’s a feast for your eyes. 

Sailing is the perfect way to experience this wonder. You can rent a catamaran and go exploring, or, if you’ve never sailed before, most hotels have a favored boat captain that will take you on a tour. Captain Dario onboard the Katana gave us a brilliant tour through less-visited areas. You can find him at Bacalar 7.

Captain Dario from Bacalar 7.
Captain Dario onboard the Katana. © Belinda Woodhouse

Feeling the wind on your face and the sun warming your back as you glide along makes for the perfect day. There are power boats on the lake, but sailing is preferable as it keeps the water calmer, there’s no pollution, and you can truly immerse yourself in nature with birds singing in your ear instead of a motor. 

2. Learn the Maya Way

Mayan warrior statue.
Maya warrior. © Belinda Woodhouse

With their own vegetable and medicinal herb gardens, Akal Ki is a transformative and interactive experience. The Maya of the area created a holistic retreat alongside their romantic lakeside villas. Nothing says relaxation like your own private villa sitting out over the water.

The restaurant grows its own food and here you can learn more about the Maya’s relationship with the natural world. Respectful and powerful, the people have blended into their environment harmoniously with mother nature for centuries to meet all of their needs since pre-Hispanic times. 

They also believe the lake holds special healing waters, so it is the perfect place to get pampering treatments, recharge your batteries, and enjoy relaxing massages accompanied by delicious, fresh, and healthy food grown on-site as you reconnect with nature. 

3. Discover One of Earth’s Oldest Life Forms

The earliest visible forms of life on planet earth, stromatolites, appeared around 3.5 billion years ago. Now there are only a few places on earth where you can see them. One of those is in the less-visited northern part of the Lake of Seven Colors. 

The water is crystal clear so you can see them very clearly. 

Able to breathe carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen, these huge bacterium columns survived the first big extinction. Being such a unique part of the environment, they are protected and you can’t touch them. They are still worth a look as it’s not every day you get to see such unique and ancient organisms. 

4. Food

For such a small town Bacalar is a foodie heaven. Dining experiences range from eco-dining in a lush garden in the middle of an art gallery to fine dining in lakefront restaurants. 

I was amazed at the range of cuisines and the deliciousness of it all. If you’re after an authentic Mexican experience and want to eat like a local, there’s great street food in the town’s Parque Central, or town square. If you’re after pizza, then Bertilla E Luciano has the best I’ve ever had in my life.

5. Street Art

Street art in Bacalar, Mexico.
Just turning a corner will reveal amazing street art in Bacalar. © Belinda Woodhouse

Being an art lover, I was delighted to discover that the whole town was like a rambling outdoor art gallery; there were surprises at every turn. Strolling the streets of Bacalar delighted my senses. The walk to dinner took 40 minutes instead of 10 because there was so much amazing street art to photograph. 

There’s some serious talent along fences, on the side of houses, and on signs; some take up the entire side of a building. The major art collection along the waterfront is amazing. Taking a stroll there is a must so you can experience the huge murals, paintings, and stories that unfold as you wander along.

A local said that they hold an art competition every couple of years where artists from all over Mexico come to create fresh masterpieces, so you won’t be disappointed.   

6. Relax Lakeside in a Villa

Pier and patio in the Lake of Seven Colors, Bacalar, Mexico
Pier and patio in the Lake of Seven Colors, Bacalar, Mexico

Listening to the gentle lap of the lake against your private villa is the perfect way to spend time relaxing. All along the lake, are hotels, romantic villas, boutique hotels, and ecolodges with access to the water. So, in between swimming, kayaking, sailing, or just floating around on a big tube talking with friends, relaxing lakeside is one of the best ways to spend time at Bacalar. 

It’s as if the water heals you just by being near it. Don’t be surprised if the soothing breeze lulls you into a nap. Some places have hammocks over the water where you can roll out for a swim anytime you like.

Nearly everywhere has lakeside service so you don’t have to stop reading your book or lazing in your hammock. It’s about as close to heaven as you’ll get. 

7. Rejuvenate in Ancient Mud

The local Maya have been using the lake’s healing waters and mud for centuries. Slightly gritty but not sharp, it is quite comforting to spread over your skin. Drawing out toxins as well as gently exfoliating, it leaves your skin smooth as a baby’s bottom.

You can see the effects on the local Maya women. They have flawless skin and none that I met use beauty products. It’s all-natural. The mud is rejuvenating and healing not only for your skin but also for your mind and soul. 

8. Explore Bacalar

Enjoy tea and a sweet treat in one of the sweetest Starbucks I’ve ever seen with Victorian sidewalk dining. Draped in vibrant magenta and cherry bougainvillea, it was the perfect place to stop on an exploratory walk. 

Or sit and chat with a local as you try authentic Mexican street food in the Parque Central. The locals are very friendly and love to chat, and the town square is full of shady bench seats under large palms and flowering trees that beg you to sit down to enjoy a snack.

One of the most popular things to do is rise early and sit out on the lake to watch the sunrise. The glowing turquoise of the lake comes alive as the sun climbs. After, it’s only a five-minute walk to the heart of town to find plenty of breakfast options. 

9. Play Pirate at the Fort

Pirates of the Caribbean really were a thing. Only a 20-minute sail from the Belize border, you’ll find Bacalar’s fortress, Fuerte de San Felipe de Bacalar. The fortress overlooks the lake and defended the town from pirates and marauders.

Built in 1792, this huge stone fortress comes with a moat, a museum, and a very accurate miniature replica of the town.

Totally cliché and touristy, sometimes it’s fun to play pirate at a real fort. This big kid did and no one would dream of stopping you. The locals love it, join in, and will take your picture for fun and memorabilia before you disappear to roam around the fort. 

10. Rapids

Think more floating down the river than the great white rapids you see in movies where entire rafts are swallowed whole as they plunge through dangerous churning waters.  

Yes, there are a couple of places where the current picks up speed, especially after rain, but these rapids are family-friendly and suitable for every age and fitness level. The rapids go through some of the most stunning clear water.

Easy to get to, the rapids are just outside of town and any taxi driver will take you there for under $5. 

Author

  • Belinda Woodhouse

    Belinda Woodhouse (Bel) decided to change her life, left the Royal Australian Navy and let her wanderlust take her roaming the planet in free sandal wearing bliss. Head honcho at The Travel Bag and author of 21 Reasons to Visit … travel book series, her love of writing, photography and videography enable her to live her dream life abroad. Nothing is safe from her curiosity. Loving adventure, exploration and the wild places you will find her climbing all over ruins, tubing down jungle rivers and exploring the depths of the oceans laughing and loving every minute of it.