A Day Trip- Tulum to Bacalar, the Lake of 7 Colors
Updated: Apr 1
After your stay at Mahayana Tulum Beach Homes, there are amazing places to travel to in the Riviera Maya. A trip to Bacalar is a unique, off-the-radar gem in Mexico that poses to be an incredible adventure. As you leave Tulum for this trip, there is a mysterious quietness that welcomes you the moment that you head south out of Tulum Pueblo. As the businesses, gas stations and small, local homes taper off, you find yourself enveloped in nothing but green and the deep denseness of the Mayan jungle— a place that seems to be lost in time. There are a handful of abandoned hotels and villas— structures that sit like ghosts along the endless road and a few fruit stands selling bright yellow bananas, ripe mangos and pineapples by the bunch. This is the route to Bacalar.
Leaving Tulum The first time I traveled this journey, I was surprised to see how underdeveloped the land beyond our trendy tourist town was. There is a quiet beauty in the long stretches of nothing and a bittersweet reality to all the potential this area has. A few new hotels in the town and along the shores are starting to emerge. But for now, all is calm.
The Secret of Bacalar As you drive up to the small, sleepy village of Bacalar you would hardly imagine that the town is becoming a new destination. There are small homes that freckle a network of streets and a few restaurants that are surprisingly alluring— offering anything from homemade tacos (served in someone’s backyard) to authentic Italian cuisine. But this is just the beginning.
As you venture deeper into of the village you can see it. There is a Laguna that seems to glow with neon vivaciousness in the most brilliant shades of blue and green. Bacalar is named after Bacalar Lake or Laguna de Bacalar, and it is one of the most beautiful, natural wonders of Mexico. Locals affectionately refer to the lake as “Lago de Los Siete Colores” or Lake of Seven Colors. Bacalar Lake is comprised of both freshwater and salt water, which makes it the ideal place to take a dip or long swim. This mixture contributes to the intensity of the water’s shades. The vibrance of the blue is unbelievable. There are also several cenotes to explore within the lake itself. These cenotes vary in depth and also contribute to the lake’s color variety. On the shore, you can see the beautifully dense mangrove that offers a rich, contrasting green infusion into the landscape-- a wonderful contrast for photography enthusiasts. Many varieties of birds can be easily spotted along the shores and playing in the sky. A visit to Bacalar is the opposite of a busy tourist trap one can find in other parts of Riviera Maya. I have often traveled here with my family for a quiet night away and am always taken aback by how easy it is to feel like a local. The town is known for eco-tourism and you certainly feel a hippy vibe as you enter— people are friendly and a surprising expat community is eager to share their experiences and tips.
The Zocalo (public park in the town's centre) is newly redone and many cute cafe's and shops exist in the area. Balacar is a "Pueblo Magico", a designation given to Mexican towns that meet a high standard of beauty and culture. A large park with a public pool are in the works which will make accessing the water easier. There are no 'beaches' so it is best to experience Lake Bacalar by getting out on the water or from a dock.
What to Do: Boat Tours: Arrive at the shores of Bacalar Lake and you will not be far from a local offering guided tours. This is usually inexpensive and lasts 2-3 hours. Many of the boats offer drinks and snacks included and they always provide snorkel gear for just-below-the-surface exploration. The best way to experience the water is to book a charter and set sail on a catamaran or yacht.
Kayaking + SUP: If you prefer exploring Bacalar Lake on your own, rent a kayak or paddle board. The water is pretty calm, especially in the early mornings, and due to the natural chemical makeup of the water, the view is crystal clear without too much seaweed or debris. The turquoise vibrance of the water is unlike anywhere else and nice enjoyed at a slow pace.
Mayan Ruins: There are many lesser-known Mayan Ruins to discover that offer a more private and personal place to connect with history. Ruins in the area include Chacchoben, Dzibanche, Kohunlich, Becan, and Chicana.
Restaurants and Live Music: For breakfast and pastries Madre Mesa is amazing with great Mayan flavours. Mango y Chile, conveniently located by the Fuerte de San Felipe de Bacalar - a historical forte with great views and rich pirate history, is a local staple with vegan options and the best home cut fries in the area. There are great new food spots popping up all over town at a fraction of the price in Tulum. Many spots also offer live music.
The Important Bits: Bacalar is located south of Tulum just before Mexico’s border with Belize. We suggest renting a car and making a trip after your stay at Mahayana Tulum. Head south on México 307 for about 2hrs until you see signs for Bacalar. Mahayana Tulum Beach Homes is a collection of exclusive beachfront villas in Tulum, Mexico.