Bacalar, Mexico on a Budget

Living in Playa del Carmen, we’ve been hearing about how beautiful Bacalar, Mexico is for ages! It’s only 4 hours south, so it felt like high time for us to plan a trip to visit this town!

So with a couple days of planning, we set off!

We hopped on the ADO to make the 4.5 hour drive. Tickets were only $180mx each, each way. So around $18usd roundtrip. You can see the schedule here. You don’t need to buy your tickets well in advance, but I do suggest stopping by the station 2-3 days before your trip to buy them. This will give you the most options in terms of times to go.

If you’ve never ridden in an ADO bus, you’ll be happy to know that the buses are extremely comfortable for long drives, and have air conditioning. Most buses also have plug ins for your electronics, which Seth is thrilled about!

 

Arriving in Bacalar, Mexico

We arrived in Bacalar, Mexico on time, about 5 hours after we left Playa del Carmen. The ADO station is on the highway, a 15 min walk from town. You can easily grab a cab for about $40mx, but we opted to walk, as we usually do. Which turned out to be a nice way to see the town. We even found some chickens and goats on the way!

The day was hot, and carrying our 40lbs of gear each made the walk feel longer than it was. We’ve grown used to an ocean breeze to cool us down! The air in Bacalar seems much more still than in Playa del Carmen. I would recommend catching a cab if you have any sort of luggage!

 

Lagoon of Seven Colours

When we finally got to the water, we found quite the view!! Bacalar, Mexico is called the Lagoon of Seven Colours, and for good reason! The lagoon looks very similar to the Caribbean ocean, with it’s brilliant blue hue. The differences in depth and lake bed create the different colours. And I’m pretty convinced we saw all of them during our visit!

 

Things to See in Bacalar

Explore the Fortress

The town of Bacalar, Mexico is the site of an old fortress that was built in 1733 to protect the area from attacks by pirates and harassment from traders. There is a museum on site, and for $60mx you can get entrance and wander around the grounds. The fort overlooks the lagoon, so makes for an excellent place to take photos.

 

Find some Street Art

Much like the rest of the country, Bacalar, Mexico is home to some excellent street art. Wander around town to see what you can find!
(Excuse the bars on this pic! The sun was in a less-than-ideal position when I took it!)

 

Take photos with the Bacalar sign

If you’ve travelled to any other towns or cities in Quintana Roo you’ve likely seen these signs a few times before. This one can be found right by the town square, in front of the fortress. We’ve got quite the collection of sign photos going!

 

Grab a Coffee or Frappacino

We stumbled upon this van one day when leaving Kai Pez. We saw it a few times after that, always parked in the same spot. So I’m not sure if he moves around at all. He makes some delicious coffee drinks, both hot and cold. And the prices were great, too! $50mx for a iced hot chocolate for Seth, Great way to end a hot day at the lake!

 

Have a drink and enjoy the view

Kai Pez (see below) was my favourite spot for this. Drinks were $60mx and up, and super tasty. And the view can’t be beat. Afterwards head onto their dock and relax in the sun or go for a swim! Free access for guests of the restaurant.

The drink to the right is called a Blue Lagoon, and it was the perfect it for an afternoon by this lake!

 

See the Cocalitos and Cenote Esmeralda

We didn’t make it to these on our first trip, but it’s on our list for our visit at the end of this month! So I’ll update then with pictures. The cocalitos are funky little rock formations in the water that you can swim around and sit on. Worth a visit for sure!

 

Visit Cenote Azul

This is the widest and deepest cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula. It seems to be more popular for divers than just hanging out and swimming, so we didn’t make it there. It drops off pretty deep right from the edge, so it’s not really one to go relax at. If we make it there in our upcoming visit I’ll update with photos!

 

Accommodations

I had booked an airbnb that is a 15 minute walk south of the town square. It was only $28cad/night, so a great price. It came with 2 twin beds, a private bathroom, and excellent internet. Definitely a great deal for what we paid! We were a 2 minute walk from the water and the neighbourhood was very quiet. The cross streets were Costera & Calle 8. Highly recommend anywhere in that neighbourhood.

 

Where to Eat

El Meson del Pirata, Calle 20 & Av 5

Otherwise known as the pirate hostel… This quickly became our favourite place to eat. It’s just off of the town square, so super accessible. There’s only a half dozen or so tables, so it’s never all that packed.

We order a plain cheese pizza for $110mx, and an order of guacamole for $50mx. Both are delicious! The pizza is clearly cooked in a stone oven, and has a fantastic thin & crispy crust. They actually don’t have a cheese-only pizza on the menu, so we just ordered the cheapest one, with no toppings 😉
The guacamole was delicious, and came with tomatoes and onions mixed in, as all the best guacs do. Seth always seem to eat most of my chips, so I asked for more and they gladly brought some, and for no charge.

Head here for a cheap drink, too! $50mx mixed drinks, or get a litre for $90! Yes, I got the litre… Don’t judge me, it was hot out!

 

Kai Pez, Calle 20 & Av 1

Head here for a great meal with a fantastic view. The food was well-priced, especially considering the locale. So we ate here a few times during our 4 days in Bacalar, Mexico.

Our first visit I (naturally) ordered guacamole for $60mx, and a delicious cocktail for $60mx. Seth was craving some American food, so order chicken fingers and fries for $60mx. The guac wasn’t as good as the one at the pirate hostel, but it was still good. This one had no tomatoes or onions, so was just crushed and seasoned avocado, topped with grated cheese. Tasty, but lacking.

The following meal I was feeling the American vibe Seth was bringing in, so decided to try one of their burgers. It was $80mx for the burger and fries, so around $4usd. I was quite pleased with it!

 

Go For a Swim

One of the best things about eating here is that doing so gives you full access to their grassy area to lounge, and their dock to swim and hang out. The view from the dock in beautiful, as you can see below!

Because the shores of Bacalar, Mexico are quite weedy, you don’t really want to walk in and swim from shore. So there are several docks along the west shore that you can use to get into the water. Many are private, and you can only access by entering a restaurant or hotel or hostel. 

 

Tacos El Socio, Calle 7 & Ave 20

This little restaurant is quite unassuming. It’s located a block back from the square, so many tourists likely won’t even find it. But if you’re reading this post, you need to make note of it!! It’s a fairly typical family-run place. But MAN is it ever cheap!! Empanadas were $5mx, and tortas were $20mx. Stop in early to get fresh empanadas though! Like most other places in Quintana Roo, they stop making them by 2pm. And we found that the earlier we got there, the more likely they were to have all the filling choices.

The torta I ordered was huge, and delicious. Filled with shredded chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, mayo and cheese. I was blown away at how they could put it together for under $20!

Definitely have to make a stop in here, ideally for breakfast!

 

 

Kayaking the Lagoon

One thing we had been dying to do in Bacalar, Mexico was to kayak across the lagoon to see the pirate ship. Originally I had found an all day tour through a company called Active Nature Bacalar, for only $700mx. We were looking forward to doing that, but by the time I contacted to make reservations, they were full. (So book early if you want to take their tour!!).

Instead, we opted to rent a couple single person kayaks from a couple guys down the street from our airbnb. We paid $250mx/hour for both kayaks, which I thought was a great deal. I paid for the first hour, then agreed to pay for the remainder when we returned, since I wasn’t sure how long to commit for.

After getting settled into our kayaks, we set off! Our first mission was to cut across the lagoon and get to the pirate ship. This proved a bit harder than we thought… The kayaks are the kind you sit on top of, not in. And they’re very short. This makes steering a little more difficult than I’m used to with a regular sit-in kayak! Nevertheless, we made it across and were blown away by the beauty of the other shore.

Suffice it to say we realized why Bacalar is called the Lagoon of Seven Colours!! We hopped out of our kayaks and hung out in the crystal clear and bright blue water for awhile. Seth brought his snokel gear, so had fun swimming around looking for snail shells. I kept watch over our boats, and took in the beautiful colours surrounding me.

You can also climb up onto the pirate ship and jump off, but I’m not a fan of heights and Seth wasn’t feeling like jumping so we didn’t join the line up for this.

After about an hour we hopped back into our kayaks and continued on the journey. We slowly made our way back towards the docks we rented from since we had already been gone an hour an a half. When we hit the center of the lake Seth hopped out and snorkeled for a bit. I opted to use that time to relax and catch some rays!

When he was finished we headed over to the ‘black cenote’. The guy we rented our kayaks from told us about it, but I couldn’t find any information about it online. We figure it’s pretty well know, because we saw a few tour boats come through while we were there. 

It’s not really separate from the lake, as you can see in the photo to the right. So we weren’t even sure where we were going, except for a couple tour boats sitting in this little cove. So e paddled towards them, thinking we’d just go for a little circle around the edge, and head back to the dock. We were nearing 3 hours, so it felt like a good time to finish our afternoon and get some dinner.

So as we were paddling, I got a quick awakening as to why it was called the Black Cenote… In seconds we went from paddling in 3 foot deep water, to paddling over the precipice of a (most likely, by the looks of it) bottomless pit. It was basically terrifying. It honestly felt like the ground fell out from under me.. I mean, technically it did, but I was still floating, so I shouldn’t have really been bothered by it. But man, was it ever weird. I actually couldn’t even bring myself to float over it! Seth got a good chuckle from my moment of panic haha!

And then.. It was time to return the kayaks. It was much harder work than we thought, so we were pretty pleased that the 6 hour tour was booked up!

And now… it was time for another pizza at the pirate hostel!!

 

 

Thanks for reading about our 4 day adventure to Bacalar, Mexico! Have you been? Tell me what you thought in the comments!

 

 

If you’re looking for another short trip to do in the area, check out the pink lakes of Los Coloradas, Or one of these recommended day trips!

About the author

A. Blizzard

I'm a former teen mom, a career chef and an entrepreneur with a life-long wanderlust. My son and I recently became unschoolers and world-schoolers! This means we travel full-time and use our real-life experiences as a basis for his education. It's a blast, and we're both learning so much as we go! Follow us to keep up with our nomadic adventure!

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21 Comments on "Bacalar, Mexico on a Budget"

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Karin
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I´ve never heard of Bacalar Lagoon, but it looks like a lovely place to visit! I would also go for the liter drink, no judging from my side, haha 😉

How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch
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Loveddddd Bacalar when I went but didn’t know about any of these restaurants! Thanks!

Serena
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You’re sooo lucky to live in Playa. Also I had no idea Bacalar and the rest of Mexico had such an abundance of incredible street art!

Lacey Landecho
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I love Bacular but only stopped long enough for my son to take a dip. We ended up spending a cpuple hours at cenote azule though! It was very cool and very dark and scary like you mentioned on bacular. I was more worried about my son swimming on his own in it. He is a swimmer but I was worried still.

Linda
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The place looks just perfect for beautiful beaches and amazing food. And the prices seem great, you managed to find really great spots! I bet you got a good tan from kayaking 😉

Dakilanglaagan
Guest

The street art really took my attention. I hoped you could have featured more of them. Maybe next time? 😀 😀 😀 Truly helpful guide you have there. Thanks! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Ingrid
Guest

It looks like a great place for a few days get away! That clear blue water looks just amazing even though the kayaks experience can be intense for anybody! I like that you have included a lot of useful information for someone who might want to take the trip. Thanks for sharing

Ingrid

Suze
Guest

Oh, I was in Playa del Carmen not long ago! I didn’t realize that this gorgeous lagoon was fairly close. Can’t quite imagine what the black cenote was like but I imagine that you didn’t get time to take a photo in the moment of panic!

Hannah
Guest

Never heard of this place before. I like the idea of coffee in a van. That can should just follow me everywhere I go! That water looks amazing as well! Can’t believe you can only access it via hotels and restaurants!

Jitaditya
Guest

What a beautiful location! I had never even heard of this place but it looks like the perfect escape during gloomy winters in some other places. The food options are great too!

Wanderlust Vegans
Guest

First of all, this place looks like paradise. Secondly, I love that it is a budget post. I will definitely be looking more into this bus you took. I would love to kayak the lagoon on that colourful water with you.

Kristina
Guest

Whenever you see these beautiful destinations it’s so easy to think it is out of your price range. Such a great guide to see this amazing lagoon without breaking the bank. I am DYING from these photographs, it looks so majestic!

Marlene Marques
Guest

Great place to visit. Between those wonderful dishes and that blue water, I think I would be very happy in Bacalar. And so many things to. Thanks for all the travel tips.

WhereMonicaGoes
Guest

Whoa, what a very comprehensive travel guide to Bacalar. I like articles like this where working on a budget is important. I love traveling on the cheap as well! The lagoon looks so beautiful and inviting to me, sucks that it is too far! I was actually looking forward to read about the Cenote as well, but understand that we travel differently and have different preferences. Still, it seems you have a lot of fun. Happy travels!

joanna
Guest

I could easily add Bacalar lagoon on my itinerary for my upcoming trip to Mexico. it looks like a wonderful place and the color of the water is simply amazing! The prices seem to be very reasonable as well, which is a plus!

Parnashree Devi
Guest

Bacalar Lagoon reminded me of my trip to Maldives. Quite interesting getaway with so much to deliver. The street art and food looks great. Did u do kayaking ?

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