After being in Merida for awhile we needed a break from the city and Christmas was a couple of days away. So, not wanting to be in the city for the holiday we booked an easy five hour ADO bus to Laguna Bacalar to check out the wonderful lake we heard people raving about. And, yes, it is spectacular! And not difficult to travel to from several spots in the Yucatan. We took a first class ADO bus from Merida which leaves several times a day. Lake Bacalar can also reached from Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. Bring your Kindles along and watch the time fly by.
Still not on everyone’s radar, Bacalar is a small town on the stunning laguna of the same name. Watch out when you book accommodation as there is another tiny town called Buenavista also on the lake but 20 miles from Bacalar Town. Inadvertently we booked the Hotel Buenavista Bacalar before we found this out and had to spend money on taxis back and forth each day.
Bacalar is a stunning lake 41 kms long and less than 2 kms at its widest. Known as the lake with seven colors, it is that and a lot more depending on the time of day. Ranging from bright turquoise to dark blue it shimmers also with all the colors in between.
The turquoise parts are very shallow and walking along stretches that only came up to our knees or thighs in warm water was a pleasure. The dark blue areas however are very deep cenotes scattered about the lake. These are not the most common cenotes that are found in the jungle throughout the Yucatan, these were a whole different experience for us. Laguna Bacalar’s limestone bottom makes the waters crystal clear.
Excursions on Lake Bacalar
You can find many excursions available for cruising around the lake. We had a short 48 hour visit but we were still able to book two of them.
Our first was on a pontoon boat carrying about 14 people and this seemed to be the most common. You can also find catamarans, kayaks and paddle boards. Since every boat seems to use the exact same route around the portion of the lake in Bacalar town just talk to a few of the boat rentals to suss out which is best for you. The Pirate Canal is much visited and very crowded. Here the lake is very shallow with a silt like bottom so it can be slippery. On the edges is an area almost like quicksand. Only a few of our group were brave enough to head for this and they found out that it was hard going. In order to get out they had to crawl on their bellies like turtles.
Please note that this is not a quiet cruise. There were tons of boats crowded with people surrounding us around the Lagoon. We won’t say you shouldn’t do one of these excursions, but our second boat experience turned out to be much more to our liking.
Unique to the lake are the stromatolites. These coral-like organisms are found in only a handful of places around the globe and are considered among the earliest lifeforms on earth. Unfortunately they are threatened with the rise in tourism on the lake. Tourists were using them as diving platforms, where we would have expected them to be protected. If you head to Bacalar please be aware of these fragile organisms and take care of them.
While we were in Buenavista we ventured down to the lake from our hotel. At a very nice and large park on the banks of the lake with a big blue slide we found Andres and his crew offering a quiet, private cruise on his sailboat. This area of the lake is not super popular, so that meant there was absolutely no one else on the boat with us except for a really great Dutch couple and their two young boys who joined us from our hotel. It made for a delightful afternoon.
The wind was a bit calm that day so we had to resort to using a motor for part of the way, but we were able to sit under the waving sail for others. It was a perfect day, especially with some cold beers and fruits offered by our skipper, and the sun up high in the skies.
The water was stunning and warm when we visited. But we hear that the hotter the weather outside the cooler the lake feels. December was a perfect time of the year for us to come.
This part of the lake is beautiful and we spent about 2 hours cruising around, but, we would have loved more. Unfortunately we were headed back to Merida on the 5:30pm bus and needed to make it back into Bacalar town. If you come to Lake Bacalar head over to Buenavista for an afternoon and definitely check out Andres and tell him we sent you. Look for the Italian restaurant with the blue sign, it is the only one in Buenavista, and he will be in front of it.
Please do not use regular sunscreen in the lake or elsewhere in the Yucatan. These sunscreens can damage the fragile, tropical ecosystem and are not necessary as there are several good biodegradable ones available in Mexico.
We are looking forward to stopping in Bacalar for a few more days (48 hours was too short) when we travel for 6 months throughout Mexico and Guatemala in October.
A Call For Action
We are searching for the best spots in Mexico to travel to and we want your help. Do you have another “new to us” area of Mexico you would like us to visit and blog about? We want your suggestions for someplace we haven’t been to yet, please see under destinations in the menu where we have ventured. So, put a comment below and see if your choice makes the cut. Our only stipulation is that we should be able to travel there by bus if there is not an airport nearby. For more information, visit our blog post link Where Should We Visit In Mexico?