We needed a break from Merida, and Christmas was two days away. It was time for a brief holiday. We took an easy first class five hour ADO bus to Laguna Bacalar. to check out the wonderful lake we heard people raving about. And, yes, it is spectacular!
Buses to Lake Bacalar also run from Tulum and Playa Del Carmen and leave several times a day.
When you book accommodation, be aware there is another tiny town called Buenavista on the lake but it is 20 miles from Bacalar. We paid for 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 km long and less than 2 km at its widest. It is known as the lake of seven colors, and it is that and a lot more. Depending on the time of day, the lake turns from bright turquoise to dark blue, and it shimmers 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 deep cenotes scattered about the lake. They differ from the cenotes found in the jungle throughout the Yucatan.
We were told that Laguna Bacalar’s limestone bottom makes the waters crystal clear.
Excursions on Lake Bacalar
There many excursions available for cruising the lake. We were only at the lake for a short 48-hour visit, but we still fit two of them in.
We chose a pontoon boat first, which carried 14 people. This seemed to be the most common way to see the lake. Catamarans, kayaks, and paddleboards are also available. Every boat seems to use the same route in front of Bacalar town, so we suggest talking to a few of the boat owners to figure out which is best for you.
The Pirate Canal is included on every outing and it gets crowded. Here the lake is very shallow with silt like bottom so it can be slippery and feel strange on your feet. On the edges is an area almost like quicksand. Only a few of our group were brave enough to go into this and they found out it was hard going. 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 the 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. We taking the 5:30 pm bus back to Merida and had to rush back to Bacalar town.
Please do not use regular sunscreen in the lake or elsewhere in the Yucatan. These sunscreens can damage the fragile, tropical ecosystem and are unnecessary as there are several good biodegradable products available in Mexico.
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 that you would like us to visit and blog about? Please see under destinations in the menu where we have ventured and suggest your favorite place in the comments below and see if your choice makes the cut. 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?