Travelers have been vacationing in the Mayan Riviera destinations of Cancun and Playa Del Carmen for what seems like forever. Over the last decade, droves of wellness seekers and partiers descended upon Tulum, changing the tapestry of this once low-key beach town entirely. Prefer to steer clear of locales that are overrun with tourists? Recently, another Quintana Roo gem has started to gain attention from international travelers.
Located near the Mexico-Belize border, the Pueblo Magico (magic town) of Bacalar sits on Lake Bacalar, nicknamed the Lagoon of Seven Colors for its many shades of blue. Being centered around the second-largest freshwater lake in the country makes it ideal for swimming, sailing and kayaking. Certainly, the laid-back atmosphere and lack of crowds, plus chill hotels to hang your wide-brimmed sun hat at the end of the day, elevate the vacation paradise vibes. Historic landmarks and proximity to Mayan ruins give visitors a chance to learn about the local culture.
Ready to plan what promises to be the first of many trips to Bacalar? Scroll on for the best places to stay and things to do in this burgeoning South of the Border hotspot.
WHERE TO STAY
1. Casa Hormiga
Best for: Wellness seekers
On rare occasions, you might walk into a place and feel its soul immediately. That’s how it feels to enter Casa Hormiga, an 18-room sanctuary that’s all about promoting renewal in a peaceful, dream-like setting featuring organic materials, leafy plants and communal space dedicated to high-vibration events such as sound healing ceremonies.
Best for: Sustainably-minded travelers
Tucked off the road, Hotel Aires Bacalar is an eco-oriented oasis with a modern green aesthetic. The bamboo facades, lush gardens and curved pool seem poised for some Instagram love. Spacious, quiet rooms with comfy beds guarantee a great snooze, while the private terraces with hammocks supply the perfect spot for an afternoon nap.
3. Casa Chukum
Best for: Art lovers
Vibrant pops of colors and an eye-catching collection of local art infuse Casa Chukum with a really cool, bohemian vibe. This boutique treasure also boasts a lovely pool surrounded by hammocks and chaise lounges as well as stylish, air-conditioned rooms. Warm, genuine hospitality bridges the gap between hotel and homestay.
4. MÍA Bacalar
Best for: Resort fans
Occupying a prime position right on the shores of Lake Bacalar, MÍA Bacalar offers an exceptional lagoonside experience. The focus is on nature and low-key luxury with opportunities for adventure and relaxation. Design draws inspiration from the environment. The curvilinear-shaped rooms with wood detailing are particularly striking.
WHAT TO DO
1. Lake Bacalar
It’s hard to put the beauty of Lake Bacalar into words. Of course, there’s also tons to do on this stunning lagoon, from stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking excursions to catamaran tours and sailing charters. While Bacalar isn’t a party-centric spot, vacationers who want to cut loose with a few cocktails will no doubt enjoy an afternoon on a group sightseeing boat with an open bar.
2. San Joaquín Parish Church
Perched a few steps from the town’s main plaza, San Joaquín Parish Church honors the patron saint of Bacalar. The figure of San Joaquín rightfully gets mentioned first. Not to be overlooked, the weathered facade and vaulted interior ceilings are also really quite something.
3. Fuerte San Felipe Bacalar
Completed in 1733, Fuerte San Felipe Bacalar is a sturdy and impressive fortress that was originally built to provide protection against pirate attacks and later transformed into a museum showcasing weapons, artifacts and murals. When you’re done learning about the local history, step outside for exceptional views over Lake Bacalar.
4. Cenote Azul
Taking a dip in Cenote Azul is something of a Bacalar right of passage. Or, to use less ritualist language, it’s just pretty darn awesome. It just doesn’t get cooler than swimming around in an underground freshwater cave. If you have more time to explore, it’s def worth checking out Cenote de la Bruja and Cenote Cocalitos as well.