If you want to escape the crowds in Mexico and go somewhere serene, beautiful and relaxing, Laguna Bacalar is the place for you.
It also makes a good stop off point to break up the journey from the popular beaches of the Riviera Maya to Belize.
I first heard about Laguna Bacalar in a blog post by Under Travel. I was totally sold by their photos and intrigued that the hostel they stayed at could be found by visiting the ‘corner cafe on the northern side of the square’ and asking ‘an old hippie drinking coffee and reading a newspaper’!
If there was a hippie chilling out in the same cafe each day, this had to be a laid back kind of place…
WHERE TO STAY
Most of the hostels are located on the same stretch of lake near the town and, although I didn’t check them all out, I doubt you can go far wrong.
We stayed at a place called Magic.
To get there, you need to walk a few blocks from the bus station. The Avenues run parallel to the lake’s shore and start there from the number 1. If you’re heading more or less east and the Avenue numbers are going down, you’re on the right track! Beware of the dogs. There are loads of strays and they’re quite aggressive.
Magic is a little slice of heaven. There are a few cabins with mattresses, mosquito nets and fans, as well as sites to pitch tents. The cabin on the lakefront is a little pricier, but it gets a cooling sea breeze and as soon as you step outside you have a view of the lake and your own jetty reserved just for guests.
ACTIVITIES ON LAGUNA BACALAR
If you head into town, there’s an old fort and museum that’s worth checking out, and the nearby ruins of Chacchoben, Dzibanché and Kohunlich have gorgeous jungle surroundings and very few visitors.
One of the best tours can be booked directly from your hostel reception – a small, private catamaran tour of the lake.
Other options include horse riding, kayaking, bike hire, jungle hikes and scuba diving.
In all honesty, though, one of the best things to do in Laguna Bacalar is absolutely nothing. By that, I mean grab a book or your iPod, walk to the end of the pier and lie there all day listening to the water lapping against the wooden support beams.
Most people visit Laguna Bacalar on their way between Belize and the Mayan Riviera. Tulum – one of the most interesting and scenic ruins in Mexico – is about 3 hours north by ADO bus and costs roughly 160 pesos.
To get to the border town of Chetumal, you can take a public bus for 35 pesos, or a collectivo taxi. The latter costs about the same but is much easier since you can leave as soon as you have enough people and it drops you closer to the ferry terminal. From Chetumal, you can arrange onward travel to mainland Belize or catch a ferry to visit Caye Caulker – a place you cannot afford to miss.