Let me begin this blog post by introducing myself – I am Aoife. There you go! Lol just kidding, obviously, you want to know a little bit about me (I hope lol). Starting from the top, I had been experiencing the travel bug for some time, seeing all my friends and Facebook friends going off exploring all these wonderful places, most commonly South East Asia and it looked incredible, but that wasn’t the continent that tickled my fancy. I was always intrigued by Central and South America especially Brazil – like how unreal does Rio look?!
But I had always resigned myself to the fact that I’d never go due to thinking it was super dangerous and not suitable for tourists due to the scary stories about drug cartels and the like. Then the travel blogger stalking began…I think I follow every Tom, Dick and Harry that has travelled the “Gringo Trail” down through these two continents. I was obsessed – researching and researching and then everything strangely fell into place with myself and John and wanting to finally take the leap and just go for it!
We have no mortgage, kids, or anything to hold us back so if not now, when? Well, enough about that and more about destination numero dos…Bacalar.
Bacalar is south of Tulum, but still in the Quintana Roo state of Mexico and is situated by the Lagoon that was made with God’s hands himself. This. Place. Is. Paradise. Pictures will only go so far to explain the beauty of Laguna Bacalar. It is a long lake approximately 60km long but only 2km wide. It is said the water has seven colours and that is because of the massive variation in depths.
One area could be 2m deep and then could plunge down 90m, which is exactly what happens at the Cenote Negro area. Cenote’s are formed by the collapse of the limestone ground of the lake and this is what has caused the depth variation throughout Laguna Bacalar. So the sun shines and voíla, the water looks turquoise, navy, green, black, I think you get it.
There are two public access points to the Laguna in Bacalar called Balnearios. We preferred the one called Balneario Municipal and if you see the picture below you’ll understand why. It was simply a pier with steps into the crystal clear waters which were always warm and calm. Be warned though – the initial depth of the water is 2m so I was bobbing about thinking I was going to drown only to realise if you swim out just a couple of metres it is only about 1.5m so I could stand on my tippy toes.
The other Balneario is at the other end of Bacalar and you have to pay an entry fee, there are a restaurant and bar but the food is…meh and the ground in the water was quite rocky so it just didn’t match the quality of Balneario Municipal in my opinion.
Our first day we got a boat tour of the lake and got to swim in the Canal de Los Piratas which is a canal used years ago by pirates who came to loot Bacalar and steal their goods and even their women! This was actually gorgeous I was in awe of the beauty the whole time.
There is even some weird sulphur sand stuff you can put on your skin, allow to dry in about 8 minutes and wash off and it is meant to exfoliate your skin. Anyone who is familiar with the smell of Sulphur will know it smells like none other than eggy farts so I decided to not indulge myself in this particular activity.
The next few days we just relaxed and swam and relaxed and swam. That is all you need to do here and you’ll love it. Finally, on our last day, we decided to rent kayaks to explore the Laguna. Turns out, we are both s*** at kayaking. So many times we were doing 180 manoeuvres and didn’t have a clue how we’d done it.
We kayaked from Balneario Magico to the Canal de Los Piratas and back and were sweating and had blisters on our hands from the trip. Fun tip: definitely rent kayaks for longer than one hour like we did to avoid the excessive sweating and blisters and you can kayak at a more leisurely pace.
That night we went to the museum in Fuerte de San Felipe – the old fort that is in the main square of the town. It was apparently built to protect the town from the pirates and I believe it worked! The museum goes through a timeline of the history of the area which will give you a brief insight into the Mayan civilization. There’s even a skeleton in there but I wasn’t sure why or who it was but still pretty cool I guess. The views from the Fuerte are lovely you can see all the shades of colours on the Laguna.
We stayed in Bacalar for 6 nights which was probably a little long but we had a shuttle bus organized so our hands were tied. I reckon 4 nights would be enough to relax and enjoy the area and leave you wanting some more.
Here are our tips and info we gathered from Bacalar:
Hotel El Roble: £23 a night (double room) we wanted to stay at Yak Yak Hostel which is right on the Laguna but unfortunately, it was booked up.
Boat trip around Laguna Bacalar: £10pp (includes pick-up and drop-off at the hotel) lasted about 2.5 hours and had two stops for swimming.
Fuerte de San Felipe: £3pp entry
Kayak Rental: £6/hour for 2 people
Balneario Municipal: Free entry
Balneario Magico: £0.60/pp entry
ADO bus Tulum to Bacalar: £12pp (please be aware Mexicans apparently have a very relaxed approach to time-keeping and our bus was an hour late – but it showed up!)
Travel around Bacalar – Walked everywhere
El Barril Grill – variety of meats – we got two meals with meat and potatoes with a drink each for £12.50
Pizzeria Bertilla – gorgeous Italian food – one pizza, pasta carbonara and a drink each for £13
The rest of the time we went to local shops and bought food to make a picnic when at the Laguna.
Daily Budget-Excluding Accommodation
£10 daily each which was sometimes too much, Bacalar is cheaper than Tulum so eating out was cheaper and no money spent on travel as everything is in walking distance.
Our next destination is Caye Caulker, an island off the coast of Belize City where we are currently sunning ourselves now, anyway I’m off to jump in the pool, then to watch the sunset and maybe treat myself to a cheeky ice cream 🙂