When it comes to travel, there are few places on the planet that have been left undiscovered by travelers. Bacalar isn’t one of them – but compared to the ever-busy streets and beaches of neighboring Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa Del Carmen, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve just stepped foot into one of the best-kept secrets in the Mexican Caribbean.
With hotels across the region set to sell out this winter as throngs of tourists descend, sleepy Bacalar could well be the best choice for travelers during this busy winter season.
It might not boast the resorts that Cancun has, the nightlife that put Tulum on the map, or the proximity to major towns that attract millions to Cozumel every year, but a four-hour drive from Cancun International Airport to Bacalar is seriously worth considering if you want all the charm of the Mexican Caribbean without as much of the crowds, noise, and hassle that goes with it. Here’s why you should look to visit it over the next few months – before the masses change it for good.
Why Bacalar Is Best – Information For Travelers
With its impressive kaleidoscopic lagoons, wooded thatched beach huts, and piers that jut out over a crystal-clear sea, Bacalar puts the Caribbean into the Mexican Caribbean. A far cry from the tourist-orientated mega-resorts that the likes of showstopping destinations such as Cancun have to offer, Bacalar’s beauty lies in its simplicity, its laid-back way of life, and its abundance of natural features that look as though they have come straight from the front of National Geographic.
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Bacalar is a nature lover’s paradise and is an ideal destination for those with an adventurous spirit. The town has several inlets, rivers, and lagoons that can be explored on foot, on boats, in a kayak, or on a stand-up paddleboard, without having to worry about the din of traffic or city life ruining the moment.
Whilst the town lacks the white-sand beaches of its neighboring destinations, it makes up for it with an array of lakes and islands that are easily accessible and just as enjoyable – particularly the stupendous Bacalar Lagoon – a narrow lake that’s as tranquil as it is beautiful. For those who want to embrace nature without dodging sunbathers, it’s the place to visit.
Few places can claim to have natural features that are almost unique and otherworldly, but Bacalar is one of them. Amidst the cerulean cenotes that helped put the town on the map, travelers can take in the sights of stromatolites, round rock-like natural features that resemble ancient lilypads in the water. Whilst touching them is forbidden, there are ample opportunities to enjoy the surrounding from waterside hammocks – or, better yet, rustic wooden swings that allow travelers to sway above the water itself.
As well as stunning natural features, Bacalar has more than its fair share of historical sites too. The nearby Kohunlich ruins are a fantastic example of pre-Columbian Maya civilization, with several more to check out too. Bacalar itself serves almost as a throwback destination to a time before commercialization and capitalism transformed the major destinations in Quintana Roo. It’s still authentically Mexican and is a perfect place to learn about local traditions and culture.
It’s not all stunning nature and remarkable history, though. Whilst it doesn’t have the thriving nightlife of Cancun or Tulum – and many who visit hope it never will – there are still places where travelers can let their hair down and enjoy the night. Bacalar Beach Club, Beach Club Blu, and La Playita are all places where sensible drinking and dancing are encouraged, and there are several top restaurants in remarkable settings to cater to your foodie cravings.
The town has accommodations to suit all kinds of travelers and all kinds of budgets. Everything from basic hostels costing little over $10 per night to stunning, five-star resorts on the sea can be found here, and with hotels in Cancun looking like selling out, you just mind find yourself a bargain.
Reachable via either a 6-hour bus journey, a 4-hour drive from Cancun airport, or a 30 minute drive from Chetumal airport, Bacalar is well-worth an extra few hours on your journey time. Charming, scenic, and often overlooked, it’s the perfect choice for travelers looking for something different this winter.
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