When I read about Bacalar and it’s beautiful lake, I was intrigued and beyond excited to spend some time there. I wasn’t sure if it would stand up to my expectations but it did and I’m thankful that I gave it the chance. I found Bacalar described as a “cottage town” for vacationing Mexicans. While we did come across other travelers from the U.S. and Canada, our numbers were limited. Spanish is definitely necessary to visit this town. The guides we hired and a few taxi drivers spoke English but for the most part, Spanish is the language for most transactions.
We stayed at Casita Carolina which is only a few blocks from the center of town. This small property has a handful of room options that range from two small trailers ($300 MXN and $350 MXN) to a large palapa style room ($700 MXN) which sleeps four. The staff was very helpful though only the caretaker spoke English.
While in Bacalar, we took a half-day tour of the lake with a man named Amir. He tended to visit a handful of the hotels and hostels in the morning looking to round up 6-8 people for a tour starting around noon. While he was not the only person offering a tour like this in town, we were very happy with the experience we had with him. The tour included stops along the lake including snorkeling in one of the cenotes, swimming in shallow water near mud which is rich in sulfur (great for your skin), and swimming/snorkeling in “the rapids” which is a canal with a light current much like a lazy river. At $400 MXN per person, this tour was one of our favorite activities while in Bacalar.
When we weren’t enjoying the lake, we were eating all the delicious food we could find and it was plentiful. There are a few restaurants on the zocalo (town square) that were more geared toward tourists; menus were offered in English and Spanish and the prices were higher than in the rest of town. We ate an early lunch at one of these restaurants and for a plate of three tacos and huevos al gusto (eggs with ham, rice, and beans), we paid a total of $130MXN. And while the food was tasty, we had a similar meal at a restaurant off the the zocalo and paid around $75MXN. The two restaurants we enjoyed the most where on the same block. El Socio is open for breakfast and lunch and the other one (name unknown), two doors down, is open for lunch and dinner. Each restaurant is on either side of Toto Blue Boutique Hotel. Both restaurants are basic in their options, the service was friendly, and some basic Spanish is needed.
We also wanted to visit some of the Mayan ruins near Bacalar. There are three sites within a 1.5 hour drive from Bacalar; Kohunlich, Dzibanche, and Kinichna. The caretaker at Casita Carolina, Kim, said she had a line on a bilingual guide. She said that he charged $500 MXN per person but this did not include transportation. It would be up to us to negotiate a price for a taxi or private driver for the trip. We had heard that most taxis would drive you around all day for $600 MXN but had also heard it could be as much as $1000 MXN. We thought this sounded a bit high so we went next door to the Green Monkey hostel and asked about their tour options. A man, whose name I can’t remember, said they offered a half day tour to three of the ruins and were quoted the $400 MXN which included the entrance fees for all three sites (approximately $55 MXN for Kohunlich and $67 MXN for both Dzibanche and Kinichna) as well as transportation. We double and triple checked that we got all of this right and when we were satisfied that there were no extra fees, we locked down the plan for the following day. When we arrived the next morning, the only surprise that awaited us was the transportation situation. My husband and I, along with the guide and three other people would be squeezing into a 1976 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. We shouldn’t have been surprised but were and got a good laugh out of the situation. It worked out fine in the end. We had a great time touring the countryside, visiting the ruins, and barely making it over the speedbumps in our lowrider.
We also asked around and researched the possibility of taking a colectivo out to the ruins. What we found was that you could get about halfway there which means you would still need to negotiate with a taxi to get to the remote ruins. The bright side to this lack of public transportation is there were few visitors at the ruins when we were there. At all three sites, we were one of two small groups visiting. You can actually focus on the awe inspiring history that is in front of you.