Okay, its just a lake. Minnesota has 10,000 of them, most equally beautiful in their own way. So why would I tell someone from the US to go another hour south, just to see a lake in Bacalar? For the most part, I don’t, because most came to enjoy the Caribbean. I tell them not to bother … unless you want to see some great jungle ambiance via one of the lake tour boats. Now that, is worth going to Bacalar to do for a day trip, because believe me, you are not in Minnesota anymore!
Laguna Bacalar is part of seven separate bodies of semi-fresh, brackish water lakes, just a few kilometers inland from the Caribbean coast. Most of the lake is crystal clear and the high limestone content of the water is such that the sun reflects the sky, causing the lake to take on several different spectacular shades of aqua blue. Besides the color though, what makes it unique is that all the waters are surrounded by totally pristine jungle. Small tour boats take people all through the lake system, where birds and all sorts of wildlife and jungle flora are found. The water is generally too fresh for salt water fish, and too salty for fresh water fish, but good tour guides know the areas where there is still some marine life, so snorkeling is always part of the boat trips.
Birds are one of the more spectacular parts of the trip and seen everywhere. The Bacalar lake area is home to many species of birds not found along the coastal areas. Toucans, parrots and all sorts of colorful jungle birds are everywhere, and in the areas that marine life is plentiful, raptors are commonly seen hitting the water for dinner. And depending on which part of the lake you are on, you might see a manatee, if you are lucky.
If you go to Bacalar for a day trip, make a full day of it. Take an hour and go through the self guided tour of Fortres de San Felipe, built 300 years ago to keep the pirates from stealing all the stuff the Spaniards were already stealing from the indigenous people. Couldn’t have that! Very interesting place though and the rock structure is fascinating. It has a mote all the way around, but it is filled in or dry these days. It is in the old town’s center and overlooks the entire lake.
From there, you can walk the 50 yards to the lake front, where there are several restaurants, and most have tour boats that can take you on a lake tour from there. Check my friend Kristel at Tours Bacalar Lagunakristal. She works out of Playita restaurant and does a great 3 hour tour for $450 MX per person, (about $30 US) with a 3 person max. She is from France, and speaks several languages, including English. She also knows the lake well, she should, she has been guiding for 10 years, and her guests have a great time. Not to mention, Playita has good food, so go for an early lunch, and jump in her boat after, or plan an early trip out, and do lunch after. Either is worth the trip. Contact Kristel via her Facebook from this link here, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or even call or whatsapp at 984-138-2948.
The jungle around all the lakes that are part of the Laguna Bacalar system is what makes the area unique. The water is pristine and a great vehicle to see that jungle. But there are other areas, mainly north of the city of Bacalar, that also have some great jungle ambiance. If you want to see some jungle wildlife, flora and really off the beaten path places most never find, try some of the little roads off Highway 307 going east, back toward the ocean. Lots of little lake “resorts” that have swimming areas, kayaks, small restaurants and even some with nightly cabanas for a bout $10 US a night. Don’t plan that unless you can sleep in a hammock!
So when you visit Mahahual for a week or so, take a day and visit Bacalar. Incredible jungle area, great lake and a very fun day. And no, you’re not in Minnesota anymore Toto!