Everyone knows about Cancun & Tulum. When you think Mexico beaches, you can picture yourself in an all inclusive resort enjoying the southern sun. This, my friends, is the tourist’s Mexico, beautiful but not truly giving you the local flavor or taste. To get this you need to travel down the Yucatan Peninsula to Bacalar. From Cancun airport you can take the public bus to Bacalar. These buses are air conditioned, have movies, wifi, depart on time, and take you literally everywhere in the country. They are affordable and safe and I would recommend it as a cheap and easy way to get around.
My new friends and I took the bus from Tulum. It is about 2 and a half hours and it takes you right to the main highway of Bacalar just west of the lake. We had booked a room at a hostel the night before since we were arriving at 9pm. Hungry and tired we lugged our bags through the dark unknown streets. The walk was short and we dodged puddles heading towards a bed. We arrived only to be told they had no rooms. As we started to argue and show the reservation a tall German ran to the front desk. “HAY UN GRAN PROBLEMA!” He screams. He then tries to translate poorly that the shower is flooding the hallway and the bedrooms. She excuses herself from our conversation and slowly follows this man who is trying to speed her up. She looks 20 maximum and clearly is not invested in this place.
Eventually she returns and calls for a plumber. The German just waits unsure what to do as his room floods. We go back to arguing, she says we have no reservation, there is not even a website to make a reservation on. Confusing because I have the booking but we say look its 10pm just find another location for us to go. Eventually they have another place we can stay but it is naturally more expensive. We say no, we reserved something for this, we need something that is that. The manager is on the phone with her this whole time arguing with us. He says our reservation cost didn’t include a fee. Wait we say, so he knows we have a reservation? He has just been lying this whole time? She nods. Ok so we are clearly not staying here but its so late we don’t really know what to do. He calls a cab which will take us to a hotel that is near the lake.
We say goodbye to this poor woman and get in the cab confirming we are not paying. He agrees and starts driving us. I am following on google maps like guys we are going away from the lake towards the highway. Turns out the place he told us we were going to have a room wasn’t that place. He was taking us to a more expensive place. Forget this we say and get out of the cab on a dark street somewhere in Bacalar. Exactly what everyone tells you not to do in a foreign country, stand in the street looking lost, in the middle of the night. Luckily we see a motel, the woman has a room for us at an affordable price. We enter, it smells to high heaven of bleach. I guess its clean? At this point we cannot think of another option we just need to eat and sleep. Also everything thus far has happened completely in Spanish. I said I wanted to practice…
We grab burgers from the corner with some pesos and eat them back at the motel. The most important things to have while traveling are a smart phone with gps and cash. The next morning everything is different. The sun is shining, we grab our bags and start walking towards the center for some breakfast. The town is adorable and not as menacing as the unfamiliar night lead it to be. We eat at this adorable cafe, the first of many in Bacalar before we can check into the next place. We found this one on airbnb, which we learned was the more secure way to book over booking.com. Posada Antonia Bacalar is were we ended up staying for the next 3 nights. Convenient location, quiet, and weirdly fast wifi, what more would you need.
The next 3 days were spent biking around the city, exploring the lagoon, cenotes, and the local food. Now this was a Mexican town. There was 1 atm and countless restaurants in the center. We met up with some French travelers my friends had met in Isla Mujeres. It felt mentally crazy to be sitting in Mexico hearing French all around me. Another big rule I have when traveling, don’t over plan because that stops you from accepting what comes your way. Like when two new friends ask you to join them around the peninsula. My only plan was to get to Mexico City, well that wasn’t going anywhere and gave me another reason to return.
The highlights for sure were Cenote Cocalitos and the lagoon itself. You can kayak, take a boat out, or just go straight to the cenotes to swim. You should do all 3. There are luxury hotels along the green blue waters with the white sand inviting you onward. Book there for english and no 10pm dramas. The Fiji of Mexico we heard it called. There were many people who spoke English in the hotels, boats, restaurants, so if you want to travel try not to be a tourist and head south. See the country you are visiting, meet the people. Plus Tulum is run by the cartels so might not be the best idea to support them with your money.