Costa Maya

Take Me Back to Bacalar

Bacalar Lagoon, Costa Maya in Mexico

Powering down after a work week switches back and forth from doing nothing but laying around having drinks in our pool to getting out the door and heading somewhere. Usually south. South brings finer beaches, beautiful landscapes, smaller towns and less humans. North brings tourism, mega resorts and house music.

Go South by Southwest

About three and a half hours south southwest from Playa del Carmen is a sleepy little lagoon town called Bacalar. We made it in two and a half. A German was behind the wheel and turned the Federal 307 into the Autobahn. He is a good man and I appreciated his enthusiasm to get the commute over with. The girls slept in the back, unaware of pace.

Now in Bacalar, we grabbed a quick lunch in the small town square, had a few beers and jumped on a boat. It was an independently owned charter, pitched to us by the young Romanian proprietor, Mihail. At first we considered he might just be The Tallest Man on Earth in hiding.

Mihail does all of the map and poster artwork for their little pirate operation, Piratas Bacalar. He has a sort of charm and a salesmanship we had to say yes to. That, and your other option for getting on the water in Bacalar is throwing on a neon life vest and choking on fumes from the little sardine boats tour groups pack visitors into. Instead, find the Piratas and take a private sailing trip on a daysailer with shark teeth painted on the bow. It just makes sense.

The sail lasts six hours from daylight through sunset and into the dark. It follows the routes in the image below with a guided history of the pirate and Spanish raids in the region.

At the time of writing this there are four different price points:

  • 2 Passengers: $1200 pesos
  • 3 Passengers: $1600 pesos
  • 4 Passengers: $1800 pesos
  • 6 Passengers: $2200 pesos

There were four of us, so it worked out to $1800 pesos ($140usd) for the full six hour private tour. The sail comes with fresh fruit and a dinner plate of meat, veggies and rice for all. When you run it down, you're talking about $75 pesos ($6usd) an hour, per person. Who says no to a $6/hr private sailing trip? Not you, that's for damned sure!

Pack enough beer, rum and wine for the whole trip. If you've been to Mexico or live in the area, you know that beer at the corner store is only about $0.50usd a can while a 750ml bottle of rum can be $10-12usd. Liquor here is practically free.

You'll start with beer in the sun, and switch to wine or rum as the sun sets with the boat anchored in the crystal clear shallows of the lagoon. El Capitan sails in right next to a tiny homebase island for what seems like every species of bird on the planet. They fly with their wings almost skimming the lagoon on their way around the boat to the island, sun setting in the background.

We got back to land, had some beers and cigars on our patio at Amigos Hotel until it was time to pass out. Rooms at Amigos run at about $700 pesos ($50usd). Below is a photo of our patio during the day, before sailing. The top photo in this post is the pier at Amigos Hotel. At a glance through the images on their site, Amigos may not appear to be much, but that's the town. A place less concerned with luxury property rentals and more focused on relaxing in a relatively untouched region of the Costa Maya, Mexico.

Bacalar is a quaint place of beauty, pot holes, dirt roads, street dogs, independently owned restaurants and hotels, all sitting on the Lagoon of Seven Colours. The next morning we left for Mahahual and already missed Bacalar. We'll be back soon, little town.

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