Where we’re at: I’m sharing my journey in 2022, including this trip to Mexico in February.
It may seem ironic, but it’s true — in this Up In The Air-style life, I actually truly do really value my routines and traditions. One that I’ve come to treasure? The post-Wander Women Retreat getaway I’ve made a ritual, a little time to unwind, absorb, and celebrate after giving my all on a work trip, usually alongside my co-host or team.
For our inaugural retreat of 2022, my girl Brenna and I had a little scheduling hurdle — she was only available to sneak away beforehand. Fine! We accepted our fate to arrive at our retreat relaxed and pampered!
We had exactly three nights and two days to play with, and I entertained many options for where would be the perfect escape within a reasonable distance from our final destination of Tulum.
Of course, ever the freshness-seeker, my first instinct was to go somewhere new. But, I’ve actually covered a lot of ground here in this corner of Mexico and the places that were still on my wish list all got Goldilocks-ed, for one reason or another — Coba? Not quite three-night worthy. Mahahual? Brenna’s not a diver. Puerto Morelos? All the accommodation I drool over was booked.
I’ll get to those places someday. But for now, I came around to the idea of a revisit. And one destination stuck out in my mind as somewhere I certainly hadn’t done justice to. I’ve yet to even blog about my first visit to Bacalar in late 2020 (cringe!) but at two nights, with spotty weather, I definitely didn’t feel I’d had the full experience. I hadn’t even been out on Bacalar’s namesake lagoon! Between that and the opening of a swish new design hotel, it was clearly time to return.
We booked our accommodation, our boat tour, and our rental car — and left the rest up to fate.
We arrived late at night on the first evening of our trip, after Brenna landed in Cancun, scooped me up in Tulum, and we braved the long dark road to Bacalar — you could say we were wiped upon arrival! It’s always a little disconcerting arriving somewhere after dark, but the next morning we sprung out of bed and were truly beyond delighted by the design paradise we found. Honestly, had we not had an epic lagoon tour awaiting us, I might have considered never leaving our home-away-from-home at Casa Hormiga at all.
Breakfast, where, as two self-employed chicas about to log off for a few days to run our retreat, we brought our laptops along, was an epic spread of locally sourced delights. Fresh juices, fun salsas, exotic fruits… I was in my favorite-meal-of-the-day heaven.
Finally, after a morning lounging with our laptops in various hammocks and Architectural Digest-worthy chairs around the hotel, we tore ourselves away for our afternoon of adventure. Of course, we couldn’t help but get distracted along the way by Bacalar’s ramshackle charm — it’s oft-repeated among the Mexican Caribbean fan club that Bacalar is basically Tulum ten years ago, you know.
Right now, it seems straddled in a happy place between hidden gem and overhyped — with cute cafes and boutiques like El Manatí Bacalar hitting that perfect sweet spot.
There’s no shortage of options when it comes to booking a lagoon tour in Bacalar. But, you know that the moment Instagram showed me the chic little private Boho Boats Bacalar, my search was closed. I mean, could there be a chicer way to explore the lagoon’s infamous seven colors?
They don’t call it the Maldives of Mexico for nothing!
While technically, the Boho Boat fits four, the two of us were the perfect fit. The price was certainly steeper than the typical Bacalar boat tour at 1250MXN or around $62USD per hour — though it does include what we learned was a generous supply of beer or wine.
While you have some freedom to design your trip as you wish, the recommended time to see all the major “sights” and make it to the south of the lagoon is four hours. Of course, we signed up for the full package! One other important planning element to note? The lagoon is closed to all boats on Wednesdays, to give the fragile environment time to rest.
Our host Rodrigo was a local entrepreneur who had brought the boat to life himself and was a delight to spend the day with — especially at the bottom of half a bottle of white, where Brenna found the inspiration to create a collection of men taking their shirts off using the iPhone’s slow motion feature. Por que no? Rodrigo was only too happy to oblige.
Yes, the cenotes and canals and stalactites were beautiful. But equally, so was a whole afternoon set aside for soaking up sun and sipping wine and indulging in daydreaming conversation (Brenna and I may or may not be plotting to take over the world together — you’ve been warned!)
I even worked up the nerve — and, ahem, liquid courage — to fly my drone over the Los Rapidos portion of the Southern Lagoon. It was the perfect brave and fun note to end the afternoon on.
It was the lagoon tour of our dreams, come true.
That night, we headed for a tipsy dinner at Barbanegra Bacalar, one spot from my last trip I knew was worth a repeat (though honestly, I was dying from some kind of mystery illness my previous trip here and am not sure I actually consumed any food so… it could be considered a first trip, too.)
Great cocktails, sexy vibe, and delicious tacos — put this one on your Bacalar wishlist for sure! Yes, it’s another Tulum-y spot in appearance, though everywhere in this town is totally pretension-free.
We woke up on day two of our trip ready for a relaxed morning fulfilling all our hotel lounging dreams. After failing to make a class at the cute local yoga studio Espacio Libre work with our schedule, we happily opted to use the yoga loft to stream an Alo Moves workout instead– Alo Moves is my latest travel obsession that you can try a free thirty day trial of using my link.
This is totally unsponsored, I’m just super into the search feature that allows me to set length and intensity of workout as well as style of movement from strength to yoga to barre and beyond. It’s so good for squeezing in a sweat on the go!
After round two of the breakfast buffet of our design hotel dreams, we were ready to lounge by the pool. Which in our case quickly devolved, as I’m sure anyone could have imagined, into a oversized plant photoshoot.
While we also considered indulging in some of the hotel’s lush spa treatments, which you know I’m a no-hold-barred sucker for, I think it speaks to how much fun we were having just running around being silly that we didn’t even feel the need to indulge.
Finally ready for an afternoon emergence from Casa Hormiga, we hopped on complimentary bikes from the hotel for a spin around town. We stopped for juice at Mango y Chile, a plant-based snack spot with a killer view, and ticked off pre-retreat errands like the ATM and pharmacy, made all the more delightful on two wheels.
We ended our mini-wander with a very late lunch and a lazy afternoon on the dock at La Playita. This is the place to be in Bacalar, and I knew Brenna couldn’t leave without seeing it. Sitting on a dock with your feet dangling in the water for a while is pretty much the pace of life in these parts.
That night we were crashing hard and probably should have just called it a Netflix night night. But, we didn’t, and thank goodness — we started the night going full Goldilocks again, dismissing the hotel for being too quiet, a buzzy hostel we’d passed for being too loud, and a beautiful restaurant we’d passed, Costera 28, for being way too fussy.
So we wandered down to a pirate bar we’d seen a tattered poster advertising somewhere around town. Live music enticed us in from the outside, and our eyes widened as we adjusted to the darkness and spotted from the corners of the high thatch-roof ceiling — aerial silks! The new aerial vocabulary words I’d memorized — telas for silks, and aro for lyra, in case you were wondering — came in handy as I chatted up the bartender on what they were doing there, earning us a private tour of a smaller second studio upstairs with another set of silks.
We ended the night at Bote de Leche, finally finding the restaurant which was just right, toasting to a future aerial retreat right here, in the town that charmed us senseless in just a few days (but not before we take on Tel Aviv not once but twice, of course!)
Fate had brought us exactly where we needed to be. And the next morning, bursting with inspiration and gratitude, we made our way back to Tulum to go share it with our retreat guests. I’m sharing that next — stay tuned.
Have you been to Bacalar? I can’t wait to share my first trip here with you as well — someday, ha!
Wow, this looks beautiful. Added to my future Mexico list!
I don’t know if it can be called a hidden gem anymore but wow, definitely still has that special feel. I loved this little getaway!