Sleepy Little Bacalar

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Wandering further off of the tourist trail, we’ve headed south to the little town of Bacalar. The bus stop is little more than a few blocks worth of farmer’s supply stores, metal shops, and a few outdoor Taquerias alongside the highway. At first, we weren’t sure if the choice to follow this dart on the map was a stop we’d be happy with.

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Bacalar is a small working town complete with men sporting cowboy hats and driving heavy machinery through the tiny streets. There are just as many vacant lots as there are built lots, and to walk down a quiet street and see nobody for blocks isn’t all that uncommon. But Bacalar’s growing tourist interest is the lake it sits by. A large freshwater lake spanning over 50 miles, the water is as turquoise as the Caribbean and surrounded by untouched mangroves.

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It’s quite a site, and assuredly one that won’t remain a quiet attraction for long. We’re told it is already quite popular with locals, but we weren’t convinced of this based on our experience: we were, for the most part, sitting alone at every restaurant we went to– and that was only when we could find a restaurant that was open. The Zocalo felt almost rural in the evenings, and walking around during the day introduced more friendly conversations with ducks than people. For us, Bacalar was a sleepy small town with an incredible natural waterfront. Perhaps we just happened to be traveling through during an off week. It felt like walking through a future tourist town two generations before peaking in popularity.

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It took a day for us to figure the town out. At one point we had to stop in at a mechanic’s shop to ask where a restaurant might be open. The small town experience was an adjustment after the busier nature of our last few stops. We walked around Fort San Felipe, a historical site from the town’s pirate era in the 1700′s, and ate street food from passing carts. We also visited the local ‘beach club’, a waterfront park with a bar overlooking the lake. The 5 peso entrance fee was for basic day use, and did not include the luxury of sitting down to drink a beer (there were extra charges for tables and cabanas). So we stood in the sunshine and enjoyed our beverages while gazing at the blue lagoon in front of us.

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Bacalar is interesting for what it will be, and the contrast of that against what it is now. It is an easy stop off the main highway between Belize’s border and the popular towns of the Maya Riviera, and so we think there is a likeliness that this little town will experience a big boom in coming years. Until then, it is worth a stop for a day or two of tranquility, peace, and quiet.

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