Between the namesake lagoon and the Mayan jungle, Habitas Bacalar treads gently on its setting at the shores of a limestone lake that’s home to some of the earliest life forms on the planet. Each stay starts with the setting of an intention, and it’s likely going to be one that’s met in record time, even without the uplifting quotes on the chalkboards that display that day’s communal activity. Televisions are outlawed, since the staff want everyone out of their A-frame tents and joining the fun, whether that’s yoga on a paddle-board, lagoon-side live music sets, plant-based meals at Siete or sunsets spent counting the spectrum of blues from the deck.
Noon. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Please note, arrivals before 11am and departures after 2pm will be charged for an extra day.
Double rooms from £192.23 ($238), including tax at 19 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of $1.12 per room per night prior to arrival and an additional service charge of $5.00 per room per night prior to arrival.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast.
Don’t forget to check the chalk boards that are helpfully dotted around the property to keep guests informed of the regularly rotating activity programme, which includes sound baths, live music, aerial yoga and meditations.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, botanical garden, kayaks to borrow, yoga classes and an activity programme. In rooms: air-conditioning, free bottled water, fridge and organic bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Count all seven shades of blue from the comfort of your own tent with a Lagoon Room, each of which has uninterrupted views of the water. Or go for a Jungle Room to be fully at one with nature (and the resident raccoons).
Treatments get tasty at the spa, since they tend to feature cacao, honey and coconut, many of which are gathered from the garden, with the coconuts pressed in-house. Guests can also sign up for some ‘janzu’ in the lagoon: an aquatic relaxation technique that works magic with weightlessness.
Bring your best yoga gear, a strong core to remain on the paddleboard during the floating sun salutations and a frazzled mind that needs to reconnect with itself and others.
Due to the jungle paths and lagoon-edge setting, the hotel is not easily accessible for wheelchair users.
This hotel is for 18-year-olds and up.
Even before it was designed, Habitas Bacalar had its habitat in mind – its location and the materials were all selected to be as sustainable as possible. Each room is built with materials that have zero impact on their environment, including canvas for the walls and palapa fronds for the roofs. At Siete, ingredients are sourced from local farms – the chef visits the surrounding communities and buys from them directly. And at the spa, ingredients including soaps and the syrupy Melipona honey are bought locally as well. The bath products in the bedrooms also contain this miracle manna.
For the best lagoon views on either of Siete’s two floors, go for one of the tables in the corner.
Electric blues to attempt (and fail) to outdo all seven shades of sapphire out on the lagoon.
Siete is named after the lucky number seven, which also represents the amount of different blues visible at the lagoon. Traditional Mayan techniques are used in the dishes, with almost every ingredient sourced from the surrounding area – the chef likes to visit local communities and invite them to work with him. The menu favours all things plant-based: beet tartare (see what they did there?), spiced heirloom carrots and sweet potato with passionfruit and vanilla purée. The healthy breakfasts consist of coconut chia puddings and cacao and banana bowls, with more indulgent options including sourdough brioche with pineapple and lemongrass compote, and cheese-filled corn pancakes.
At the Tree Bar on the lagoon deck at the water’s edge, the bartenders extend the hotel’s belief in nature as medicine by working as many natural ingredients into the drinks as possible, including red-pepper syrup, green tomatoes and purple basil. Bar snacks to help soak it up include ceviche with passionfruit, tacos and, of course, guacamole and chips.
The Tree Bar is open from noon to 10pm every day. Siete serves breakfast from 8am to 11.30am, lunch between 1pm and 5.30pm, and dinner from 7pm to 10.30pm.
In order not to excite the monkeys, the hotel prefers to avoid tent service.
Habitas Bacalar is on the shores of a lagoon, near the Belize border in the south-eastern Mexico state of Quintana Roo.
The nearest airport is Chetumal, a 25-minute drive from the hotel – most international visitors will have to connect to a domestic service in Mexico City. Hotel transfers can be arranged on request (from US$65). Riviera Maya roadtrippers may fancy the drive down from Cancun airport, but it’ll take at least four hours.
Lots of guests struggle to leave the lagoon, but if you want to see more of Bacalar and beyond, it’s worth hiring a car – the hotel has a car park.
For anyone feeling especially dramatic, helicopter arrivals are possible.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel is right on the shores of the lagoon, which is what many travellers to Bacalar come to see – enjoy it from the deck with a cooling cocktail, or set sail on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. The activity list, helpfully outlined on a sandwich board, changes weekly, but is likely to include everything from sound baths and aerial yoga to mezcal tastings and ‘heart-opening’ meditations. Early birds can catch the sunrise SUP, and there’s functional training for hardcore gym bunnies, too. Staff can help arrange boat trips with a local tour operator who’ll fetch you right from the jetty, or head underground to the nearby cenotes.
Most guests tend to stick to Siete, but the hotel team can easily arrange taxis or transfers into Bacalar for dinners at lagoon-front restaurants, such as La Playita, which has hammocks and a dock to dive off for swims before you sit down to eat. Or try Macario for Mexican food, lobster dishes and service that’s as friendly as it is back at basecamp.
The view of the lagoon may be good, but it’s even better with a crisp, cold glass of white wine and the amazing Mexican snack potential of Jaguara. And things are bound to be lively at the Bacalar Beach Club.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this lagoon-edge hotel in Quintana Roo and unpacked their mezcal and Mexican dreamcatchers, a full account of their glamping break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Habitas Bacalar…
At Habitas Bacalar, all stays begin with a welcome ritual to set an intention for your visit, even if your aim’s just to meet as many tejons (Mexican raccoons) as possible and eat delicious plant-based dishes all day at the edge of the lagoon. Bacalar was declared a Pueblos Mágico (Magical Town) by the Mexican government, and not just for its famous sparkly lake, the limestone soil of which helps to create all seven of its shades of blue. On the subject of magic: its alkalinity helps stromatolites – which have a complicated geological definition, but we can go with ‘living rocks’ for now – to continue to form here (and on only a handful of other especially salty places on Earth).
Unsurprisingly, everyone around camp is going to great lengths to protect the fragile natural beauty. Guests can consult lagoon-care guides via QR code so that they don’t unwittingly cause any damage during their stay with sunscreen while swimming or by petting the mangroves that help keep the water so clear. Other Mayan traditions alive and well at Habitas Bacalar include cacao and melipona-honey huts at the spa, which guests can enter to learn about ancient practices concerning these ingredients. Staff genuinely want to make a connection with every visitor and help them disconnect from the rush of everyday life. As for those raccoons, it looks like they don’t have to worry about Cyril Sneer for now.