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For years, Tulum has stolen the highlight because the trendiest place to take an unforgettable trip within the Riviera Maya, because of its shut proximity to sandy seashores and iconic Mayan sights. However, having suffered from overcrowding and unsustainable tourism within the final decade, all eyes at the moment are on Bacalar, a trendier, much more quaint city simply two hours south.

There’s no denying the Mexican Caribbean is America’s favorite vacation spot. Being a brief two to four-hour flight from a number of U.S. cities, and relatively safer than different sunny retreats in different elements of the nation, its reputation has saved rising regardless of the well being disaster and could possibly be reaching a new peak this winter.

The solely draw back to this outstanding success? In some locations, it hardly appears like Mexico anymore, which leads some to query:

Has Overtourism Ruined Tulum?

Young Female Tourist Gazing At The Tulum Ruins And Beach Below, Riviera Maya, Caribbean Coast Of Mexico

Overtourism has grow to be a critical problem the world over’s high locations, pushing up rental costs amid an inflow of overseas funding and slowly erasing their id. Serving as a gateway to the Mayan World, Tulum is actually no exception: as different senior Americans who’ve been touring to Mexico for many years will have the ability to verify, it was as soon as an off-path village not that many vacationers had been even conscious existed.

In the 90’s, previous to being ‘discovered’, Tulum had a inhabitants of simply over 2,000 inhabitants. These had been largely native fishermen, artisans, and land employees who led a peaceable life, shielded from the hustle and bustle of close by Cancun and its overwhelming internationalization.

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Busy Beach In The Caribbean, Caribbean Travel

By the 12 months 2000, that they had already jumped from a two thousand people-strong tight knit group to 12,000. An irreversible transformation had been set into point out, and within the years that adopted, amid the surge in high-caliber resort growth and the fading demand for finances journeys, Tulum’s small, Mayan city magic was misplaced.

Others weren’t so ‘lucky’:

Is Bacalar The New Cool?

Aerial View Of Bacalar Fort And Bacalar Lagoon, Bacalar, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Located solely a two and a half hour drive south of Tulum, or alternatively, a shorter 23 miles northwest of Chetumal Airport, a Southern Mayan airport that hosted its first-ever direct flights from the U.S. this year, there’s a sleepy, largely ignored city that continues to be one among Mexico’s greatest hidden secrets and techniques – not less than for now.

A Pueblo Mágico straddling the Lake of the Seven Colors, Bacalar dates again to the colonial interval of Mexico Featuring an 18th century navy fort, a captivating downtown space the place heritage buildings may be discovered, and most significantly, natives stay in to this present day, it’s the ‘quintessential Mexico’ we thought had been misplaced endlessly.

Traditional Souvenir Shops In Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico, Latin America

Visiting Bacalar, Kashlee Kucheran, who’s a journey professional primarily based in Mexico and CEO of Travel Off Path was quoted saying she felt ‘safer’ strolling in Bacalar, even at evening, than most cities in Quintana Roo. Moreover, she seen locals haven’t been ‘pushed out’ by the lodges, and the specter of crime, which led Cancun authorities to deploy more patrol units on seashores, is certainly ‘low’.

Mrs. Kucheran added that whereas Tulum has a whole lot of ‘magic, charm and intrigue’ – it’s, in any case, an Ancient Mayan port – it’s being ‘spoiled’ by consumerism. Bacalar, alternatively, hasn’t been tarnished by the lots: ‘Bacalar is a breath of recent air for people who find themselves nonetheless on the lookout for nature, group, and all the wonder that the Yucatán Peninsula has to supply.

What Can You Expect Vacationing In Bacalar?

Lake Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico

If you’re trying to splurge, celebration laborious, and stay your greatest ‘Instafluencer’ life, Bacalar isn’t for you: it’s an emergent resort city recovering from a pure phenomenon that turned its well-known lake’s pristine waters brown for a couple of years, and also you actually gained’t discover your ultra-niche eating choices or a Plaza Las Americas right here.

Don’t get us fallacious: whether or not you’re into carne asada otherwise you’re a faithful vegan, you’re actually spoiled for selection right here, however then once more, don’t anticipate finding the similar selection of high-end eating places and American fashion diners you’ll in Northern Quintana Roo. Lots of eating places and outlets within the central district are family-owned, and Spanish continues being a lingua franca on the streets, proving group comes first, and tourism second within the space.

Pier Stretching Out Onto Lake Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico

The similar can’t be stated about an more and more internationalized Tulum. Here are some execs and cons of visiting Bacalar as a substitute:


  • Bacalar is tidier than Tulum: the latter’s potholes and overflowing rubbish don’t exist right here, and the restricted variety of vacationers helps hold it that method;
  • All 12 months, low or excessive season, there are fewer guests round and you’ll take pleasure in a better sense of exclusivity and calmness;
  • The locals are those residing and working companies on the lakefront, together with eateries and small pensiónes, in comparison with Tulum’s over-developed resort zone, filled with Americanisms and foreign-owned vacationer complexes;
  • It is arguably safer and extra family-friendly, missing Tulum’s loopy celebration scene and rising crime rates;
  • 30 miles lengthy, the warm-water, crystal-clear lagoon is ideal for swimming, practising water sports activities, and boat excursions;
  • A luxurious and wellness scene is growing and so they wish to construct a repute and entice extra friends, that means costs may be extra engaging.*

*The boutique Casa Hormiga Hotel, one among Bacalar’s five-star gives, has a jungle aesthetic and it’s a true nature oasis, with rooms ranging from solely $236.25 per night.

Aerial View Of Bacalar, Lake Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico


  • It is not a seaside vacation spot;*
  • It’s tougher to get to and nonstop flights to Chetumal, the closest airport, are presently solely out there from Mexico;**
  • Bacalar’s nightlife is merely a fraction of Tulum’s, missing main nightclubs and the latter’s standard seaside events.

*Nonetheless, it’s dwelling to a lagoon with the bluest of waters and it’s situated a one-hour drive from Mahahual Beach;

**Flights between the U.S. and Chetumal had been axed final summer season because of low demand

DJ At A Beach Party

As you possibly can see above, until being ON the ocean is non-negotiable, you’re financially ready to pay a few of the highest taxi fares on this planet, and hallucinogen-ridden raves on the seaside are your vibe, Tulum doesn’t have a lot going for it.

Not anymore.

What The Future Holds

Woman Doing Paddle Boarding In Lake Bacalar, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Tulum could have grow to be a regional capital for luxurious tourism, however some may argue it’s sacrificed its essence within the course of. Luckily, there are a variety of different settlements left across the Yucatán Peninsula which have managed to advertise tourism, all of the whereas retaining the authenticity that made them well-known within the first place. Bacalar is one among them.

When flying to Mexico, the overwhelming majority of worldwide guests have their hearts set on seaside getaways: 25 million of them would usually decide the Cancun-Tulum resort strip over wherever else, and we completely get it. There are tons of extra flights touchdown in Cancun, the coast – when it’s seaweed-free – is completely gorgeous, and resort facilities keep getting better.

Tropical Beach, Mexican Caribbean, Mexico

The drawback is, as soon as once more, mass tourism.

It has completely altered Tulum in character, turning it right into a soulless resort city stricken by taxi scams, potholes, and densely populated. We don’t know what the long run holds for Bacalar’s as soon as it’s formally ‘outed’, however it’s a truth it’s not fairly there but, and it nonetheless makes for a much more enjoyable, extra genuinely Mexican trip.

Tips For Visiting Bacalar

  • Fly into Chetumal airport the place you possibly can take a 35-minute taxi to Bacalar for 300 pesos ($15 USD) as a substitute of the lengthy automobile trip from Cancun airport.
  • Don’t put on sunscreen, bug spray, fragrance or make-up if you enter the lagoon, as the fragile pH steadiness must be preserved to keep up its attractive teal and blue colours.
  • Stay in lodges which are making efforts to reduce their ecological impression, particularly ones which have lagoon entry

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