Where we are: I’m sharing my 2022 journey, including this trip to Mexico in February.
It may seem ironic, but it’s true – in this Up In The Air style life, I value my routines and traditions. One I’ve come to cherish? The Outing After the Wander Women Retreat, I have made a ritual, a little time to relax, absorb and celebrate after giving it my all on a business trip, usually with my co-host or team.
For our inaugural 2022 retreat, my girl Brenna and I had a slight scheduling hurdle—she could only sneak out ahead. We accepted our fate to arrive at our retreat relaxed and pampered! Fine!
We had exactly three nights and two days to play with, and I had many options for where the perfect escape would be within a reasonable distance of our final destination Tulum.
Of course, ever the freshness seeker, my first instinct was to go elsewhere. But I’ve covered a lot of ground here in this corner of Mexico, and the places still on my bucket list all got Goldilocks-ed for some reason – Coba? Not worth three nights. Mahahual? Brenna is not a diver. Puerto Morelos? All the accommodations I’m drooling about were fully booked.
I’ll get to those places someday. But for now, I came up with the idea of a new visit. And one destination remained in my mind as somewhere I certainly hadn’t done justice to. I have yet to blog about my first visit to Bacalar in late 2020 (cringe!), but after two nights of spotty weather, I didn’t feel like I’d had the full experience. I hadn’t even been to Bacalar’s lagoon of the same name! Between that and the opening of a swish new design hotel, it was time to return.
We booked our accommodation, boat trip, and rental car – and left the rest to fate.
We arrived late on the first night of our trip after Brenna landed in Cancun, picked me up in Tulum, and braved the long dark road to Bacalar – you could say we had swept away on arrival! It’s always a little disconcerting to arrive somewhere in the dark, but the next morning we jumped out of bed and were extremely happy with the designer paradise we found. Honestly, if we hadn’t had an epic lagoon tour waiting for us, I might have considered never leaving our home away from home at Casa Hormiga at all.
The breakfast, where, then two independent chicas about to log out for a few days to lead our retreat, we took our laptops, an epic spread of locally sourced treats. 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 be distracted by Bacalar’s rickety charm. The Mexican Caribbean fan club often reiterates that Bacalar was Tulum ten years ago, you know.
Right now, it seems like a comfortable spot between hidden gems and overhyped – with cute cafes and boutiques like El Manatí Bacalar reaching that perfect spot.
There is no shortage of options for booking a lagoon tour in Bacalar. But you know that my search was closed when Instagram showed me the chic little private Boho Boats Bacalar. Could there be a fancier 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 can accommodate four people, the two of us were a perfect match. The price was certainly steeper than the typical Bacalar boat trip of 1250 MXN or about USD 62 per hour – although it does include what we learned was a generous supply of beer or wine.
Although you have some freedom to organize your trip as you wish, the recommended time to see all the main “sights” and reach the south of the lagoon is four hours. Of course, we signed up for the full package! Another 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 brought the boat to life himself and was a joy to spend the day with – especially at the bottom of a half bottle of white, where Brenna found the inspiration to create a collection of men who wore their shirts with the slow motion feature of the iPhone. Why not? Rodrigo was only too happy to oblige.
Yes, the cenotes and channels and stalactites were beautiful. Still, an entire afternoon was set aside for soaking up the sun, drinking wine, and enjoying a daydream conversation (Brenna and I may be planning to take over the world together – you’ve been warned!)
I mustered the courage — and, ahem, liquid courage — to fly my drone over the Los Rapidos portion of the southern lagoon. It was the perfect courageous and fun note to end the afternoon on.
It was the lagoon tour of our dreams which came true.
That evening we made our way to a drunk dinner at Barbanegra Bacalar, a spot from my last trip that I knew was worth repeating (although, honestly, I died of some mysterious illness on my previous trip here, and I’m not sure if I consumed any food so… it could be considered a first trip too.)
Great cocktails, a sexy atmosphere, and delicious tacos – put these on your Bacalar wish list! Yes, it’s another Tulum-y place in appearance, although everywhere in this town is completely unpretentious.
We woke up on day two of our trip, ready for a relaxing morning that fulfilled all our hotel dreams. After failing to get a class at the adorable local yoga studio Espacio Libre to work on our schedule, we happily chose to use the yoga loft to stream an Alo Moves workout instead – Alo Moves is my latest travel obsession. You can try a free thirty-day trial using my link.
This is completely unsponsored; I’m just super into the search function that allows me to set the length and intensity of the workout and the style of movement from strength to yoga to barre and more. It’s so good to break 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 grew, as anyone could no doubt have imagined, into a big plant shoot.
While we also considered indulging in some of the hotel’s luxurious spa treatments, which you know I’m a huge sucker for, I think it says how much fun we had just running around while stupid that we didn’t even feel the need to enjoy.
Finally ready for an afternoon rise from Casa Hormiga, we hopped on the hotel’s complimentary bikes for a spin around the city. We stopped for juice at Mango y Chile, a plant-based snack spot with a great view, and checked off pre-retreat shopping like the ATM and pharmacy, all the more delicious on two wheels.
We ended our mini hike 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 port with your feet dangling in the water is the pace of life in these parts.
That night we were crashing hard and probably should have called it a Netflix night out. But we didn’t, and thank goodness – we started the night again with Goldilocks; we turned down the hotel because it was too quiet, a buzzing hostel we passed because it was too loud, and a beautiful restaurant we passed, Costera 28 because they are way too picky.
So we walked to a pirate bar where we had seen a torn poster somewhere in town. Live music lured us in from the outside, and our eyes widened as we adjusted to the darkness and saw from the corners of the high thatched roof – aerial side! The new aerial vocabulary I had memorized – tales for silk and aro for Lyra, in case you were wondering – came in handy when I chatted with the bartender about what they were doing there, which gave us a private tour of a smaller second yielded studio upstairs with another set of silks.
We ended the night in Bote de Leche and finally found the restaurant that was just right, toasting to a future retreat in the sky here, in the city that charmed us senselessly in just a few days (but not before we didn’t miss Tel Aviv). 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 headed back to Tulum to share it with our retreat guests. I’ll share that next – stay tuned.
Have you been to Bacalar? I can’t wait to share my first trip here with you, too – someday, ha!