Laguna Bacalar in the southern part of Quintana Roo is usually overshadowed by the more popular spots to the north: Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun.

That is unfortunate, since there is a lot to like about this beautiful, clear, turquiose freshwater lake that stretches for more than 35 miles along the coastal mangroves north of Chetumal. A small warning, though. I have seen two guidebooks use the phrase “sandy bottom” to describe the lake. In the two spots we have visited, it isn’t sand, but a squishy mud. It is light colored, like sand, but it won’t feel like sand when you walk on it. It’s not bad, just different.

There are several bungalows, apartments and a couple of hotels in and around the town of Bacalar, but there is one notable spot south of town called Akal-ki. Think Tahiti comes to Mexico, since the bungalows and two large decked-palapas are perched over the water, French Polynesia-style. Akal-ki bills itself as a Holistic Center and Eco-Lodge.

The individual cabañas feature comfortable canopy beds with mosquito netting, nice wood floors, sliding doors, and decks. Stairs from the decks lead directly into the water. When the breeze picks up you’ll be rocked to sleep by the gentle sound of waves hitting the mangroves next to your unit.

Both palapas are spacious, one with deck chairs for lounging and one for yoga classes. They have kayaks for paddling across the long, narrow lake and bicycles for exploring the trails that cut through the local jungle. You can take all of your meals at Akal-ki, or you take a break and head into town for Mexican or Italian.


It’s quiet and peaceful on the lake, with no sound of outboard engines or jet skis (at least when we were there).

In many ways, the palapa and wood eco-lodge (solar power only) is the perfect escape from the concrete and tile world of the Riviera Maya.