The water really is this blue. In fact, this photo was taken on a cloudy day!
As if floating with current in the incredible turquoise water or swinging in a partially submerged hammock surrounded by fish wasn't enough, throw in some rare rock formations to make for a very unexpected cool place to visit near Bacalar, Mexico.
Los Rapidos on a Budget (in $MXN)
local bus round trip
Total (approx $17 USD)
In the Mayan Riveria, venturing south past the popular tourist spots like Cancún, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen, opens you up to discover some hidden gems. Los Rápidos in Bacalar is one of those places.
What a cool and unique place to spend an afternoon! Visiting the lake at Bacalar is spectacular enough. The black cenote and the perfect turquoise waters of the Pirate Channel would be enough to satisfy. But the off-the-beaten-path Los Rápidos really is a must-do in Bacalar.
In true travel you-never-know-what-will-come-your-way fashion, I was introduced to this place by some locals who were on our Bacalar boat tour (also well worth it - and I don't usually like tours). After the tour, they were heading to Los Rápidos and invited us to hop in the car and join them.
We piled in their small rental and headed down the highway, making a u-turn at some point and then turning down a small unpaved road. At the end of the road, we stopped in the dirt parking lot in front of a restaurant, the only building around, went inside to pay our entry, and when we walked out the other side, it immediately became one of my new favorite places.
Float float float - ahhhh
Areal view of Los Rápidos
The restaurant is down a dirt road off the main highway about 13km south of Bacalar town, where you pay a 50 MXN each entry fee (oops, I think it has now gone up to 100 MXN approximately $5 USD). As you exit the other side of the building there are tables and chairs along the water and even partially-submerged hammocks (yep, one of those definitely has my name on it).
Oh yeah. I can spend a lot of time right here.
is located on the narrow channel that divides the lagoon of Bacalar with the lagoon of Xul-Ha, creating a steady current down the river-like channel. The channel is lined on both sides with stromatolites (rock-like formations created by colonies of microorganisms) and because of the limestone bottom, the color is unbelievably blue. Like really really turquoise blue!
Stromatolites are living colonies similar to coral and exist in only a few places throughout the world. The stromatolites in Los Rápidos are not billions of years old like some colonies, but are believed to be around 12,000 years old - so still pretty old! They're fragile, so you should be careful not to step on them, and wear reef-safe sunscreen.
The rare stromatolites make for a very unique experience.
You can spend quite a few hours here just enjoying the water and hanging out. Not only does the stunning scenery have a strong "wow factor", floating down the water among the nature and unusual rock formations is one of those cool travel experiences. You really feel like you're doing it right as you drift through crystal clear blue water on your way back to your spicy michelada back at the restaurant.
Chill by the water and enjoy a few drinks.
They also have a large covered outdoor seating area - great for the afternoon showers.
Walk upstream on the right side of the channel as far as you are comfortable going. It's really rocky so river shoes are best but it can be done in bare feet. I did it without shoes and it was okay but I have pretty tough feet. It was way to painful for my friend. You can maybe wear flipflops and carry them in the water as you float. When you feel you've gone far enough, jump into the water and float back down to the restaurant where there are ropes across the water to catch yourself.
You take this little bridge and go down the stairs to start your walk upstream.
One of the ropes you need to use to catch yourself on your way by the restaurant.
Back on shore, order some food and a cold beer, then sit among the fishies in the hammocks in the water. Appetizers range around 60-90 MXN and drinks are reasonably priced. View their current menu
You can rent life vests (50 MXN for the day) and kayaks (150 MXN per person per hour, including life vests) but there's no need to spend the extra money. Just floating on your own is fantastic. You can spend a lot on food if that's your thing, but it's possible to spend half a day at this cool place for the cost of the bus, the entry fee, and maybe an appetizer and a few beers.
How to Get to Los Rápidos
Bacalar is about a 5 hour ADO bus ride south of Cancun. The road into Los Rápidos is at km 8 on Hwy 307.
They're open 7 days a week from 10am to 6pm. It's more crowded on weekends when the locals flock to this cool hangout, so if you can manage a mid-week visit, you'll be better off.
If your hotel provides bicycles, you can ride there, but it's 13 km each way so maybe not ideal. A taxi from town will cost you 170 MXN. You can go by combi (colectivo) van for 50 MXN. If they don't know Los Rapidos, ask them to leave you at the mile marker 8. Either way, you'll have to walk about 2 km (1.25 miles, 25 min) in from the highway. Nothing is really marked very well as your're sort of in the middle of nowhere, so hopefully your combi driver knows where to drop you.