Bacalar has been designated a Pueblo Magico (magical town) by the Mexican government in recognition of its cultural, historical and architectural importance. It’s a sleepy place that still feels local. Gusts of smoke from copal (burned to keep away mosquitoes) waft from buckets. Dogs loll on the pavement. There are a few boutiques touting classy beachwear, incense and crystals (so far, so Tulum), but shopping isn’t the major draw here.
While the most popular street food is still marquesitas (crispy rolled pancakes filled with Nutella, cheese or fruit) and elotes (Mexican corn on the cob), new foodie outlets are pushing the boundaries.
El Manati, an immersive café/art gallery/boutique is brilliant for breakfast or brunch. Nao Bacalar is the place for sushi and cocktails with a side order of yoga classes (owner Oscar knows his mezcal, too), while Barba Negra serves great fish tacos. Jaguara is hopelessly romantic, set by the lake and serving fresh fish, superb ceviche and hibiscus-heavy cocktails.
But for truly inventive Mexican food, there’s Nixtamal. Fish on a bed of grilled watermelon with parmesan, pesto and picante sauce? Honestly, its unbelievably good. Everywhere you go, a generous bowl of freshly baked nachos with salsa and guacamole appears out of nowhere. Going hungry is not an option.