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Letters from Mexico

ExpatsBlog.com - Where Expats Blog

December 4, 2023

Laguna Bacalar

Bacalar is the second largest inland body of water in Mexico. Located in the state of Quintana Roo, in the Yucatan, it is about two hours south of Tulum, and attracts tourists for many reasons. The lagoon is purported to have seven different colors in its clear waters. It is 37 by 1.2 miles, having an average depth of 49-59 feet.


Geo-biology of the Lagoon

The lagoon is fed by a 280-mile underground river pumping water up through four cenotes, which are sink holes formed naturally by limestone collapse. The name of Bacalar comes from the Mayan period, called Bakhalal - meaning ‘place of reeds’. The lagoon empties into El Canal de los Piratas, created  with the aim of commercially linking the Mayans who lived in the north with the Central American Mayans (now Belize).

Living stromatolites (also known as microbialites) are in the lagoon, one of the few places left on earth where they exist. Strong fossil evidence relates them to the oldest life on the planet. They are layered sedimentary formations created by photosynthetic microorganisms. First, a layer of sediment is deposited. Next, bacteria grow around the sediment grains to trap and bind them. Subsequent changes in water chemistry cause mineral formation. Minerals solidify binding a layer together. Here is a short video on how stromatilites are formed.

The lead image for this article is a view of Laguna Bacalar. Here are some more views taken from a dock:


Casa Buena Onda

Casa Buena Onda is the place where I spent eight nights in Bacalar. It means"Good Vibes House." I found this on an AirBnB site. When I arrived, I was very disappointed for two reasons. The map on their site shows that it is located a block from the water, and said that they include a gourmet breakfast every day. All beaches in Mexico are federalized so that none have private ownership. I did not know that Bacalar had no beach but instead hotels with private docks. There are five public docks spread over the length of the lagoon, but not as close as one block. We were told that the breakfast place was a half hour walk and that it was on the lagoon shore. We got lost, and returned. The manager kindly offered a free taxi there and an hour of free kayaking (usually costing $15 USD). I walked there every morning as the meals were good, as well as the views, and we could swim there till 7 pm.

Here are images of Villa Laguna Buena Onda:


NOTE: If you click on any image of the four grouped above, it will enlarge to give a slideshow. This is how most groups of images will work.

The images above are of the restaurant at the lagoon. Below are photos of the casa where I stayed.

Boulevard Costero, running parallel to the lagoon, connects Casa Buena Onda, where I stayed, with Villa Laguna Buena Onda, where I had complimentary breakfasts. Here are photos I took on the way there.

And here are signs of some of the places along the way.

Bacalar Centro

I often took half-hour walks from Casa Buena Onda to the center of town. Here is a slide show of what I saw on the way and of the Centro at night.

Cacao Ceremony in Bacalar

This was a memorable event I attended.

Cacao ceremonies date back to indigenous Mesoamerica. They create a safe space for opening of the heart by intention, ritual, music, and, of course, the chemicals in the drink. This is not as strong an effect as I've experienced taking other plant medicines, but equally as important.

The timing of this event had esoteric implications, based on numerology. It began at 11 am on 11/11.

It was held in a wondrously crafted temple at the south end of the lagoon in a place called Akalki.

Here is a slideshow of the temple, its interior, and some of the many details of its artwork. Included is the statue of a woman, and a small building, both on the path to the temple.




The ceremony began with a woman stirring the pot of cacao and telling us some of the spices she included. As she was a doctor, she spoke about the main chemical in cacao and its effects. She passed around toasted cacao beans, and told us to peel away the outer covering, as if we were stripping off blockages to our heart and feelings. Her husband took over for the balance of the ceremony. As he guided us in a meditation, musicians played and sang along with simulated animal and nature sounds.

We lay on the floor, and as the meditation proceeded, began to move our limbs, and gradually came to a standing position. Then we were encouraged to dance. The dance got wilder and wilder. Then we came to a standstill and imagined holding a seed representing a quality we wanted to grow in our beings. We planted our seeds in the floor.

We went around the circle a couple of times sharing our feelings. The ceremony ended with lots of long deep hugs.

Here is a video of us dancing:

After the ceremony, many of us spent a lot of time in the temple. A small group (below) bought vegetables, cooked a meal, and had a feast together. We all were hungry after the ceremony!

Important Note

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Please email me your comments:  [email protected]                                                                             I will post them here with your name unless you ask to be anonymous.


Hi Don, I was pleased to learn about a place I have not been.  You did a great job with the photos, more skilful than I am capable of.Thanks for sharing. --Jim

You are welcome, Jim. And thanks for your comment on my photos. That's quite a compliment coming from an experienced blogger!--Don


Oh, Don, how wonderful. I watched your videos and read your stories with both altruism for all who attended the cacao ceremony and your birthday gatherings and a twist of wistfulness. As you know, with tickets purchased, Wayne and I had our hearts set on joining you and your loving tribe for the festivities. Our bags were practically packed before he became too sick to travel. We surely missed out. I’m so sorry. So, how does it feel to be a brand-new octogenarian?

--Mary Rives

Thanks, Mary. Sorry you couldn't make it. You'll come to my 90th birthday trip. I am too busy to think much about being 80. But I do wonder where the phrase "Life begins at 80," comes from. Perhaps a '50s TV show? --Don


Hi Don and glad you enjoyed Bacalar. I was there in 2019, so beautiful. I went to all the cenotes in the area and place called Rapidos where you can float in river current. I also went to a couple ruins that are not well known so only myself and guide were there. Photos can't do justice to color of water. --Alice Hesselrode

Yes, Alice, those colors are amazing! --Don


I appreciate your documentation of the place, Don!--RG