Down a long, winding road through tropical vegetation you come to a roundabout that faces the crystalline waters of the Bacalar Lagoon in Bacalar, Mexico. A Hindi goddess lies on her side at the water’s edge, peaceful as the lake. To the left is the palapa-roofed reception area of the Akal ki Holistic Center and Hotel, whitewashed and looking cool in the mid-day Caribbean heat.
Never heard of Bacalar? That’s not that surprising as the town, home of Mexico’s stunning seven-colored lagoon, has flown under the radar until about 5 years ago, when it started popping up in international press and travel sites that seek out those still-unspoiled places in the world. The town of Bacalar has gained a few cute shops and cafes as it slowly draws outside attention from Mexican and international (mainly European) travelers, but the main attraction is still the crystal-clear turquoise lake and its myriad of activities, including swinging in a hammock above the water and doing absolutely nothing at all.
Akal ki is the perfect place for that last activity, with a large central dock, plush daybeds at its tip, and shallows that go out about a 100 yards, making the water close to the shore shimmer the color of a robin’s egg. Several hammocks are set up and there are kayaks if you need a little more activity. Simply enjoying the view and the year-round delicious climate (except for May when it is very hot and humid) are made even easier with seven palapa-roofed rooms that sit over the water’s edge, each personal mini dock and terrace. Either side of the rooms are blocked with bamboo privacy fences, but from your private terrace you get an incredible view of the lagoon in front of you.
While some beachside hotels have pretty poor offerings for non-waterside housing, the three luxury palapa huts on the mangrove side of the property are just as delightful and are enveloped by the surrounding vegetation and the sound of bird calls.
All rooms include breakfast, wi-fi, use of the kayaks and free yoga classes — offered every day in large outdoor palapa in the center of the property. They also have a meditation center for wellness groups looking for a tropical location to host their retreat. Rooms have king-sized beds with a decor that is clean and simple with a few local artisan touches — the nature around you is the real visual feast.
The hotel’s open-air restaurant serves a Mexican-inspired cuisine — arrachera flank steak, fish tacos, and octopus in habanero sauce — with the addition of more international choices like a Thai-style chicken breast with ginger sauce and lemon basil mousse for dessert. There are also plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Non-guests are welcome to come out and eat (or spend the day on the lake, they have a day pass for about 35usd) but must make a reservation, especially during the high season, so as regulate the traffic through the grounds.
The only drawback might be the hotel’s location, several kilometers from town, but if you can pay the room prices (between 300 and 450usd a night) you can surely afford the taxis that charge around 15usd each way to Bacalar’s center. Nearby there are cenotes (sinkholes) to swim in, sailing tours to take, the San Felipe fort to visit, and some lovely nature in the town’s eco-reserve. There are almost no nearby hotels or balnearios (public swimming areas) so the quiet extends for miles.
While luxury hotels are starting to pop in Bacalar, Akalki, with ten years under its belt, is a dependable choice for a luxury stay with no surprises. For a privileged location right on the lake, good food, and a sublimely tranquil atmosphere you really can’t ask for a better night’s stay in Bacalar.