You gaze from your swaying hammock at the clear blue sky and the turquoise waters lapping against the shore. A gentle breeze off the water keeps you cool despite the tropical heat. The scene looks and feels like the Caribbean. But there’s something missing: the salt on your skin and sand in your bathing suit. If you love the beach but hate washing off the salt, Lake Bacalar is worth a visit.
Located an hour from the Caribbean coast, Bacalar enjoys a tropical climate. In certain lights, its waters also look like the Caribbean – that same neon turquoise.
There are no chain hotels, mega-resorts or fancy restaurants here. Instead, you find small family-run hotels and restaurants and a community where people know each other by sight if not by name. It’s the kind of place where, when hotel space runs out, folks start phoning their friends to find visitors a spare room to rent.
Long sacred to the Maya, Lake Bacalar still casts its spell on visitors, including a growing number of expats.
Jim Bacon and his wife, Polly Gropen, moved to Bacalar more than six years ago. Leaving behind Minnesota’s winters, they settled here full-time and haven’t looked back.
“We decided we could either take a chance, come here and retire a few years early or stay in Minnesota longer and play it safe”, says Jim.
He nods toward their lakefront house, their dock and the two sailboats that lie anchored just offshore to indicate which option they chose. “Fortunately, it all worked out.”
Like most of the expats here, Jim and Polly love the water. And there’s plenty to enjoy: On any warm, sunny day (which, at Lake Bacalar, is most of the year) you’re likely to see dozens of swimmers, several sailboats and a number of kayaks on the lake. One hotel in the area is also trying to popularize windsurfing.
Low home prices drew Jim and Polly years back. Prices have risen since. But a house here -even lakeside- still costs less than what you’d pay for a beachfront house as little as an hour away.
These prices, along with Lake Bacalar’s unspoiled nature, are bringing expats and investors to this corner of Mexico in ever- greater numbers.
Lakeside Living Near the City
The Yucatan Peninsula is rich in freshwater lakes and waterways that lead to the Caribbean. Lake Bacalar is the crown jewel. Fed by cenotes (deep sinkholes in the limestone shelf that lead to underground rivers), the lake is cool, clear and spectacularly varied in color -from a translucent turquoise to a deep navy blue.
“Titled lakefront lots near the town of Bacalar tend to run in the low $100,000s.”
For sheer natural beauty and tranquility, Lake Bacalar is tough to beat. Much of the lakeshore is still wild and undeveloped. It is likely to remain that way for years, as much of the land is untitled. But most property in the town of Bacalar does have title. You can also find titled properties -and lower prices- in the small town of Buenavista, about 12 miles to the north.
Steer well clear of properties without proper title. Instead, rely on the several reputable real estate agencies that can show you titled properties in this area. These include Bacalar Properties (www.bacalarproperties.com) in Bacalar; Mexico International (www.mexintl.com) in Merida; and One Stop Real Estate (www.onestopmc.com) in Playa del Carmen.
You’ll find both lakefront homes and townhouses for sale in Bacalar. Houses along the 3-mile stretch of shore known as the Costera Bacalar tend to be pricey; expect to pay $250,000 and up for houses here. Away from the water, prices drop dramatically. A three-bedroom house in town, for instance, generally runs well under $100,000. But many of these need upgrades to plumbing and wiring.
Outside the town of Bacalar, you’ll generally find only lots for sale. According to Nick Hunter of Bacalar Properties, construction in the Lake Bacalar area runs $65 to $95 per square foot, depending on the architect you use and the materials you want.
Titled lakefront lots near the town of Bacalar tend to run in the low $100,000s. Around Buenavista, which is still undiscovered, you can find titled lakefront lots for as little as half that. It is a much smaller town than Bacalar and farther from amenities (and expats). But if you’re willing to wait for the amenities to catch up to you, Buenavista offers some excellent bargains.
For more information on living in Mexico, go to: www.internationalliving.com/mexicoom