Rancho Encantado

Bacalar, The Yucatan, Mexico Book from MX$1,874

Budget eco resort with spacious thatched casitas set in verdant gardens, overlooking the aquamarine Laguna Bacalar
Laguna Bacalar’s unfeasibly blue water provides a magnificent backdrop to Rancho Encantado: a tropical haven of tranquillity in the south east of Mexico’s Yucatán. An alternative to large resort hotels, it’s a natural and tasteful hideaway, with romantic lakeside casitas, beautifully crafted local furniture and sparkling lake vistas, surrounded by lush gardens and wild jungle.

Couples and families seeking seclusion will appreciate the laid-back pace, which centres around the lake (perfect for swimming or kayaking). The wooden pier, bedecked with hammocks, juts out invitingly over the turquoise water; at night, it’s lit with fairy lights in coloured coconut shells and provides the perfect location for sipping margaritas and watching the moon rise. The spa, a stilted palapa (thatched) hut built over the lake and reached by a bamboo walkway, offers uplifting therapies such as honey, salt and aromatherapy scrubs; after your treatment you can enjoy the bubbles in its tiled open-air Jacuzzi. If you tire of chilling out, you can head into the jungle to visit remote Mayan ruins, encased in undergrowth and undiscovered by the tourist crowds.

Highs

  • Lake Bacalar’s calm waters are ideal for swimming
  • The lakeside casitas have fantastic views and direct access to the water
  • The atmosphere is quiet and rejuvenating
  • It's an ideal base for visiting remote ruins set deep in the jungle, many of which have only recently been discovered

Lows

  • The garden casitas are within earshot of the nearby road, and most are casitas are fairly simple
  • The staff speak little English; it’s a good chance to practise your Spanish
  • The dinner menu has a limited choice
  • The location means it’s a long journey to get here, but it’s an ideal stopping point on the way to Belize

Best time to go

November to April tend to be the most agreeable months as they are cooler with less rain. June to September is the rainy season, but this often means nothing more than a downpour in the afternoon with clear mornings and evenings. September is usually the wettest month and brings the added risk of hurricanes.

Our top tips

You’ll want to spend a lot of time relaxing and enjoying the view, so bring a good selection of books. Mosquitos are prevalent here, so we’d recommend plenty of repellent and coils for your balcony.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Resort
  • 16 casitas
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Kayaks
Room: Garden Master Suite

Rooms

Scattered across the gardens, the simple casitas (small stucco houses) are all furnished with crisp white linen sheets, vases of flowers, freshly ground beans for the coffee maker, ceiling fans and large bathrooms.

A traditional feel is created by Mayan touches, including high thatched roofs, exposed beams, rugs and colourful murals painted by a local artist. Outside each casita is a terrace with wooden deckchairs and padded loungers. You’ll also find a couple of hammocks strung from its rafters or tied between nearby palm trees.

The Laguna Casitas are set by the lagoon’s edge; the breeze from the lake flows through the rooms and at dawn the sunrise over the water is visible from the comfort of your bed. Each houses a vast double bed draped in a mosquito net and wooden table and chairs. The simple bathrooms are clad in white tiles, with large mirrors and walk-in showers. Laguna Casita Kings are slightly larger.

The slightly cheaper Garden Casitas are shaded by tropical foliage and tall palm trees, lending a jungle feel. Although their location near to the road means they suffer from some noise, they have air conditioning, so you can shut the windows against the hum of traffic. The jungle vibe is echoed inside the rooms, with vibrant green and yellow walls and interesting carved faces.

Since our visit a selection of more luxurious options have been added, including the Garden Casita Superior and Garden Master Suite. We haven't personally viewed them, but with private pools, fresh decor and good proportions, they're a tempting option.

Features include:

  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Safe box
  • WiFi

Eating

The restaurant overlooks the lake and tables face the water. Jungle scenes adorn the wall, painted leopards and parrots watch over guests and pictures of birds and temples decorate the wall by the bar. The menu is rather limited, but new kitchen equipment is being installed and will add some variety to the meals on offer.

Breakfast, available in your room or between 7.30 and 9.30am in the restaurant, is a healthy selection of homemade multi-seed bread, tropical fruit, granola, yoghurt and honey. Eggs ‘any style’ come with a wholesome dollop of re-fried beans. For an added charge and an extra vitamin intake there is also a range of power juices - we tried a blend of pineapple, chaya (a spinach-like vegetable) and nopal cactus, which was slightly acidic but no doubt beneficial, and a sweet and zingy juice made from orange, carrot and ginger.

In the evening, smart tablecloths, fresh flowers and candles set in storm lanterns appear on the tables. The dinner menu is predominantly Mexican, featuring local specialities such as sopa de lima and shrimp ceviche with a basket of homemade nachos, together with a few international options. The food is simple but filling; we tucked into slow-roasted pork wrapped in soft tacos and a chicken taco mixed in relleno negro (a spicy black paste). Caeser salads, fresh fish fillets and flanks of steak are also available. Desserts are again a mix of local (flans and coconut pie) or international (tiramisu and cheesecake). After the meal, we enjoyed lingering over herbal teas served with a jug of local honey.

Lunch is also available, although the menu is no different from dinner and many guests choose to make their own using the self-catering facilities. You can also head into Bacalar town, where an excellent restaurant, Café Palapa, serves tasty wood-fired pizzas made by Italian chef Antonio.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Take a boat trip on the lake (arrange with staff) to see a huge range of birdlife, or grab a kayak to paddle across the calm waters

  • Hike into the jungle with a guide and discover monkeys, butterflies and rare birds (don’t forget mosquito spray)

  • Visit the nearby archaeological ruins of Kohunlich, set in thick jungle an hour from the hotel - see huge faces carved into the stone at The Temple of the Masks and marvel at the lack of tourists. The hotel also offers customised archeological tours to explore the pyramids, frescoes and stellae of the Yucatan's more remote Mayan sites. The guides provide expertise and can obtain visitor permits to sites not yet open to the public

  • Arrange a yoga lesson in the meditative Catedral Maya: a huge airy stone structure with a palapa roof

  • Swim and snorkel in the Cenote Azul (30 minutes away), a natural well over 100 metres deep

  • Head to the old fort in the centre of nearby Bacalar and learn about the area’s history, including tales of British piracy

  • Head to the spa for a soothing treatment. We particularly enjoyed the 'Rancho Special' - a heavenly combination of herbal hot towels, a 3-mask facial and a honey salt scrub, followed by a camomile rinse and a Hawaiian massage designed to increase muscle flexibility

  • Take a water taxi from Chetumal (45km away) to San Pedro in Belize and go snorkelling in Hol Chan National Park, where nurse sharks, manta rays, turtles and huge barracudas gather around the beautiful coral reef

  • Relax in a hammock at the end of the pier before cooling off in the azure lake

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Well being
  • Wildlife
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome and under 12s stay free of charge. Most casitas have at least 1 extra bed. The restaurant has a children’s menu and high chairs are available.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly: Garden Room

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
7/
Food
7/
Service
7/
Value
8/
Overall

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Rates for Rancho Encantado