Why book? If you’re wellness-minded and eco-conscious looking to fully disengage from the rest of the world and reconnect with yourself while (comfortably) immersed in nature, this is the spot to be. Set the scene A four-hour drive south of heavily-touristed Cancún, the discreet Habitas entrance on the side of a remote road makes you feel like you’ve been let in on a grand secret—and as you make your way through the lush jungle to the open-air reception, you realize: you have. Upon arrival, you’re treated to a cup of jamaica tea and a traditional Mayan welcome ceremony with palo de tinte, immediately setting the tone for your stay, while highlighting Habitas’ mission of rooting themselves into the local community. The scent of burning resin wafts through the air, and ambient music follows you around the property, matching the vibe of the day from sunrise to sunset. You’ll find guests floating about the property, practicing meditation inside of the yoga tent or lounging on the dock, smoothie in hand. The place is small, just 35 rooms, each with a mass occupancy of two, and has a very communal vibe. Co-founder Eduardo Castillo told me, “I like to think of it more as a whole experience than just a hotel.” The backstory Habitas Bacalar is the third property from the Habitas group, following the success of their flagship in Tulum, and second property in Namibia (with properties in Todos Santos and Saudi Arabia opening soon). Habitas focuses on sustainability and collaborating with the local community. They’re the first global hospitality group to launch in Bacalar, and are doing so with a focus on preserving the natural environment. Everyone on staff speaks of the lagoon with a certain reverence—and conserving the magic of “the lake of seven colors” is essential to Habitas’ mission. By scanning a QR code found in each room, guests receive a lagoon care guide, which includes education about the natural environment, and instructions to not touch the stromatolites (a special type of reef) and mangroves that keep the water so immaculate, to not wear sunscreen while swimming, etc. These are the only tight restrictions though—the vibe of the property is very go-with-the-flow. The rooms Each stand-alone A-frame tent is structured and designed the exact same—the only difference between the rooms is the view. You can choose between a jungle room, a mangrove room, or a lagoon room (priced lowest to highest respectively). The interiors are neutral, earthy-minimalist. Everything inside the room is comfortable—from the king-sized bed, to the waffle robes and fluffy towels—but you’ll find the best parts outside: the views through the floor-to-ceiling window, and the outdoor shower. Note: because this is an immersive nature experience, expect to see a few extra roommates buzzing about your room. Food and drink Named for the lagoon’s seven shades of blue, restaurant Siete pays homage to its environment, using traditional Mayan cooking techniques and local ingredients. You won’t find a single thing on executive chef Horacio Dardano’s menu that isn’t directly sourced from the region. The tables and chairs at Siete are set low, designed so that your eyes perfectly align with views of the lagoon while you dine. My favorite dishes to pair with the view: the tiradito (I’m a sucker for raw fish of any kind, but the soy and tamarind dressing make this a standout, in my opinion), and the wood-fired Yucatan pork, cooked for 12 hours in banana leaves. Down at the Tree Bar on the deck of the lagoon, you’ll find a condensed version of the restaurant menu featuring smaller plates, like ceviche with passion fruit leche de tigre, spring-pea guacamole served with yucca chips, and fish tacos—but it’s definitely enough to take your lunch lagoon-side. All cocktails are delicious, but I highly recommend the Rolima: a mix of whiskey, rosemary, lime, and passionfruit. The spa The spa and treatment cabins, designed with traditional Mayan architecture in mind, are still undergoing construction but are expected to finish before November. However, guests can currently experience select therapies in a temporary space. The wellness program works with local communities to source the delicious ingredients—like cacao, honey, rosemary and ginger—found in all of their spa products. To be candid, this was my first massage, though my sister, a massage regular, raved that it was the best she’d ever experienced. I believe I am now absolutely spoiled for any future massages. The neighborhood/area Because Habitas is located in the more secluded southern part of Bacalar (read: you won’t really be leaving the property), the hotel makes an effort to bring the community to you, by hosting local vendors for guest experiences—like a cacao and wine tasting with Mazorca Negra Chocolateria—and partnering with local businesses for complimentary activities, like sunrise paddleboard tours, yoga lessons, guided meditations, and more. The service The warm Habitas staff reminds you again and again that “while you’re here, you’re home” and makes every effort to make you feel it. And while any need you have will be met, the service is casual and personable—never stuffy. Lagoon-side drink deliveries come with insider recommendations urging you to take advantage of the see-through kayaks, to never miss a sunrise, and to camp out on the dock post-dinner to count shooting stars. Make sure to ask Florentino (affectionately, Tino) for a lesson in Mayan language, cozy up to the Tree Bar for a proper mezcal tasting with Barba, and grab Ari or Hilaria for a guided meditation. Eco effort The coolest part about the construction is that it was built to work with the environment—not against it. No nature was killed or moved during the build—instead, the walkways weave around the mangroves and over the small streams running throughout the property. Habitas Bacalar is also fully plastic-free and guests are expected to comply: all of the amenities in the rooms are refillable, and the glass bottles in your fridge are re-filled daily with fresh drinking water. Accessibility With weaving walkways, an abundance of stairs, and low lighting in the evening (you’ll find mostly candlelight illuminating walkways and the restaurant), this is not currently an accessible property. Anything left to mention? Absolutely do not miss the sunrise standup paddleboard tour with Habitas partner Adventure Lab. The tour includes a snorkel through a narrow “rapid” where you get to carefully observe the stromatolites in their full glory. Make sure to paddle alongside Gladys (who recently won a competition as the fastest female standup paddle boarder in Bacalar) about the history of Bacalar and the lagoon. Natural insect repellent is supplied in each room, but it’s really no match to the mosquitoes and tabanos (horse-flies) constantly buzzing about—especially by the bar at night. Make sure to slather yourself in as much repellent as possible, and bring anti-itch cream for the inevitable bites.
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