The crystal clear waters and white sandy bottom of this lagoon cause the water color to morph into varying shades of turquoise, blue, and deep indigo throughout the day and in different depths. These technicolor waters are home to fish, waterfowl and stromatolites, a living colony similar to coral.
This 60-kilometer lagoon (which is often called a lake, but is actually a series of waterways eventually leading to the ocean) once offered passage for pirates and traders seeking their treasure in the form of precious Campeche wood. The authorities of the Spanish Viceroyalty in Mexico even built a fort to combat piracy in these waters. The Fuerte de San Felipe started construction in 1725 with a 4-side square fortress plan. Nowadays, the fort houses a museum dedicated to the history of piracy and the role of the fort itself in fighting it, as well as nighttime light shows.
Atop the lagoon one can find many risen wooden walkways that have lead to it being nicknamed the “Maldives of Mexico.” On its shores, one can find several sizable cenotes — excellent swimming holes. Still, despite its location only four hours south of Cancun, tourists remain sparse. Negotiating with a boat captain for a ride out to the “Pirate’s Canal” is another good option.
Know Before You Go
Walk along the length of the lagoon to reach several public access points with great waterfront views. Here, you can negotiate with a boat captain for a ride to one of the cenotes or out to the "Pirate's Canal." Keep an eye out for wading birds like the stunning roseate spoonbill.
A few bucks will buy your admission to one of the "balnearios" (public clubs) for a swim or kayak paddle -- or a drink. Visit the "Fuerte de San Felipe" for an elevated view of the lagoon and a brief, pirate-centric history lesson.
Due to the slow flow of water into and out of the lagoon as well as the delicate stromatolites, it is strongly recommended to only wear biodegradable suncream and other skin products when going in the water. Kayaking and paddleboarding the lagoon is also preferable to boarding motorboats.