A pocket of real Mexico on a peninsula of rapid growth
After being on the gringo-littered, southwest side of Baja in El Pescadero for a month, La Paz felt like a breath of fresh air, and the real Mexico that we thought we were moving here for. La Paz is a true Mexican city, its population around 300,000, located about 2 hours north of Cabo San Lucas on the Sea of Cortez side of the Baja peninsula. Beautiful, tranquil beaches stretch out from the city and the Isla Espiritu Santo lies just off shore to the north. A popular boardwalk lines the “Malecón” district along the water downtown, and tourists, foreign and Mexican alike, fill the tour boats to swim with whale sharks and sea lions.
Where to Sleep:
Hotel Hacienda “San Jose”. Room with a double bed for just $200 pesos per night, or less than $20 USD, with private bathroom, fan, and hot water. Located just a few blocks from the Malecón on Calle Madero No. 85, yet in the thick of the Mexican neighborhood where you can find the good eats and La Paz market.
Where to Eat:
Coffee: Stop at the unmarked place on the corner of 5 de Mayo (near the cathedral) for the best (and cheapest!) cup of coffee in town.
Hermanos Gonzales taco truck (watch my video) just half a block up the street from Hotel Hacienda “San Jose,” at the dead end of Calle Madero on Degollado. The.Best.Fish.Tacos. I have ever had, and that’s saying a lot. The buffet bar of toppings alone would sell you on these tacos. Indulge, get as many as you want, and a fresh Mexican coca cola, you won’t spend more than a few dollars. Open until 7pm.
Dinner is the tricky part about La Paz. The Malecón is full of pricey restaurants with a nice view of the sunset, but budget meals are hard to find on the Malecón or elsewhere, because it seems the locals don’t bother eating dinner out in La Paz. The trick is to eat just before 5pm, before the market and most taco trucks close. Then join the locals in eating ice cream later in the evening. If you’re too late, try Deli Santitos just off the Malecón on Ocampo for anything Mexican on a budget ($60 pesos for a meal). If you want a great seafood spread for a higher price, check out Bismarkcito on the Malecón.
What to Do:
Tours: We did the Island Tour to Isla Espiritu Santo to swim with sea lions. Worth it, but we talked them down from $750 to $650 pesos per person, about $50 USD, which seems steep, but it was the best deal we heard of for the all-day tour that included dolphin watching, lunch, snorkel equipment, and two beers each, and we saw a huge whale breach and lots of manta rays, pretty amazing.
We chose that tour over the whale sharks tour because it was cheaper and longer with more to see. We booked with Aquatic Expedition Tours, but on a recent trip back we did our tours with Baja Outdoor Activities and I can highly recommend them for all your swimming and snorkeling needs in La Paz.
Beaches: Take a least a day to beach hop on the northern beaches. If you have a rental car that’s great, but taxis are cheap, too. Balandra is worth a longer visit, perhaps rent a kayak or stand up paddle board to explore the tranquil bay. Just be aware, the famous rock formation that you might hear about in Balandra is extremely disappointing as it’s only about 5 feet tall when they make it seem like it’s 30. Rays are known to rest in these bays, so shuffle your feet so as to not disturb one and get stung. We saw a few swimming outside of Balandra bay, and plenty on our snorkeling tour, so they are definitely around.
*Please remember, information is current as of date posted and may change without notice.