La Paz Travel Guide
Sunset over La Paz © Rick McCharles
The holiday retreat of La Paz is the laid-back capital of Baja California Sur, known for its stunning sunsets and beaches. The city is a perfect base from which to explore the magical surrounding landscape. Although it has excellent beaches, it is not known specifically as a beach resort, but is a tranquil Mexican port with a colonial town atmosphere.
La Paz is a 'real' city where locals go about their daily business among the tourist shops, fancy restaurants and tour operators. The most romantic feature in the city is the waterfront promenade, or malecón, around which the city life revolves, stretching for several kilometres along sandy beaches. Much of the dining and nightlife is along the walkway and it is the best place to catch one of the city's famously spectacular sunsets while on holiday.
La Paz is the eco-tourism capital of the country, surrounded by desert and situated in a large bay on the Sea of Cortez, with a variety of outdoor tour guides offering excellent trips. The region has astonishing plant and animal life, varied geology of the inland deserts, mountains and oases, and the Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve nearby. Beautiful unspoilt offshore islands offer naturalist hiking, as well as amazing diving and snorkelling from pristine beaches with hammerhead sharks, dolphins, sea lions and the gigantic whale sharks.
The islands are the destination of kayakers, sailors and boat cruises, and the bay is a popular yachting stopover. La Paz is a fisherman's paradise and its international fishing competitions are world famous. To the north of the city, along the Pichilingue Peninsula, are some magnificent beaches, backed by mangroves and the cactus-studded mountains of the desert. Besides the eco-tourist activities on offer, La Paz boasts plentiful shopping, a varied nightlife, excellent fish and seafood, and comfortable accommodation, offering visitors everything they need for a relaxing and stimulating holiday.
From small, exclusive boutiques lining the Malecon to the department stores of busy downtown La Paz, known as 'El Centro', the city offers plenty of options for lightening the pocket, with high fashion and upmarket branded goods aplenty. There are also numerous stores selling locally produced Mexican arts and crafts to delight souvenir hunters on holiday, and supermarkets on just about every street corner for self-caterers.
There are delicious treats to suit all tastes available in the many restaurants of La Paz, from the highly rated street corner hotdog and chocolate clam stands to mouth-watering lobsters from the Sea of Cortez served up in classy seafront restaurants. The cuisine of most nationalities is available, including Chinese, Italian, French and Korean, but traditional Mexican remains the holiday favourite. For seafood with a local flair, visit Bismark II, while Buffalo BBQ is the local favourite for hamburgers and other carnivorous fare.
La Paz has no shortage of lively nightspots, most being located along the Malecon. This brightly lit promenade and adjacent pier is abuzz with strollers and party-animals after dark, entertained by groups of street musicians known as 'mariachis'. Shops stay open late to cater for evening browsers. Like in most Mexican cities, the party action does not start hotting up until late in the evening, from around 10pm, but continues until the early hours of the morning. Discos offer all kinds of music, from traditional Latin to American rock, and many of the bars and restaurants offer dancing to live music. La Caliente and Las Varitas are great night spots and live music venues. Culture vultures will probably find a play or concert to their taste at the Teatro de Ciuidad or Teatro Juarez, and there are several movie theatres showing American films with Spanish subtitles.
The most popular recreational features of La Paz are its lovely beaches, all covered with soft sand, which slope gently into clear blue waters. Most offer watersports rental facilities, and 'palapa' (woven palm frond umbrellas), which can be hired. Coromuel Beach is closest to the city centre while further along the Trans-Peninsula Highway are Tesoro Beach, Pichilinge, Balandra and El Tecolote. La Paz also has a reputation for offering more extreme water adventures, such as big game fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, kitesurfing and scuba diving, particularly in the waters around the island of Espiritu Santo. Whale-watching excursions and eco-tours to the mountains to the south of the city are also popular holiday diversions.
La Paz can be quite expensive during peak season.