Many travelers planning on heading south of the border are asking the same question: Is La Paz, Mexico, worth visiting? The American continent is full of so many stunning seaside cities so what makes La Paz so special? Truth be told, until you go there, you’ll never really know. But this guide will hopefully offer some inspiration to those considering making the trip…
The capital of Baja California Sur has a rapidly growing population and a real buzz about it. It’s also a commercial powerhouse, with ports and trading stations on the Sea of Cortez. Plus, all that comes set amid some of the most stunning natural landscapes – we’re talking dusty desert mountains that sweep dramatically into pure turquoise waters. Tempted yet?
Below, we offer seven reasons that we think make La Paz well worth the journey. We’ll home in on the glorious Mexican beaches that fringe the Baja around the town, take a look at the happening promenades on water’s edge, get a feel for what the locals are like, and even sample the region’s unique cuisine.
The Malecon is one of the most attractive areas of La Paz. Whether you call it the strip, the promenade, or the walkway, this is the main stretch of sidewalk where tourists and locals come to relax. Nestled between the beach and the city, you’ll feel the vibrant medley of urban life on one side and the the soft sea breezes and lapping waves on the other.
When you visit La Paz, this should be among the first places on your to-do list. It unfolds in a montage of Mexican food cantinas, street stalls, seating areas, picnic spots, and fantastic people-watching locations. It’s also riddled with all sorts of intriguing statues, like the oversized whale and the big conch shell.
Finally, there’s one extra-special part of this promenade that makes La Paz Mexico worth visiting, though: The sunsets. There are few places in Mexico that offer such a dramatic view of the dying light. Thanks to the slightly north-west orientation of the Malecon, it’s just about perfect for watching the sun dip behind the rugged Baja mountains in the distance, with the great lagoons shimmering silver and blue in the foreground. Best enjoyed with a margarita in hand if you ask us.
It’s welcoming and friendly
One of the big worries for would-be travelers heading south of the border to the land of tacos and tequila is the heightened risk of getting caught up in crime and cartel-related violence. The good news is that La Paz, although it does have its issues (name us a city on the planet that doesn’t?), is actually considered pretty safe on the line up of Mexican destinations.
Travel stat collator Numbeo gives it an overall crime rating of 39.29. To put things into context, that’s lower than NYC and San Francisco, which sits at a whopping 66.61. On top of that, La Paz is located sufficiently far from the border cities of Tijuana to distance itself from the bulk of drug-related violent crime in the region.
Truth is, the local population here is a welcoming mix of students and fishing people, working folks and people in the tourism industry. They’re well used to visitors from all over and love to offer a warm welcome.
Is La Paz, Mexico, worth visiting for the local fauna? Calling all wildlife lovers – this town actually sits on one of the most biodiverse corners of the Baja California. The focus is mainly on the uber-rich waters of the Sea of Cortez, which runs the whole western haunch of the town. But there’s also things to be seen in the dusty desert ridges and sierras further inland.
Let’s start to the south. There, arguably the most famous diving location in Mexico makes its home across a series of lagoons ands islets. Cue the Cabo Pulmo National Park. The clear waters there are fringed by 20,000-year-old coral-topped reefs. They are filled with sea turtles, multiple shark species, and whales during the main migration seasons of the year.
Go north from town (about three hours or so) and you can reach the even-more-remote Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto. This is a mecca for those who want to view the rare sealions of the Baja, along with UNESCO-attested lagoons and inlets where all manner of other fish reside.
Because it’s in the Baja California Sur
La Paz is actually the capital of the Baja California Sur. That puts it at the gateway to one of the most enthralling regions in Mexico. Most will come to hit the beaches of Cabo further south. You can do that even if you’ve flown into the local La Paz International Airport – La Paz itself is only about two hours’ driving from the big resort town.
But there’s loads to see along the way. How about a pitstop at the chilled surf and beach haven of Todos Santos, which has reliable beginner waves and chilled ocean hotels? How about going in the other direction to pass by the ancient reef habitats of the Cabo Pulmo, arguably Mexico’s best diving location?
We’d also recommend a stop at San José del Cabo. That’s one of the older towns in the region, offering a charming Mexicana core with cobbled streets and little cantinas. It’s connected to the buzzy nightlife hub of Cabo San Lucas by a long strip called The Corridor, essentially lux hotel after lux hotel by seriously wonderful beaches.
Some of the best beaches in Mexico
La Paz is lucky in that it’s hemmed in by some of the finest beaches on the whole Sea of Cortez. They are seriously striking stuff. We’re talking long, swirling sandbanks that slope into milky lagoons, all with the dramatic sierras of the desert rising right above. Yep – you’ll want the camera charged for this one!
One beaches really stands out from the rest. It is regarded not just as the best beach in the city but perhaps the best beach in all of Mexico. Cue Balandra. Known for having very shallow water, this little sliver of isolated paradise is probably the main reason you’ll want to visit La Paz. It’s a beautiful, idyllic, and relaxing location with wisps of cloud-white sand dashing beneath craggy headlands.
That’s not it, though. We’d also recommend a trip across to the isolated Isla Partida, which has little coves that could be out of Robinson Crusoe, or Playa El Tecolote, where a few chilled cocktail bars offer palapas on the cloud-white powder by the sea.
Sure, La Paz can be a place to laze and soak up the tan. It can be a spot to simply kick back in a lux hotel by the shoreline. However, it can also offer oodles of adrenaline to those who want it. That’s thanks to the closeness of both the mountains and the ocean.
On the water, some of the top draws include diving – the scuba reefs of the Cabo Pulmo are especially popular – and sea kayaking – there are stacks of surrounding islands with umpteen coves to explore. Talking of surrounding islands, the likes of Isla del Espiritu Santo, just a short ferry away, can provide open-air campsites on the beach for those who really want to escape the crowds.
Prefer to stay on dry land? Pull on the hiking boots and grab the trekking poles – there are dramatic cave trails on the Cerro de la Calavera headland and longer walks in the Sierra de Laguna to the south. On top of that, you’ll probably be able to find 4X4 or quad biking outfitters, horse riding stables and even surf camps in Todos Santos.
La Paz is the perfect place to come to sample the unique kitchen of the Baja California region. It’s a taste-bud-tingling mix of flavors, bringing in influences from the desert and the sea, with fresh fish and plenty of spice, along with just a touch of the Tex-Mex pizzazz courtesy of the nearby USA.
There are a few specialities you 100% should not miss. First up are the region’s very own chocolate clams. Don’t worry, there’s not an ounce of cocoa in sight. Instead, these tangy shellfish are named for the color of their outer conch and usually served in a marinade of garlic and butter. You should also tuck into a zingy campechana cocktail, which is sort of Mexico’s answer to Peru’s ceviche.
The cantinas by the Malecon and the main tourist parts of town are pretty fantastic at catering to all tastes, though. Head down and you’ll find everything from fast food to fish taco stands, cocktail lounges to pizza joints. It’s not a city to go hungry in, that’s for sure.
Is La Paz, Mexico, worth visiting? Our conclusion
Is La Paz, Mexico, worth visiting? For sure! Although it’s the capital of the Baja California Sur region, this town on the side of the Sea of Cortez is nowhere near as visited as others in the region, most notably Cabo to the south. However, it’s not only a fantastic gateway to those. It’s also a diving mecca with access to some of Mexico’s oldest reef systems, a beach hub with striking lagoon beaches, a bustling university town with a welcoming local population, and a great base for hiking and kayaking your way around the peninsula.