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La Paz             Click here to make Hotel Reservation in La Paz
by Erica Shelby

La Paz deserves its name. It stands with grace on a wide bay of the Sea of Cortez. The Malecon, or sea wall boulevard, follows the shoreline throughout the town. On one side are the shops, eating establishments, and a few hotels, on the other a sidewalk flanked by a long line of coconut palm trees, Victorian benches, the beach, and the sea. Most of the buildings have just two stories; no high rises disrupt the flowing horizontal lines of sky, hills, and sea.Sure enough, it was a warrior who was first drawn to the bay of peace: Hernan Cortez. He came in 1535, lusting after the world's finest black and pink pearls. They grew in the large oysters which lived in these waters. Some two hundred years later, the Jesuits arrived with the very best of intentions. But instead of bringing the blessings of Christianity, progress, and civilization, the gallant soldiers of Christ spread the smallpox. This was unintended, of course. But all the same, it wiped the local Indian population from the face of Baja. So for a long time, all was not well at the bay of peace. Its pearls attracted greedy adventurers, and its natural harbors sheltered pirates that raided the ships sailing on the Pacific routes. But gradually, La Paz became a safe haven for people fleeing the wars of revolution on the mainland. And finally, in the 1940's, the oyster beds died from some sort of virus. Now there was nothing left to attract strike-it-rich- quick operators, and La Paz was left alone at last.Today, as the capital of Baja California Sur, the city has a population of 160.000. One wonders where all these people are, because La Paz has the flavor and charm of a much smaller town. It is one of those places that invite the visitor to dive in and take part. The city has no single major attraction and will disappoint determined sightseers. But those of us who have  antennae for the unadulterated life of a locale will enjoy it greatly. It's a pleasant town with quaint streets, a green and dreaming plaza and brown Pelicans perched on the fishing boats anchored by the beach.Everyone is friendly, considerate, or, at worst, casually indifferent. Nobody stares, hustles, or begs Prices are firm, most sales people shy, and taxi drivers are honest. There are no homeless or derelict people in the streets, and no boom boxes on the beaches. We saw only one somber young Indian girl sitting on the sidewalk selling dolls. She did no marketing of any kind. She hardly looked up at her potential customers. She used the waiting time between sales diligently for production: she made more dolls.In our walks through town, we looked really hard to find an exception to the rule. But the peaceful ones, as the inhabitants of La Paz are called, stayed just that - nonchalantly peaceful. In fact, one burly taxi driver told us proudly: " no bandidos in La Paz!" One hopes that the place can stay like that for a long time. And while fashionable and artificial Cabo San Lucas a 100 miles south at the tip of Baja offers many posh hotels and caters to every whim of the discriminating tourist, in unspoiled La Paz the fortunate traveler can't even find a decent postcard. What he can find in this duty-free zone are countless shoe stores, windows showing elaborate wedding dresses, and a multitude of bazaar-like little import establishments with a wild assortment of goods ranging from French perfumes to the latest high-tech gadgets from Asia.He can also find a few nice hotels and one or two more luxurious beach resorts just outside of town.The open air terrace of the old Perla Hotel on the Malecon is a great place to watch the world go by. At lunch time, there will be a large table where the regulars hold court. They are the notable old men of La Paz, and they enjoy themselves heartily with laughing, kidding, and gossiping. In between, the men seem to discuss more serious matters, because occasionally their faces manage to turn grave. Meanwhile, outside, beautiful local women in mini skirts walk by in a regal stride. No matter where you are along the sea boulevard in La Paz, you can take a few steps down to the beach and swim, right in the middle of town. There are no artificial barriers to keep you away. But it is much better, of course, to drive - either by rented car, taxi, or organized van tour - to one of the many magnificent virgin beaches in the area.The minute you leave La Paz, nature takes over. It's an austere, uninhabited, uncluttered landscape of desert and sea. Barren hills and mountains studded with forests of giant Cardon cacti tumble down to the Sea of Cortez. In this as in most parts of Baja, the lush tropical vegetation is always man-made: it needs to be planted and watered. And unlike in the tropics, the humidity in Baja is pleasantly low. In spring, the climate is perfect, with temperatures in the low 80's.

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La Paz Beaches 

PLAYA LA PAZ, Right in town, along the Malecon, from the entrance to town, up to the marina. These beaches are clean, convenient, and offer a quick escape.

PLAYA EL COMITAN, On the north end of the bay, west of town, prior to entering La Paz. Shallow beaches, not as attractive at low tide. Better beaches northeast of town.

PLAYA LAS HAMACAS, Just before entering town, head north to the bay. The main draw here is the close location. It is usually worth the time to head north.

PLAYA PALMIRA, On the road heading northwest through town, at Km. 2.5. A nice beach, very busy on weekends, usually filled with hotel guests and locals.

PLAYA EL COROMEL, Pichilingue Highway, near Km. 3.5. Another beautiful beach, food and drinks, palapas, water slide, some road noise.

PLAYA DEL TESORO, About 8 miles out of town on the Pichilingue road at Km. 8.5 A relaxing beach with a restaurant and palapas.

PLAYA PICHILINGUE, Out on the Pichilingue Highway at Km. 17. Further from town, not as crowded, restroom available 24 hours!

PLAYA BALANDRA, North and east of town, via the Pichilingue Highway, and a good spur road west. A great beach, clear water, may get busy on summer weekends.

PLAYA TECOLOTE, Continue on past Playa Balandra a few more miles. Beautiful beach, restaurant, and pangas for rent. Local breezes keep the bugs away!

ISLA ESPIRITU SANTO, North east of town, less than an hour boat ride. Best beaches are on the west side. Island paradise! 14 miles of crystal clear waters, sandy beaches and coves. Privacy!

BAHIA DE LA VENTANA, South of La Paz 20 miles on Highway 286, then head north to the beach. Miles ofspectacular beaches, no crowds, perfect!

BAHIA DE LOS MUERTOS, South of La Paz 30 miles on Highway 286, left at last intersection. Some of the best beaches Baja has to offer. Easy to get to, hard to leave.

BAHIA DE LOS MUERTOS, South of La Paz 30 miles on Highway 286, left at last intersection. Some of the best beaches Baja has to offer. Easy to get to, hard to leave.

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The beaches outside of La Paz are excellent for camping and for RVs. Most of the beach access roads are in good condition. These popular playascan get very busy on weekends, and very quiet during the week. There are a few camping facilities available near town, but it’s best to make your own.

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FISHING - BOATING:  Pangas can also be rented on the beach in downtown La Paz, or further north at Pichilingue Beach.Local fish include sailfish, marlin, yellowtail, dorado, rooster fish, tuna and sierra. Deep sea fishing improves as the waters warm up, from March through September. Sailfish and Marlin start hitting May to November, but reeling in a big yellow or rooster fish will get you just as excited.
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La Paz offers all types of accommodations from backpacker economical to expensive, but not necessarily world class.
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    BAJA.TV / practice your own brand of freedom tm / La Paz
RESTAURANTS - BARS:La Paz offers fresh seafood and traditional Mexican fare. Avoid Bismarck II. The walls of the place are decorated with frescoes showing the battleship in all its glory, plus minus glory, in the act of sinking. The sinking feeling is precisely what overcomes you when you enter this once famed seafood eatery. Machine room lighting, a Where's Waldo approach to service accompanied by the culinary experience a la internment camp.

Positive places to eat are: La Pazta, pretty reliable service and a satisfying europop menu.

La Costa, hidden just outside the slurpy marina, for huge oysters from the upstate Pacific side, and all the seafood you like, but not a meat eatery.

Mar y Peña, air conditioned uptown at 16th of Septiembre past La Catolica, nice seafood at good prices, but TV, radio and air condition make you forget you're in a desert oasis.

Club Campestre, a couple of miles North of Town but *indubitably worth it; while we hate superlatives, they consistently make the most explicite non-francise Burger within 100 miles, and if you were considering The Bugamvilia because of its pleasant location, reconsider! - many La Paz restaurant owners invite their friends to eat here.

NEW since December 2006 TRES VIRGENES, Madero, corner of Constitution, a block from the plaza and/or post office, nice patio for stylish lunch and fine dining.

Metropolitan-style Eurotalian dining: Cafe Milano

Lounge at MADERO BAR, a brave experiment for a provincial Babylon.

There are of course good restaurants on the Malecon / waterfront like the traditional El Taste, but not nearly za kick in the global palate. Hotel Los Arcos' restaurant Bermejo offers fine cuts, but covers its furniture with clear plastic, how's that for style?

Brisamar on the Malecon, locals praise their meat, but at $25 a plate I'd rather not eat canned mushrooms or have the menu stick to my fingers. Kerosene lamps provide this indoor establishment with a touch of Basra.

There's a French restaurant in town, nice atrium, poor attitude, we'll pass and have some great tacos at Gatos y Perros, corner of Raul y Carlos Salinas de Gotari.

La Paz has quickly grown from rancho to city but continues to struggle with progress, as old monopolies and of course "the summer heat" have for so long been able to defer an uprising.
by JMS

    BAJA.TV / practice your own brand of freedom tm / La Paz


5 & Dime galore. For BAJA books and regionally produced gifts see KUMUTU, 1 block off 5 de Mayo on Belisario Dominguez.

    BAJA.TV / practice your own brand of freedom tm / La Paz

La Paz features a host of transportation options for the Baja traveler. The truly adventurous Baja traveler often mixes and matches different modes of transportation in one trip to get a larger flavor of the Baja.

AIRPORT, The La Paz International Airport services commercial flight to Loreto and Tijuana, as well as many other cities on the Mexican mainland and in the United States. La Paz is also an airport of entry for general aviation. For more information on flying private aircraft into La Paz and into baja, check out Baja Bush Pilots web site.

BUSES, The buses in La Paz are very popular with the local people as an inexpensive way to get around town. The long distance buses that head down to Cabo and up to Tijuana are an inexpensive way to travel the Peninsula, and to get a flavor of Baja.Ferries, The Ferry leaves regularly from La Paz to Mazatlan And Topolobampo.

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ISLA ESPIRITU SANTO, This is probably the most photographed island in Baja. And for a good reason! The turquoise bays and over a dozen white sandy beaches almost look unreal from the sky, and they appear equally spectacular in person. There are actually two big islands in the group, plus several smaller rock islands, and they are all just a short boat ride away from La Paz. It's a perfect one day getaway, or a very relaxing 2 day (or more!) excursion. Sunscreen and a hat are highly recommended, as shade is scarce. Boats can be chartered from the marinas.Make it a point to visit the island of Espiritu Santo and the sea lion colony off Isla Partida for a day of snorkeling, diving, and exploring. To see dozens of dolphins leap out of the sea, to snorkel and literally dance with sea lions in crystal clear water, and to frolic among thousands of tropical fish dressed in their finery of brilliant color was bliss.

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BIKES,   Hard core helmets will enjoy the "Cabo Loop", taking Baja Hwy 1 south past Buena Vista to San Jose Del Cabo, down to the tip, and then up the west coast via Hwy 19 through Todos Santos and then back to La Paz. This 250 mile excursion is best enjoyed with an overnighter at the halfway point in Cabo San Lucas. Bike rentals are available at La Paz.

DIVING, Some of the best diving in the La Paz area is around the offshore islands. Snorkeling can be fun along the beaches just outside town, but the sea life doesn't really kick in until you get offshore. For snorkel trips, it's easy to rent a panga to head out to Isla Espiritu Santo. For Scuba diving, hooking up with the original local dive shop is easy TOTO'S. Best months for visibility and warm water are July through November. The other dive option in La Paz is the dive boats.

Giant mantas, massive whale sharks and impressive numbers of sharks, especially hammerheads, have made La Paz shine among the best worldwide scuba diving destinations. There are more than 25 first-class dive spots around the many islands surrounding the bay of La Paz, Espíritu Santo, San José and Cerralvo. A few of the most well known are:
EL BAJO: an underwater mountain rising to 60 ft. from the surface, where the schooling hammerheads were first spotted. Great diving year-round for experienced divers.
LOS ISLOTES: home for more than 350 very playful sea lions that love to perform for divers and snorkelers. Good diving year-round for all levels with an anchorage that is well protected from prevailing winds.
SALVATIERRA: a ferry shipwreck sunk in 1976 after colliding with a nearby reef. Lying on a sandbar in 60 ft of water, it is a fantastic “artificial” reef, full of sea life.
LAS ANIMAS: a collection of tiny islets in front of San Josè island, where strong currents maintain a permanent population of pelagic fish. Good year-round, especially for extended live-aboard trips.
LA REINA and LA REINITA: islets in front of Cerralvo Island with huge concentrations of both pelagics and tropical fish. Whale encounters are common in the channel during the boat trip from La Paz.
NEW ARTIFICIAL REEFS: La Paz 03 and Fang Ming, two rusting Chinese long liners, were sunk in November 1999 near the Island of Espiritu Santo to promote artificial reef development for sport divers.

KAYAKING, whale watching, diving well established: Baja Kayak Adventures

OFF ROAD, even though much of the recreational activity takes place in, on, under, or next to the water, true Baja aficionados know that there is more to La Paz than salt water. The roads leaving La Paz in all directions offer excellent off-roading, and La Paz has been host of the SCORE INTERNATIONAL BAJA 1,000..

SAILING, Sailors have been dropping the hook in La Paz for over 400 years. It's an excellent natural harbor, and the sailing offshore is superb. This is a common stopover for sailors who cruise down the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula, and a good place to provision before heading further south on the Mexican mainland, or for blue water sailing to Hawaii and beyond. The marinas in town offer everything a sailor worth his or salt, could need.

WINDSURFING, Winds are usually calm during summer, (except during chubascos), but increase significantly in 3 to 4 day periods during fall and spring. The spectacular windsurfing at Buena Vista is only an hour south by car.

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