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.