La Paz

La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur and the largest city in the southern state, is a remarkably calm and inviting city. Located on a bay within a bay, La Paz means “peace,” and it is truly a peaceful place considering its size. 

For this reason, it attracts visitors of all kinds and is a popular spot for ex-pats looking to combine modern amenities with authentic Mexican culture. 

On our first visit, we were intimidated by the idea of spending any amount of time in or around a larger city. However, of all of the cities in Baja, La Paz is by far the safest and most welcoming with loads of fun things to do in the area.   

The city is also home to several of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico – Balandra and Tecolote. Despite being a modern and the biggest city in Baja California Sur, it perfectly exhibits the old Baja charm. La Paz is a favorite destination for divers, golfers and sportfishing enthusiasts.

Geographically, La Paz is the fourth largest municipality in Mexico and boasts the largest population in Baja California Sur with over 250,000 people. It has an airport and a ferry terminal connecting the region with mainland Mexico and the rest of the world. 

La Paz is undergoing a massive transformation. It is developing rapidly, particularly on the northeast end of the downtown. Moreover, there are several golf courses and high-end marinas full of very expensive yachts and sailboats.

In addition to construction, the art of the La Paz is on another level. The city is filled with stunning street art, murals and urban art pieces depicting the cultural origin, indigenous people, and their relationship with the sea. 

A walk along the Malecon will introduce you to all sorts of statues and art connecting the city with its natural and historical roots. 

The La Paz municipality is also the land of stunning beaches. In fact, Balandra Beach is one of the most unique and picturesque beaches in the world. Thousands of people visit Balandra on any given day. 

The white sandy beaches and crystal clear water invites visitors of all kinds to rest and relax, paddle and play in the water of the hourglass-shaped bay. 

In addition to Balandra, there are other beaches where you can enjoy all the water activities, including swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and kayaking. Playa Tecolote and Playa Pichilingue are two where you can camp on the beach and enjoy everything the southern end of Baja has to offer.  

Like many other Baja towns, La Paz also hosts friendly whale sharks, grey whales, humpback, and blue whales from January through April. Whale sharks, in particular, are the main attraction in La Paz. 

During winter and spring, female and juvenile whale sharks follow the warm water and food into the bay where they stay until migrating north in late spring. This is one of the few places in the world where you can leave the city on a tour boat and be in the water swimming with whale sharks within 30 minutes.   

In addition to excellent water activities, La Paz is a great place for sandboarding in the El Mogote desert, mountain biking the nearby Sierra de la Laguna Mountains and hiking to lagoons and beautiful vistas along the water.

Things to do in La Paz

The tropical desert, unspoiled beaches and fantastic wildlife make La Paz a great destination to explore. It has tons of activities for every person.

Here are the best things to do in La Paz.

Snorkel with Whale Sharks and Sea Lions

By far, swimming with the whale shark and sea lions is the biggest must-do activity when visiting La Paz. It is a unique experience worth trying at least once, if not several times during your stay. The friendly giants stay in the bay from January through April.

Tour operators around the city, particularly along the Malecon, are willing to take you to experience magical moments interacting with the biggest shark in the sea. They also provide you the snorkeling equipment and wet suits and some provide full or half-day combination tours. 

You can also extend your journey to Isla Espiritu Santo to witness Baja’s largest colony of sea lions. The island is a UNESCO biosphere reserve, so there is no restaurant or store, and wildlife thrives in its natural habitat. You must visit the island as part of a tour. 

The Mexican government is quite protective of its marine environment. So whether you are swimming with whale sharks or sea lions or exploring La Isla Espiritu Santo, the government requires that you have a proper pass as part of its way to protect the marine life and biosphere of La Paz. These are included in any tours you take.

Sea Lion Swimming Underwater

Wander the Malecon

La Paz has beautiful sunsets, and anywhere along the Malecon is the perfect spot to watch the sun sinking into the sea. Of all of the Malecon in Baja, this is the longest and full of the most activities.

It is quite a popular spot among both locals and tourists. In the morning and evenings, you will see people jogging, walking, exercising and cycling. There are special activities sections of the Malecon for kids (and adults) to exercise and play or to enjoy a concert or street performer. 

Of course, you could eat (or drink) your way from one end of the Malecon to the other. It would take a long time to do so as the Malecon stretches over 2 miles and offers all sorts of food and drink opportunities. Whether you are looking for fine dining, casual eats or street food – it’s all along the Malecon. 

Plus, the Malecon comes alive during special times. During the Christmas season, for instance, the Malecon will be decorated in lights and Christmas displays and there will be nightly performances attracting crowds of all kinds. And perhaps the most popular time of year for La Paz, during Carnaval, the Malecon is shut down to vehicles and turns into a huge party with nightly parades, games and rides and all sorts of food stalls and art vendors.

Go Diving in the Sea of Cortez

La Paz is an excellent place for scuba diving. It has a rich wildlife and stunning underwater scenery both within the bay and throughout the nearby Sea of Cortez. Scuba diving also allows you to get closer to the whales, whale sharks, sea lions and colorful ocean life of Isla Espiritu Santo.

Tours are readily available in the city. Tour guides provide all the equipment, take you to the dive site and guide you through the dive.

Head Out On A Hike

La Paz has many travel and adventure opportunities, and hiking is one of the top ways to see a side of the region many fail to experience. Some popular hikes in the area include

Balandra Beach: The beach is known for its pristine white sand and crystalline water. It has scenic surrounding with a series of trails that allows you to have a bird’s eye view of the beach. You’ll begin the hike just south of the Balandra Beach entrance and trek up the hill to where a cell tower stands overlooking the bay. The only better view of Balandra beach is with a drone!

Cerro de la Calavera – A moderate 4-mile out-and-back trail will take you from the northern end of the Malecon to the nearby mountaintop. Here you will explore several caves and arches and experience the most spectacular views overlooking the city and the sunset.

Puerto Mexia – If you have a 4WD or an ATV you can reach the trailhead to this hike that will take you between the desert landscapes and remote seaside beaches. Search the tide pools for all sorts of marine life and enjoy the desert flora and fauna in near isolation.

Other nearby hikes will take a little more effort to reach: 

Sierra de la Laguna Mountains: This is a moderate 7-mile out-and-back hike near La Paz. The area is filled with hot springs, hidden lakes, palm trees, waterfalls and river canyons. Moreover, the place is also a habitat for some species of hummingbirds.

Espiritu Santo Island: The island is 18 miles away from the city. It is a part of the UNESCO biosphere reserve and home to an enormous colony of sea lions. With the specialized guide, you can hike around the island to closely observe the wildlife in their natural habitat.

Enjoy Watersports

The calm and shallow water of the beaches near La Paz allows for many watersport activities. Snorkeling, diving, kayaking, fishing, paddleboarding and boating are popular watersport activities you can do at virtually any of the beaches in the area. 

In some places, you can literally wade out into the sea from your camping spot with snorkel gear and find yourself exploring a colorful reef within minutes. Of course, as always, respect the marine environment and understand that locals, many of whom will step it up with jet skis and power boats, may not have the same appreciation for the marine environment as you.

Visit World-Famous Beaches

La Paz is home to some of the most incredible beaches in the world. The beaches closer to the town are not the best or most attractive, as La Paz is a commercial port. 

If you really want to witness the real Baja beach beauty, Playa Balandra and Playa Tecolote are both within around 30-45 minutes from the city center. They are ideal for swimming, relaxing and enjoying virtually any water sports activities like kayaking and paddle boarding.

Moreover, at several of these beaches, you can also hire a boat for whale watching and/or a trip to Isla Espiritu Santo. Tour operators will pick you up an

Go Sandboarding the dunes of El Mogote Desert

The best and most unique activity in La Paz for adrenaline junkies is sandboarding in the desert. The massive sand dunes of El Mogote offer a different experience of boarding on the sand. 

While Baja is a massive desert, the dunes of El Mogote attract the most people to enjoy the unique landscape either by sandboarding or by ATV. You can take your own gear and get out on your own or book any number of tours in town where gear and transportation will be provided.

Hunt for Exceptional Street Art

The streets of La Paz are filled with stunning street art. They are considered cultural landmarks and are featured on what seems like every major street in the city. The local artists make the street arts to preserve the city’s culture and deep connection with the sea.

Most paintings are of a colorful underwater world gracing the grey walls of streets and buildings. You can walk around the city to experience the fantastic art or book a guided tour to learn more about the meaning and history of different paintings.

Kids Up Therapeutic Riding. Within the city limits, Susu has built a wonderful place for equine-assisted therapy classes with local kids with disabilities. Like Horses in Baja in San Felipe, Kids Up uses the soothing nature of horses to help develop kids mentally, emotionally and physically. 

You may be able to take part in volunteering in a number of ways. Contact Susu, the owner and operator of Casabuena Bed and Breakfast. 

Phone: +52 612 122 5538

Nueva Creation Orphanage. The “New Creations” orphanage is located just outside of La Paz and is home to dozens of local area kids who take haven there. Most of the kids live on property during the weekdays and then return to their homes on weekends and holidays.

But there is plenty to do around the orphanage, both in sharing your time and activities with the kids and in helping to keep it funded and maintained. Currently, the best contact information is through the Squamish BC Rotary Club’s website

Campgrounds in La Paz

Despite its size, strategic location and popularity of the capital city, there is only one formal campground within the city limits. Although it is not near the city center and a bit expensive by Baja standards, this is one of the best campgrounds in the entire peninsula and offers every amenity you will need when camping near La Paz.

Campestre La Maranatha

Campestre La Maranatha is a large campground that serves as virtually every camper’s base camp at some point during your time in La Paz. Whether you make it home and take excursions from the campground or just swing by to do laundry, shower and dump/fill up your tanks – you’re going to spend some time at La Maranatha. 

The campground has all the amenities you could want or need. With excellent Wi-Fi, hot showers and clean bathrooms, you’ll feel as though you are back in the states. 

You can also hire services a la carte. Pay for a shower, dump or water refill separate from either dry camping or camping with full hookups. 

The staff is incredibly friendly and the campground has a small café. Campestre La Maranatha also has a volleyball and basketball court, a nice pool, a playground for kids, laundry facilities and nice gardens to sit in and enjoy.

Playa el Tecolote. Just a 30-minute drive outside of La Paz, Playa el Tecolote is by far the most popular beach near La Paz to visit and/or camp. Although there is no cellular service at the beach, there is plenty of room to camp along the water’s edge or up into the desert if it is crowded. 

Camping is free and there will be plenty of vendors selling all sorts of items throughout the day, in addition to a handful of restaurants located at the start of the beach. With views of Isla Espirito Santo just offshore, this beach is a stunning reminder of why you came to Baja in the first place!

Dunas de Mogote. These sand dunes, located just north of La Paz on your way into the city, are world-famous for hosting sandboarding opportunities. As the name suggests, the road in is full of sand and you may be limited in how far down you plan to go. 

Although not as popular with the locals, you will likely have a few people come to enjoy sandboarding during your stay. You can also camp at the nearby Playa El Mogote if you don’t have the nerve to go further.