Malecón Álvaro Obregón
The most defining feature of downtown La Paz is the five-kilometer promenade that parallels Paseo Álvaro Obregón and hugs the shoreline from Calle 5 de Febrero at the southwest end and the Hotel El Moro at the northeast end. Along the way are a couple of marinas, numerous restaurants, shops, car rental agencies, hotels, a tourist pier, panga boats, and a small beach area.
A fixture since the early days of the city, the malecón is looking better than ever these days. Decorative paving, recently painted crosswalks, and white wrought-iron benches invite visitors and residents to take a sunset stroll along the Bahía de la Paz, just as the afternoon breeze kicks up.
Water quality has improved, too, making it possible to swim once again (though most people continue northeast to the beaches along the Pichilingue Peninsula).
Museo Regional de Antropología e Historia
As Southern Baja’s cultural center, La Paz has a wonderful anthropology and history museum, the Museo Regional de Antropología e Historia (5 de Mayo and Altamirano, tel. 612/122-0162, 9 A.M.–6 P.M. daily, US$2–3, free Sun. and holidays). Its three floors contain exhibits that begin with a depiction of life in Baja California before the Europeans arrived—including photos and depictions of prehistoric cave paintings—and progress all the way up through the Mexican-American War of the 19th century. Fossils and minerals tell the story of the geologic past of the peninsula.
The knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff speaks limited English, and exhibit signs for the permanent exhibits are only in Spanish. The on-site gift shop has replicas of Amerindian pottery and other souvenirs for sale as well as books, music, and guides focused on the history, geology, and anthropology of Mexico.
Plaza Constitución and Jardín Velasco
La Paz’s central plaza and garden take up a full block between Avenida Independencia and Calle 5 de Mayo and between Calles Revolución de 1910 and Madero. With its gazebo and wrought-iron benches, this is a good place to get your bearings and begin a walking tour.
Note the fountain with a representation of the Mushroom Rock that stands just offshore in Balandra Bay. In the evening you might catch a live performance or a game of Mexican bingo.
On the southwest side of the plaza (Revolución de 1910 btw 5 de Mayo/Independencia) stands the 1871 Catedral de Nuestra Señora de La Paz, built by the Dominicans as a replacement for the original Jesuit mission church.
La Unidad Cultural Profesor Jasús Castro Agúndez
This cultural center (Navarro btw Altamirano/Independencia, tel. 612/125-0207, 8 A.M.–3 P.M. Mon.–Fri.) has art exhibits, classes, and the 1,500-seat city theater, which stages dance performances, concerts, and plays year-round. In the complex, Galería de Arte Carlos Olochea (tel. 612/122-9196) hosts temporary and permanent exhibitions by renowned national artists. The city’s central library and historical archives are also located here.
Acuario de las Californias
A welcome addition to the La Paz waterfront is the long-anticipated aquarium, housed in the historic governor’s mansion, three miles northeast of downtown. This is a good place to get acquainted with the local marine life by viewing exhibits of red snappers, sea turtles, lobster, and more than 300 other species. Built with state and federal funds as an engine for environmental education and conservation, the aquarium is open 9 A.M.–2 P.M. Monday–Saturday and located on Playa El Caimancito, near the La Concha Beach Resort on the road to Pichilingue.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition