As the capital of Baja California Sur, La Paz has culture, history, beaches, and islands, and is one of the best places in Baja for water sports and fishing. There’s no shortage of things to do in La Paz; in fact, you might have to pick and choose from our following list of the top activities depending on how long you’re in town!
Even with so much to offer, La Paz still retains a friendly small-town feel. Downtown La Paz is centered on the beautiful malecón that wraps around the bay and makes for a popular spot for locals and tourists to enjoy the views and get a pulse on the city. Many locals refer to La Paz as a “real Mexican town,” a comment comparing it to the more commercialized Los Cabos region.
Malecón Álvaro Obregón
The heart of La Paz is the large three-mile long malecón along Álvaro Obregón street with shops, restaurants, and bars on one side and the beautiful white sand beaches and shallow turquoise bay of the Sea of Cortez on the other. Day or night, this is a great place to stroll, do some people-watching, and get a feel for the pulse of the city. The views at sunset are stunning. Palm trees line the wide sidewalk and palapas dot the beach. Ornate ironwork benches painted white provide lovely places to sit while enjoying a paleta on a warm day.
A white two-story gazebo is the focus of Plaza Malecón, which is considered the heart of the malecón, and the boardwalk is dotted with copper statues denoting whales, pearls, dolphins, and other representations of La Paz life. The nearby 16 de Septiembre is one of the main streets in La Paz and is good a stroll to check out shops, cafés, and restaurants.
Playa El Tecolote
Just 1.5 kilometers north of Playa Balandra, Playa El Tecolote has the same white sands and clear waters, but a few more services, including restaurants. Tecolote attracts visitors who come to play and swim in the sea and eat and drink barefoot in the sand. This is a popular beach for families because of the sandy bottom and gentle slope into the water, providing shallow spots for wading and playing. There’s plenty of parking for those arriving by private vehicle. Mornings and weekdays are your best chance for peaceful beach time as the winds pick up in the afternoons and weekends can get crowded.
At Palapa Azul (tel. 612/120-2089, 8am-9pm daily, US$8-12) patrons can enjoy chocolate clams, ceviche, and buckets of beers while sitting on the beach enjoying views of the Sea of Cortez and nearby Isla Espíritu Santu. Palapa Azul can also help with arrangements for a fishing charter or to get out to the islands for the day for a cheaper rate than leaving from La Paz. Next door, El Tecolote (tel. 612/127-9494, US$8-14) offers similar food and drink options.
Isla Espíritu Santo
The large island 25 kilometers off the coast of La Paz is Isla Espíritu Santo, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s considered by many to be the most beautiful island in the Sea of Cortez and boasts dozens of bays with white sand beaches and waters full of marine life.
Most travelers experience Isla Espíritu Santo on a boat day trip from La Paz. These boat trips focus on diving and snorkeling in the waters around the island, because of the rich marinelife that lives around the rock and coral reefs. Visitors will have a chance at seeing and swimming with sea lions, orca, dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles, and blue or humpback whales.
The island isn’t inhabited, but tent camping is permitted. This is the only way to spend any substantial amount of time exploring the island since the boat trips stop only briefly to allow some swimming and snorkeling. Camping gives visitors the unique experience of exploring the island and waters by day and enjoy stargazing at night. There are 10 designated hiking paths on the island that are great for getting out in the terrain and encountering mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians. Because the islands are protected, camping requires getting a US$4 permit in advance from the SEMARNAT office (Ocampo 1045, tel. 612/128-4171). Fun Baja can arrange for multi-day camping trips on the island.
La Paz is a popular scuba diving destination with abundant marine life, islands, seamounts, reefs, and shipwrecks to explore. Diving is good year-round, but conditions are best July through October when visibility can reach 30 meters and water temperatures can reach up to 29 degrees Celsius (85°F). Dive sites range from beginner to experienced, and the various outfitters can also accommodate all levels of divers. Popular sites include the sea lion colony at Los Islotes and other island inlets around Isla Espíritu Santo and out at Isla Cerralvo. Shipwrecks include the Salvatierra, a ferry that sank in 1976, and the Las Gaviotas wrecks—two wooden boats that were scuttled to create underwater reefs. Advanced divers may head to El Bajo, an underwater seamount where divers go to see manta rays and a chance to catch schools of the hammerhead sharks that used to be prevalent here. Most dive sites in the area are a 45- to 60-minute boat ride from La Paz, and waters can be choppy so remember to take seasickness medicine.
With a fleet of guides that all speak English, Spanish, and Japanese, Fun Baja (Carretera a Pichilingue Km. 7.5, tel. 612/106-7148) is great for snorkeling and scuba diving trips. They can also handle diving certification with PADI and SSI courses.
Running a professional top-notch operation, Dive in La Paz (tel. 612/149-4410) has gear that’s in great condition and captains and guides who are knowledgeable and helpful. Many divers take multi-day combination trips diving along with snorkeling with sea lions or swimming with whale sharks.
Based at Club Cantamar, Baja Diving & Service has been running dive trips since 1983. They have the largest and most comfortable fleet in La Paz. They offer a variety of dive courses as well as excursions including live-aboard trips.
The Cortez Club Dive Center (tel. 612/121-6120) is a reputable company that has been running dive trips since 1995. They can assist with all levels of PADI courses, from those just learning to dive to those looking to become certified as scuba instructors.
Most of the kayak and dive outfitters in La Paz handle organized snorkeling excursions as well. The most popular snorkeling trip in the region takes visitors out to Isla Espíritu Santo where the highlight is snorkeling with the sea lions at Los Islotes. The tour outfitters will provide snorkeling gear, the park entrance fee, lunch, and beverages. In recent years, since the whale sharks have been more prevalent around La Paz, snorkeling with the whale sharks has become a popular organized tour as well. Those who prefer to snorkel on their own can drive to the beaches along the Pichilingue Peninsula where you can snorkel from the beach. You should bring your own snorkel equipment or rent it in town before heading out to the beaches.
The best fishing around La Paz takes places May through November. Anglers will enjoy catching wahoo, dorado, tuna, marlin, and world-record roosterfish. The best and most-consistent fishing is over on the other side of the Pichilingue Peninsula near La Ventana and Isla Jacques Cousteau. Most anglers opt to take a one-hour van ride and launch at Punta Arena de la Ventana, rather than going by panga from La Paz over to the area.
Because the waters are so calm in the channel of Isla Cerralvo, fly-fishing and kayak fishing are common in addition to traditional fishing. Catch from inshore fishing includes snapper, grouper, sea bass, and mackerel. Many anglers are after the world-record pez gallo (roosterfish) in this region.
There are many professional fishing charters in La Paz, with options ranging from pangas to big cruisers. Serious fishers should ask around town for recommendations based on their specific wants and needs. One of the most popular choices is Tailhunter International (Obregon 755, U.S. tel. 626/638-3383) on the malecón. They have a variety of packages for fly-fishing, spearfishing, and sportfishing. Baja Pirates Fishing Fleet (U.S. tel. 866/454-5386) employs knowledgeable and helpful captains. They offer a range of packages from one-day excursions to all-inclusive multi-day packages with accommodations and airport transportation included.
Kiteboarding and Windsurfing
Windsurfers first discovered La Ventana in the 1990s, but in recent years, kiteboarding has become a popular activity as well. Nearly every establishment in town can assist with kiteboarding lessons and rentals including most accommodations in town such as Playa Central and Palapas Ventana.
There are plenty of schools certified by the International Kiteboarding Organization (IKO). Elevation Kiteboarding School (tel. 612/114-0001) has customized kiteboarding lessons for all levels, and they provide all of the gear (you’ll need to provide your own wetsuit).
Family-run Baja Kite and Surf (tel. 612/155-5775) focuses mainly on kiteboarding lessons for different levels and backgrounds starting at US$150 for two hours of instruction. 4Elements Kiteboarding (tel. 612/136-9956) is a great for those who are just learning to kiteboard because of their hands-on and patient instructors who are sticklers for safety.
The La Ventana Classic takes place in January and runs multiple days for kiteboard and windsurf races, SUP races, and parties.
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