Sometimes you want to step away from the all-inclusive resort scene and engage in an authentic seaside adventure. La Paz, Mexico, the capital of Mexico’s Baja California Sur, is located just two hours north of Cabo. While it’s not a touristy destination, it is tourist friendly, and you’ll discover a getaway where you can immerse yourself in the culture, art, food, and community.
The tourism department for La Paz, Mexico invited me for a three-day visit to experience sportfishing and local cuisine. Here’s what I found while discovering the area by land and water. Get ready to fall in love with this quiet, peaceful city and its people.
Check into your lodging at Seven Crown Hoteles. Choose the Malecon location for views of the sea, or stay in the historic center located in the heart of the city, where you can walk to shopping and dining or have a drink in the small but friendly bar. The accommodations are comfortable and reasonably priced.
Once you’re settled into your room, take off on foot to discover this walkable city. Explore shops featuring locally made wares, plus stalls where street vendors are willing to barter to sell their jewelry and mementos. Stop by the Casa Parra Gallery to view art from Mexican artists. You’ll discover authentic pieces and learn about where they originated and the artists who created them.
At Ibarra’s Pottery you’ll find handmade, hand-painted, and lead-free pottery. If your trip falls on a Tuesday or Saturday, check out the La Paz Farmers Market. In addition to locally grown fruits and vegetables, you’ll want to peruse the handmade crafts, cheese, and sausages, plus herbs, honey, and spices. The farmers market is the perfect place to get a true taste of the flavor of La Paz. And don’t miss the street markets around the city. There you’ll find colorful assortments of souvenirs, jewelry, and clothing. Many of the vendors speak English and will accept U.S. dollars if you haven’t converted your currency to pesos. An afternoon spent shopping in La Paz is a great way to get a feel for the city and its people.
Dinner And Sunset On The Malecón
Authentic tacos wait for you at Taqueria El Paisa. For about $2, you can get a taco al pastor with spit-grilled pork, taco de chorizo with chorizo sausage, or taco de tripa with tripe. Or try a Taco Macho where the flavors are layered, starting with a cheese-filled roasted chile on top of a corn tortilla. Top the gooey, spicy pepper with your choice of sencillo, asada, pastor, chorizo, or a combination of proteins. Then take your tacos to the condiment bar and sample a variety of red and green sauces, sliced onions, guacamole, and more. Muy bueno!
After dinner, walk the few blocks to the Malecón, the waterfront boardwalk. Rent a bicycle or walk the just-under-three-and-a-half-mile sidewalk with a view of the Sea of Cortez. Enjoy sculptures created by local artists, many with maritime themes, stop by the tourist pier, grab a cocktail at a streetside bar, or find a bench to watch the sun set over the water. Time seems to stop as people collectively turn toward the colorful sunset. It feels like a beautiful goodbye to a perfect day in La Paz.
If you’re not ready to turn in after the sun’s gone down, stop by La Miserable for a flight of mezcals. Set inside a quaint converted home, this cozy bar opens at 7 p.m. every evening except Sundays.
Sport Fishing On The Sea Of Cortez
Start your day with a pastry and a cup of small-batch-roasted coffee at Big Sur Café Orgáníco. Order it to go if you’d like and enjoy it on the boat as you set sail for sport fishing on the Sea of Cortez. Even though anglers love the local catch -- marlin, dorado, tuna, yellow snapper, to name a few -- you don’t need to be a pro to enjoy a day fishing with a tour company. Companies like Coras Tours take guests on guided fishing expeditions lasting from six to eight hours. You’ll be served lunch on board (typically a marlin burrito, beef burrito, or sandwich). And there’s plenty of water, soda, and beer waiting for you, too. Just be sure to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for the long day in the sun.
If you go with Coras Tours, ask for Poncho. You’ll spend the day on his custom-built 28-foot panga. Poncho is an expert captain and fisherman and he’ll scout out the best fishing areas, set up the lines, and help with bringing in your catch and prepping it for dinner. While fishing, you may see sea lions, enormous turtles, dolphins, and other marine life. According to the La Paz Tourism Office, the Sea of Cortez is home to more than 900 species of fish and 5,000 species of micro-invertebrates, making it one of the world’s most internationally prized ecosystems.
When you’re back on land, have your catch delivered to the chef at Sea Side Restaurant. You’ll savor the fresh catch in a variety of incarnations like sea bass carpaccio, fried snapper, or grilled sea bass served with parmesan asparagus and potatoes. For the full indulgence, order a margarita with dinner and the cheesecake for dessert. You don’t have to bring your own fish if you prefer to order off the menu at this Mediterranean-style restaurant that boasts a stunning view of the Bay of La Paz. You’ll be sitting right on the water near the white sand beach, making this another great place to watch one of the spectacular La Paz sunsets.
For an after-dinner drink, try La Morante Art Bar for a cocktail in a unique space with background music. They’re closed on Mondays, but stop by Tuesday through Sunday when they open at 5 p.m.
Water Sports On The Sea Of Cortez
The third day is your chance to play on the water and go sightseeing. Manta rays, whales, sea lions, dolphins, and whale sharks all make regular appearances on the Sea of Cortez.
Start the day with breakfast at the hotel, or walk to Doce Cuarenta Casa De Café for a cold-brewed coffee. The coffee beans are immersed for at least 16 hours before passing through a double filtration system; the result is a soft and sweet coffee best enjoyed cold.
After breakfast, you’ll be ready for a day on the water. Schedule a tour with one of the many tour operations in La Paz. At The Cortez Club, located at the La Concha Beach Resort, you can choose from underwater activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, or swimming with the whale sharks, or stay above water with kayaking, paddleboards, sport fishing, or water skiing.
Take a boat tour around the islands and you can swim with whale sharks, snorkel with the sea lions, or drive to a nearby beach like Playa Balandra, with its white sand and clear turquoise waters. Plan your trip around the time of year best for sighting different species. The best time for whale sightings is January through March. Fish and see manta rays June through August. Hammerhead sightings are most likely September through November, and sea lions are abundant September through June.
If you’re brave enough to snorkel with whale sharks, their season runs from October through the end of April each year. The whale shark’s distinctive checkerboard pattern and its immense size make sightings a memorable event. The Cortez Club can take you to locations where you can swim with as many as 12 whale sharks.
If you prefer a day trip to Espiritu Santo Island, Baja Expeditions is a great option. According to Baja Expeditions, Espiritu Santo has the most intact ecosystem in the region, and several of its plants and animals can be found nowhere else in the world. Explore the island, swim with sea lions, then snorkel, paddle board, or kayak in the afternoon. Relax and enjoy the views, or take a hike to study cacti and desert plants. Watch the pelicans fish and enjoy a catered meal on a day-long trip to Espiritu Santo Island. Baja Expeditions prides itself on being a pioneer in minimum-impact adventures and eco camps for mindful travelers.
Say Farewell Over The Catch Of The Day
No matter how you choose to spend the day on the water, you’ll surely work up a healthy appetite. Dinner at La Casita Tapas and Wine Bar is the perfect location for your last evening in La Paz. If you have a fresh catch, Chef Sergio Rivera can prepare your catch of the day in a variety of ways (like yellowtail poke served on an overturned martini glass). Or order off the menu. Each dish is thoughtfully prepared, beautifully displayed, and uses the freshest ingredients. The chef uses freshly caught fish, organic vegetables grown in their fields or hand-picked from their farm-to-table garden on location, and meats raised in Sonora. You’ll enjoy a variety of food choices with Thai, Japanese, Korean, and other influences. Enjoy the sea bass filet with sushi rice, shrimp and crab sushi, or mahi-mahi prepared with a coconut and nut sauce. Meat lovers can savor a prime rib served with au jus.
Pining for an authentic, eco-inspired vacation? These are the best eco-lodges in Costa Rica.