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La Paz, Mexico Travel Guide
Last Updated: Apr-17-2012, Hits: 20,761, Rating: 4.00, Reviews: 1, Votes: 1 Bookmark and Share
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La Paz, Mexico Travel Guide Restaurants (37)
Hotels and Lodging (23)
Bars and Nightlife (12)
Attractions (22)
Services (5)
Maps (5)
Links (4)
Baja California Travel Forum (2)
Location: Mexico & Central America
Geography: Beach, Desert, City
Vacation Type: Adventure
Popularity: Off-the-Beaten Path
Costs: Budget, Moderate
Attractions: Scenery, Boating, Ecotourism, Fishing, Scuba & Snorkeling

Facts and Stats:
Population - 232,546
Government - Federal Republic
Telephone Area Code: 112
Country dialing code: 52
Languages: Spanish
Electricity: 110v
Time Zone: Central Time - GMT -7
Current Time:

La Paz is a big, yet sleepy town on the Sea of Cortez. An excellent destination for those interested in eco-tourism and crowd avoidance. La Paz is a nice city that offers modern accomodations, friendly people, and a beautiful boardwalk (The Malecon) lined with open air restaurants, bars, and shops. Ourdoor activities abound and include whale watching, snorkeling, diving, boat trips, camping, deep sea fishing, swimming and much more.

La Paz is located on the Sea of Cortez 90 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, and is surrounded by the barren deserts of Baja California. La Paz sits on part of the Pichilingue Penninsula and faces NW. This can be disorienting as you look at the Sea of Cortez and assume you are facing east even though you are watching the sun set. Within 15 miles of town are several stunning, unpopulated beaches on gleaming white sand bordering emerald waters. The waterfront in town is dominated by the boardwalk (Malecon) and you will not find beach resorts in town as you would at other destinations in Mexico. Of the tip of the Pichilingue penninsula are several islands that you can book boat tours to.

Brief History:
La Paz (The Peace) was first visited by a Spanish expedition in 1533 that was met with resistance by the natives and resulted in blookshed. Hernán Cortés visited La Paz two years later in 1535, searching for pearls. Because the desert conditions created a need for supplies from afar, Cortes was unable to settle the area. In fact, there was no permanent settlement in La Paz until 1811. In 1829 it became Baja California's capital when Loreto was leveled by a hurricane. From 1910-1917, during the Mexican Revolution, La Paz became a refuge for civilians fleeing the conflict on the mainland. In the 1950s, the oyster population was permanently wiped out by disease which killed the pearl industry in the area. Despite the death of this industry, La Paz has continued to grow and prosper. In fact, with the exception of Tijuana, La Paz is the largest city in Baja California, is it's capital city and houses the government for the state. La Paz has grown very rapidly over the last 20 years.

The real draw of La Paz, other than comparitively diminished tourism, is the incredible natural playground that the Sea of Cortez provides. The sea is in stark contrast to the the surrounding land, which is a dry, harsh desert habitat while the sea is teeming with life. The Sea of Cortez is one of the most diverse bodies of water in the world which makes for excellent fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. When snorkeling or diving, you may see hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, sea turtles, Humboldt squid, large manta rays, and a host of other species of mammals and fish.

Many come to La Paz between January and March because it is only a 3 hour bus ride (and the closest major city) to Magdalena Bay which is one of 3 Pacific Ocean sites where gray whales mate and give birth to their young. In these bays, you can rent a dingy called a panga and your guide will take you within a few feet of giant gray whales and their babies. In some situations, you may even be able to touch the whales. There are several companies in La Paz that offer these tours and you can ask your hotel concierge for more information.

Several deserted islands with unique natural habitats can be visited via excellent guided boat excursions. For example you can book a boat trip out to the deserted island of Espiritu Santo. Along the way you may see whales, dolphins, and breaching manta rays. The trip may also include snorkeling with wild sea lions and lunch on a private beach. Again, check with your hotel concierge for more information.

When driving through the outer portions of La Paz, one can see the poverty typically found in Mexican cities, however, for a city that isn't a tourist trap, it is much nicer than most Mexican cities and has a very laid back feel. In addition to the relative lack of other tourists, another refreshing thing about La Paz is the lack of time-share salesmen and peddlers. In fact, the general sense that everybody wants into your wallet, is extremely muted in La Paz. The people in La Paz are not over-indulgent in their kindness like many people in other Mexican resort cities, because they are not trying to sell you anything for the most part. They simply do their jobs as one would expect and take good care of their patrons.

Many of the locals seem to have enough money to do the things they want to. This is evidenced on weekend nights when the locals cruise the Malecon in their cars pimped out with neon lights and other bizarre accessories. The party in the bars doesn't start until 10 or 11PM, and until that time arrives, the main drag is a parking lot. Once the partying starts in the bars, it typically goes all night long and a large number of the bars have live music. Alcohol can be served 24 hours per day, the drinking age is 18, and you can drink beer in public. Drinking and driving, however, is a serious crime.

La Paz feels very safe in the main part of town. We even stumbled into an all-local Baja 1000 celebration and nobody looked at us twice, and people were friendly. There is a special police contingent housed at the Malecon that exists just for tourist safety and information.

Communicating is a mixed bag in this city. Some residents speak English very well, while others speak very little. While communication problems won't be severe enough to make your trip difficult, brushing up on your Spanish isn't a bad idea.

For the most part, when in La Paz you will be eating Mexican food and there are plenty of good places to choose from. There are a small number of Italian, Chinese, and American food restaurants if you need a break. One of the most refreshing things about La Paz is that you will not see McDonalds, Starbucks, Home Depot, The Gap, etc., etc... When you are in La Paz, you are in real Mexico and you will definitely feel away from it all.

As is pretty much the case in all of Mexico, you will want to drink bottled water when in La Paz. I did drink the water a few times and didn't have any problems, but it is recommended not to do that. Ice is fine as it is made from purified water.

If you need a grocery store, there is a CCC located at Abasolo and Colima streets. This is an American style supermarket that will likely have what you need. To get there, head about 8 blocks down the main street from the Hotel Los Arcos and you will run into it. Reportedly, a new supermarket has opened that may be even closer. It is called Super Mercado Aramburo and is located on 16 de Septiembre street.

Hotels are very reasonably priced. The nicest ones won't run you much over $100 per night and you can certainly stay in La Paz for less than that. Restaurants tend to be only slightly less expensive than comparable ones in the United States. You should tip between 10 and 15% for meals and around 10% on a bar tab. If you go to the grocery store, you should tip the bagger, who will usually be a young person, a few pesos.

Gasoline is significantly less expensive than in the U.S. and the price will be the same no matter which gas station you go to. This is because their gas services are run by the government and all stations are called PEMEX. Be very careful when purchasing gas as sometimes the attendant will rip you off by not starting the meter at $0, or not giving you proper change. The best ways to avoid this are to get out of your car before the attendant begins pumping gas and make sure the pump is at 0. Try to keep smaller denominations of money on hand so you can pay with exact change. If you get ripped off, tell the attendant that you are going to call the police, and then do it.

Shopping at the CCC was surprisingly expensive for Mexico. The prices were identical to those here in the U.S.

Most, but not all places take credit cards. You will definitely want to have some cash available just in case. You will likely need cash for any tours that you do, thich are less expensive than those we have done in more touristy places. There are ATMs at the banks which are centrally located just off the Malecon.

Getting There and Around:
There are quite a few options for getting to La Paz. Mexicana and Aero Mexico airlines fly into the La Paz airport which is located 10 miles southeast of town. America West, US Airways, Alaskan Airlines, Mexicana, Aeromexico, Continental, Delta, and American Airlines all fly into the Cabo San Lucas airport. From there you can take a 3-4 hour bus ride to La Paz or pick up a rental car and drive on up. The Cabo San Lucas airport is located a little ways north of Cabo, so you will probably want to head north from the airport on highway 1. If you are driving from the city of Cabo, you will probably want to take highway 19 to highway 1. See our Maps section for more details.

The Malecon area of La Paz is very walkable and is the best way to get around La Paz. However, getting to the beaches which are located several miles outside of town requires transportation. Having a car for this is very nice, but you can also take a cab (it is 18 miles one way to the furthest beach at Tecolote). You can take a public bus to some of the beaches, but they do not go to Balandra and Tecolote, which are 2 of the nicest ones.

La Paz has a ferry dock located on the Pichilingue penninsula with regular service to Topolobampo and Mazatlan. A trip to Topolobampo takes about 6 hours and it takes about 16 hours each way to Matzatlan. The ferries are very expensive, especially if you take a car. For more information, go to

Entry Requirements:
United States citizens must have a valid passport to enter Mexico. Citizens of other countries, can learn more about the requirements for your country here.

Below is the current weather in La Paz, Mexico:

Below are the high, low, and rain averages:

Month Avg High Avg Low Average Rainfall
January 74 54 0.2"
February 77 55 1.1"
March 81 56 0
April 86 58 0
May 89 61 0
June 94 66 0.2"
July 96 73 0.4"
August 95 75 1.2"
September 94 75 1.4"
October 90 68 0.6"
November 83 63 0.5"
December 77 58 1.1"

During the months of August to October, the water temperature can be over 80 degrees.

Tips and Additional Information:
  • I have heard that if you break traffic laws and get caught by the police, you may very likely have to play "The Money Game", whereby the officer asks how much you have and you give it to him. We were pulled over for going the wrong way on a one-way street. This officer just shook his head at us and told us to be more careful.
  • Do not accept torn or damaged Pesos as nobody else will accept them from you. If you do get stuck with damaged money, exchange it when you get home.
  • If there are 2 things you do while in La Paz, hire a tour to Magdalena Bay for whale watching (January-March) in a panga and hire a boat tour to the island of Espiritu Santo and snorkel with sea lions.
  • Most web sites will tell you to never drive on the Baja highways at night. This is due to animals running in the roads, theives, tired drivers, poor road conditions, etc. We did drive at night and it was fine, but you should probably err on the side of caution.
  • When driving, make sure you watch out for "topes" (speed bumps). They are significantly larger than the speed bumps you are used to and will cause big problems if you hit them too fast.
  • Although you have likely heard much more about Cabo San Lucas than La Paz, La Paz has 5x the population of Cabo's highest populations during tourism season.

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    User Reviews (1)

    Reviewed by: sloshed
    Review date: Mar-07-2009

    La Paz is probably the nicest Mexican city I have been to. Very clean, safe, and modern. The only drawback to La Paz is that there are no beaches in the city. You have to drive a few miles outside the town to get to them, but they are well worth it. Beautiful and secluded. The wildlife in the Sea of Cortez is awesome and you should definitely take a boat tour. We saw bat rays jumping out of the water, whales, dolphins, sea lions, and a newly dead Humboldt squid on one of the islands. Definitely go snorkelling in the sea lion colony - that is a rush!  

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