Travel Destinations

Monday, June 18, 2018

10 Amazing Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

Sea Lion Face Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

If you think travel to Mexico is not for you, visit La Paz, Mexico.  La Paz has everything that’s great about Mexico.  The food is delicious, the seafood is plentiful, the culture is present, and the nature is mind-blowing.  La Paz is safe and clean, and it’s a place where real people live and enjoy life, rather than a place where there are more tourists than locals.  There are also some pretty amazing things to do in La Paz, like swimming with whale sharks, snorkeling with sea lions, kayaking along one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, waking up to exotic birds soaring in the air and dolphins swimming in the water, and throwing down oysters, chocolate clams, and lobster.

Swim with Whale Sharks


Whale Shark Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

The primary reason we chose La Paz, Mexico as our vacation destination was because one of the most popular things to do in La Paz is swim with whale sharks.  Whale sharks are the largest fish on earth and during La Paz’s whale shark season, October through April, they can be found along the El Mogote peninsula (also the location of the Paraiso del Mar Resort where we stayed) feeding on plankton.  Whale Sharks can be as long as 40 feet and weigh over 20 tons.  They have enormous mouths, but no teeth, and are filter feeders. 

These magnificent creatures are very protected and can only be visited with an authorized company.  We booked our whale shark swim with The Cortez Club.  The boat trip from The Cortez Club to El Mogote peninsula does not take very long at all.  Only a few boats at a time can enter the area where whale sharks are found, and only one boat’s passengers at a time can go in the water with the whale sharks.


As the boat cut through the water, our guide stood at the bow of the boat, Superman-style, searching for whale sharks.  We were in La Paz near the end of whale shark season, so I began to worry we might not find one.  But we did eventually come upon one, which we shared with a couple other boats.

We sat on the edge of the boat in our wetsuits, flippers hovered above the water, goggles on and snorkels in.  Our guide had explained that as soon as it was our turn to swim with the whale shark, we had to jump in the water immediately and follow his directions. 

As soon as it was our turn, in we jumped and kicked as fast as we could.  The water, which can be very clear, was exceptionally murky because there had been a windstorm a couple days before.  As we swam as quickly as possible in green, cloudy water, from seemingly nowhere a broad blue back with white polka dots appeared directly below us.  We couldn’t even see from one end of the whale shark to another it was so huge (check out our video to see what its like swimming above a whale shark).  We swam along with it for what felt like just a few seconds when it was time to get back in the boat.

We jumped in maybe four or five more times, each time waiting wide-eyed with anticipation on the edge of the boat, and then frantically jumping in and swimming, each time being surprised by this massive beast appearing from nowhere.  The experience was awe-inspiring.  Our guide gets to do this all the time, and you could tell it never gets old for him and it gives him great joy to be able to share the experience with others.  The last swim was the best.  Our guide held me by the elbow and propelled me alongside the whale shark, which at first went fast but then all of a sudden slowed down, allowing us a little more time to swim alongside before we ended our pursuit.  Swimming with whale sharks was by far our favorite thing to do in La Paz.

Snorkel with Sea Lions


Sea Lion Bubbles Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

Another fun thing to do in La Paz Mexico is snorkel with sea lions.  The Cortez Club offers a combo of their whale shark and sea lion trips, so we decided to do both.  

Sea LIons on the Rocks Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

La Paz has two main breeding colonies of sea lions.  The larger one is at the northern tip of Espiritu Santo Island, which is where we snorkeled and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and we also visited the second one at the San Rafaelito Lighthouse.

Pair of Sea Lions Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

The sea lions are friendly to humans and may come to play.  They are attracted by bright colors and bubbles.  The Cortez Club also offers scuba diving trips to Espiritu Santo Island, and we had some scuba divers gliding in the water below us, but the sea lions seem to prefer snorkelers.  If you hold your arm out, they’ll come and bump your fist, but don’t wiggle your fingers or they might nibble at them.  They also see bubbles as encouragement to play.

Sergeant Major Fish Things to Do in La Paz Mexico
Snorkeling Espiritu Santo Island Things to Do in La Paz Mexico
Santo Espiritu Island Reef Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

Sea lions aren’t the only animals we saw on The Cortez Club’s sea lion snorkeling trip.  We also saw a small pod of dolphins and we visited the breeding ground for the Magnificent Frigate, a huge almost Jurassic looking bird with a forked tail that can fly for two months straight without touching down on land or water.  Another remarkable sight was that of manta rays flying out of the water from all directions. 

Kayak along Balandra Beach to Mushroom Rock


Balandra Beach Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

They say that unless you’ve seen Mushroom Rock, you haven’t been to La Paz.  Mushroom Rock, or Hongo de Balandra, is the symbol of La Paz.  It is found at the end of Balandra Beach, perhaps the most beautiful beach in Mexico.  The sand is white, the water is turquoise, and the small protected lagoon is so shallow you can walk to the other side without the water hitting your knees. 

Mushroom Rock Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

During our sea lion snorkeling trip we passed Balandra Beach and our guide mentioned there was a mangrove forest which could be reached by kayak.  When we arrived at Balandra Beach, I was excited to see that there were kayaks and paddle boards available to rent.  It was a bit breezy for paddle boarding, so I rented a kayak for 90 minutes and kayaked to Mushroom Rock and back into the mangroves.  It is such an unusual sight to see mangroves, and then 10 feet away cactus growing along the shore near blue waters.

Kayaking Balandra Beach Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

We were pleasantly surprised by how pristinely clean Balandra Beach was.  We were also surprised by the lack of the hard sell, which was true for all of La Paz.  We’re used to visiting Mexican destinations where we are constantly being approached to buy something and no isn’t accepted as an answer.  There were items for sale in the parking lot, but the sellers weren’t harassing beach-goers in any way.  The group renting kayaks were sitting at a table waiting for people to come to them.  A man came up to me asking if I wanted empanadas and when I said no, he simply walked on to the next person on the beach, at which point I realized a kind of did want an empanada.  It was such a different experience, I forgot to try to barter on the rental price for the kayak, but the girl told me to take it out for an hour and a half instead of the hour she had originally quoted.

Just a mile up the road from Balandra Beach is Tecolote Beach.  Tecolote Beach wasn’t as pretty, but it did have restaurants and bars along the sand, so some visitors may want to spend some time there.

Explore La Paz and Walk the Malecón


La Paz Sign Malecon Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

The main sites of La Paz’s zona central can be visited on a short walking tour starting at the Misión de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz Airapí.  La Paz’s mission was established in 1720.  It was the seventh California mission, but it wasn’t very successful, so it was abandoned in 1748 and the inhabitants of the mission moved south to Todos Santos.  Across the street from the mission is a small garden square, Jardin Velasco.

La Paz Mission Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

A few blocks down the hill, towards the water, is the Museo de la Ballena, a museum dedicated to whales.  The entrance fee includes a private guide. 

Malecon Oyster Sculpture Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

The Malecón is La Paz’s waterfront walkway that is enjoyed by locals both day and night.  During the day the residents of La Paz can be seen walking, jogging, running, biking, and walking their dogs.  

Malecon Shell Sculpture Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

At night the Malecón fills up with folks taking an evening stroll or dining at one of the many waterfront restaurants.  The Malecón offers three miles of sea and sunset views dotted with 12 bronze sculptures along the way.

Stay at Paraiso del Mar Resort


Paraiso del Mar Resort Aerial View Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

Paraiso del Mar Resort is not a hotel.  Rather, it is a resort of privately owned condominiums and casitas, some of which are offered as vacation rentals.  Our La Paz vacation rental was booked through CasaGo, which manages approximately 20 properties at Paraiso del Mar Resort. 

Paraiso Del Mar Resort Beach Boardwalk

Because Paraiso del Mar Resort is at the tip of El Mogote peninsula, it feels like it is on its own little island.  It is a beautiful property with a golf course, a pool, and a pool bar that serves food.  There are kayaks and paddle boards which are free for residents and renters to use, and there are miles of secluded beach to stroll along.  We didn’t see any whale sharks from our condo, though it is possible to encounter them while kayaking or paddle boarding, but we did see some dolphins from our patio.  

Magnificent Frigate Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

We also saw many exotic birds, including the Magnificent Frigates which seemed to enjoy soaring over the property like kites when the wind picks up.  The resort, and all of La Paz, is a bird-lover's paradise.  Birders will want to visit the Birds of the Mogote website to see the birds they can expect to spot.

Paraiso del Mar Resort Beach View Things to Do in La Paz Mexico
Paraiso del Mar Resort Condo Things to Do in La Paz Mexico
Paraiso del Mar Resort Bedroom Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

We stayed in one of CasaGo’s best units, A102, a two-bedroom, three-bathroom, ground-floor unit with a patio and gorgeous views of the property and the Sea of Cortez.  The unit also has a full kitchen and a laundry room.  The kitchen was equipped with everything one would need to cook any meal they wanted, and we were happy to find an unopened multi-gallon water jug to provide us with drinking water for our entire stay.  There were some additional nice touches like DVDs, guidebooks, and bug spray.

Paraiso del Mar Resort Shuttle Boat Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

The one concern I had about staying at Paraiso del Mar Resort is that it is on El Mogote peninsula, which means it is really only reachable by boat, which sounded like it could be inconvenient.  The HOA provides a shuttle boat to and from the Marina Cortez which runs every half hour throughout the day.  This turned out to be quite convenient. 

Paraiso del Mar Resort Bikes Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

The vacation rentals are about a mile away from the shuttle boat dock, but you can either call for the shuttle van to drive you to the dock, or you can ride one of the resort’s free bicycles.  We ended up biking to the dock whenever we were headed out, but taking the shuttle van when we returned.

Paraiso del Mar Resort Things to Do in La Paz Mexico
Paraiso del Mar Resort Pool Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

Most of the people we met at the resort were owners.  They were all super friendly and welcoming.  We enjoyed Paraiso del Mar Resort’s laidback, relaxing vibe and were happy that the pool and bar weren’t a huge party scene.  While La Paz felt like a very safe town, anyone concerned about safety will feel even safer at Paraiso del Mar Resort.

Road Trip to Todos Santos


Todos Santos Mosaic Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

Just 50 miles south of La Paz is another unique Mexican town sometimes referred to as “Pueblo Magico” or “Magical Town.”  Founded in 1733, Todos Santos is filled with picturesque colonial architecture which is being preserved and converted into hotels, art galleries, and restaurants. 

Todos Santos Crafts Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

Many visitors come to Todos Santos to see the legendary Hotel California. While you will hear verses of the Eagles’ Hotel California drifting out of many a doorway in this area of Baja, the song was not in any way inspired by the Hotel California in Todos Santos.

Todos Santos Mission Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

In addition to the architecture, Todos Santos has historic sites like the Mission of Santa Rosa de Todos Santos, built in 1733 to support the mission in La Paz.  

Todos Santos Art Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

But, what will take the most time of a day trip to Todos Santos is visiting the plethora of artist studios, galleries, and shops.

Jazamango Restaurante Todos Santos Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

Todos Santos has another art form for visitors, the art of good food as envisioned by Javier Plascencia.  Mexican Chef Javier Plascencia is well known in Tijuana, San Diego, and the Valle de Guadalupe.  Now he has a restaurant in Todos Santos, Jazamango Restaurante

Jazamango Octopus Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

Jazamango serves Plascencia’s unique spin on Baja cuisine using local products and organic ingredients, including those that come from the gardens that surround the restaurant.  The menu changes depending on what’s fresh, but it can include items like octopus with beets, heirloom tomato, burrata and strawberry salad, and, of course, chocolate clams.


Paleteria y Neveria La Paloma Todos Santos Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

While Jazamango does serve dessert, we chose to save our dessert appetites for a frozen treat from Paleteria y Neveria La Paloma.  This fun find serves homemade ice creams of many flavors, including some unusual ones like avocado, basil, corn, and the like.  My palate was delighted by a scoop of berry and cheese.

Side Trip to El Triunfo


El Triunfo Street Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

Midway between La Paz and Todos Santos is El Triunfo.  Silver and gold were discovered nearby in 1862 and El Triunfo became a mining town and the largest city in Baja California Sur with over 10,000 miners. 

El Triunfo Smokestack Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

The icon of El Triunfo is the 35-meter tall smokestack which was designed by Gustav Eiffel (of the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty). 

El Triunfo Church Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

El Triunfo is now a sleepy town with only a few hundred inhabitants.  El Triunfo is worth a quick stop to see Eiffel’s smokestack and the restored colonial buildings.

Stop for a Cup of Coffee at Baja Beans


Baja Beans Pescadero Todos Santos Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

When reading about Todos Santos, I saw mention of the famous Todos Santos beans or Baja beans.  At first, I assumed the reference was to a local bean recipe I had to try, but I soon discovered these were actually coffee beans.  Baja Beans Coffee serves the best coffee in town made from the organic coffee beans grown in Mexico’s Veracruz Mountains, which are roasted in small batches onsite at the shop in Pescadero, just south of Todos Santos.  The coffee was so delicious, we ended up buying a bag which they kindly ground for us so we could have coffee the rest of our mornings in our La Paz vacation rental.  We just had coffee, but Baja Beans also serves breakfast.  On Sundays, the coffee shop hosts a Farmer’s Market.

Surf or Relax at Cerritos Beach


Cerritos Beach Surfing Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

A popular beach near Todos Santos is Playa Los Cerritos, reachable at the end of a long dirt road.  If you want to surf, there are stands dotting the beach renting surfboards and offering surf lessons.  If you want to relax, there are massage tables and masseuses ready and willing to provide an outdoor massage with an ocean view.

Eat all the Food


Anzuelo Cocina del Mar Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

Of course, Mexican food is delicious, and adding a proliferation of seafood makes it out of this world.  La Paz has many great restaurants to choose from, most with food at affordable prices.

Chocolate Clams Anzuelo Cocina del Mar Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

A very convenient restaurant for guests of Paraiso del Mar Resort is Anzuelo Cocina del Mar because of its location at the Marina Cortez, right next to the pier where the boat shuttle picks up and drops off.  The restaurant juts out over the water and has views from every angle.  What’s more, it has unique seafood dishes on the menu including baked chocolate clams with cheese, shrimp, and octopus mixed in.

Oysters Bismark Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

For dining along the Malecón, we chose Bismark, a casual seafood restaurant serving whole fish, fish tacos, seafood stuffed peppers, chocolate clams, lobster, and more since 1968.

Pechuga con Crema de Zarzamora Restaurante La Esquina del Chef Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

One of our favorite finds in La Paz was a restaurant we found on Google Maps.  Restaurante La Esquina del Chef is halfway between the mission and the Malecón and is open for breakfast and lunch.  The restaurant is a casual spot with seating between two buildings which they have artfully decorated and painted to feel like a cozy outdoor patio.  Lunch is a set menu of the soup of the day, sweet iced tea, a choice of three proteins and three sauces that can be interchangeable, and a dessert.  The sauces are flavorful and inventive.  For example, I had the pechuga con crema de zarzamora, chicken with a blackberry cream sauce served on a bed of pasta and salad on the side.  And all of this is 85 pesos ($4) per person.  The daily menu is published on Facebook.

Seafood Soup Paraiso del Mar Resort Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

NIM Restaurante is one of La Paz’s fine dining restaurants.  Menu items are made with fresh ingredients and many have international influences.  Sorstis Restaurante is another fine dining restaurant serving Mediterranean food.  Asadero Rancho Viejo is popular for traditional Mexican food.

Golf the Paraiso del Mar Golf Club


Paraiso del Mar Golf Club Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

The Paraiso del Mar Resort has its own golf course on the peninsula, the Paraiso del Mar Golf Club.  The Paraiso Del Mar Golf Club has the feel of a private club.  It is surrounded by water and each tee has a completely different look from the last.  With 18 holes at just over 7,000 yards, it's challenging in the best way; you can be a little off-target but still have a chance at a decent score.  The fairways were in fantastic condition. The greens were well framed as most were a bit elevated, and there was a gentle breeze all day.  Birds were feeding from the water features found on nearly every hole and there were many little critters running about.  For resort guests, getting to the golf course is easy as you can take one of the resort bikes for a short ride to the course or call for the shuttle.  Golfing the Paraiso del Mar Golf Club is the perfect morning pastime if you have an early afternoon flight home.

How to Get to and Around La Paz


La Paz Shore Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

We flew to La Paz with Volaris, which offers a short non-stop flight from Tijuana.  Volaris also offers flights from U.S. cities in California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, and others.  If your local airport doesn’t have an easy flight to La Paz, another option is to fly into the Los Cabos airport and drive two hours north up to La Paz.

The La Paz airport is a short drive from the center of town.  Taxis to and from the airport are inexpensive, approximately $15 each way.  As we were leaving the airport building, in between baggage claim and the baggage scan, there was a taxi counter where we could pay for our taxi and know what the fare would be up front.  This was an easy way to get a taxi and ensure a fair price.  We walked out of the terminal with our taxi receipt in hand and jumped into the first taxi in line.  Our taxi driver was very friendly and gave us his phone number so we could arrange our return to the airport at the end of our trip, for the same price. 

Once in La Paz, it is easy to walk around the town and tour companies provide pickup and drop-off service.  We did end up renting a car with Hertz for two of our three days so we could take a road trip to Todos Santos and visit Balandra Beach.  The Hertz office is conveniently located across the street from Marina Cortez and we were able to park our car on the street overnight.

A Note about Safety


La Paz Sunset Things to Do in La Paz Mexico

One of the most common questions we get when we talk about visiting a Mexican destination is, “Is it safe?”  La Paz felt very safe to us.  Paraiso del Mar Resort felt extra safe since the only easy way to reach it is on a shuttle boat.  But the La Paz zona central also felt safe.  We never felt uneasy when walking around at night, and there was a local police and Federales presence.  We were also told that it was very safe to leave our rental car parked on the street along the Malecón at night. 

Because La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur, many of the residents are government workers and La Paz doesn’t have the poverty that is unfortunately often seen in Mexico cities.  The Malecón was always in use by locals, morning, day, and night, strolling, jogging, dog walking, and biking. 

We also felt safe on the day we took a road trip, which involved driving an hour-and-a-half away.

We did have one incident at the tail-end of our trip.  It didn’t make us feel unsafe in any way, but it was a reminder that we were still indeed in Mexico.  We were driving along the Malecón and didn’t see a stop sign.  We were pulled over by a cop standing on the sidewalk clearly looking for people to pull over.  The thing is, everyone was driving through the stop sign because it was hard to see, but we were the only ones pulled over.  It seems quite likely that the cop was looking for rental cars.  He took Rome’s license and told us the police station was closed, so we’d have to come to the station in the morning to pay the fine and retrieve the license.  While Rome argued that we were leaving the next day and pointed out the cars that continued to drive right through the stop sign as we were pulled over, I finally asked how much the ticket was, at which point the cop shielded his hand from the view of other police on the sidewalk and held out three fingers, indicating 300 pesos.  I pulled out a 500 peso bill and, of course, he replied that he didn’t have change.  I said keep the change and we were on our way, with Rome’s license in our possession.  When we told the story to our taxi driver on the way back to the airport, he told us that for the most part the cops were good, but there were still a few crooked ones, and relayed a story about his niece visiting and having a similar situation, but he found the cop the next day and made him give back the money.  It was our one disappointment from our trip to La Paz and we wish we could say there is zero corruption, but it was a small price to pay on our otherwise amazing trip to La Paz, and does give us a funny story to tell.

Thank you to CasaGo, Volaris, The Cortez Club, Cross Border Xpress, and Paraiso del Mar Golf Club for hosting our trip and making this article possible.  As always, all opinions are our own.

Travel the World: Amazing things to do in La Paz Mexico including swimming with whale sharks, snorkeling with sea lions, and exploring La Paz and nearby Todos Santos and El Triunfo.

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Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.