La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico means ?Peace? and we must admit, La Paz has the upper hand when it comes to ?off-the-beaten path? activities. We?ve been there and can attest to that. From swimming with sea lions to sipping champagne, there?s no shortage of R&R or adventure.
Hidden away on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula approximately 135 miles north of Cabo San Lucas on the Sea of Cortez, the city is a gateway to one of the world?s most unique and bountiful ecosystems, declared a World Heritage Site and dubbed by French marine biologist Jacques Cousteau ?the aquarium of the world?.
The city?s rich cultural history, striking natural wonders, white sand beaches, turquoise waters and world-class sports fishing have made it a magnet for romantics seeking a secluded getaway, outdoor enthusiasts looking for adventure and families in search of a kid-friendly place to explore.Outside selected La Paz as best weekend escape of 2013 and?Beautiful Bride as one of the top six honeymoon destinations for San Diegans. Direct flights are available from Los Angeles on Aeromexico, while a new four-lane highway makes the drive from Cabo San Lucas only 90 minutes.
For The Adventurer
Adventure is a big draw for experiential travelers who look to connect with the essence of their destination. The waters surrounding La Paz have one of the world?s most diverse marine ecosystems whose exceptional number of fish species-891, 90 of them endemic-has earned the area a World Heritage Site distinction.
Visitors can dive deep into the culture and right into El Bajo, a popular dive site known for schooling hammerheads, amber jacks, tuna, and giant Pacific mantas; or explore Espiritu Santo, a UNESCO protected gem that boasts approximately 23,800 acres of untouched ecosystems.
From mid December to late March visitors can experience the migration of gray whales, which swim approximately 5,000 miles from the Artic and North Atlantic to mate or give birth in the shallow lagoons of Magdalena Bay-approximately two and a half hours from La Paz. ?For adrenaline junkies looking for some action, a whale shark encounter is the perfect end to a dive trip. These gentle filter feeding giants, weighing in at 79,000 pounds, are the largest fish in the world and can sometimes surpass 40 feet in length.
Approximately 45 minutes south of the city, travelers can visit a 124-acre cactus sanctuary dedicated to the conservation of the dozen species native endemic to Baja Sur region. ?North of the city, trails lead hikers to secluded and pristine beaches, showcasing one of the most impressive sights in La Paz-the juxtaposition of the sea and desert.
If you are traveling with kids, Los Islotes, a colony of approximately 500 Californian brown sea lions, is a must-see. The playful pups are a fun and special treat for snorkelers and even the most seasoned divers.
La Paz is home to miles of virgin coastline, with dozens of white-sand beaches whose calm, crystalline waters are perfect for kayaking, snorkeling, paddle boarding and swimming. El Tesoro, a bay beach surrounded by mountains, is the perfect beach for kids as it boasts calm and shallow waters, and also features a small playground and restaurant. Coromuel, the first beach on La Paz?s scenic road, is where many families spend their weekends. The beach, lined with palapas (tiki huts), offers Jet Skis for rent and a variety of equipment for water sports.
Balandra, La Paz?s most famous beach, is the ultimate place for relaxation and known worldwide for its spectacular views of white-sand mountains and the bright blue sea. Balandra?s waters are so shallow and calm bathers can walk to the other side of the bay. Balandra is also home to El Hongo, La Paz?s signature mushroom-shaped rock formation.
The century old buildings and bustling boardwalk with ice cream stands, also offer a nice cultural component to any family vacation. The Regional Anthropology and History Museum located in the heart of the city displays an interesting collection of fossils and cave paintings that give insight to the daily lives of the town?s first dwellers.
For The Foodie
For those who live to eat, La Paz has a number of restaurants ready to satisfy the even the most discerning palates.
Stroll down the Malecon (boardwalk) to find an array of colorful choices. For starters there is El Bismarkcito, a local favorite popular for its fish dipping sauce, and shrimp tacos. A block away from the boardwalk, travelers can spot the fisherman delivering his catch of the day to El Empanada, a friendly spot famous for its chocolatas, or chocolate clams, a delicacy harvested from the waters of the Sea of Cortez whose peculiar name stems from their brown-colored shells.
Kiewek?s newest venture, Nim, situated in downtown La Paz, has been well-received since it?s opening in in October. Built on an old historic home with large open spaces and ample natural light, the restaurant boasts a variety of international plates such as New Orleans style oysters, Vietnamese pho, Mediterranean Carpaccio, Moroccan lamb and traditional crowd-pleasers like guacamole and Mexican sopes (hand-made, thick corn tortillas with meat toppings).
Nim?s sister restaurant Azul Marino offers its guests a gourmet atmosphere, and the best Asian-fusion in town (think melt-in-your-mouth summer rolls and yellowtail tartare with hints of ginger!).
Pichilingue, a five-minute drive from El Tesoro, is home to two famous seafood restaurants,Restaurant Playa Pichilingue and Luna Bruja Restaurant. Its shallow, calm waters are perfect for kayaking and paddleboarding, a great way to feel less guilty after indulging in all of La Paz?s delicacies.
Great. Now I want to go back all over again!