La Paz is a wonderful city on the Sea of Cortez that deserves much more attention than it actually gets. It’s also the capital, and cultural center, of the state of Baja California Sur. It is the largest city in southern Baja but still manages to retain a friendly, small town feel. The very meaning of the name, La Paz, translates to “The Peace”, which relates almost perfectly to the subdued ambiance of this incredible city.
La Paz is known for its spectacular sunsets, friendly residents and a long, calm waterfront that makes for a very relaxed environment. The peaceful feeling of La Paz is emphasized by the charming Malecón that is lined on the bay side with small beaches, sculptures, statues, lots of benches, and a couple of piers. There are plenty of small palapas on the beaches in the downtown area if you feel the need for some shade. On the inland side of this seaside boulevard, are many of the city’s hotels, restaurants, shops, and sidewalk cafes.
The Malecón is put to good daily use by the locals, and tourists alike, for strolling, relaxing, socializing, jogging, or just enjoying the incredible sunsets of La Paz. There are often impromptu performances, anything from magic shows to Mariachi bands along the Malecón. On weekend nights, there are often organized concerts or special events held in a special area across from Carlos and Charlie’s. On Friday and Saturday nights, the Malecón can become very crowded with cars and pedestrians as the city comes out to enjoy the weekend.
A few blocks away from the waterfront is the town square, Plaza Constitucíon, which is another nice place to spend some leisurely time. There is a nice park along with the customary bandstand/gazebo and lots of benches if you just want to sit back and relax. The city’s cathedral is located on the west end of the Plaza and this whole area is a very popular spot for photography.
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In the six days before Ash Wednesday, La Paz throws an enormous party. Carnival in La Paz is one of the best in all of México. This event is one giant party with fireworks, colorful parades, street dancing, carnival rides, entertainment, games and a great family atmosphere. If you plan on attending Carnival make your reservations early, as the area hotels usually fill rapidly during Carnival. The waterfront location provides a dramatic backdrop for all of the hoopla.
Carnival in La Paz is a fairly family-oriented affair. The revelers are plenty loud but rarely get out of control. There is but a light police presence and we are constantly amazed at how so many people having such a good time can get along so well. It is just too bad it can’t be like this in other Mardi Gras locations. As the city’s name implies…City of Peace.
Any visit to La Paz should include shopping, strolling along the Malecón and lunch on the beach or in one of the many seaside restaurants. The downtown area has a lot of shops that sell almost everything under the sun, because of La Paz’s status as a duty-free port.
Besides fishing, La Paz activities include sailing, snorkeling, diving, whale watching, kayaking along miles of protected waters, exploring the offshore islands and swimming with whale sharks. If you are a fisherman or diver, the nearby islands make La Paz a great place for some incredible dives and are also excellent for fishing. There are plenty of local tour operators that specialize in dive tours and fishing trips. Three marinas serve La Paz with all yacht services and slips up to 200 feet.
The beaches north of La Paz include some incredible coves where you will easily put the rigors of reality far behind you. Restaurants in the sand just steps away from the water, serve all kinds of fresh seafood. On Sundays, the local beaches become very crowded with local families enjoying their time off.
La Paz is undergoing a transformation. It seems La Paz has finally been discovered by developers. The charm of the city along with the beauty of the beaches have been noticed and the city is booming with development. Most of the development is taking place to the northeast of the downtown area and on El Magote, a peninsula, directly across from the city center on the bay. A new marina was built a few years ago and development has followed. La Paz is soon going to have a couple of new golf courses to go along with the new high-end homes and condos being built.
La Paz is the terminus of the ferry routes from Mazatlán and Topolobampo and as such receives and distributes much of the cargo that supplies all of southern Baja with many daily necessities. Both ferry routes also serve passengers, cars, and campers that wish to continue their trip over to the Mexican mainland. If you plan on putting your vehicle on the ferry, you will probably need a reservation, a special permit and a bond (guaranteeing that you’ll take your vehicle out of México). These are required for all vehicles traveling to mainland México. We have a link to the Baja Ferries on the “Local Businesses” page for La Paz.