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Everything to Love about La Paz, Mexico

Updated: May 26, 2023

Find gorgeous beaches, one-of-a-kind whale-watching adventures, and amazing seafood on this blissful stretch of Baja California Sur.

Cacti-studded desert cliffs loom over crescent-shaped beaches in

gateway to the Sea of Cortés. Located on the southern half of the Baja California Peninsula, this sunny capital of Mexico’s Baja California Sur has something to keep everyone happy: sportfishing excursions, family-friendly boat tours to spy whale sharks in the wild, adrenaline-fueled kitesurfing sessions in some of the world’s most favorable conditions, and postcard-worthy sunsets that paint a stunning backdrop to cocktails along the malecón, La Paz lively pedestrian path. “Travelers are looking for hidden treasures, and La Paz still feels like a small Mexican town,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Irma Rios. The serene region (La Paz means “peace”) is safe and full of welcoming Paceños who share their communities with pride. There are plenty of ways to dive into La Paz: Set out each day from an oceanside villa at the 103-room Rancho Pescadero outside Todos Santos, sail the Sea of Cortés on a cruise that calls on Baja California Sur, or ask your Virtuoso travel advisor to work with one of Virtuoso’s on-site tour connections in the country, such as Journey Mexico, to create a custom itinerary. From surfing Cerritos to snorkeling with sea lions off Isla Espíritu Santo, here’s what to expect. La Paz: The Malecón and Marquee Beaches Travelers can follow the colorful stone tiles of the malecón as it traces La Paz’s shoreline and gaze out at the city and sea in search of inspiration for what to do next: take a bike ride around town, book a stand-up paddleboarding lesson in calm La Paz Bay, or pop 20 minutes up the coast to what many have dubbed one of the country’s best beaches, Playa Balandra. “It feels like being in a lake or a big swimming pool,” Rios says of Balandra’s bathlike waters. At neighboring Playa El Tecolote, drier pursuits include beachside ceviche and frozen cocktails from Palapa Azul, or cross the bay and learn to slide down the sand during a sunset sandboarding lesson on El Mogote. Between November and April, the whale shark population swells in the Sea of Cortés and La Paz Bay, and your Virtuoso advisor can arrange for a boat tour to see them or even snorkel alongside the gentle giants. Back on land, a hike to the caves at Cerro de la Calavera makes burgers at Bandido’s Grill on the malecón taste that much better.

Castaway goals: Isla Espíritu Santo
Castaway goals: Isla Espíritu Santo

Isla Espíritu Santo: Pristine Natural Beauty

Just offshore from La Paz, this national park and UNESCO World Heritage site is home to more than 30 species of reptiles, almost 100 bird species, and 16 endemic species. Snorkeling, diving, and sea-kayaking excursions to the island – which Virtuoso advisors can arrange – take travelers to swim with sea lions (between September and May), snorkel around shipwrecks and coral reefs, and walk along volcanic cliffs to secluded beaches. For those looking to stay a little longer, overnight glamping is an option.

Los Barriles: For Sportfishing Aficionados

Bright kitesurfing sails dot the placid waters of Las Palmas Bay, which fronts Los Barriles, an adventure destination on the peninsula’s southeastern coast. Sportfishers flock here to angle for blue marlin, dorado, yellowfin tuna, and other species, especially during annual tournaments, but amateurs can book a fishing charter to get in on the action. Snorkelers will find a similarly exciting selection of fish, rays, and dolphins in the reefs at Punta Pescadero.

The swells at Cerritos are surf-lesson friendly
The swells at Cerritos are surf-lesson friendly

Todos Santos: Baja’s Pueblo Mágico

Art galleries and shops selling local leather goods and textiles line the main street of boho-cool Todos Santos, one of Mexico’s “magical towns.” The aesthete’s dream continues in the town’s restaurants, where hyperlocal produce meets just-caught fish. At Jazamango, renowned chef Javier Plascencia harvests from his on-site garden for dishes such as wood-grilled chocolate clams (a local delicacy) dressed in butter and green chili peppers.

This desert oasis community sits just above excellent swimming and surfing beaches, and your Virtuoso advisor can arrange for a surf lesson on the welcoming waves of Cerritos. Just south of town, the recently renovated, sustainability-focused Rancho Pescadero resort connects guests to nature and themselves, with a sea-turtle-friendly beach, citrus orchard, and 25,000-square-foot spa where they can create their own custom essential-oil blend.

El Triunfo’s historic Ramona chimney
El Triunfo’s historic Ramona chimney

El Triunfo: Day-Trip Back in Time

A nineteenth-century gold and silver rush turned inland El Triunfo into a cultural center, until the mines closed in 1926 and it became a ghost town for nearly a century. A 2018 revitalization converted the vestiges of boomtown splendor into a glimpse of history: Visitors can wander the old mine complex and look up at the 150-foot-tall Ramona chimney, believed to have been designed by Gustave Eiffel; learn about ranching history at the new Museo del Vaquero de las Californias (MUVACA); and stop at the 120-year-old laboratory that now houses Bar El Minero for craft beer and a variety of dishes exalting the beloved local fish, totoaba, found only in Mexico’s Pacific Ocean.

Puerto Chale: Whale Town

Between January and April, gray whales call the coastal waters of Baja California Sur home, migrating south from the chilly Arctic. A busy fleet of pangas brings visitors from the small fishing village of Puerto Chale to nearby Magdalena Bay, a gray whale sanctuary, for the best views of the 20-ton mammals. After the excursion, travelers can rehash the most impressive splashes over fish tacos made from that morning’s catch at one of the casual-but-delicious stands along the edge of the beach.

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