Situated around two hours north of Los Cabos on the Sea of Cortez, La Paz is the capital of Mexico’s Baja California Sur. The city—its name is Spanish for “The Peace”—was originally founded by Hernan Cortez in 1535, but it wasn’t until 1811 that a permanent settlement was successfully established. Today, this city of more than 290,000 has a surprisingly small-town feel. If you’re craving calm waters and multicoloured sunsets coupled with friendly locals, soft-sand beaches and abundant wildlife, you’ll find it in and around this effortlessly cool city.
Head to The Cortez Club, a dive centre located on the La Concha Beach Resort, for a day-long guided adventure that begins with a boat ride north to Los Islotes. This group of small islands is home to a colony of 350 to 400 sea lions, one of Mexico’s largest. Snorkel above coral, glance down on scuba divers and swim in the same waters as playful, curious sea lion pups.
Stop for a picnic of ceviche tostadas at Ensenada Grande, a tranquil bay on Partida Island with shallow, cyan-coloured water, dunes and biscuit-hued rock formations. After lunch, the tour continues to El Mogote, a sand barrier peninsula opposite La Paz, where you can swim with whale sharks, the largest fish on the planet.
Back on dry land, dine on creamy guacamole and build-your-own tacos—arrachera (steak), al pastor (spit-roasted pork) or shrimp—at Rancho Viejo, a family-run restaurant that grew from a single taco stand. This lively, downtown spot is open all hours.
After a lazy morning on the beach, raise your heart rate with a stand-up paddleboard through the salt mangroves of Balandra Bay, located around 35 minutes north of downtown La Paz. Let Baja Desconocida outfitters lead you through the lush foliage of these narrow, mangrove forest-lined canals.
Dinner at Mediterranean restaurant Sorstis is a rustic, alfresco affair. Devour 36-month-aged ham cut tableside and served with shredded tomatoes on slices of toasted baguette. Juicy shrimp and vegetables follow but be sure to leave room for a scoop of chili-flavoured ice cream.
Cozy up next to the resident cat and order a flight of mezcales—Tobala, Sanzekan, Chacolo and Cartas Y Poetas—at La Miserable, a downtown bar inside a tiny house on a residential street. Drop by the food stand near Plaza Constitucíon for a hates (pronounced jates), a hot dog wrapped in bacon and drizzled with mayo, before going to bed.
Start your day downtown at Big Sur Café Orgáníco with a cold brew and a sweet baked treat. Coffee in hand, wind your way past pastel-coloured houses and bright street art to stroll the city’s five-kilometre-long Malecón, pausing to snap an obligatory photo by the “La Paz” sign.
Lunch on fresh lobster and seafood at Bismarkcito on the Malecón before cooling down with a visit to the Regional Museum of Anthropology and History Baja California Sur. Learn about the area’s ancient tribes, peruse cave paintings in a hall dedicated to the first inhabitants of the peninsula and marvel at the valuable collection of fossils dating back more than 15 million years.
As the sun sets on your trip, splurge on international cuisine in a contemporary setting at Nim restaurant, located in the heart of the city’s historic centre. Start with the beef carpaccio, share a freshly mixed ceviche or opt for grilled shrimp with baked tomatoes, roasted peppers and potatoes. For dessert, indulge in a piece of sweet and flaky baklava served with nuts and ice cream.
Top Things to Do Near La Paz
Located between Los Cabos and La Paz, Todos Santos, with its colonial architecture and cobblestone streets, is one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos, or magic towns. Pop into Hotel California and enjoy a lime margarita.
Choya Tours takes you to Adolfo López Mateos and Magdalena Bay—a three-hour drive from La Paz—to see grey whales. Each year, these gentle giants migrate roughly 8,000 kilometres from the Arctic to the Baja California peninsula. choyatours.com.mx