Playa Balandra La Paz Mexico

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Last Updated on December 22, 2020

Why does La Paz, Mexico belong on your bucket list?  With more than 300 days of sunshine annually, you can count on great weather.  Its location in a protected bay makes for some of the calmest and most beautiful beaches in Mexico – a perfect fit for the city’s name, which means “peace.” And these natural surroundings are also host to a wealth of adventurous things to do in La Paz.

La Paz is located in a prime spot on the Sea of Cortez, once referred to by Jacques Cousteau as “the aquarium of the world.” This narrow sea between Mexico’s mainland and the Baja California peninsula is home to an abundance of sea life, including whale sharks, sea lions, dolphins and more than 800 species of fish.

In La Paz you can relax on beautiful beaches, sea kayak, scuba dive, sport fish, swim with playful sea lions, and even snorkel with whale sharks.  Ready to start planning your trip? With this La Paz Mexico Travel Guide, you’ll find the best things to do in La Paz, where to stay, and tips on the best beaches, tours, and restaurants!

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La Paz, Mexico Travel Guide

When to visit: The best time to see whale sharks is Oct – Feb; best time for sport fishing Sept – December; high tourist season begins in December

Get there: La Paz Airport (LAP) has limited daily flights from other cities in Mexico; or fly to Los Cabos (SJD) two hours south, and rent a car or take a bus.

What to do: Swim with whale sharks and sea lions, stroll the Malecon seawall, have sunset drinks and chocolate clams overlooking the Bay of La Paz, discover Playa Balandra’s uniquely shallow lagoon.

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In this Ultimate La Paz, Mexico Travel Guide

Getting to La Paz | Downtown La Paz | Best Things to Do in La Paz | Best La Paz Beaches | Swim with Whale Sharks | Isla Espiritu Santo & Sea Lions | La Paz Restaurants | Where to Stay in La Paz | La Paz Mexico Airbnbs | La Paz Weather


Where is La Paz?

The Baja California Peninsula, extending south from the U.S. state of California, is home to two states of Mexico: Baja California and Baja California Sur (referred to by locals as BCS).  La Paz is the state capital of BCS and a quiet town with colonial roots. It’s about two hours north by bus or car from Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, the two towns served by Los Cabos Airport (SJD). It’s also about an hour from Todos Santos, another BCS town that belongs on your bucket list!

The Pacific Ocean is on the west coast of the Baja California Peninsula.  Its east coast is separated from mainland Mexico by the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Sea of California.  This sea has more than 900 islands, 244 of which have UNESCO World Heritage bio-reserve status.

Map of La Paz Mexico, the capital of the state of  Baja California Sur
Map of La Paz Mexico, the capital of the state of Baja California Sur. The Sea of Cortez (also known as the Sea of California) separates the Baja California peninsula from Mexico’s mainland.

How to Get to La Paz

To get to La Paz, catch a connecting flight to La Paz Airport (LAP) from several cities in Mexico.  Or take an international flight to Los Cabos (SJD) two hours south. There are many bus departures throughout the day from Los Cabos to La Paz, or you can rent a car at the airport and drive.  Getting to La Paz is a scenic drive on the new toll road, Highway 19, with the Pacific Coast on one side and the Sierra de la Laguna mountains on the other.

If you decide on a road trip, check out my advice on renting a car and driving in Mexico, which I’ve done many times, including in Baja California Sur.

Driving in Mexico: Useful Car Rental, Insurance & Road Tips

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Read more


Downtown La Paz

The town of La Paz is separated from the sea by a wide boardwalk known as El Malecon.  Couples and families stroll along the Malecon in the afternoon and evening, pausing for photos with statues that dot the promenade. You’ll also see kids speed past on rollerblades and scooters, so keep an eye out!

The Malecon also follows the Paseo Alvaro Obregon (street), which is lined on the other side with shops, restaurants, and hotels.  I stayed along the Malecon when I visited, and liked being able to walk to dinner each night.

There is free parking along the Malecon or on its side streets, plus some hotels have parking lots.

the Malecon boardwalk in La Paz Mexico
The Malecon boardwalk along the La Paz seafront.

The Best Things to Do in La Paz

Visit La Paz Beaches

La Paz has some of the best swimming beaches in Mexico with calm, clear waters.  The Malecon has a beachfront, but you’ll find the best beaches for swimming are a few minutes outside of town.  Within 10-45 minutes’ ride by bus or car you can reach several that have bars, restaurants, and lounge chairs for rent.

Playa del Malecon - La Paz Mexico beaches
Playa del Malecon

La Paz, Mexico Beaches Map

Check the map below for the locations of the best La Paz beaches.  If you click on the map pin, it will include the description below.


Playa El Coromuel

El Coromuel is the first beach as you follow the Malecon outside the tourist area of La Paz.  This public beach has a free parking area, a restaurant, restroom facilities and shade palapas.  El Coromuel is designated as a “blue flag beach,” which is an international recognition for meeting high environmental, safety and quality standards.  It’s possible to get to this beach by bicycle from the Malecon.

Safe for swimming? Yes | Good snorkeling? Yes | Restrooms? Yes | Restaurants? Yes

view of Playa El Coromuel La Paz Mexico
Playa El Coromuel

Playa La Concha

The best beach close to town is at the La Concha Beach resort.  It’s a private beach club, but non-guests can use it by dining at the restaurant or bar.  There are also palapas, sun loungers and kayaks available for rent.

The Sea Side Restaurant and bar here is a great place for sunset drinks or dinner overlooking the water!

Safe for swimming? Yes | Good snorkeling? Yes | Restrooms? Yes | Restaurants? Yes

Playa La Concha Sea Side bar, one of the best places for sunset in La Paz
Sunset at the Playa La Concha, from the Sea Side bar.

Playa El Caimancito

El Caimancito Beach is located next to Playa La Concha and is a popular swimming spot for locals. There aren’t any vendors here, but you can snorkel. The reef isn’t pristine, though, due to fishing activity and beach use. Parking is available.

Safe for swimming? Yes | Good snorkeling? Yes | Restrooms? Yes | Restaurants? Yes

view of Playa El Caimancito
Playa El Caimancito

Playa El Tesoro

El Tesoro Beach is located in a protected bay surrounded by hills.  It’s a public beach with parking, palapas and restaurants, as well as kayaks and paddleboards available for rent.

Safe for swimming? Yes | Good snorkeling? Yes | Restrooms? Yes | Restaurants? Yes

view of Playa El Tesoro
Playa El Tesoro

Playa Pichilingue

Playa Pichilingue is located near the port and has a parking area, restaurants, palapas and kayaks available for rent. You can also snorkel from the beach. 

Safe for swimming? Yes | Good snorkeling? Yes | Restrooms? Yes | Restaurants? Yes

photo of Playa Pichilingue  at sunset
Playa Pichilingue

Playa Balandra

About 18 miles (29 km) from La Paz, at the end of the paved road from La Paz, you’ll reach Playas Balandra and Tecolote.

Playa Balandra has been referred to as the most beautiful beach in Mexico.  Once slated for resort development, it was saved by local citizens and activist groups who wanted to preserve its unspoiled landscape.  Thanks to their efforts, it’s now a natural protected area.

You won’t find big waves at Playa Balandra.  Due to its protected location in a shallow lagoon, it’s perfect for beach walks, wading and playing in the sand.  You can walk and walk, and the water will never reach higher than your waist! 

Playa Balandra La Paz Mexico
Playa Balandra at Sunset

Balandra is a great location to hike for a view overlooking the bay, especially at sunset.  There’s also a famous rock formation known as El Hongo (the mushroom).

Services are limited here because of Playa Balanda’s protected status. Bring cash and change for the eco toilets and snack truck, or bring a cooler for your day.

Safe for swimming? Yes | Good snorkeling? No | Restrooms? Yes | Restaurants? No


Playa Tecolote

Playa Tecolote is the last beach along the beach road from La Paz.  It has the same blue water as Balandra, but a little stronger waves. You can rent kayaks and other water sports equipment here and walk for what seems like miles along the beach.  There’s also several restaurants where you can have beers and seafood right on the beach.

Safe for swimming? Yes | Good snorkeling? No | Restrooms? Yes | Restaurants? Yes

Playa Tecolote La Paz
Playa Tecolote has a long beachfront perfect for walks

Swimming with Whale Sharks in La Paz

La Paz, Mexico might be the best place in the world to swim with whale sharks.  They migrate to the bay here from October to March, so excursions are just a short trip from shore. But most importantly, La Paz has made efforts to regulate tourism of this kind and make their animal encounters sustainable.

Whale sharks aren’t whales, but are rather the largest species of fish.  The “whale” part of their name refers to their massive size: when full grown, they can be 18-33 feet in length!

What to Expect on a Whale Shark Day Trip

In La Paz, the number of whale shark tour boats in the bay are limited. Monitor boats also check the operators to ensure their guests are interacting responsibly with the animals. There is a limit on the number of snorkelers permitted to observe any one animal to four, plus a guide must also be in the water. We all received instruction on the distance to keep from the sharks (at least 3m from the tail, and 2m from the side of the animal).

I had thought that I would be scared of the sharks, but I jumped right in when it was my turn! Whale sharks are filter feeders, which means that they eat by straining food like plankton from the water. But still, their size was awe-inspiring, even though I knew they’re harmless.

Whale shark in La Paz Mexico

Booking a Whale Shark Half Day Tour

Many half-day snorkeling excursions leave from the La Paz pier known as Muelle Fiscal.  You can find operators here offering tours each morning, but it’s better to book ahead of time with a reputable company.  I went with Red Travel Mexico and our guide Dani was a marine biologist, so she was able to provide a lot of information about research and conservation efforts in La Paz.

To book, contact Red Travel Mexico. Or for online booking with immediate confirmation, check out MeXplore, Tuna Tuna Tours, or La Paz VIP Tours.  

This was a juvenile whale shark and it was still enormous!

Day Trip to Isla Espiritu Santo | Best Things to Do in La Paz

Near La Paz is the protected UNESCO biosphere reserve named Isla Espiritu Santo. It’s technically an archipelago, and the northernmost island is home to a colony of sea lions!  The surrounding reefs are a great spot for snorkeling, and many tours here include a picnic lunch on a secluded beach.

I took an awesome day trip with Red Travel Mexico to Isla Espiritu Santo. When we arrived at the Las Islotes colony, some of the juvenile sea lions started bobbing up and down in the water near our boat to get a look at us. The tour operators don’t feed them, but the sea lions are so curious and playful that the females and juveniles get very interested when people visit!

Los Islotes Sea Lion Colony
Arriving at the Las Islotes sea lion colony in Isla Espiritu Santo. You can see the sea lions swimming over to investigate the boat!

What to Expect on an Isla Espiritu Santo Day Trip

You can watch the colony from the boat, or get in the water to snorkel and some of the juveniles will swim around to say hi. This is definitely a bucket-list experience. 

A day trip to Isla Espiritu Santo is the #1 best thing to do when visiting La Paz. I had thought that I would love swimming with whale sharks more. But the sea lions were so playful, and the beautiful islands of Espiritu Santo were so pristine, that this was my favorite part of visiting Baja California Sur.

sea lion on a day trip to Isla Espiritu Santo

Booking an Isla Espiritu Santo Day Trip

I recommend Red Travel Mexico, which you can book by contacting them directly.  For online booking with immediate confirmation, check out other reputable companies with great reviews: Punta Baja Tours or this option for a private group tour

*This excursion doesn’t run from June 1 – September 1 during baby sea lion season.

Las Islotes sea lion colony
Isla Espiritu Santo tour
sea lions sleeping at Isla Espiritu Santo
The sea lions on the rocks were delightfully snoozy.

La Paz Restaurants

La Paz is a seaside town, so of course you can get fresh local seafood at restaurants throughout the city.  Be sure to try the chocolate clams – named for their color, not their taste! For fresh seafood in a lovely courtyard setting, try Nim, or Sorstis for a Mediterranean flair.  Il Rustico has great pizza and Italian. Oliva al Mare has a nice view for sunset, since it’s on the 2nd story over looking the Malecon at the Posada de Las Flores hotel (where I stayed).

For more casual spots, check out Claro Fish Jr for seafood and the best fish tacos, or El Zarape Malecon for Mexican.

For coffee,try Doce Cuarenta  Big Sur Cafe Organico or Cafe La Choya 


La Paz Ice Cream Shops

Don’t miss trying some local ice cream and homemade popsicles (nieves y paletas) in tropical flavors at La Fuente right at the end of the pier.  (Look for the polka dot paint on the shop and trees!) You pay in cash at the register first, then take your receipt to the counter to choose your flavors.  Be sure to get two dips so you can try different flavors, and eat it watching the activity along the Malecon. (Then go back for a popsicle for the walk to your hotel.  It’s that good!)

La Fuente ice cream shop in La Paz
La Fuente, the best ice cream in La Paz, right across from the Muelle Fiscal pier.

Where To Stay in La Paz, Mexico

Some people prefer to stay at a beach resort when visiting La Paz, but I enjoyed staying along the Malecon so that we could walk to different restaurants in the evening.  We had a car, but it was nice to be able to stroll along the Malecon and stop for ice cream on the way back.

If you stay at a resort, make sure that you also take a day trip to Playa Balandra. It’s been rated the most beautiful beach in Baja California!


Best La Paz, Mexico Beach Resorts

Looking to relax at a luxurious La Paz resort? Check out these options with stunning views, beach access, and luxury amenities.


Costa Baja Resort | Best La Paz Beach Resort

Costa Baja Resort is one of the best places to stay in La Paz.  The resort has a golf course, marina, pool, spa, fitness center, on-site restaurants, pool bar, and private beach.  It’s located between the downtown area and beaches and has stunning desert, beach, and mountain views. They also offer a shuttle into town on request.

Check rates on Booking.com | Check rates & reviews on Tripadvisor

Cosa Baja Resort La Paz Mexico
Costa Baja Resort

Puerta Cortes Residences: Vistamar Beach Resort

Puerta Cortes Residences: Vistamar are luxury condos in a complex at the same marina as Costa Baja.  Some of the rooms include a golf cart to get to the beach club, shop and restaurants in the marina. 


Check rates on Booking.com | Check rates & reviews on TripAdvisor

Puerta Cortes Residences -Vistamar
Puerta Cortes Residences: Vistamar

Hotel La Concha Beach Resort | La Paz Resort

Hotel La Concha Beach Resort is a budget beachfront La Paz resort with rooms starting around $50/night.  Their beach and pool are private, although daily guests can use it by eating at the restaurants or pool bar.  Their waterfront bar is a great place for sunset drinks!


Check rates on Booking.com | Check rates & reviews on TripAdvisor

Hotel La Concha Beach Resort

Best Downtown Hotels in La Paz

These hotels in downtown La Paz are located close to restaurants and shopping, as well as the Malecon seawall. These are convenient stays if you plan on doing day trips.


Casa Esterito | Best La Paz Hostel & Long-Term Stay

Casa Esterito is a friendly hostel great for long-term or budget stays.  It’s located two blocks from the Malecon, towards the end of town as you head to the La Paz beaches.

Check rates on Booking.com | Check rates & reviews on TripAdvisor

common area of Hostel Casa Esterito
Hotel Casa Esterito

Amazing Visa Coral Condo | La Paz Rental Apartment

Amazing Vista Coral Condo is right on the waterfront of the Malecon, with great views, a pool, kitchen, and secure parking. 

Check rates on Booking.com | Check rates & reviews on TripAdvisor


photo of pool and Amazing Vista Coral Condo
Amazing Vista Coral Condo

Hotel Catedral La Paz | Best La Paz Hotel

Hotel Catedral La Paz is a few blocks from the Malecon right next to – you guessed it – the La Paz Cathedral.  This is one of the best places to stay in La Paz, with great reviews for just about everything: friendly service, location, rooms, breakfast, rooftop pool and sundeck!

Check rates on Booking.com | Check rates & reviews on TripAdvisor

photo of rooftop sundeck at Hotel Catedral La Paz
Hotel Catedral La Paz

Posada de Las Flores | Best La Paz Boutique Hotel

Posada de Las Flores is where I stayed, and I loved its location on the quieter end of town. My mom is still talking about the amazing breakfast at the restaurant, which was also great for dinner or drinks with a view for sunset overlooking the Malecon.  There’s a rooftop sun deck for lounging but no pool.

Check rates on Booking.com | Check rates & reviews on TripAdvisor

Posada de las Flores La Paz
Posada de las Flores

Casa Al Mar | Best La Paz Hotel for Families

Casa Al Mar  is a boutique La Paz hotel located just a block from the bus terminal.  Thisis a great option for families or friends traveling together because it offers two-bedroom suites with kitchenettes.  They also have a really good on-site restaurant.

Check rates on Booking.com | Check rates & reviews on TripAdvisor

lobby view of Casa al Mar

La Paz, Mexico Airbnb Stays

Traveling with a group, or want more private space for your trip? Check out these top-rated La Paz Airbnb rentals with kitchens and living spaces – some with unique amenities!


More Things to Do in La Paz, Mexico Downtown

The small downtown area of La Paz includes a few shops like Casa Parra Gallery for Mexican folk art and handicrafts, Caktu Souvenirs for gifts and t-shirts, and Allende Books.  Or you can check out the Mercado Madero if you’re looking for a local market experience.

Many La Paz blogs tell you to visit the Whale Museum, but sadly it’s closed!  Instead check out the regional museum of Anthropology and History of Baja California Sur and the Cathedral of La Paz which dates to the second half of the 19th century. 

Airbnb is now offering “Experiences” – authentic tour options led by locals. Check out these great La Paz Experiences for more activity options for your La Paz itinerary!


Day Trip to Todos Santos

For more shopping and dining, check out the quaint beach town of Todos Santos about an hour from La Paz. Or better yet, extend your trip with a few days there! Check out my best tips for visiting Todos Santos here.

Todos Santos Mexico day trip from La Paz
The charming colonial downtown area of Todos Santos

Getting Around La Paz

There are buses that run roughly every hour from the Terminal Turistica to a bus station in Pichilingue, then on to Playa Balandra.  Be sure to check the last departure time back from Balandra.

Alternately, Uber is available in La Paz, but keep in mind it might be difficult to find one back to the city after dark.  There are also taxis that line up in the parking lot at Balandra at the end of the day.


La Paz Weather

La Paz has a desert climate, with little rain, and averages more than 300 days of sunshine per year.  Its short rainy season peaks in August and early September, while the driest season is March through June.  

La Paz, Mexico average temperatures and rainfall
La Paz, Mexico average temperatures and rainfall from climate-data.org

Ready to Visit La Paz?

While La Paz isn’t as popular of a Baja California destination as Cabo, it lives up to its name as a peaceful beach town with so many great things to do. Whether you’re looking to experience La Paz’s calm waters, sport fishing, whale sharks, sea lions or the pristine Isla Espiritu Santo, it’s an amazing vacation destination that belongs on your bucket list.


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Adrienne, The Haphazard Traveler

I used to be a hot travel mess, but I got better! I kept the name and now blog my best tips for culture and adventure travel from around the globe. Follow along for travel advice, destination info, and photography from faraway lands - and at home in Washington, D.C.

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