We have called La Paz, Baja California Sur home for nearly a year and still haven’t uncovered all the hidden gems this beautiful place has to offer within a few minutes or a short day trip drive away. One of the obvious attractions of La Paz is that it is not a common international tourist destination. A fair amount of domestic tourism exists, with busier times being traditional holidays (Christmas, Easter).
When taking a day trip or visiting one of the many breathtaking beaches, we usually try to go on a weekday when it won’t be busy – although we have yet to find a beach “too busy” for our tastes – lots of room for everyone!
This may be an unusual preference – but our visits to the famous (and amazing) Balandra Beach have all been from the “sea” side. We approached by boat, waded out to the Instagram famous “mushroom” rock, and then headed over to one of the less busy (there are a total of seven!) beaches to enjoy a picnic – often being the only group at that spot.
We have done “charter” boat trips three times and been happy with each experience – twice with Punta Baja Tours and once with an independent contractor that turned out to be our neighbor. With the independent contractor, we were able to bring our own cooler of beverages, and it was just our group of six adults. Both tours provided snorkel gear and a delicious lunch. With one of the Punta Baja tours, we went to Espiritu Island and had lunch there. The other two trips served lunch on one of the Balandra Beaches. All included snorkeling with an opportunity to swim with sea lions. The tour with the independent contractor included swimming with the whale sharks!
The La Paz tour guides we have encountered are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the specific local marine biology and ecosystem. They are enthusiastic caretakers of this wonderful place! We learned something new with each tour. The larger tour companies have both Spanish and English-speaking guides.
We absolutely lucked out with our most recent Espiritu Island adventure – a friend with a boat! First, we snorkeled near Balandra Beach and then headed to Espiritu to enjoy a picnic lunch on a beach we had all to ourselves. My husband even had the opportunity to wake surf behind our friend’s boat. We finished the day with cocktails at a Tecolote Beach bar.
Tecolote Beach has something for everyone! Several restaurants have palapas (minimum order required), or you can pack a cooler, chairs, etc, and be on your own. This is also a super place to swim and paddle board. You can rent Jet Skis or take a boat ride. Vendors walk the beach, making it a sweet spot to shop for souvenirs (they are never pushy or aggressive).
This beach is about a 30 minute (gorgeous!) drive from La Paz, just past Balandra Beach. There are also hiking paths to explore on the rare cool day. Tecolote is a special place for us, as it was the first beach we visited on our initial trip to La Paz. It was during spring break, so it was somewhat busy, and three marching bands were dueling on the beach. Nice memory, and what a first impression!
Speaking of surfing – we love to visit Cerritos Beach on the Pacific Ocean (about seven miles south of Todos Santos / about an hour and fifteen minutes from La Paz). Our son rented a surfboard from a stand right on the beach and had a fantastic day riding the waves.
There are restaurants and vendors close by, providing everything you need for a pleasant day in the sand. This spot gives you the chance to see and hear waves crashing and tends to be cooler than the Sea of Cortez side. If you are looking to escape the heat, it’s a great spot with many lodging options.
If having a beach to yourself (and you have access to a car) sounds great, head to El Mogote. This beach is north of La Paz, just past El Centenario / Comitan. You have to drive down a long, dusty dirt road, but it is worth it! You are able to drive right onto the beach, and if it is a weekday, you will likely have it all to yourself. This can be an excellent place to paddle board, look for shells, or just relax. It can also be an awesome beach to bring your dogs. We were surprised by beautiful bright blue (non-stinging) jellyfish when we visited this beach in September.
Heading past the turn to El Mogote, about 15 minutes down the road (very nice, well paved but open range, so watch out for cattle and horses) toward San Juan de la Costa, you will come to La Bastilla (labastillahotel.com). This small, off-grid eco-resort has seven rooms and is home to one of our favorite restaurants. The seaside view is absolutely stunning as you dine next to the infinity pool that overlooks the beach.
They have a large menu and serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as fabulous cocktails. They offer a day pass that includes the use of the pool and their beach gear – dock, paddle boards, kayaks, and snorkels. The staff here is exceptional, making a point to remember our names and even our favorite meals and cocktails. Even though La Bastilla is just 20 minutes from our home, we hope to spend a night or two there as the temperatures rise during the summer season. It is also a fabulous venue for a private event.
We love to take day trips to the La Ventana / El Sargento beaches. I like to refer to La Ventana as Los Barriles’ younger, more hip cousin (sorry Los Barriles). Just sitting and watching the many kite surfers is so much fun. There are kite surfing schools throughout the small town and some fun shops. Our favorite place to watch the action is La Tuna, a restaurant/bar right on the beach in El Sargento. Excellent food and cocktails in a super cool setting. They also host evening salsa classes during the busy season.
La Ventana becomes very quiet during the hot summer months, with some shops closing up and restaurants having more limited hours. Our first visit was in September, and we were struck not only by the beauty but also by the eerie stillness of the area during that time.
Bahía de Los Muertos
A bit past La Ventana, you drive through the lovely community of Los Planes on the way to Bahia de Los Muertos. Bahía de Los Muertos (or de Los Sueños as some people prefer to call it) is typically where someone would go to charter a fishing boat. Past the boat launch is a great beach – perfect for shell collecting, paddle boarding, or kayaking. We have been both during the week and on weekends and haven’t found the beach to be busy.
On the other side of the boat launch is Restaurant 1535. This restaurant serves fresh, authentic Mexican fare in a large palapa covered space. Not only is the food terrific (the chile relleno is our favorite of any we have tried since our move to Mexico), but the view is beyond comparison! We love watching the fishing boats return and seeing (from a distance) everyone’s catch.
One spot we haven’t visited yet but hope to soon is Punta Arena. This beautiful place is home to a traditional lighthouse and is known for its fine white sand beaches. I have been told by La Paz natives that Punta Arena is their favorite beach out of all the wonderful beaches in this area. Neighbors have taken their fifth-wheel trailer, camped on the beach, and been the only ones there!
We had a fabulous whale-watching experience in Puerto Chale using Camacho’s Tours. We communicated and booked via Whatsapp. They were concerned about providing a quality experience and recommended specific days based on the weather. The owner apologized for not having an English-speaking guide, but it truly didn’t impact our experience. Our friends joined us, so six of us were on a panga-type boat.
Our guide was enthusiastic and dedicated to finding as many of those beautiful gray whales as possible. Before we left the land, they had us pre-order lunch. One of the many options was lobster for $400 pesos! It was a delicious meal and topped off the experience so nicely. Puerto Chale is about a two-hour drive from La Paz on good roads.
But the Malecon – if you are visiting for just a few days or don’t have access to transportation – the Malecon will provide hours (days?) of entertainment. Catching at least one sunset from this spot is an absolute must! Bike and scooter rentals are available, as well as paddle boards. You can take the free ferry from the marina on the north end of the Malecon over to Paraiso del Mar to check out the golf course and restaurant.
Also on the north end of the Malecon is Estrella del Mar, a lovely restaurant with one of the most picturesque settings in La Paz. You can have your toes in the sand while you enjoy a fabulous seafood meal (their pizzas are great too). There are volleyball games to watch, and the marina sailboats are gorgeous. This is a prime sunset spot, as is Seis Uno Dos (a rooftop bar with super cocktails and food) and Oliva del Mar (further down the Malecon – likely our favorite for a higher-end meal).
Many of the spots mentioned here do not have websites but do have an active social media presence. Messenger and Whatsapp are the primary modes of communication for making reservations and asking questions. We have never been turned away when we didn’t have a reservation, but know that they appreciate you making one. Enjoy all this wonderful area has to offer!