Baja California Sur, Mexico

La Paz, Mexico is a laid-back beach town perfect for families, kite surfers and snorkeling. We chose to go here over Christmas as we wanted to swim with sea lions and whale sharks and were looking for a low key week by the sea.

If you want to go to La Paz to swim with whale sharks the best time to see them is from November to March (although I have also read you can start as early as mid-October). Whale sharks are the largest fish in the word and are filter-feeding fish with huge mouths but actually no teeth. Their skin is like sandpaper and they are mammoth creatures with a grey body and white spots. They can grow up to 60 feet long and as they glide through the water there are schools of fish feeding along beside them. La Paz is a great place to see them and swim with them so, even though five out of the six children we went with said they were terrified, we still thought we would give it a go! In the end the child most afraid was the one to get in with them. It was actually a little scary as all of a sudden the whale shark is there and the guide is saying “get in! get in!” and you have to be careful of their tailes, large mouths and sand paper skin. But they were so beautiful and it was truly incredible to snorkel with them. We were so glad we were able to do it, a real thrill of a lifetime.

We booked our tour ahead of time, but you could also walk down to the malecon (boardwalk) at around 9:30 a.m. and get on a 10/10:30 a.m. tour. They have timed entrances into the area where the whale sharks are so they don’t overwhelm them with boats or swimmers. We booked in advance with Jose Cruz (whatsapp +52 612 204 0321) recommended by friends and he was great. Unfortunately, he had a death in the family so we went with another of his guides, but we were super happy and really enjoyed the experience. The whole day was $100 USD pp and it was a full day of sea lions, swimming, whale sharks and lunch on a deserted island. We couldn’t do Espiritu Santo island due to weather but that was another day trip we wanted to do as well. Wet suits were provided and a lunch of ceviche and sandwiches. Bring extra snacks, warm clothes, towels, sunscreen and hats. We got quite chilly on the boat.

La Paz is also surrounded by beautiful beaches in the countryside — usually a 20 to 40 min drive away. As we were 10 people we rented two cars from the airport and were glad we did. There are ubers and taxis, but there is limited reception out by the beaches so it would have been tricky to get back, unless you had a pre-arranged plan with the driver, and we would have need four taxis to come and get us. While we were in town I went into the car rental agency to ask a question and overhead people renting last minute for a few days and they were being quoted four times what we paid, so I’m glad we booked in advance from the airport.

View from the hill of Balandra.

We drove one morning to Balandra Beach which is listed as the prettiest beach in Mexico. It is protected, so the only amenities are the sand eco-toilets. Bring cash for the entrance fee, all your food, water, towels and anything you might need. It is a timed entrance either for the morning 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. There is a security car with siren that comes at 12:30 p.m. to move you out for the second round of people to enter. We went in the morning and it was not boiling hot, but we didn’t have to wait in line. There was a long line to get in when we left. The water is really shallow, so perfect for children or walking around the beach and there is a nice little scramble up to the top of the hill and look out, which we managed very carefully in flip flops but shoes would have been a better idea! After we were removed at 1 p.m. we drove the beach next door but it was so windy and cold we decided to head back to La Paz for the afternoon.

Balandra Beach

The following day a child wasn’t well so we spent some of the day wandering around town, we went to the Amazing Comic book shop which has a selection of English books and we went for a hike. We drove out on Highway 11 towards the Marina Palmira to park and looked for the Cerro de la Calavera. We never did find the skull but there was an obvious path that started just down from the dirt side road. We scrambled to the top to the cross and then wandered around on the top through the cactus, feeling a bit like Kino and his wife in Steinbeck’s The Pearl, looking for shade and feeling like we too were leaving La Paz.

Hiking in La Paz looking for the Cerro de la Calavera.

Next up was a day spent at La Ventana beach, a great spot for kite surfing or just watching them! There must have been about 80 of them in the water when we were there. We parked by Baja Joe’s and we had a great lunch at Coyas Beach Bar. It was a very windy beach (hence, wind surfers, so bring a sweater!)

La Ventana

We loved just wandering around La Paz and the Malecon. We never did get a chance to do the sand dune boarding at El Mogote or renting bikes and using the bike path along the seawall (you will see bike rental shops in town).

On our final day we had a whole day before heading back to the airport so we actually went out to the Costa Baja Resort and Spa and paid a day fee (which they then give you credit at the bar and for lunch by the pool) and the children just loved swimming in a warm pool and reading. It was a relaxing way to end the trip.

Where to Eat

The best part of La Paz (besides the beaches) is the food! We enjoyed so many good meals. We loved Doce cuarenta for breakfast, a good coffee, pastries and lunch. I think we ate here three times?! Claro Fish Jr was a great spot for the kids and adults alike and we loved the fish tacos and trying all the fish and seafood items on their menu. A huge hit! Two nights we adults went out without the kids. First to Bismarkcito on the malecon. I had a nice grilled fish and we really enjoyed the food. Service was a bit chaotic. Kids would have liked this place too. We really loved Tatanka, you should book a reservation, and the food was amazing. One of the best places for kids and adults alike (great food and cocktails!) was Buzos on the malecon. We all loved it. You are really spoiled for choice in La Paz!

We stayed at an AirBnb as we were ten people. In December it is not super hot so you don’t need a place with a pool, or if you do make sure it’s heated. While we didn’t love our AirBnB we all agreed we loved the location. It was a few blocks from the sea and so we could easily walk around the town and go for lunch or supper and get the kids out and walking. But far enough away from the malecon that we didn’t hear traffic or noise. The nights we ate along the water it was really fun and buzzy but the traffic of cars driving up and down the strip made us glad we were a few blocks into town. We also really liked the Costa Baja for the day, but it is a drive outside of town and we really liked being able to walk to supper in the evenings.

If you are staying in an AirBnb there are major strip malls between the airport and town so you can stock up on groceries.

We were surprised how cool it was in December, the tour operator told us his favourite month is October for the weather. But just check the weather and bring a lot of layers. We loved the Baja and can’t wait to go back.

Published by mamashinetravel

I'm a wife, mother of three children, Canadian Maritimer living in Mexico and planning getaways for the next available long weekend! I'm a Come From Away, but happy to be where I'm at.

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