Laid Back in La PazWritten by Ian Wright
La Paz may share its name with the world's highest capital, but this city's attractions are all at sea level or below...
Most attention on the southern part of the Baja California peninsula goes to Los Cabos, the burgeoning tourist enclave at the peninsula's southern tip, which is becoming a serious challenger to Cancún as Mexico's top resort. For the more discerning traveller, however, La Paz has at least as much to offer, particularly if history, culture and nature are amongst your interests.
The state capital of Baja California Sur is not a purpose built tourist resort but a functioning city, with urban attractions and excellent opportunities for outdoor activities nearby. "La Paz" means "The Peace" in Spanish, and never was a city more appropriately named. The hub of the city is the "Malecón", the road and walkway which runs along the seafront, and a wonderful venue for people-watching. Young and old, day and night, on foot and on wheels it is the place to be.
If you follow the Malecón north and head out of town you'll encounter an excellent series of beaches; Pichilingue, from where a ferry service operates to the Mexican mainland; Balandra, with its curious rock formations, and Tecolote, which is the gateway to the island Espíritu Santo. The waters in La Paz Bay were famously dubbed "The World's Aquarium" by legendary marine explorer Jacques Cousteau, and a delicate balance is well maintained between the desires of visitors to explore and the greater need to keep the area well protected. Fishing, kayaking and diving are amongst the popular activities available.
Back in the city centre the Plaza Constitución is home to the city's modest cathedral, and nearby the regional museum of anthropology and history comes highly recommended. Dining options are rich and varied, from upmarket restaurants like "Las Tres Virgenes" to the many taco stands around the city. Chocolate clams are the local delicacy. The city's wealth has always laid underwater: it was here that John Steinbeck was told a traditional fable about a penniless indigenous pearl fisherman which he refashioned into his classic novella "The Pearl".
There are hotels to suit every budget - the Malecón is lined with hotels which give an excellent view of the bay, though noise from late night traffic can be an issue with front-facing hotel rooms. My favourite hotel lies a few streets back from the bandstand and the bus station on the Malecón: Hotel Yeneka will either be loved or hated by anyone who stays there. Seemingly entirely constructed from recycled material, and featuring such curios in its central courtyard as a rusting century-old car from Venezuela, a Muay Thai punchbag and seating recovered from more modern vehicles, it won't be for everyone. I loved it, and not just for the reasonable prices and the free tequila I was given each night I stayed there!
A classic Mexican song describes La Paz as the "Puerto de Ilusión" ("The Port of Illusion"), but be under no illusion La Paz is a fantastic and rewarding city to visit.
Spend three nights in La Paz with us as part of our transpeninsular tour, including a trip into the bay to see whalesharks and then to Isla Espiritu Santo and a full day trip to Los Cabos and Todos Santos. Follow these links for dates, prices and itineraries.
This article is an extended version of an article I wrote for metromarks.com entitled "My Favourite City - La Paz".
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