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La Paz (Mexico)

Photo © Rhombus

Travel Guide North America Mexico Baja California Sur La Paz

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Introduction

La Paz is the capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. La Paz' population lies around 200,000. It is located on the coast of the Gulf of California or the Sea of Cortez on the southern end of the long peninsula. Often overlooked by travelers by the more flashy nearby Los Cabos resorts, La Paz boasts a wonderful waterfront and world class beaches. The city itself is very clean, safe and attractive. The islands off the coast are a popular destination in themselves.

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Sights and Activities

La Paz has many activities to offer tourists. La Paz is a haven for nature lovers/hikers. There is an endless array of natural activities to partake in, some for the more adventurous but also options for those inclined to staying in their comfort zone.

Diving

There are diving courses available for adults and kids so fret not about making this a family outing. Most of the diving and snorkeling happens in The Sea of Cortez. There is ample wild life in the waters surrounding La Paz, people often see whales, dolphins, turtles, and even sharks (for the thrill seekers). There are many diving sites so it’s easy to find something just right for you.

Snorkeling

If you’d like to swim with whale sharks in The Sea of Cortez, this is the only way to do it. You can’t have any equipment on those swims so snorkeling is the only option. You will encounter gorgeous living coral reefs, dolphins, manatees and more. You can snorkel with a guided tour or go solo (although it’s always suggested to have a snorkeling partner).

Kayaking

If swimming with whales and dolphins isn’t for you, you can simply watch these animals from a kayak. A popular kayaking destination for heading out of La Paz is the park, El Espiritu Santo Island. Some kayak rental services will allow self-guided kayaking, as long as you are an experienced kayaker.

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Events and Festivals

Day of the Dead

Although the Day of the Dead is also celebrated in many Latin American countries except Mexico (and also in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is most intensily celebrated in Mexciowhere where it is equal to a National Holiday. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Although it is about the Dead, it is also a celebration where eating and partying both are common as well.

Carnaval

A huge event in La Paz, Mexico is Carnaval. This festival traditionally ends the day before Ash Wednesday (Fat Tuesday). Although Carnival is celebrated in many countries, La Paz puts its own unique spin on this fun festival. Carnaval in La Paz is a family-friendly affair. There’s a lot of loud music, fireworks, food but it’s all very safe. This is a blast for the kids. One day of the festival, children dress up and walk with their parents spraying water and foam at each other. That day there are special kid-friendly rides and activities. Each day there’s thousands of people in the streets dressed in costumes. A particularly unique character of Carnaval in La Paz is the Cucumber. Someone dressed as the revered Cucumber walks around blasting Carnaval-goers with a flour and water mixture. In addition to the playing in the streets, there are concerts. The first night, a Carnaval Queen and King are chosen. They have to attend every night of Carnaval as well as tend to the orphanages, hospitals and more. Carnaval in La Paz is one of the older in the country of Mexico, with it originating in 1898. This is a huge tourist attraction for outsiders, as well as others from all parts of Mexico so if this is something you might be interested in, be sure to book your hotel a couple months in advance because the area sells out very quickly.

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Weather

La Paz has a warm, sunny and arid climate. Temperatures in summer (June to September) are often over 30 °C but the breezes keep things nice. Winters are coldest but from December to February it is still mostly around 20 °C. The rest of the year is equall good with temperatures mostly around the 25-27 °C range and fantastic weather to explore things and relax.

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Getting There

By Plane

Manuel Márquez de León International Airport (LAP) offers flights to most main Mexican cities including Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, San José del Cabo, Mazatlan and Tijuana. The only international flight is to Los Angeles.

By Car

Highway 1 connects the south of the state from Cabo San Lucas to the north of the peninsula until Tijuana.

By Bus

Autotransportes Aguila offers frequent bus service from nearby cities such as Cabo San Lucas (about 2 hrs), San Jose del Cabo (about 2.5 hrs) and Loreto (about 2 hrs), with direct (faster) and local (slower) service. Service is good, although tickets are a bit pricey.

By Boat

Ferries from Mazatlan and Topolobampo, just outside Los Mochis on the Mexican mainland are serviced by Baja Ferries. Both routes are overnight trips taking about 12 hours. Fares have increased rapidly in later years and stand at 970 pesos (about US$60) in 2016 for a one-way trip. It's possible to bring your car, but foreign vehicles requires special permits from the customs office.
All ferries arrive at 1 Pichilingue Harbour about 30 minutes north of La Paz city. Public transport is limited, but taxis are readily available.

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Getting Around

By Car

Many car rental agencies (for example, Alamo, Budget, National, Thrifty) have offices both at the airport and downtown. Daily car rental prices are relatively cheap, comparable to a one-way taxi ride from the airport to downtown. An important consideration is that car insurance is very expensive, with some agencies making policies compulsory. In addition, some agencies may put a hold on your credit card for up to half the value of the car, so make sure your card has enough credit.

Driving allows you to visit great beaches located away from town and to take day trips to nearby cities. It is possible to pick up the car at one location, for example at the airport, and drop it off at other location, for example downtown. This allows you to avoid paying a taxi to get to your hotel, plus gives you a convenient way to visit places that are not within walking distance from town.

Taxis are readily available throughout town and prices are very reasonable, usually $5/$10 for just about anywhere, but make sure to agree on a price "before" entering taxi and be clear that it is not a per-person price.

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Eat

Since this is a coastal city you can get fresh seafood, don't forget to taste the shrimps, lobsters, abulón, snail, etc. La Paz serves the best fish tacos in Mexico, and they are available at most restaurants.

There is a hot dog cart located outside Carlos 'n' Charlies that serves awesome bacon wrapped sausages in a bun. Very cheap.

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Drink

Kiwi, on the beach serves excellent margaritas and has a good view over the bay at sunset.

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Sleep

Budget

This is Baja, so the best budget option is always going to be beach camping. There are a number of free camping areas near La Paz. The authorities often try to close these areas (many of which have semi-permanent populations of winter Canadians), but determined campers almost always insist on "reopening" them.

Arguably the best place for budget travelers is the Hostel California, a five minute walk from the Malecon. This brightly colored affair has around 20 rooms built around an outdoor terrace and is very cheap at around US$20 per night for a twin room. The accommodation on offer is very basic: rooms have a fan and private bathroom, and the staff are very friendly.

Slightly more expensive but still a great rate is the Pension Baja Paradise which is only two blocks from the Malecon. Rates are US$25-45. It has incredibly clean rooms, all offering air-con, fridge, TV, shower. Run by a family of tri-lingual Japanese, they are eager to help and run cheap extracurricular rental services in house.

Other hotels in the downtown are Acuario, Miramar, Yeneka and Hotel Pekin. This last one is a mid-range 3 star hotel for US$45 per night, in front of the Sea Side Road and less than 1 kilometre to the heart of the city.

Mid-Range

Hotel Los Arcos has two sections: the hotel itself and the cabanas. The cabanas are clean and have a safe in the room. Free parking is available on site.

The newest hotel in La Paz is Fiesta Inn, is a beach front hotel, business class, is located in the Marina Costa Baja where there are also available spots for yachts, restaurants, bars and shopping stores. Some weekends there are events in the Marina Costa Baja with dance groups, jazz music, samba music and other cultural diversions.

You can also find a wide variety of hotels and travel information on the official website of the La Paz Hotel Association at the La Paz Hotel and Tourism Website.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafe's are widely available and you generally can find one in the direct vicinity. Sometimes photocopy stores or photo processing stores will double as an internet cafe with a couple of computers. Look for signs reading "Acceso a Internet" or "Cibernautica" or "Cibercafe". Charges range from approx. US$1 an hour to US$3 an hour, depending on the location.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Phone cards can be purchased anywhere and are needed for the majority of public phones. To call any number outside your region you have to dial 01 then followed by the area code. If calling a cellphone from a normal phone start with with 044. If calling cellphone to cellphone just dial the 10-digit number. To make an international call dial 00 followed by the country code then the local number. To call to Mexico, also dial 00 (most of the times) followed by the national code 52.

Post

The Mexican postal service is operated by Correos de México. The post service in Mexico is pretty good although not very cheap. It is reliable regarding the sending of postcards, but it takes at least a week to send it to other countries (US/Canada), more so if you send it to Europe or Australia. For packages it is better to use international services like FedEx or UPS. If you are sending a package internationally with the Mexican postal service, take the package OPEN to the post office, they may want to inspect it. Seal it up at the post office. Post offices typically open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Monday to Friday, and 9:00am to 1:00pm Saturday. You will find post offices (Oficina de Correos) is almost any town or city in Mexico. To buy stamps it is best to go to the post office, although you can also get them at stamp machines, located outside the post offices, at bus stations, airports and some commercial establishments.

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This is version 13. Last edited at 9:36 on Dec 30, 16 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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