La Paz is the capital of the Mexican State of Baja California Sur. To give you an idea of its size, according to Wikipedia, the last census (2010) showed around 210,000 people living in La Paz.
Although La Paz is a city known for its beautiful oceanfront malecón (boardwalk) it is still, as is all of Baja, a desert climate – hot, sunny, dry.
The main campground in La Paz is supposed to be very nice and around 25.00/night. We looked around and found a gorgeous Airbnb for less than that – and in cities we prefer to Airbnb if we can find an inexpensive rate. For us to get a more local experience we like to live among the locals.
Granted, an Airbnb can be a skewed perspective – although our little home for the week was a small studio, we were clearly in one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city, set among large mansions on top of a hill. So not exactly a true middle-class local experience but more likely among the business owners and politicians of the city.
I didn’t really appreciate La Paz for the first few days we were there – maybe even not our entire first visit to the city. We were there twice, once, for Carnaval and the second time, to catch the ferry to the mainland
Sometimes, it takes me a few days to find the little nooks and crannies of a city that define its heart. The first time we went to La Paz was for Carnaval. We were told it was the biggest Carnaval celebration in Baja and we were pretty excited about it. Honestly, I wish it hadn’t been my first impression and that we had skipped Carnaval. I liked La Paz better without it. Most of the malecón was filled with vendors and traffic.
The parade (which identically ran for several nights) was fun and colorful with brilliant floats and music but very short. This year’s Carnaval had a theme of greek mythology and the interpretations were hilarious. The city wasn’t itself during Carnaval. It was full of tourists and congested with noise and dirt but without the party atmosphere to make up for it. We thought it was a strange vibe, really. At night there were concerts on the main stage but it seemed as if we were the only people dancing and really enjoying ourselves. Which, at one point, made us feel as if we were drawing too much attention to ourselves and quickly halted the small bit of fun we were having.
It helped that we were in great company. We have been very lucky to meet so many other travelers on our trip that are just fun and amazing people. In La Paz, we hung out with Tim and Victoria of www.totaltravelers.com. They are experienced travelers and in Baja, were wandering around in their HUGE home on wheels. These two are a riot – young, outrageous and super fun. They enjoyed Carnaval more than we did but it may have been the Micheladas.
Mainly, Carnaval in La Paz is an event for families with kids. I don’t know why it came as such a shock to us that Carnaval was a downright carnival, complete with kiddie rides, carnival food and shoot the plastic duck booths.
When Carnaval ended, we really started to enjoy the city. A lot. La Paz, like so many of the cities in Mexico, has incredible street art and a pulsing hipster artist community. It is a toned-down city, all of its life exists under the surface, but we found our spots. There is an organic farmer’s market on the street twice a week that sets up in front of our favorite coffee shop, Doce Cuarenta.
The real magic of La Paz is in the beaches north of the city. They seem to go on forever, each one different and more beautiful than the previous. El Tecolote was our favorite but Balandra Beach recently won an award for the best in Mexico. I’ve never seen such blue, clear water, not even in Cabo. There are endless opportunities for walks, kayaking, paddleboarding, whale watching, snorkeling, you name it.
By far the most memorable experience was when took a boat to Espiritu Island and went snorkeling. A group of sea lions joined us and played in front of us in the water. I’ve never been so glad in my life to have taken my gopro into the water. I am notorious for having the right gear but not having it on me when I need it.
La Paz was the first place in Mexico we thought to ourselves that we could probably live. It wasn’t the last and it has fallen further down the list as we have gone along but it is definitely a place I would love to go back and visit.
Oh! I almost forgot – the La Paz sunsets from the malecón…make my mouth water.