Set your sights southward and pencil in your next family vacation in La Paz, Mexico. Located in Baja California Sur, La Paz offers year-round warm weather, animal encounters around every corner and some of the best fish tacos you’ve ever tasted. Read on for tips on where to stay and play in this cozy corner of Mexico.
photo: La Paz
Flights into San Jose del Cabo are plentiful from the U.S. When you arrive, rent a car at the airport to give you tons of freedom to explore the area, or grab a shuttle from the airport to La Paz if you’d rather not drive. It will take you about two hours to get to La Paz from San Jose del Cabo.
Southern California families can take advantage of direct flights into La Paz when using the Cross Border Xpress (CBX). With the CBX you can park in San Diego and cross the border into Mexico via a bridge into the Tijuana International Airport. This border crossing requires a ticket which costs $30/person round trip (there are discounts for family members traveling together). Once you cross the border, domestic flights from Tijuana to La Paz are plentiful, inexpensive and include luggage (ideal if you are flying with golf clubs or fishing gear).
photo: Kate Loweth
Play in La Paz
When planning your La Paz getaway you may be surprised to learn that there are no all-inclusive hotels there, a stark contrast to La Paz’s cousin to the south, Cabo San Lucus. The reason is simple: prohibiting all-inclusive properties means that visitors to La Paz are encouraged to leave their hotel property to truly explore all of the outdoor adventure that the area offers.
Head to downtown La Paz and stroll along the Malecón. This five-kilometer waterfront promenade draws families playing in the sand, strolling sweethearts and exercising locals. Admire the many sculptures along the way that tell the story of La Paz, from romping dolphins to the giant pearl—a nod to the area’s pearl trade history. Spread out a picnic blanket under one of the thatched-roof palapas that line the sand while the kids play in the nautical-themed playground nearby.
As you stroll around town in search of a cafe or lunch spot, you’ll undoubtedly encounter the gorgeous murals that cover many of the buildings. In early 2017, a collective of artists descended on La Paz as part of Ciudad Mural La Paz, a community project to bring color to the community spaces. The artists researched the town through meetings with local community organizations and incorporated the city’s marine preservation history into their artistic designs.
Where to Eat
One thing’s for sure, there’s no shortage of excellent dining establishments in downtown La Paz. A rustic favorite is Rancho Viejo where the taco is king. With two locations to choose from, opt for the one on the Malecón for views of the ocean or the second location which is literally open 24/7. Try the patata rellena if you are looking for a non-taco option.
Ask any local about the late-night favorite food of La Paz and you’ll be surprised to learn that it involves a hot dog and not a taco! Hates (pronounced “ha-tays”) are the street food of the town and locals are fiercely opinionated about which stand makes the best hates. This tasty treat features sausages that are wrapped in bacon, grilled on the flat top, put on a steamed bun and topped with grilled onions, mayo/cream mixture, mustard, peppers and more.
Some of the most gorgeous white sand beaches can be found in and around La Paz. Playa Balandra is a local favorite made famous by “El Hongo,” a rock formation said to look like a mushroom. Calm waters, plenty of beach and shallow waters make this the perfect spot for a family day in the sun. Rent kayaks from vendors on the beach and enjoy ice-cold coconuts sold in the parking lot.
photo: La Paz
Located on the Sea of Cortez, this area was dubbed “the world’s aquarium” by Jacques Cousteau due to it’s plentiful marine life. Bonus, Baja California Sur is super narrow so you also have access to the Pacific side of the peninsula and double the opportunities for animal encounters.
Leave the planning up to the experts at Maar Experiences and book one of their whale shark, gray whale or sea lion experiences. From pick up at your hotel to stops along the way to experience dining at local ranches, everything will be planned for you. Gray whale viewing is best from January through March and takes place in Magdalena Bay, about a 3.5 hour drive from La Paz. Small boats head out to find these massive creatures who come to the warm waters of the bay to give birth. Stop for a delicious seafood lunch before being returned to your hotel.
If you have a dream to get into the water with some massive sea creatures, La Paz is the place for you. Tours leave from La Paz to head to nearby Isla Espiritu Santu to swim with playful sea lions and massive whale sharks. While floatation devices are available, kids need to be good swimmers to make the most of these in-water tours. Friendly guides swim along with you and will take photos and GoPro videos so you can show off your adventure to friends at home.
Families looking for immersive experiences can look into the various tours offered by RED Travel Mexico and Todos Santos Eco Adventures. With different themes like sea turtle ecology and whale shark research, families can get an even deeper understanding of these local creatures and memories to last a lifetime.
The quaint town of Todos Santos, located in between Cabo and La Paz, is a “Pueblo Magico” or magical town that’s worth a day trip. Recognized for its cultural and historical significance, visitors will enjoy walking the cobblestone streets to shop for Talavera pottery and exploring the town’s mission. Rent a bike from one of the local bike shops to explore the area on two wheels and then eat at one of the many restaurants. Our favorite is La Casita Tapas and Wine Bar—offering fresh seafood dishes, local beef and vegetables grown in the restaurant’s garden out back, all with an international flair courtesy of Chef Sergio Rivera’s many travels.
For a taste of the area’s long mining history, head to the mountain town of El Triunfo. The Museo Ruta de Plata is the best place to start. Watch the short informational video in the interpretive center to learn how this was once one of the most populated areas of Baja California. Kids will like the interactive museum where they can simulate an explosion in a mine and learn interesting facts about mining life. Walk a short distance to view La Romana, the massive chimney that local lore says was built by Gustave Eiffel (although there is no proof of this), and then head up the hillside to view the town from above.
Hungry travelers should definitely grab a meal at Bar El Minero, located in the courtyard of the museum. Try the mixed platter of house-made sausages, bread, cheeses and condiments, followed by a root beer float.
photo: CostaBaja Resort and Spa
Where to Stay
For a resort that offers loads of amenities for families and a gorgeous beach setting, the CostaBaja Resort and Spa is the ideal location for your La Paz vacation. Just a five minute drive from downtown La Paz, the resort is located on an exclusive marina with its own beach access. Spend your days lounging by the pool with swim-up bar, or walk down to get some time in the sand.
Families can request special amenities like a baby bath tub and step stool for little ones to make their stay more comfortable. The Super Suite is perfectly sized to accommodate families and offers the best sunset views on the property from the room’s massive deck. On-site restaurants, shuttle service into La Paz and access to the CostaBaja Beach Club make this an excellent choice for vacationing families.
Good to Know
- At most locations in and around La Paz, you can use either U.S. dollars or Mexican pesos. However, if you pay with dollars, your change will always be in pesos.
- La Paz is on mountain standard time.
- La Paz uses the same outlets as the U.S., so no need to bring electrical adaptors.
Photos by the author unless otherwise noted.
This trip was paid for by the La Paz Tourism Board but all opinions belong to the author.