La Paz is the largest city in southern Baja and is a rich and eclectic mix of modern cosmopolitan and old town Mexico. It is a city much like many others all over the world, but there is something unique about La Paz. The Malecon is scattered with a plethora of coffee shops, restaurants, bars, hotels and plenty of places to rent an abundance of equipment to play on the water. The sea is surprisingly aqua and calm, it’s hard to believe that just around the peninsula lies an astronomical port that ferries both goods and people to and from the mainland.
After making the trek down the Baja past some of the most secluded beaches and camping spots, La Paz provides a city break with all the amenities of rejoining civilization. Modern shops selling familiar brands offer the chance to wander the city with the slow meandering shopping pleasure you may do on any given day in your ordinary life. Just after you have slipped into that comfortable feeling of familiarity, you turn a corner and almost run directly into a sweet little taco stall and remember that you are in fact in Mexico as all the local culture comes flooding back.
The streets are bustling, full of locals and tourists alike and if your Spanish language skills leave a little to be desired (like ours) you can take consolation in the fact that many locals will be able to speak enough English to help you out. If it is a native English conversation you are after, it won’t take you long to find a fellow tourist to sit back and enjoy a cold cerveza or two whilst you share some fascinating travel stories. La Paz is a melting hot pot of cultures and you will find more than fellow English speakers, it is not uncommon to overhear dialogues taking place in French, German or Portuguese.
The fact that La Paz is so easily accessible by air, land and sea adds to its multiculturalism and whilst that makes it feel magical, it also bumps up prices. In comparison to many other parts of the world it certainly is cheaper, but the fact remains that even a campground in La Paz will set you back around 400 pesos (now sure, that might sound cheap, but it’s a good three times the price of anywhere else in the Baja, or Mexico for that matter). In light of this, there are few little spots where you can enjoy a camp spot for free. Many of the beaches out of town are perfect for a little private getaway. You may have to negotiate with a restaurant owner to pay a small fee, or buy a few drinks at the very least, but it is certainly a far reduced cost.
Tecolote beach lies about 30 km out of the city, driving past enormous resorts and golfing villages as well as the port. Here you will find a long stretch of white sand and pristine turquoise waters. If you are a keen swimmer you may be slightly disappointed as the water is only knee deep for a long way, which makes the sight of the large ferries even more amazing. The crystal clear water is excellent for snorkelling and taking respite from the scorching heat and if you happen to own (or hire) any toys such as a paddle board or jet ski, there is enough sea for everyone. A small smattering of bars and restaurants will ensure you are thoroughly hydrated and fed throughout the day, as will the local merchants parading their goods as they walk along the sand. Come sunset, local fisherman show their faces and row their small but efficient boats out to lay their nets for their nightly catch, some may even head out with a hand line or spear gun in tow and you will be amazed at how quickly they return with enough fish for a feast. Tecolate is the perfect beach to set up a tent and enjoy free waterfront accommodation, but I must issue one warning. As calm and pleasant as the beach is during the day, the evening wind will provide an ongoing battle. Perhaps it was only the night we were there or it is a common La Paz thing, but if you are a light sleeper you may struggle.
Wherever you choose to sleep, La Paz is an incredible city. Much like the rest of its beautiful country, it is home kind and generous locals full of stories and advice. There are plenty of fellow travelers to enjoy conversation and plenty of activities to keep you occupied long into the warm breezy evenings.