This Baja California Sur Destination Is the Perfect Winter Escape
Step aside, Los Cabos because the laid-back capital of Baja California Sur makes an even more postcard-perfect getaway. Tucked inside a protected bay near the southern end of the peninsula, a waterfront malecón, restaurants, galleries and stylish hotels all serve as major draws to La Paz, Mexico. The city also makes an excellent base for day trips to nearby sights like former silver mining town El Triunfo, Pueblo Mágico Todos Santos and UNESCO-listed Espíritu Santo Island in the Sea of Cortez. Adventure awaits here too—and across the greater municipality—from kayaking, scuba diving and surfing to snorkeling with whale sharks. Here are five reasons to visit La Paz this winter.
Boutique Hotels With Local Charm
Thanks to a slew of new hotel openings and historic restoration projects, travelers will be spoiled for choice when deciding where to stay in the region. For a luxury resort experience 10 minutes from downtown La Paz, Costa Baja Resort and Spa wows guests with its Sea of Cortez views, multiple dining concepts and 18-hole golf course, while newcomer Baja Club offers bohemian-chic accommodations and a stylish rooftop bar overlooking the malecón and bay. An hour’s drive away in Todos Santos, reimagined retreat Rancho Pescadero near Cerritos Beach boasts an apothecary garden, holistic spa and wellness center and strikingly design-forward oceanfront casitas. Finally, the Guaycura Boutique Hotel Beach Club & Spa balances a historic stay in the center of Todos Santos with access to its sister property, El Faro Beach Club & Spa. If more rugged pursuits appeal, check out adventure camp Rancho Cacachilas. Its wild and rocky setting 40 minutes southeast of La Paz perfectly lends itself to hiking, mountain biking and mule rides along with artisanal workshops like beekeeping.
Contemporary Culinary Scene
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Long famous for its fresh seafood and simple taco stands, a growing number of prominent Mexican chefs have brought exciting new concepts to BCS and rapidly elevated the region’s now burgeoning culinary scene. For superb shellfish and Sonoran- and American-style steaks, Tatanka Baja Fish & Steakhouse by Carlos Valdez is a must-visit in La Paz. Another not-to-miss gem is NEMI, an intimate space helmed by Alex Villagómez (who spent 10 years as a chef at famous Mexico City restaurant Pujol) with innovative dishes like chocolate clams and duck mole. Additional highlights include mezcal bar La Miserable and taco spot Hambrusia, whose menu spans lots of quirky creations, including a chef’s whim omakase. With its bucolic garden setting on the edge of Todos Santos, Javier Plascencia’s indoor-outdoor restaurant Jazamango, which showcases the best seasonal produce from local farmers and fishermen, has been a staple for several years.
Adventures on Land and Sea
Whether traveling as a family, with friends or as a couple, La Paz, Mexico is the perfect jumping-off point for all kinds of adventures—being located on the Sea of Cortez means aquatic explorations are usually front and center. Between November and April, whale sharks visit the bay to feed, and one of the best local outfitters to swim with them is Baja Adventure Co. Their team also runs snorkeling tours around nearby UNESCO World Natural Heritage site and National Park Espíritu Santo Island. Over in La Ventana, Nomad Kite Surf School offers lessons, but back on dry land, there are hiking and mountain biking trails to explore too. Strap in at the dunes El Mogote and go sandboarding or give ziplining a whirl in El Triunfo. Surfers should paddle out at Todos Santos breaks, while art lovers can tour the galleries in town.
History, Art and Culture
An ancient Spanish port, La Paz got its name back in 1596 but wasn’t declared the peninsula’s capital until almost 250 years later. Surprisingly, mining is also associated with the area—prospectors from Mexico and the United States set up camp in the nearby town of El Triunfo hoping to strike it rich on gold and silver during the late 1800s. And while Todos Santos has been a mecca for artists since the 1960s with a great selection of galleries today, a thriving arts scene also entices travelers to La Paz where colorful street art projects can be spotted around the capital. Look for new murals and sculptures along the malecón and while walking around downtown. Home to a permanent exhibit on the history of Baja California Sur, rotating installations and works by celebrated Mexican artists, the renovated Museo de Arte de Baja California Sur is well worth a visit.
Dreamy Desert Landscape
With its untamed landscape giving way to white-sand beaches and bays with crystal-clear blue waters, nowhere feels less traveled or as strikingly beautiful than the southern half of the Baja California peninsula. Just 30 minutes from La Paz, secluded Balandra Beach is considered one of the finest in Mexico alongside other local favorites Playa El Tecolote and Playa Pichilingue. Add giant cardon cacti, surf breaks, sunsets and 17th-century Spanish architecture to this mix of flatlands, sierras and deserts, and you’re left with stunning views, endless adventures and new experiences at every turn. Despite the promise of getting off the beaten path here, driving is made easy thanks to newly renovated stretches like Highway 19, which means it only takes an hour to cross the peninsula between La Paz and Todos Santos in either direction. November through April are the best months to visit, when daytime temperatures sit in a sweet spot around the low- to mid-80s.
Keri Bridgwater is a freelance writer covering travel and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Marie Claire, Matador Network and InsideHook, among other outlets and publications.