The Most Essential Travel Guide to La Paz, Mexico

Have you ever visited a city that you instantly fell in love with? That was the case for me with La Paz, Mexico.

I was traveling to Mexico with my partner and his family for a wedding of family friends. The wedding was at the Secrets Resort in San Jose del Cabo, but we spent four days by ourselves in La Paz before we travelled further south.

I wanted to make this essential travel guide to La Paz for anyone considering visiting La Paz for the first time. Read on for why we chose to La Paz out of all the cities in Baja California Sur, what to do, where to eat, things you need to know before you visit, and more.

WHY WE CHOSE LA PAZ, MEXICO

As a travel blogger, I’m always curious why people decide to go certain places at all and I wish we talked more about it!

Here’s how we ended up in La Paz in the first place:

I was visiting Mexico with Christian as his plus one at a destination resort wedding in San Jose del Cabo. Neither of us had stayed at an all-inclusive resort before and we kind of suspected it wouldn’t be the best glimpse into the local culture. 

Knowing we also wouldn’t have as much flexibility with our schedule to sightsee and explore once his family arrived, we decided to go four days early and stay somewhere that had all of the attractions we normally love to see: great food, easy access to explore, a chance to experience local culture, and places we could enjoy being outdoors. 

We didn’t want to have to take another flight, for environmental and financial reasons, so we limited our search to places we could comfortably reach by public transportation. 

In my searches in the Baja California Sur region of Mexico, La Paz kept coming to the top as a place that offered all of those things. 

In short, we found everything we were looking for and the first four days of our trip offered some of the most amazing Mexican seafood dishes and drinks I could’ve hoped for in a neighborhood that was incredibly walkable, picturesque, and that gave me plenty of chances to practice my rusty Spanish. πŸ‡²πŸ‡½ 

Sound like your kind of vibes? 

THE BEST WAY TO GET TO LA PAZ FROM THE LOS CABOS AIRPORT

Routes to La Paz from the airport – our bus took the highlight route over Hwy 1

If you’re coming to La Paz from the Los Cabos Airport, I recommend taking a local bus or shuttle. 

Here’s why:
– It’s a more affordable
– it’s a more eco-friendly option than a private taxi or flight to the La Paz airport
– you get a chance to take in the scenery on the beautiful drive

We ended up using Ecobajatours shuttle services from the airport which was about $28 per person. They happen to have eco-friendly tours in La Paz too, although we didn’t do one so I can’t speak to those. 

We had trouble figuring out where to buy bus tickets and catch the bus, and I recommend buying your tickets online in advance so you get more details on who to look for. 

Once you get your bags from baggage claim, keep walking until you’re outside. You’ll see a few bars in front of a series of bus stalls where people are holding signs for hotel transfers. The busses, shuttles, and taxis are all right around here. 

After a few inquiries, we were told to head to stall 5 where we found a driver from Ecobajatours. 

They took our names and told us the bus would leave in an hour later, so we decided to pass the time at one of the airport bars with Palomas and nachos. Eventually we boarded the bus and drove to the other side of the airport to another terminal to purchase our tickets inside.

Then we were off on a winding route through the desert mountain range, via Hwy. 1 on the east coast of the Baja peninsula. We stopped twice along the way to drop passengers off before we got off made it to the La Paz Malecón bus station, about 4 hours later. 

On the way back, we purchased tickets at the bus station on a local bus was scheduled, which was a full sized coach bus. Tickets were about $18/pp on this bus from La Paz to San José del Cabo. 

If we had flown, we would have completely missed out on the seeing the desert and mountains roll by. I didn’t realize how mountainous the Baja California Sur region really is! 

WHERE TO EAT IN LA PAZ (The 4 Places We Tried More Than Once)

If you enjoy seafood, you can eat until your hearts content in La Paz. We had delicious meals for four days straight, and short of one spot with weak guacamole, there were no misses!

In fact, there were four places we visited more than once on our short visit. Here are the four restarants we LOVED in La Paz and three we would revisit if we had more time:

Doce Cuarenta

This is your go-to coffee shop and cafe. We’re talking cold brew, espressos, pastries, and other bakery goods. We were four blocks away from Doce Cuarenta and lucky enough to visit on our first morning, and took advantage of this awesome stop four days in a row.

Address: Calle Francisco I. Madero 1240, Zona Central, 23000 La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico

Hours: 7am-10pm, daily

Go for: coffees of all kinds, great snacks/light food, cute La Paz souvenirs

Mc-Fisher

Fresh (mostly seafood) tacos with some simple twists. Absolutely incredible prices, especially considering the quality of the food. Tacos were between $1-2 USD with toppings you could add yourself to taste, as is popular in the area. You know it’s good because of how many locals that were eating there.

Address: José María Morelos y Pavón 965, Zona Central, 23020 La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico

Hours of operation: 9am-5:45pm, closed Mondays & Tuesdays

Go for: Maya Burro taco or any seafood taco; try the Tamarindo (a drink made from Tamarind, sugar & water

La Bestia

A nice sit-down restaurant on the Malecon, great for people watching. Cocktails are awesome and I was still craving the sashimi weeks later.

Address: 16 de Septiembre 7, Zona Comercial, 23000 La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico

Hours: 8am – 11pm, daily

Go for: The Spicy Hibiscus and California Smoke cocktails, sashimi and ceviche plates

Harker Board CO

They have a second story open air bar & restaurant that is great for taking in La Paz scenes over the Malecon. The drinks we got were delicious (and straw-free). It’s also a hostel that offers bike & SUP board rentals, so check them out if you’re looking for a fun place to stay in the middle of all the action.

Address: Paseo Alvaro Obregon 299, Zona Central, 23000 La Paz, B.C.S, Mexico

Hours: 12pm-12am daily, except Tuesdays 4pm-12pm

Go for: Pina Coladas and Mojitos

Other restaurants we only visited once but would definitely recommend:

Nim

A Mexican/Asian Fusion restaurant that’s on the fine dining end of the scale.

Address: Revolución de 1910 #1110, Zona Central, 23000 La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico

Hours: 1-10:30pm daily; closed Sundays

Go for: ceviche and a nice seafood dinner when you need a break from the more traditional Mexican flavors.

ceviche at Nim

Mariscos El Toro Güero

This is a spot that draws locals and tourists alike to a large restaurant with some fantastic, and generous, dishes. I got the tuna sashimi and it was definitely enough for two. Truly delicious.

Address: Idelfonso Green sn, Centro, 23400 San José del Cabo, B.C.S., Mexico

Hours of operation: 9am-9pm, daily

Go for: great Mexican dishes at a great price, when you’re really hungry.

Mariscos Los Laureles

Lovely, more traditional ceviche that’s definitely worth trying, with a great location on the Malecon with the fresh ocean breeze, a complimentary feature that’s fun for a first meal in La Paz.

Address: Paseo Alvaro Obregon, Esterito, 23020 La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico

Hours: 11am-9pm, daily

Go for: people watching or if you want to catch a quick meal on your way out of the bus station.

SEE ALL MY RECOMMENDATIONS ON MY INTERACTIVE GOOGLE MAP

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WHERE TO STAY IN LA PAZ, MEXICO

You can see the ocean in the distance over the roofs of other houses from our Airbnb window.

We opted for an Airbnb this time on our visit to La Paz, Mexico! We got lucky too. Our airbnb was perfect for our four-day adventure. Here’s why we loved it:

🌡 Lots of space: an outdoor patio shared with one other apartment; a kitchenette and dining area for cooking (though you won’t want to with the food nearby)

🏫 Just blocks from the ocean, Malecón, the city square, art museum, cafes, taco shops, and bus station – everything you need 

🌴 Within 30 minutes of Playa Balandra and Playa Tecolote

🚌 A bus ride away from San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas

πŸ’΅ It was very reasonably priced for a private studio apartment, at about $150 for 4 nights 

Check it out on Airbnb here if you are looking for a place to stay!

If you’re looking at a map of La Paz, search for accommodations around the Zona Comercial – we were on the northeast side of the neighborhood about two blocks from the beach and thought the location was ideal.

A google map screenshot of the Zona Comercial in La Paz. We stayed near the green flags furthest northeast.

WHAT TO DO IN LA PAZ MEXICO

TRY THE LOCAL FOOD – Honestly, that’s the main thing we did and I would do it again if I could. There isn’t a huge street food scene but you can definitely find some snacks along the boardwalk. There are enough worthy eateries to keep you busy for weeks though. This is a shoe-in destination for pescatarians and taco lovers. Ceviche is easy to find too and every restaurant we tried made it differently.

HIT UP THE BEACHES – The two nearest beaches are a 20-min or so taxi to Playa Tecolote and Playa Balandra. Balandra is a UNESCO Heritage site and at least during COVID, is capping beach visitors at 200 a day. This means you have to be there by 7am or earlier, even on weekdays, to get a spot. We arrived at 7:30am and were too late, but we couldn’t find a taxi sooner and there weren’t any Ubers available that early.

Fortunately, Tecolote was open with plenty of beautiful beach space, though none of the restaurants opened until around 10:30. There were several boats running tours from Tecolote to Balandra so if you miss the chance to enter by car you might be able to visit this way.

SNORKELING AND DIVING – We weren’t able to make diving work for us this trip, but we heard lots of great things about the diving and snorkeling in the area, especially during seasons of animal migrations. Certain rays, seals, sharks, and whales pass through the Sea of Cortez through the year and Isla Espiritu Santo, a popular dive sight and another UNESCO site, is visible from Tecolote and easily accessible from La Paz.

ART MUSEUM – There’s a free art museum on the city square. It’s small but worth visiting on a hot afternoon when you need a break from the heat.

ENJOY THE MALECON – The city boardwalk is a city hot-spot where you’ll find a lot of the action. It’s great for people-watching and taking in the ocean views as you walk from place to place. Definitely worth planning a sunset or sunrise stroll!

WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU VISIT LA PAZ

The Baja California Sur region is a desert! I guess I didn’t really realize that when I went and it kind of surprised me.

The sun is extremely strong. Don’t forget your sunscreen. Bring protective clothing – sunhat or cover ups for the beach to protect your skin. Try to stay out of the direct sun between 10-4pm to avoid the strongest UV rays. If you haven’t been in the sun much recently – TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY.

You can’t swim in the ocean on many beaches along the southern borders due to the strength of the riptides. If you’re heading down to Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo after La Paz, maybe sure to visit a beach in La Paz like Tecolote or Balandra if you want a proper beach day.

It’s not as cheap as you might expect. I think prices were somewhat close to prices for similar places at home in Indiana, probably a little bit less expensive. Some people have an idea that all of Mexico is a super budget friendly country and it can be, but the B.C.S region definitely has food, drinks, shopping, and tours that can blow your budget if you’re not careful.

Scuba diving is great here but from what we could tell, it’s more for the wildlife than the scenery. We didn’t dive this trip so I can’t attest to this personally. We chose not to because it seemed like we were in the off-season for most of the wildlife. My recommendation is to plan ahead and visit during a time where the animals you’re hoping to see while diving are most likely to be swimming around.

The tap water in La Paz is not safe to drink. That means unless you have a Lifestraw or something similar to clean your own water, you’re probably going to be using plastic water bottles. We tried to get larger jugs to refill our smaller bottles when possible, but it’s a sustainability challenge here as in any place without potable water.

US TO PESO CURRENCY CONVERSION TRICK:

If going from peso to dollar, drop a zero & divide by two for a close estimate.

If something is 200 pesos, you can drop a zero (which gives you 20) and then divide by 2 (which gives you 10). Thus 200 pesos is about 10 dollars. 500 pesos is about 25 dollars. It’s a quick way to ballpark prices when you’re out and about without pulling out your phone for the calculator.

If you eat seafood, La Paz, Mexico is your spot. I am pescatarian and I felt like I ate some of the most consistently delicious seafood in my life here, up with Portugal and Japan.

Major credit cards are accepted most businesses, but it’s still helpful to have some cash on hand. I recommend withdrawing from an ATM at the airport upon arrival. We used pesos or credit cards the entire trip except for tips when we were at the resort in Cabo.

Many restaurants aren’t open for dinner. I can’t remember which blog I came across that shared the tidbit that lunch is more popular in La Paz than dinner. In my experience, we found plenty of places that were open at our regular dinner times, but there were also a good amount that closed after lunch or by 6pm ish. Take advantage of breakfast and lunch. It’s definitely not as much of a late-night party scene city as Los Cabos have a reputation for being.

ECO-FRIENDLY TIPS FOR LA PAZ

A few things you can do for a more eco-friendly trip to La Paz, Mexico, a gem of a Mexican city on the Sea of Cortez:

  • Instead of flying into the La Paz airport, take a public bus or shuttle bus from the Cabo airport where you’ll likely fly into if coming from outside of Mexico
  • Be extra careful to dispose of your waste properly and keep it off of the beaches and out of the oceans
  • Its not too difficult to eat vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian
  • Many places don’t give you straws, but it’s still a good idea to ask for no straw if you can remember
  • If you’re going scuba diving or snorkeling, consider looking for reef-safe sunscreens
  • On the people side of things, look for local hosts and tour guides to support, and leave reviews if you enjoyed your experiences
  • As of June 2021, masks were still require when walking outside and a majority of people obliged. Police officers would remind people who were not wearing them if they were walking along the Malecon so bring a reusable map and respect the rules of your host city while visiting

HELPFUL WORDS TO KNOW IN SPANISH

You don’t have to be great but a little effort goes a long way. Here are some basics that will help you get around, order food, and generally survive.

  • Hello – Hola
  • Goodbye – Adiós
  • Excuse me – Perdoname, Perdon,
  • How are you – [informal] ¿Cómo estás? [formal] ¿Cómo está? [to multiple people] ¿Cómo están?
  • Thank you – Gracias
  • Please – Por favor
  • yes –
  • no – No
  • Where is the bathroom? – Dónde está el baño
  • I would like _____ – Quisiera
  • Check, please. – La cuenta, por favor

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The Most Essential Travel Guide to La Paz, Mexico