CostaBaja Beach Club and La Paz beach, located 20-minutes
of downtown La Paz.
Take Pleasure in La Paz
By Richard Carroll
Photography: Halina Kubalski
ake hold of your significant other, expand your horizons beyond the
usual predictable holiday hangouts, and head south down the rugged Baja
Peninsula to La
Paz where the Sea of Cortez offers travelers enough adventure to
satisfy the most jaded psyche.
For years, upscale Los Cabos, tucked away at the tip
of the peninsula, has over shadowed La Paz, nudging her into the role
of the shy, neglected, second cousin. Los Cabos, big, booming, and brash,
one of Mexicos most trendy and pricey destinations, is boosted
by a continual flow of overfed cruise ship passengers who pop in for
a few hours, browse the shops, enjoy a margarita or two, and then tender
back to the ships.
The Old Man and The Sea sculpture on the lengthy
La Paz malecon or
seaside walkway. The art refers to Hemingway's story of Santiago,
a fisherman in search of a bit of luck.
Meanwhile, La Paz just up the road a piece has been
quietly enjoying a more traditional Baja life, a pleasure that Los Cabos
enjoyed some 25-years ago when dogs would sleep the day away along the
main drag, and taxi cab drivers smiled. Fortunately, veteran Baja aficionados
have long been aware that there is more to Baja than Los Cabos.
Tiring of her Baja status, La Paz, 151 miles north of
Los Cabos, with great zest tossed her library glasses into the sea,
slipped on a Salinas Bikini, and with a touch of fresh lip glow presented
herself with a new demeanor, while passionately enjoying a double shot
of Hacienda de Chihuahua Tequila topped off with a spicy fish taco.
La Paz finally caught the eye of Aeromexico, who said, La Paz
has been overlooked, like an impatient wallflower. The timing is perfect
to launch direct flights to the city.
Direct flights or not, this Southern Baja city, with
the welcoming feel of a smaller town, has always had a strong base of
crusty fishermen who haul their boats to La Paz, and with their trusty
fishing poles, ice chests, and stashes of beer, test the fertile waters,
gleefully offering more tall tales than a telenovela, while secretly
hoping that La Paz, and the Sea of Cortez, remain forever a best-kept
The CostaBaja Resort and Spa, 20 minutes south of
downtown La Paz,
hosts sailors from around the world with their 200-slip marina.
Sport fishing remains, but La Paz is also the perfect
getaway to experience rural Baja with a camera in hand, and enjoy its
great outback of sandy isolated beaches, splendid stretches of gorgeous
coastline, and raw nature virtually untouched by development, and showcased
by a natural aquarium with more life than a Cabo disco.
One of John Steinbecks much loved destinations,
La Paz and the Sea around her come to brilliant life in his The Log
From the Sea of Cortez, published in 1941, describing the day by
day expedition and adventures on a sardine boat with his friend, biologist
Ed Ricketts. In 1947 Steinbecks imagination returned to the Sea
of Cortez when he published The Pearl, a classic novella inspired
by a La Paz folk tale.
The Sea of Cortez
The Sea of Cortez is lucid and sparkling, brilliant
sunsets linger on the horizon, and the scent of wild sage and rare plant
life abounds. Most excellent, as Steinbeck noted, the authentic working
town of La Paz is the real deal.
Founded by Hernan Cortes in 1535, and once a hangout
for pirates and anyone else in search of a peso, La Paz, the capital
of the southern half of the peninsula, is laid-back Baja
with a population of some 300,000 souls, where affectation is unknown.
This city on the shores of the Sea of Cortez has long been noted for
its fine climate featuring 360-sun filled days a year on which to enjoy
the impressive full-service marinas, spectacular kayaking, and world-class
diving. The Pacenos, as the residents of La Paz are called, feel as
if they are on the brink of being discovered assisted by the addition
of a cruise ship port, ideal for smaller ships such as the Azamaras
Journey and Quest, both hosting only 680 passengers.
Similar to Mazatlan, La Paz has an impressive three-mile-long
Alvaro Obregon Malecon or waterfront promenade where Pacenos walk their
dogs, sit and gossip in the evenings, and enjoy the offshore breeze
and delicious ice popsicles.
Adorned with artsy sculptures, the malecon extends along
the seaside past hotels, shops, seafood restaurants, and the family-style
Bismarkcito Taco Restaurant with its small wooden tables, earthy out-of-tune
trio, and chilled beer. They proudly claim fish tacos originated here.
True or not, their fish tacos are a local treasure.
Plaza Constitucion, the heart and soul of the city,
is home to the neoclassic Cathedral de Nuestra Senora de La Paz, constructed
by Dominican priests in 1861, featuring twin bell towers that rise above
the plaza like sentinels on guard.
The Sea of Cortez is one of North America's top
kayaking, diving, snokeling and wildlife.
The sea, a foremost attraction, water tours thrive.
The setting of crystal clear water and odd-shaped islands, is ideal
for the entire family, offering scuba diving, kayaking, overnight camping,
and with a little luck, a glimpse of manta rays, whale sharks, and dolphins.
Sea Lions living on one of the La Paz 37 islands
An island in the Sea of Cortez, La Paz
Espiritu Santo Island is designed for overnight
stays complete with a chef
One local company, Fun Baja, invites visitors to join
them for an incredible array of adventures, visiting some of the 37
nearby islands and islets including Espiritu Santo, home to a large
sea lion colony where guests can slip into the sea and join them for
a swim. They greet the boats and snorkelers with a remarkable clamor
that sounds like a foghorn with a sore throat.
Water play in the Sea of Cortez.
The Fun Baja fleet with fully equipped boats, and seasoned
skippers who grew up on the Sea of Cortez and could swim before they
could walk, recognize the extraordinary Sea of Cortez nature sanctuaries,
contributing informative insights to the area, pointing out sea life
with an experienced eye.
Fun Baja is based at the double basin, 200-slip, CostaBaja
Resort & Spa, 20-minutes south of downtown. The resort, tucked in
amongst ancient volcanoes, offers convenient access to the Sea of Cortez,
catering to the worldly boat crowd and water sports enthusiasts on the
prowl. Yachts and sail boats from all parts of the world relax at anchor,
their passengers taking pleasure in a Five-Star stylish property equal
to any marina property on the peninsula, bordered by the first Gary
Player-designed golf course in Mexico, a full-service spa, Beach Club
with a separate swimming pool, and creative dining in their restaurant
named (what else?) Steinbecks.
Another dining prospect is found at Las Tres Virgenes
in La Paz, honored by Conde Nast as One of the 100 Best Restaurants
in Mexico. Owner and chef, Jesus Chavez Partida, explains, I
serve Southern Baja Cuisine, meaning fresh seafood and local seasonal
products making use of herbs, olive oil, a touch of chilies, and Mesquite
wood to add a special flavor. Upon entering the restaurant, the
ambience is reminiscent of the 1940s, and with a little imagination
one can picture Bogart, Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts, sitting at the bar
deep in their cups.
North of town, La Pazs newest entree is the upscale
24-room, Spanish-owned, La Posada Hotel and Beach Club, overlooking
the Sea of Cortez. Designed for adults, La Posada has brought in Jose
Luis Uribe, an award-winning Spanish chef, keen to create a memorable
The Hotel California in Todos Santos, 1/12-hour
drive south of La Paz.
The hotel was made famous by the Eagles song.
For those eager to explore the area, Todos Santos is
a one-hour drive south of La Paz. The Mision de Santa Rosa de Todos
Santos founded in 1723, and the Hotel California, dating to 1948, are
a centerpiece Sorry to say, the Eagles never set foot in Todos
Santos, but the hotels name remains magical, and the song, Hotel
California, can be heard throughout the day.
Hotel California dining patio.
Brick to brick along the one main road are art galleries,
boutiques, restaurants, and typical tourist shops. Some 20 fine artists
have settled in, along with potters and writers. Journalist, Pamela
Cobb said, Todos Santos has everything here I thought I would
never have, and its a great place to gather your thoughts.
When the sun dips low in the sky and the enduring sunset
is glowing on the horizon, La Paz, the little city with a big heart,
aims to please.
When You Go
For La Paz details, www.golapaz.com;
www.purelapaz.com; for flight
information and special vacation packages; CostaBaja
Resort & Spa; Fun Baja;
Las Tres Virgenes; La
Posada Hotel & Beach Club.
Alamandas Awaits; Playa
del Carmen, Yucatan Peninsula; La
Paz, Baja Sur California; La
Paz Slideshow; Mayan
Vallarta, Mexico; Costa