Swap resort life for laid-back, beachfront vibes in the capital of Baja California Sur.
A few steps along the malecón (boardwalk) in La Paz at sunset reveal what sets this city apart from typical tourist haunts on the Baja California Peninsula. It’s quiet here. Visitors peruse works of art along the seaside, bicyclists coast by with a wave, and couples settle onto park benches to watch the horizon change colors over the Sea of Cortés.
The east coast, bayside town attracts in-the-know scuba divers and whale-watchers seeking an alternative to Los Cabos’ party-hardy resort scene. “Whether diving, snorkeling, walking around the city, shopping, or dining, visitors get to experience firsthand the folkloric life that is La Paz,” says Héctor Palacios, chef at the city’s popular Origen restaurant. He highlights the local gastronomy scene as one more reason to add the region to your Wanderlist.
Straight from the Sea
Palacios credits La Paz’s combination of fresh seafood and local farmers for the quality ingredients to create great meals. “Whether you call it farm to table, sea to table, or sea farm to table, we have it all,” he says. That translates to everything from the fish tacos and fresh clams from street-food stands to the town’s fine-dining establishments. Palacios recently shared a few of his favorites with us.
Chef Carlos Valdez’s Tatanka Baja Fish & Steakhouse helped establish La Paz as a burgeoning fine-dining destination. Grab a patio table under the trees to pair fresh oysters, ceviche, or grilled chateaubriand with a local varietal. Just up the road at Nemi, guests can sample contemporary Mexican cuisine such as braised beef cheeks or a dish of nectarines, heirloom tomatoes, pesto, and burrata cheese from chef Alex Villagómez.
Head to the malecón for a selection of seafood restaurants overlooking the bay. At Origen, Palacios layers salads, tostadas, and shrimp tacos onto plates with artistic precision, served alongside an inventive craft-cocktail menu. Stop by The Oyster House by FISM (Fishing Industry Seafood Mexico) for a dozen of the local beauties on ice. Oliva al Mare brings a touch of the Mediterranean to Mexico with spicy prawn linguini or spaghetti tossed with pesto, lobster, and cherry tomatoes.
Cortados and Cocktails
La Paz’s coffee and cocktail scenes keep the local ingredients flowing. Palacios recommends Doce Cuarenta Coffee House & Bakery, which roasts beans on-site for cortados and lattes. Prefer your caffeine cold on a hot day? Go for cold-pressed coffee, a mocktail of cold brew and tonic, cáscara soda, or a coffee-based ice-cream float.
Palacios also has high praise for La Miserable Mezcaleria’s regional cocktails, made with tequila’s smoky cousin. Try a blend of cucumber, citrus, jalapeño, and mezcal for refreshment with a kick. The damiana plant, which pops up on cocktail menus across town, is rumored to be an aphrodisiac. Follow the coastline north to Sunset Lounge to cozy up with a loved one and sample a blend of mezcal and the amorous ingredient.
When You’re Not Eating
Of course, La Paz’s appeal goes beyond restaurants. Virtuoso travel advisor Chris Lee enjoys Baja California Sur’s quieter side. “When people stay in Cabo, they make their way to San José to get a little Mexican feel – but all of La Paz has that vibe. It’s got the atmosphere of a small fishing village, while still feeling accessible to tourists,” he says.
In between meals, get to know some of the local offshore wildlife. Go snorkeling with whale sharks (the world’s largest fish) from October to April or whale-watching from January through springtime. On-site tour connection Journey Mexico works with Virtuoso advisors to arrange custom expeditions with sustainable tour operators, who prioritize the safety of both travelers and ocean animals. In the mood for an artsy afternoon? Peruse the statues and murals lining the malecón or hit the Museo de Arte de Baja California Sur to see modern and contemporary works by artists such as Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Rufino Tamayo, Juan Soriano, and Carlos Mérida.
“Another reason to travel to La Paz is to visit Balandra, a gorgeous rock formation,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Irma Rios. “It’s about a 20-minute drive outside the city, with beautiful views of cactus farms.” Rios is already looking forward to returning to the region for kayaking and snorkeling among sea lions off Isla Espíritu Santo – as well as a bit of sportfishing.
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