With the Sea of Cortez on one side and the Sierra Laguna mountains on the other, La Paz is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and watersport aficionados. Located 160 km (100 miles) north of the more famous city of Cabo San Lucas, this traditional town is a must-visit. La Paz itself is a bit sleepy, but fear not, it’s far from boring.
These suggestions of 21 things to do in La Paz will keep you on your feet. We decided to spend a week in and around La Paz and enjoyed every single day of our November visit. Planning a trip to Baja California soon? Check out these top 21 things to do in La Paz, it’s one of the best places to visit in Mexico! (Don’t miss the traveller resources section at the end of this post)
1. Stroll Around the Old Town
Where La Paz stands today was visited by Hernan Cortez back in 1535, but the city only started to develop in the mid-19th century thanks to the expansion of the pearl diving industry. Most of the buildings and architecture reflect that period and give the old town its distinctive character.
The main square of Jardín Velazco, also called the Plaza Constitución, is one of the places in La Paz popular with the locals. It’s a great place for people-watching. Sit on one the numerous benches and watch families walking by, seniors chatting together and sharing stories long past.
The old town and Jardín Velazco are centred around Revolución de 1910 and Calle 5 de Mayo. You can wander the area independently or go on a 2-hour free English walking tour. This is one of the best things to do in La Paz and a great way to get your bearings.
2. Rent a Kayak at Balandra Beach
Several beaches north of La Paz are easily accessible within an hour drive, but Balandra Beach is probably the most protected and ideal for kayakers. Free of motorboats, you can enjoy kayaking through the inland mangroves, explore the shallow bay, and even get out to the sea.
Kayak rental is possible from $15USD / hour, or book a full day or multi-day kayak excursion from $60USD. The mouth of the bay tends to see strong waves and currents and can be challenging for novice kayakers. Watch for the stingrays that sometimes hide in the sandy bay floor.
If you are looking for other beaches to visit without kayaking, check out Playa El Coromuel, Playa El Caimancito, Playa El Tesoro and Playa Pichilingue, and Playa Tecolote. Tecolote offers more amenities (restaurants & restrooms) than other places.
3. See the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de La Paz
The Cathedral was built in 1861 by the Dominicans and stands across Jardín Velasco. The tall front of the Church is one of the main things to see in La Paz and will get your attention as soon as you arrive at the square. The inside of the Catedral de Nuestra Senora is worth visiting, so feel free to step in. Entrance is free.
Besides its importance as a Catholic church, musical events such as classical and religious performances are sometimes held in the building. The Catedral de Nuestra Senora is at the corner of Revolución de 1910 and Calle 5 de Mayo.
4. Visit the Whale Museum
Given their regular presence in the Sea of Cortez, it’s no wonder La Paz has a museum dedicated to whales. The Museo de la Ballena is at the corner of Corner Calle Obregón and 16 de Septiembre, a short distance from the Malecón. You can’t miss it thanks to the massive whale skeleton exhibited in front of the building.
The Whale Museum is on the small side but provides extensive information on whales, porpoises, and dolphins. A worthy stop for everyone.
The museum is open Tuesday – Saturday 9 am – 6 pm, Sunday 10 am – 6 pm, and closed Monday, as well as on holidays (January 1st, May 1st and December 25th). Entrance tickets are 120 to 160 Mexican Pesos ($6 – $8), which includes a 45 minute guided tour (English-speaking guide available).
5. Check Out The Local Artwork
A white-washed historical building on the city plaza, the Governor’s Palace (Palacio de Gobierno) hosts rotating exhibits from the Centro de Artes, Tradiciones y Culturas Populares de Baja California Sur. Local painters, potters, glass makers, and artists get a chance to feature their artwork, and you get to watch them as they showcase their creative talent in front of you.
The centre, located on Calle Francisco I. Madero in front of the Jardín Velasco, is open Monday through Friday 8 am – 8 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9 am – 6 pm, with free entrance.
6. Explore the Museum of Anthropology & History
The Museo Regional de Antropología e Historia is an engaging museum located at Altamirano and 5 de Mayo. It features well-researched exhibitions of La Paz and Baja Sur history, from the Paleolithic era to the time of the missions, covering the influence of the Spanish colonization and how it impacted the original inhabitants.
If you’re a history buff, this is one of the things to do in La Paz that you won’t want to miss. Note that most (if not all) descriptions are in Spanish. Entrance costs around 40 pesos ($2) and is open Monday to Sunday 9 am – 6 pm.
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7. Shop at the Market
Smell the flavours of Mexico as local people shop for fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables at the Mercado Francisco I. Madero. Check out the leather goods, hats, and quinceañera dresses. Grab snacks and fresh juices from the food stalls (comedors) at the entrance of the market, and take a few minutes to admire the outside mural.
The Mercado is a long-standing institution in La Paz, and among one of the places in La Paz to enjoy cheap and tasty Mexican breakfast and lunch. Head to the corner of Revolucion De 1910 and Santos Degollado Monday to Sunday for your fill of yummy food.
8. Relax on the Malecón
The 5-km (3-mile) long waterfront Malecón is a local favorite and will be yours too. Joggers enjoy their run along the shore on Sunday afternoons, while families and couples walk here daily. The Malecón is also the perfect spot for watching incredible sunsets as the red, yellow and orange rays illuminate the sky above the sea and marina. Another one of the top things to do in La Paz!
9. Bike In and Around La Paz
Rent a bike for 30 pesos an hour ($1.50) and enjoy a leisurely ride on the 5km (3 mile) bike lane along the Malecón, while enjoying the ocean views and stopping at the waterfront restaurants for a break. Or, hit the coastal or mountain trails of Baja California for a day of mountain biking.
Those looking for an extended biking adventure might want to consider the 370 km (230 mile) Pichilingue Peninsula coastal loop trail north of La Paz. Mountain Biking Tours start from $60 depending on trails and duration. For those wanting some exercise, mountain biking is one of the best things to do in La Paz.
10. Snorkel with Whale Sharks
One of the top things to do in La Paz is snorkeling with whale sharks. Whale sharks – tiburón ballenas in Spanish – are the largest known fish, up to 13m (42ft) long. They are present around La Paz between October to March. While it sounds scary, whale sharks only eat plankton and care little about humans.
Swimming by the giant fish is a fantastic experience. However, make sure the tour operator respects the regulations that protect the welfare of the animals, including the strict “no touching” policy. Many boat companies organize whale shark trips from $75 for a 3 hour tour.
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11. Go Whale-Watching in Magdalena Bay
From January to March, Gray Whales come to Baja California to enjoy the warm water of Magdalena Bay’s protected lagoon where they give birth to their young. Going on a whale watching cruise gives you the best chance of seeing the whales breed and raise their offsprings. Day cruises start at $130, though multi-day cruises are also available.
Other whales migrate to the Gulf of California throughout the year: March to July to see the Blue Whale (the largest whale in the world), February to June for the Humpback Whale, and October to February for the Pilot Whale (Calderon Negro). This is one of the things to do in La Paz you won’t want to miss.
12. Swim with Sea Lions on Los Islotes or San Rafaelito
A cluster of smaller islands, Los Islotes is home to several hundred California sea lions. A group of 250 live there in the winter but the summer months can see over 350 with new pups arriving every year.
If you want to look at sea lions up close, Los Islotes is one of the main places in La Paz where you can do so. Note that there are regulations that limit the number of visitors to Los Islotes in order to protect the site’s ecosystem.
Another option for observing sea lions in their natural habitat is at San Rafaelito. Whether in Los Islotes or San Rafaelito, make sure to add a visit to the sea lions as one of your top things to do in La Paz. A combo tour including a trip to Espíritu Santo Island and the Sea Lions starts from $120.
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13. Sail to Espíritu Santo Island (one of the best things to do in La Paz!)
Espíritu Santo Island, or Isla Espíritu Santo as the locals call it, is about a one-hour boat ride north of La Paz. The island is home to a rich and varied marine life. The surrounding reefs are teeming with sea creatures: Moorish idols, rainbow wrasse, parrot fish, rays, turtles, sharks, and the occasional pod of dolphins or whales passing through.
The island was declared part of a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1995, and it’s no surprise that this area is a paradise for divers and snorkellers.
Many of the activities in La Paz like whale watching, swimming with whale sharks, or snorkelling with sea lions can be combined with a trip to Espíritu Santo Island.
Some boats let you land on the island, where you can then explore the volcanic rock formations, kayak around the island, or just chill on the remote beaches. Even if you do not land on Espíritu Santo Island, cruising the Sea of Cortez is definitely one of the best things to do in La Paz.
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14. Scuba Dive in the Sea of Cortez
Jacques-Yves Cousteau named the area the “Aquarium of the World,” and by all standards, the Sea of Cortez offers stunning diving opportunities. You’ll see manta rays, dolphins, healthy reefs, shipwrecks, sea lions, and more. Top diving spots include Espíritu Santo island and Los Islotes. Visibility is best from May to October.
Book your 2-tank dive boat trip from around $100 through one of the many dive centers in La Paz. And if you’re not yet certified, enroll in a PADI class and start exploring the marine world.
15. Learn to Cook Mexican Food
Why not learn how to cook yummy Mexican cuisine yourself? Buen Provecho offers 5-hour cooking classes for $80 in San Bartolo, about one-hour drive from La Paz. Another option is the downtown-based El Nopal Spanish Academy which offers a $20 lesson once a month. Undoubtedly, this is the tastiest of all the activities in La Paz!
16. Enjoy the Nightlife
If you want to party, La Paz offers a couple of nightclubs along the Malecón. Otherwise, Cabo San Lucas is the place to go for Springbreak-esque entertainment. But if you prefer a cold cerveza while enjoying views of the ocean and listening to local musicians, then La Paz is your top choice.
The Malecón sees most of the nightlife action, with mariachi bands walking around, bars where you can meet locals, or nightclubs playing disco. A couple of favourite bars include Cafe-Bar KM-0 (Paseo Álvaro Obregón), La Morante Art Bar (Avenida Revolucion de 1910), Cava Sur – Restaurant & Wine Bar (Calle Ignacio Allende), and Bob Marlin (Calle Ignacio Allende).
17. Explore on Horseback
Several ranches offer riding opportunities which take you along the ocean, through cacti, and past fishing villages. Most of these ranches are authentic working operations, and a trip is a great way to see traditional Mexican ranchers. A 3 hour horse ride with Rancho El Cajon is about 500 pesos ($25).
18. Brush Up On Your Spanish
Want to improve your Spanish? Enroll in classes at either Se Habla…La Paz or El Nopal Spanish School and start chatting with the locals thanks to your new language skills. Speaking with the residents is a great way to learn about Mexican culture and traditions, and regardless of how poor your Spanish-speaking abilities are, the locals will appreciate your efforts.
19. Sample Fresh Seafood
Given its proximity to the ocean, it’s no surprise that La Paz is an excellent place for fresh seafood. Eating tasty food is definitely one of the top things to do in La Paz.
One of the local delicacies are the chocolate clams, sold in the streets by the local fishermen. A must-try! Other places to enjoy great Mexican food are Rancho Viejo (Márquez de León 228) and Tacos el Estadio (by the Cathedral).
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20. Hike in the Sierra Laguna Mountains
While deserts and beaches might be the main draw of Baja California, the mountain ranges are incredible and offer many adventurous things to do in La Paz.
The Sierra de la Laguna near the town of Santiago are home to unique hiking opportunities, including waterfalls and hot springs. Pack your hiking shoes and explore Canyon del Zorro (Fox Canyon) or the Aguas Calientes (Hot Water). Book a guide or tour company to find your way to the “secret” swimming pools. Day hikes cost from $60, while multiple day treks are around $400+.
21. Try Kitesurfing in La Ventana
If you’re feeling active, head to La Ventana and learn how to kitesurf. A thrilling wind and watersport, kiteboarding will see you surfing the waves of the bay. Given the power of the kite in windy conditions, make sure to take proper training before heading out by yourself.
La Ventana is about an hour drive from La Paz, and the windy season runs from October to April. Experienced riders can rent equipment from $120 for a full day. Beginners can look into lesson packages, with prices varying on skills and duration.
Ready for La Paz and Baja California?
La Paz can easily be explored by yourself, walking or biking your way around. If you want to dive, snorkel with whale sharks, or head to Espíritu Santo Island, reserve a tour through one of the local tour operators. Not only they know the best spots to explore, but they’re knowledgeable about the marine life and the local history.
This local expertise is especially significant when trekking in the mountains, scuba diving, or taking part in any of the most adventurous things to do in La Paz. Safety is important, so always ensure your guide is reputable and knowledgeable.
Beside La Paz, Todos Santos is another favourite of Baja California Sur thanks to its historic centre, wildlife, and surfing opportunities. And you can easily spend several days in La Ventana and Los Barriles enjoying water sports such as windsurfing, kiteboarding, and kayaking.
Leave touristy Cabo San Lucas behind, and explore the many wonders of Baja California Sur – you won’t regret it!
Goats On The Road Recommended Resources for La Paz, Mexico
✓ La Paz is an adventure lover’s dream! It’s important to make sure you have adequate travel insurance before embarking on any trip, but especially one where you’ll be partaking in outdoor activities. World Nomads covers almost all adventurous activities that you can think of. Click here to get a free quote and learn more about this popular travel insurance.
✓ Renting a car and exploring the coastline, and taking day trips is what backpacking Mexico is all about. Having your own wheels gives you an incredible amount of freedom…you never know what hidden gems you’ll discover. We always book our rental cars through Expedia.com as they have great deals and search through numerous companies. But, please note that in Mexico, you’ll be charged an additional $15-20/day for mandatory insurance. Click here to check out the latest rental prices on cars in La Paz.
✓ We recommend purchasing eco-friendly products for your stay in La Paz. We’re personally trying to reduce the amount of single-use plastic that we use, and encourage you to do the same during your travels. To avoid purchasing plastic water bottles while in La Paz, consider buying a water bottle with a built-in filter such as LifeStraw or GrayL, or get yourself a Steri-Pen. In terms of utensils, this bamboo set is great for picnics, while these glass or metal straws are perfect for cocktails, fruit juices or a glass of water. Say no to straws and plastic utensils, bring your own.
✓ There are numerous affordable places to stay in La Paz. Goats On The Road use and recommend Booking.com due to their excellent prices, and cancellation options. Click here to search for accommodation in La Paz.
Top Hotels, Hostels & B&B’s in La Paz
Bermejo Hostel & Backpackers – rated “Superb” 9.2/10. Just a 6 minute walk to the beach and a 5 minute drive into the center of La Paz. Featuring a BBQ, garden, lounge, breakfast and bicycles. Double rooms here go for around $20/night in the high season. Click here to learn more and book this hostel.
Pension Baja Paradise – rated “Superb” 9.0/10. If you’re travelling with a dog, good news this place is pet friendly! There’s a shared kitchen, BBQ facilities and a terrace. Rooms are small, but adequate and at $21 for a double room in the high season, you really can’t complain. Click here to learn more and book this hostel.
Casa Juarez B&B – rated “Exceptional” 9.6/10. Beautiful, stylish, colourful rooms, outdoor pool, great breakfast and excellent location. One of the best places to stay in La Paz. Double rooms from $65 in the high season. Click here to learn more and book this B&B.
Hotel Catedral La Paz – rated “Superb” 9.4/10. Boasting a beautiful outdoor pool (with bar), fantastic views of La Paz and comfortable beds, this is a top choice accommodation. A fantastic breakfast is included and the food at the onsite restaurant is great. Click here to learn more and book this hotel.
Hyatt Place La Paz – rated “Fabulous” 8.9/10. Offering all of the usual amenities you can expect from the Hyatt hotel chain, including modern rooms, large outdoor pool, fitness center, onsite restaurant and bar, and golf course (close by). The location is right on the water, about a 10 minute drive from La Paz. Click here to learn more and to book this hotel.