La Paz and Baja California have always been a dream destination to me. Finally my dream came true when I have accepted an assignement as an House and Pet sitter in La Paz, where I have lived for 2 months. I drove around the south of Baja California and visited the best spots. Here I will share with you what I consider the highlights of this fascinating region.
I stayed in La Paz for about 20 days, house-sitting 2 lovely kittens for 10 days and then staying there in the same house where the owner kindly let me stay as her guest.
A friend would have joined me afterwards to travel around Baja for a week on the road.
Another friend, Maurizio whom I have met while on the road in Mexico would have joined me too and the three of us would have gone on the road trip.
As you can see it’s impossible to travel alone even though you try.
During my house sitting days I had the chance to explore La Paz beside trying to catch up with the blog writing and other random gigs while enjoying my kittens company. I had an amazing time, I have to say. After our tour around Baja, Maurizio and myself ended up staying in La Paz for another 3 weeks, for many different reasons, including Maurizio getting sick twice.
Well, those are inconveniences that you have to take into account when you travel.
This time it was not me though.
I didn’t mind waiting for him since we had decided to move towards the next part of our journey through Mexico together.
Besides I had lots of work to catch up. We rented a small hotel in the city center very close to the Malecon and our favorite coffee’ shops.
Not bad for a forced stay. And that gave me the chance to familiarize more with the city and explore more coffee shops and restaurants, of which I will tell you later on. 🙂
The arrival in La Paz
I arrived in January 27th by ferry from Mazatlan – by Baja Ferry.
The ferry arrived at 7.30 in the morning to La Paz and my new boss, Deborah, the owner of the house I was sitting was there waiting for me. We hit it off immediately while chatting in the car on the way to what would have been my house for a couple of weeks that ended up being 3. While I was looking at the rocky desert by the window fascinated by such a different lunar scenery I knew that I would have had a wonderful time in Baja. I just didn’t know HOW wonderful.
HOW TO GET TO LA PAZ
To get to Baja California you have different options:
to La Paz international airport (LAP) – where you will find flights from other airports in Mexico among which Mexico city and Guadalajara
to San Jose International Airport. (SJD) – about 2-hour distance from La Paz which is an international airport with flights from many different international destinations.
You can check flights availability and rates here
By ferry –
BAJA FERRY is the operating company and you can check time and prices here
From Topolobambo to La Paz and return. This is close to Los Mochis where the famous train El Chepe that takes you through the Barranca del Cobre. It’s an option if you plan to go to the Barranca del Cobre either before la Paz or after. It’s actually a great combination if you have a fair amount of time and wish to combine multiple regions.
They have the option to stay in a room and sleep comfortably in a bed for 1000 extra pesos (about 50 USD).
I wanted to try the adventure and decided to sleep on the chair of the lounge. It was like a movie theatre, very uncomfortable to sleep, but for one night I was ok.
I wasn’ t sure if I was more excited to see the sunrise from the boat or to get to La Paz, which has always been one of my dream destinations, or both.
I didn’t sleep much and went out just in time to see the sunrise: surreal.
The days in La Paz went by too quickly. Although I don’t think it has the charm of other more historical towns such us San Miguel de Allende, Queretaro, Xalapa, or the white city of Merida and Campeche in the Yucatan peninsula, just to name a couple, however, it does have its charm and I had a wonderful time.
I was living in this huge funny house with the lovely sweet cats and my days went by easy, my time being set by work, exercising and cat cuddling and feeding.
Maurizio decided to tag along in La Paz and we ended up traveling together for the next couple of months. I love to travel alone normally, but Maurizio was a discreet and pleasant company, beside making me laugh a lot and although it took a lot of time from my work, I was happy to have a friend to hang out with every now and then. We loved to look around and eat at the market living like locals. We also have actually interviewed the busiest local restaurant to know all the local dishes. I will soon publish the video.
Although La Paz is a very touristic city and I had the feeling that the majority of its inhabitant were from US (nothing wrong with that but I just didn’t feel like I was in Mexico some times), however you can it still find a local feeling, especially when you hang out in the markets.
The biggest one is Mercado Bravo in calle Bravo (of course) where I used to go every morning for my healthy freshly made natural juice but you can find all sorts of local restaurants where you can taste the autochthonous cuisine. It’s not fancy but it tastes good and it’s part of the culture. As you saw in the video I even found a vegan option even though it’s very limited and when I told the restaurant hosts that I didn’t eat meat nor cheese she looked at me as if I was coming from Mars. And they started to laugh! That was funny.
The other market is smaller and called Madero, this is also where all the urban busses pass by to go to every direction.
On a Saturday and Tuesday, by the main plaza, in calle Francisco Madero you will find an organic market selling different kind of veggies and some food stall, freshly made bread and some other organic products.
Another thing I appreciated the beautiful multicolored graffiti and the lovely artfully made coffee shops, my favorite place to work from.
However, the highlight of La Paz is the stunning sunsets that you can easily watch from the malecón. Every day is a new multicolored show to remind you how powerful and generous nature is and you can’t help but admire its magic. Walking by the water is a daily appointment that you cannot miss, and you never get tired of it.
Lots of people running, skating or just strolling, enjoying the views of their family.
In the next chapter, I will tell you all the things that you can do from La Paz.
In the first period of my stay there as a housesitter, I enjoyed biking around the city while when I stayed in La Paz after my road trip I lived in the city center in a small hotel.
Although I didn’t have my bike anymore I loved to become familiar with the town. I went to check out some hotels so that I could give you some tips on that and I stayed in every coffee shops that u met also to be able to talk about it.
The vegan community is not so strong I guess as there is not one vegan restaurant but I was happy to see that some cafes had a couple of vegan dishes to offer.
Let’s move to the next chapter to know more 😉
WHAT TO DO FROM LA PAZ
All the beaches of La Paz are in the same direction moving north leaving the sea on your right.
This is the most beautiful and breathtaking beach and the farthest. There are no bars or restaurants there; so make sure you bring water and something to eat with you.
If you decide to stay for the sunset you are going to have a beautiful show in the sky. There are basically 2 bays in Balandra. One on the left with beach chairs and umbrellas as well as kayak and paddleboard equipment to rent at a reasonable price, and one on the right more deserted and without facilities.
The water has an easy access, like a natural swimming pool. The majority of the time the tide is even too low and if you like to swim you will need to walk further away from the shore.
You can access to the other beach on the right either via water or by hiking a little hill. I would suggest you to make an effort and go for a little hike as the view is amazing. You can climb on your flip-flop although you will be more comfortable in your gym shoes.
If you go on Saturdays or Sundays keep in mind that it’s going to be very busy. To really enjoy it fully, try to go early in the morning.
How to get to Balandra beach?
You can either jump on the bus leaving from the autobus station on the Malecon or get a taxi, of course, if you didn’t rent a car (which I would recommend).
If you have a car, just drive along the Malecon all straight up north, leaving the see on your right side and you will literally bump into it.
It’s a very tiny beach but worth a visit. You can find a restaurant and bar but you can also bring your own food and drinks. They also rent a “Palapa” to get shade from the sun, chairs and a small table, for 250 pesos for the entire day. It’s another option from Balandra if that one gets too busy.
This one is very close to Balandra but on the right side of the road. The beach is great but not sandy and it’s normally noisy and busy. The beautiful view of the turquoise sea is interrupted by a sort of shacks where people gather and drink finding shades from the sun.
It is a resort town at about 1-hour of a beautiful drive from La Paz. The road is just surreal, among cactus and limestones rocks.
La Ventana is a tiny laid-back town, paradise for kite surfers because it’s always windy. We just went to explore for the sake of curiosity and although we are not surfers we really appreciated the views of the colored kites in the sky and with surfers flipping over the water. You can find a huge camping ground, some villa rentals or small hotels and a few bars and restaurants. You cannot miss anything out as everything is along one road only. The beach is worth visiting even if you are not a kite surfer if you like peace and quiet.
There are 2 main tours you can do from La Paz and they are by boat. If you love being in the water those are for you.
It’s a one day boat tour – 1 1/2 ride in the beautiful bay in the see of Cortes to the island of Espíritus Santo so popular for its funny inhabitants, playful sea lions that would swim with you and bite your fins or your go pro. The time you spend with them is short but totally worth it.
You will need to wear the life jacket for security reasons as you are entering a marine park. If you go in winter from October through April it is advisable to wear a wetsuit since the water gets quite cold at that time. Those are not included in the tour price but are always available for rent at 150 pesos with the tour providers. The tour costs from 800 to 1100 pesos depending on the tour company. The tour leaves from La Paz around 12 pm and ends around 5.30/6.00 pm. You will stop at a nice deserted beach to have your lunch which is included and it is normally based on ceviche and crackers, sandwiches and some fruit.
Swim with whale sharks
This tour is seasonal for obvious reasons, as these gentle giants of the sea are in the area only in winter until the end of March-April. The tour lasts about 1h 30 minutes as it takes only 15 minutes to reach the whale shark zone. The boat captain will know where to go and look for them and when he finds them he will move along their way in order for you to be able to swim with them more times.
If you have never done it and you love the sea life it’s an incredible experience that you should try once in a lifetime. The cost goes from 800 to 1000 pesos depending on the tour company.
This is one of the only 2 places where you can swim with the whale sharks in Mexico. The other one is in from the Riviera Maya as they swim between Holbox island and Isla Mujeres and they are also seasonal. You can check out how and when to swim with whale sharks in the Riviera Maya on this post.
Hiking to Cerro de las Calaveras
Located just outside the city center on the the road La Paz- Pichilingue, it is called Cerro de La Calavera, which means hill of skulls, for the peculiar rock formations that has been moulded and eroded with time by wind and water, some of them forming skull-like sculptures as you can see in the picture below. It has become a sort of geological monument of the city.
There are many legends about this place one of which says that during the Spanish invasion, the crew of a boat that disembarked here was affected by the flue. Some died there and were buried in on that hill.
It is now is home to morning routines of fit locals who come here to train and curious tourists who come to admire amazing sunsets and sunrises although the sunsets have more of an impact as the sun dip in the water right in front of your eyes.
I went with a local friend in the morning and enjoyed the hike and views not only of the sunrise but also of the typical vegetation, among cactuses and typical desert plants, very different from what I am used to in the Caribbean.
Hiking tours in Baja California Sur
Just so you know, there are a number of hiking trails in Baja California Sur which I didn’t do for some reasons. If you are a hiker you should definitely check out with some local travel agent. I am sorry I cannot be of much help on this.
WHERE TO BOOK YOUR TOURS?
There are different companies that run boat tours and to be really honest they are all professional and have more or less the same program. Also, you will find vendors situate in the Malecon whose tours are cheaper and absolutely reliable and professional as well.
It is not really necessary to book in advance unless you wish to book a special trip or organize a sailing experience for a few days. If so, or if you wish to book in advance for whatever reason here is a link to a booking site that may come handy.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND
The best thing to do is to rent a car. You can get it directly at the airport or in the city or you can also pre-book it here. I have used this website to compare different prices and I had a great experience. I rented the one with full insurance without a deductible, to be on the safe side. It’s much easier to move around by car and super safe. Roads are very well marked and well paved, except for some remote areas. By car, you can conveniently reach the beaches and explore the city. Especially if you wish to go to San Ignacio or any other spot for Whale Watching you should definitely rent a car.
However, if you prefer to move around by public transportation it is also possible although it takes a little patience.
The local line is called Aguila and these are the schedules. They travel around La Paz to the beaches, but they don’t go to la Ventana apparently. For that, you need to get a car or hitch hacking.
Busses will also take you to Todos Santos, Cabo San Lucas, San Jose al Cabo, El Triunfo, Cabo Pulmo and Loreto. They also go all the way to the most northern city of Tijuana.
You can check on this site for their schedule, although if you are in La Paz, it would be better to check directly with the office, located on the Malecon.
To move around La Paz, public transportation is very efficient. Although there is not a precise schedule you can pretty much ask at the bus stop wherever you are and bus driver can help you out.
From Mercado Madero there are many bus going different directions.
From Airport to town the only transportations available are:
- car rental
WHERE TO STAY IN LA PAZ
EL ANGEL AZUL HACIENDA
This is probably the place where I would stay if I had to go back to La Paz. The cozy property is structured like an old hacienda with an internal patio and big wooden windows and doors. The elegant mexican style decoration make it a soothing place where you will feel like home. You also have a spacious and fully equipped shared kitchen where you can cook your own meals if you don’t feel like going out. Restaurants and bars are located at a walking distance as the property is right in the heart of the vibrant city.
Hotel La Posada & Beach La Paz
Situated at 1 minute walk from the beach in La Paz and at 3 km from the city center, this beautiful contemporary property features also an outdoor pool for those who whis to enjoy tranquillity of the hotel, a gym and a spa with a temazcal sauna and beauty treatments. All the stylish suites have ocean views with private balcony or terrace. The hotel rates includes breakfast.
HOTEL LA CATEDRAL
The hotel Catedral is located right in the heart of the city by the main plaza and at a walking distance to the Malecon, coffee’ shops and restaurant.
The rooms are essential but elegant. The highlight of this property is definitely the rooftop from which you can enjoy the views of the city and the horizon while laying in the comfortable cushions sipping your drink.
HOTEL POSADA LAS FLORES
This boutique hotel is an icon in La Paz. The interior decorations merge the coloured Mexican style with the elegant italian taste. The result is a cozy little place offering tranquillity and peace in the middle La Paz. At a walking distance from restaurants, shops and beach.
WHERE TO EAT IN LA PAZ
To be really honest I haven’t tried all the fancy restaurants in the city since I have always been working from cafes and eating salads and sandwiches for 3 weeks. However, I made quite a bit of local friends and this is what they suggested me:
It’s an Italian restaurant, which offers a Mediterranean cuisine, very fancy and has vegan options
I have tried Nim, for a quick soup. I enjoyed the internal garden and the fancy decorations. They have a very varied menu and a few vegan options, but basic. It’s closed on Mondays.
It’s first on tripadvisor! I guess it’s quite all right 😉
Las tres Virgenes
I liked the internal court and the majestic old fashioned entrance. They have a vast menu with vegan options but they specialize in meat.
It’s one of the most popular together with Nim. It’s a very elegant restaurant with an international menu.
Italian restaurant looks good in the reviews. The menu is a mix of Italian cuisine and local flavour.
For tacos and seafood, you can try Los Laureles on the Malecon. My friends went there twice in three days as they were so impressed. It’s a very basic restaurant, nothing fancy but apparently very good.
El Mezquite grill
This is a great local option both for meat lovers and vegans. I had an amazing salad with juicy grilled portobello mushrooms and my friend had his freshly made hamburger. Also a great service indeed.
COFFE SHOPS IN LA PAZ
So, if you are following me for a while you might have realized that I am a fan of coffee-shops from where I love to write my blog and work online. Unfortunately in La Paz wifi is terrible everywhere, I have tried a few spots but it’s all the same.
However, except for the WIFI quality, here is a list of coffee-shops that I have loved the most
This was my favorite overall, for the very warm and cozy ambiance and great pastry. Even though I am trying to eat vegan and healthy I had to give up a few times and commit the sin and never regretted it. The pastry is to die for. Also, the sandwiches, although a little too tiny, were really good and they made it vegan for me. The coffee is their specialty as they have different varieties of organic coffee from many different areas of Mexico. So all is local. Besides, among all the places this is where WIFI is less terrible 😉
I was there almost every day with my laptop for many hours and even though I wasn’t a big consumer I have never felt uncomfortable or being pressured to go or order, as sometimes it happens in many places. Therefore I feel like I should to mention it.
The place is great, cozy and well designed. I loved especially the internal garden. They have many dishes also suitable for vegan and vegetarian. Lots of pastry choices, soups salad and smoothies. The vibes were great and I felt also comfortable to stay there all day working. The big issue of this place is that WI-FI which is the worse ever. And it seems they cannot do anything about that. It was disappointing to have to leave the place in the middle of a productive day, just because it just didn’t work.
It’s a tiny place with great vegan options and the wifi is working quite well most of the times. The only problem I had was that I wasn’t feeling very comfortable as I was being asked if I wanted something all the time. I felt like I wasn’t welcomed to stay so long. It’s true that they didn’t have many tables but I have never seen it full. But maybe that was just me and my perception.
It’s a super tiny place and I only went there one time because they made vegan pastry, which was delicious. They don’t have it every day, though.
The place is really nice but I have never gone to sit and work, just a couple of times for coffee and I really enjoyed it. They have vegan options too and my sandwich was hummus and veggies was extremely delicious. The vegan chai latte as well. The waiters are also super nice. They also sell roasted coffee and delicious wheat bread.
When I arrived at Todos Santos I understood why this once sleepy town has been designated a Pueblo Magico ( Magic Town). It’s definitely not sleepy anymore as it’s now the mecca for the new wave of bohemian style-conscious travelers looking for a swanky place to relax eat well and be in the sun.
It’s actually becoming a valid competitor to the now saturated and insanely over-priced Tulum.
The colonial architecture, the cobblestone streets, the elegant shops, art galleries, gourmet restaurants, organic farms and the unforgettable sunsets altogether are what makes this town so special.
The tiny historical center is surrounded by a lush tropical vegetation contrasting the dry desert just a few miles away. The reason for such difference in the territory is the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range which enough rainfalls to not only sustain the rich vegetable gardens and organic farms but also mangos, papayas, palm trees to flourish abundantly and wildly in the entire area.
There are many reasons that draw a small stream of travelers to Todos Santos for ages: they come to ride the ocean waves, being the best surfing spots in Baja California, or moved by the false myth of the Hotel California, which is not the one mentioned in the famous evergreen song by the Eagles.
What to do in Todos Santos
As I was mentioning before, this is the mecca for the surf lovers who gather mostly in two beaches at El Pescadero, a small town at 6 miles from Todos Santos
Playa Los Cerritos is the most popular and there you can rent surfboards or even take surf classes for about 25 USD per hour but I am sure you can make a deal 🙂
Playa San Pedrito also in the same area is another good spot for surfing and facilities for camping as well. There are a small bar and restaurant.
I didn’t check it out myself for lack of time but there are hiking trails and tours available in the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains and up to the cliffs and coves along Punta Lobos. You should check with the reception of your hotel and for sure they will be able to give you specific information on how to organize your tour.
Choose one of the high-end hotels suggested below and let them pamper you with exceptional services, massage therapies, gourmet cuisine. The funky town offers also a good number of fine dining restaurants of which I will talk about in the next sections.
Todos Santos is also popular for hosting different yoga retreats. It might be a good opportunity for a rejuvenating week far from the daily routine to boost your energy and get back to your life brand new. Here I am outlying a list of yoga retreats in the area. I am very surprised that there are so many in such a little place. However, if I think about the amazing energy I have found in just a couple of days there, together with the soothing views I can understand why Todos Santos inspires the growth of such kind of places. Please know that I haven’t tried or seen these places so I cannot really offer a suggestion. I am just offering the list of places for the sake of information.
Pachamama means mother earth. This new property is a yoga retreat and a boutique hotel as well. Surrounded by desert, tropical vegetation and stunning ocean views, this luxury property has been designed to offer a relaxing soothing and peaceful space that allows the expansion your wellbeing. The property layout and design, the attentive service and organic gourmet cuisine are concieved to take the guests through a restorative transformation that will last well beyond their stay.
The beautiful oceanfront yoga retreat & wellness center is located along the coast between Todos Santos and Cabo San Lucas on a stunning stretch of beach where you can admire breathtaking sunsets.
The center offer a reach weekly retreat program where you can choose from according to your needs and feelings.
Beside yoga they can also organize different correlated activity from horsebackriding to paddling and snorkelling. Massages and hot tub.
The entire place is designe to favor your wellbeing and relaxation.
Baja Zen Yoga and Surf Retreat center is located walking distance to Playa Los Cerritos at 10 minutes drive from Todos Santos.
It’s a very simple place open also to the public but with comfortable luxury tents and rooms. Ideal for those who want to combine surf and yoga a great combination for our wellbeing.
Where to stay in todos santos
This is where I have stayed during my fist night in TODOS SANTOS . I really loved it. The rooms are nicely decorated with fine linen and beautiful art pieces. The patio is very convenient to chill in the evening after a day exploring or after your morning rituals. The staff is super nice and makes you feel like home.
The hotel is also located just outside the historical centre, close to a beautiful deserted beach which gifted us with the most beautiful sunset!
VILLAS LA MAR
At Villas La Mar I stayed the second night. Another luxury experience this time with an amazing view on the ocean. The hotel looks like a huge villa with small rooms facing the ocean. There is no restaurant service which makes it a little challenging because it’s a bit isolated from the restaurants and bars and plus you would love to enjoy your breakfast from the room.
Other than that the place is stunning.
I haven’t seen it unfortunately but I have read the reviews and looked at the stunning picture and this is the place I would chose should I go back to Baja.
They say about themselves:
“La Bohemia Baja is a hotel by travelers for travelers and we have taken great care to create a cozy and upbeat environment where you can make the most of your time here in beautiful Baja California Sur.”
I would book it right away.
SAN CRISTOBAL HOTEL
Named after San Christopher the patron saint of travellers this beautifully decorated property is becoming an icon in Todos Santos. It seems that this photogenic boutique property has help TODOS SANTOS to rank in the New York Time’s the top 50 travel destinations. And with its sophisticated decorations, like the bright blankets, terra-cotta-potted cacti, the bamboo pulls in the guest room curtains, to name a few, it’s certainly makes it a mecca for the style conscious traveller.
HOTEL CASA TOTA
Hotel Casa Tota is a little surprise in the middle of the historical center at an easy walk to shops and restaurants and the beach. I peaked in while passing bay as I was captured by the contemporary design in blending harmoniously with the old red brick building, colors, and design with functionality and comfort. 15 rooms
The hotel also hosts the popular restaurant La Santaena Restaurant known for its specialty cocktails and Mexican cuisine.
TODOS SANTOS INN
This hotel has been the home of a sugar baron before having been restored and turned into an hotel, preserving the feeling of the bygone past. High celings, courtyard gardens, antique furniture make you feel like you are in another era. The only hacienda hotel in the area. It is situated in the heart of the historical centre where it belongs, perfectly blending with the other redstone buildings and pebbled roads. It’s worth a visit even if you are not staying there.
restaurants in Todos Santos
The restaurant offers Todos Santos is not only abundant but of great quality. The rich soil makes it a great place for cultivations and all the top restaurants feeds from the numerous local organic farms in the surroundings.
There is one restaurant in particular which I loved, and it was the first that I tried. Hierbabuena (which is actually the name of a plant used to make meant tea) The restaurant located in a beautiful garden offers a huge menu with all sorts of specialty made religiously with the vegetable of their own farm.
The other I tried, suggested by the Hotel I was staying was Michaels at the Gallery – It’s a Asian fusion cuisine, within the premises of an Art Gallery. The fun part is that the eccentric artist is the chef and the owner of the gallery/restaurant. The food was great and I believe one of the priciest restaurants in town.
Cafe’ La Esquina – It’s quite an iconic place situated in a beautiful garden with space for children to play while their parents can sip their coffee or fresh juices in tranquillity. They have vegan and vegetarian options as well.
Other quite popular restaurants which I haven’t had the time to try are:
Cafe’ Santa Fe – an upscale Italian restaurant which is considered one of the best in town. It’s located in a restored 1850s building in downtown Todos Santos.
Baja Beans – a coffee’ shop well known for its coffee and backed sins 😉
Los Adobes – has built an impeccable reputation through the years both from locals and tourists. They focus on seafood although their menu varies and boosts organic products.
Altri da segnalare sono:
Cafe todos santos
The garden restaurant
Ristorante tre galline
Enjoy your meal! 🙂
If you have other restaurants in mind that are worth mentioning, please do let me know. I would really appreciate it.