Embraced by the Sierra de la Laguna mountains on one side and washed by the Sea of Cortez, the World’s Aquarium, on the other, the city of Paz is the pretty capital of Baja California Sur and a beautiful beach destination that has been too underrated. Hopefully, more travelers find out about its amazing natural resources and the pretty cozy city it has become and will come and enjoy all the amazing things to do in La Paz.
Even Forbes Travel has praised la Paz for its breathtaking views, abundant sea life, beautiful beaches, unique street art, and much more. Things that are making La Paz a worthy competitor of the trendy Tulum on the Riviera Maya.
There are so many things to do in La Paz, Mexico, to keep you busy for an entire week, or a lifetime, but if you are as curious as I am and love to explore, the rest of the Baja California Peninsula will not let you down either. This is a promise.
When I came to Baja for the first time I venture on a week road trip with some friends and two years later, in March 2020 I went back and I went on a solo road trip of 2 weeks itinerary around Baja Sur and had a blast, even better than the first time.
So much to see!
Here I will share with you all the best things to do in La Paz and the best places to visit in the close surroundings.
If it’s your first time in Baja California or you would like to read an update on where to stay to eat and how to get around, besides other practical tips, read my La Paz, Mexico Travel guide.
I spent about 2 months in La Paz overall and days in La Paz went by too fast. Although I don’t think it has the charm of other more historical Mexican towns such us Queretaro, or Xalapa, to name a few, it is still an interesting city to explore, starting from its beautiful sunsets from the Malecon.
Anyway, without any further ado, here are my favorite 25 things to do in La Paz Mexico.
Free things to do in La Paz Mexico
Explore the local Markets
Although La Paz is a very touristic city and I had the feeling that the majority of its inhabitant was from US (nothing wrong with that but I just didn’t feel like I was in Mexico some times), however, you can still find a local feeling, especially when you hang out in the markets.
There are two, one is more centrical and smaller, Francisco Madero, closer to the center. Both are interesting to explore and to try the local specialties.
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.
I’ve 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 all started to laugh! That was funny.
On a Saturday and Tuesday, by the main plaza, in Calle Francisco Madero you will find an organic market selling different kinds of veggies and some food stalls, freshly made bread, and some other organic products.
Walk around town and discover the colorful graffiti
Another must-do in La Paz is a walk through the beautiful multicolored graffiti that you find on every wall in the city center. They are a giant representation of the local life in relationship with nature, and mainly the marine population.
It is part of a project made in collaboration with Colectivo Tomate, a group of local artists involved in different urban projects in Mexico where they have revamped weary areas of different cities including La Paz.
They have revamped old walls with colorful paintings representing sea life as a celebration of the relationship between the local community and the rich marine life of the sea of Cortez, where the whale is the absolute star.
Here below are a few examples.
Watch the sunset from the Malecon
La Paz is very popular, among other things, for its spectacular sunsets that you can admire from the Malecon, the promenade by the sea which is also the beating heart of La Paz, where basically everything happens.
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.
Have a nice morning jog on the Malecon
For its strategic location, you can admire also sunrises from the Malecon in La Paz, Mexico. It is amazing to be able to jog early morning in the first morning light and appreciate the soft colors of the sky reflecting over the water. The best way to start your day.
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.
Enjoy the artworks displayed on the Malecon
The promenade along the bay is full of artworks representing the appreciation and respect that the local population has towards the sea but also you can observe symbolic representations such as the man and the sea, Jacque Custeau, who called the sea of Cortez The World’s Aquarium, and many more.
You just need to walk along the 5 km Malecon to find out what’s your favorite piece of art.
Explore La Paz beaches
Among the many free things to do in La Paz, going to the beach is always on top of the list. All the beaches of La Paz are in the same direction moving towards the north side.
If you need to choose one beach, Playa Balandra is a must-see in la Paz. This is the most beautiful and breathtaking beach and the last one. 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 is more deserted and without facilities.
The water has 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 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.
On Balandra beach you can also rent a kayak or a paddleboard and enjoy rowing around the bay.
How to get to Balandra beach?
You can either get 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 sea 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.
Unmissable tours and activities in La Paz
Paddleboard in the bay of La Paz
If you wish to do some exercising and see La Paz from another perspective you can rent paddleboards for 10 USD for one hour or two and go out on the bay right in front of the Malecon. You will easily find shops to rent your board and row.
Rent a bike
You can rent a bike for 50 pesos per hour and bike around the city or venture out along the coast. For the boldest and adventurers, there are lots of mountain bike trails in the surrounding hills. There are also biking tours organized by the local bike rentals shops.
Katun MTB day adventures offer a variety of biking and hiking tours around la Paz.
Check out the Anthropology Museum
Situated between Calle 5 de Mayo and Altamirano, the Museum of Anthropology of La Paz has been recently reopened and offers an interesting overview of the history of Baja California, from the first inhabitants until the arrivals of the Jesuits and the development of the new villages up to the modern society.
There is also an ethnobotanical garden to explore.
Scuba dive in the Sea of Cortez
Nominated the Aquarium of the world by Jacque Custeau, the Sea of Cortez in the Gulf of California is indeed one of the most amazing diving experiences. You will be able to see manta rays, dolphins, and most of all healthy reefs, sadly very rare to find, sea lions, and much much more.
The top diving spots include Isla Espíritu Santo island and Los Islotes.
It’s best to dive from May to October when visibility is best.
You should know that the sea of Cortes comprises 244 islands, islets, and coastal areas that have been proclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Sites for being home to “695 vascular plant species, more than in any marine and insular property on the World Heritage List. Equally exceptional is the number of fish species: 891, 90 of them endemic. The site, moreover, contains 39% of the world’s total number of species of marine mammals and a third of the world’s marine cetacean species.” (cit.)
Take a day trip to La Ventana
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, a 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 kitesurfer if you like peace.
Swim with the sea lions in Isla Espiritu Santo
Among the top things to do in La Paz, swimming with sea lions and swimming with the whale sharks are the most exhilarating experiences.
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.
Espíritus Santo is a one-day boat tour – 1h 1/2 ride in the beautiful bay in the Sea 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.
To book this tour you can either go the previous day on the Malecon in downtown La Paz, and speak to the boat captain directly, they will find you. Or click here to prebook your tour.
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, basically for the entire high season. 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 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.
To book this tour you can also go on the Malecon on the very same morning and book your tour, or you can pre-book it on this site.
Hike el Cerro de la Calavera
Located just outside the city center on the road La Paz – Pichilingue, it is called Cerro de La Calavera, which means hill of skulls, for the peculiar rock formations that have been molded 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 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.
Enjoy the Nightlife
Although it’s not as busy as Cabo San Lucas, the nightlife in La Paz is still quite lively and offers a different cozy place to listen to good music and have a drink, meet people, or just enjoy the vibes. On the Malecon, you can find different bars from where you can also enjoy spectacular views.
One particular place that I love, instead, that is not on the Malecon, is La Morante Art and wine bar, a vintage decorated place with a lovely internal patio where they sometimes offer live music shows. And of course, they sell food.
Living in a Spanish-speaking country is the best way to learn the language and any touristy towns or cities have schools for expatriates and tourists who want to practice the language or learn from scratch. In La Paz, you can also find such schools. It’s also a way to mingle with like-minded people.
Taste fresh seafood
Finding fresh seafood is one of the easiest things to do in La Paz. I haven’t tried one because I was trying to be vegan at the time but a trusted friend suggested Marisco Los Laurel on the Malecon.
Learn about the whales’ species at the Whale Museum (museo de la ballena)
Its original location in a beautiful colonial house on the Malecòn has been closed and replaced by a restaurant. A new location should be established hopefully soon.
You can keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.
Take a kayaking tour to Espiritu Santu Island
There are many kayaking tours around the bay in La Paz up to Espiritu Santu Island. Although some time ago it was possible to do a self-guided tour it’s now mandatory to be with an authorized guide as a marine park rule. So there is no kayak rental available but you can check out Sea and Adventures company, which is one of the most reputable and popular in the area to take you on a kayak tour.
In Playa Balandra, instead, you can rent kayak and paddle boards to paddle around the bay.
Try the unique experience of Sandboarding
Baja Desconocida is a local tour agent that will take you to El Mogote at only 20 minutes from La Paz.
El Mogote is a small sand barrier that protects La Paz Bay, there you can face up to 100 feet of dunes to perform this activity.
Besides trying a new fun adventure you will also enjoy beautiful sunsets from the top.
Hike in the Sierra de la laguna mountains
Just so you know, hiking in Baja California is one of the most popular activities for adventurers and explorers. Amazing hiking trails are available all along the mountain chains that cross the Baja Peninsula.
In the farthest south, you will find Sierra de la Laguna, an oasis in the desert where you can have an amazing hike along the canyons crossing rivers and discovering hot springs and secret lakes.
During my 2 weeks road trip to Baja California, I wanted to include one day of hiking.
I contacted a guide that was recommended by a friend and booked my tour.
It was an unexpected incredible area, an oasis in the desert, with palm trees rivers, and waterfalls in the middle of the rocky desert.
You can check out my 2 weeks itinerary if you wish to learn more, while I am writing a brand new post specifically on the Sierra de la Laguna. Stay tuned!
Take a two-day trip to Cabo Pulmo
If you are not in the mood of going on a road trip, you can still rent a car for a couple of days and explore the southern part of Baja California, where the magic happens.
Sea lovers will definitely need to visit Cabo Pulmo and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the so popular fishing village which became a marine park and UNESCO natural site for the protected marine life of its coast.
The Cabo Pulmo snorkeling experience is one of a kind, and if you dive it’s even more spectacular.
From December through January you will be able to spot humpback whales, indeed an experience that you will remember forever.
INSIDER TIPS – if you are into cetaceans and you want to see the blue whales, you must go to Loreto from December to March. They are incredible creatures that alone make the trip worth it.
Go whale watching in Magdalena Bay
I haven’t seen any organized tour from La Paz, however, if you rent a car, you can reach Adolfo Lopez Mateos, the best place in Baja California close to La Paz where to see the gray whales.
It’s an amazing and surreal experience to be able to see them so close by and even touch them. I am not sure if it’s the only place on earth where you can have such a persona encounter with a whale, it’s certainly unique.
It’s very easy and safe to reach.
You can check out my guide to whale watching in Baja California if you want to learn more.
Take a day trip to Todos Santos
Todos Santos is a quirky town on the pacific coast of Baja California Sur, proclaimed Pueblo Magico for many reasons.
I would probably stay in Todos Santos for a few days but if you only have one day it will be enough to appreciate its quirky historical center, breathtaking sunset over the ocean, some surfing sceneries, and if you are in the right season you can also check out the baby sea turtle release on the beach. You can read more about this pretty Mexican beach town in my guide to the best things to do in Todos Santos.
Did I miss anything? If so, please let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed the post and want to know more about La Paz, Mexico, you might want to read my Essential guide to La Paz, Mexico.
Join a scuba diving liveaboard
Last but not least, Baja California is the only place where you can join one of the few scuba diving liveaboards in Mexico and live one of the most unique underwater experiences ever. Whether you are an expert diver or you just love to be underwater, you should read more about these multi-day tours.
Small boats will take you around some of the most remote places in the sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean, depending on the itinerary you choose.
You can see with white shark through a cage (in this case you will be the one in the cage) or take multiple dives in the world aquarium (aka the sea of Cortez). I wrote a specific post on the top liveaboards in Mexico for your convenience.
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