I had no intention of coming all the way down the Baja this winter, but when the stops further north did not quite “ring all the bells” for a perfect winter nesting spot, I had to keep driving further south until I found that perfect spot.
La Paz might not have been the prettiest town in Baja, nor the most historic, but there was just something that made it instantly welcoming. Like finding cool, refreshing spring water after a long parched walk across the desert (or in this case, a 1,000 mile drive down Highway 1 !!!).
Here are the Top 10 things I loved about my month in La Paz:
10. The RV Park
Our oasis for most of the month of January, the lovely AquaMarina RV Park, is run by a sweet octogenarian ex-pat, Marianne, and her kind and always-helpful stepson, Roger. Not only did this RV Park have large sites, full hookups, fast free WiFi, and spotlessly clean facilities, but they always made us feel at home and like a member of the family. Roger even let guests take his kayaks out on the bay, as Ursula did one morning (with a little help from Millie!).
I loved the panoramic views of the RV park, bay, and city from atop the park’s rooftop terrace:
I could even spy Ursula returning from a grocery store run on her scooter from up there!
9. The International Vibe
We met lots of interesting fellow travelers during our stay-- most of them non-Americans! Unlike Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos (that seemed overrun with American tourists), La Paz as a popular sailing and ferry port, tended to attract a far more diverse group of visitors. In one month here, I met folks from the U.S, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands!
Many RVers were Canadian snowbirds, including a couple from Victoria, Peter & Patsy, who pulled in next to me in their 2008 Navion…our “Skinnie Winnie” rally was growing!
A British couple, Steve and Lynn, had ferried across the Sea of Cortez from mainland Mexico in their RV to explore Baja Sur. One morning after breakfast, I was serenaded by Steve’s wonderful classical guitar music. What a treat!
Then there were our overlander Swiss friends, Peter and Ruth, (who we originally had met in San Ignacio). One day, we introduced them to Baja’s best fish taco stand located right here in La Paz (more about that in the next post!).
8. The Cathedral
The spiritual home of the city is the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de La Paz, a large mid-nineteenth century brick stone church.
Unlike the older stone missions in Loreto and San Ignacio, this cathedral’s interior and ceilings are made entirely of wood.
7. Shopping & the Mercados
As with our previous mercado (market) trips, Hans, Ursula and I enjoyed strolling around the downtown historic district of La Paz. The shops and streets were always full of unusual sights and friendly locals.
Hans found a La Paz t-shirt with 3 lizards on the back that he thought bore an uncanny resemblance of me, him, and Ursula. Ursula and I were not amused!!!
A shoe store seemed to thrive on every corner. Little wonder the local ladies must replace their shoes so often when they look like this!
If that’s not over-the-top enough for you, may I interest you in a big frilly quinceañera dress? There seemed to be something for every shopper here in La Paz!
6. The Day Trips
Now why would day trips to Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos, La Ventana, or Cabo Pulmo National Park be something I loved about La Paz? Because they were all less than 120 miles away, meaning we could enjoy the beaches of both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, experience crazy Cabo, and kite-boarding dudes without having to endure sub-par RV parks, or pay insane tourist resort prices to actually stay there. We could simply drive home to our comfortable digs back in La Paz!
5. The Weather
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the good Lord for such wonderful weather we enjoyed in La Paz. While there were some strong northern winds a few days (a common thing during Baja winters), and some clouds on a few other days, in general, the weather was just about perfect-- sunny with highs around 80 degrees and nighttime lows in the upper 50’s.
Now that I’ve experienced a second winter of fabulous weather in Mexico, it seems even harder to think of enduring harsher winter weather up north in the U.S. (even in the typical snowbird destinations of Florida, Texas, and the Southwest)!
4. Direct Connections to Mazatlán
Is it a coincidence that La Paz is directly linked to my other beloved winter beach destination, Mazatlán? I think not! While Mazatlán is a bit more tropical, and a bigger city with a fancier cathedral, a nicer historic district, and perhaps the biggest and best Mardi Gras Carnaval in all of Mexico, La Paz is more quiet and easier to get around, and also has the superior tours of marine life. If next year becomes too hard to pick one of these destinations, one can always choose both! Not only do the vehicle ferries run daily between La Paz and Mazatlán, but now there are reported to be direct flights between the 2 cities as well!
3. The Beaches & The Bay
Ok, so La Paz’s most-scenic beaches, Tecolote and Balandra, are technically north of the town limits, but most locals still consider them their own anyway. There are also some fine smaller beaches, and even a water-park closer to town. The malecon walkway in downtown La Paz along the Bay is also a fantastic place to walk, run, bike, or skate. Even if your accommodations don’t include a waterfront view, you’re never far from one….and your dog is welcomed there too!
2. The Wonders of the Sea
La Paz’s islands and surrounding waters of the Sea of Cortez is a world-class marine habitat. Jacques Cousteau once called the Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium” due to the amount and variety of fish there. Numerous diving and snorkeling tours originate from La Paz or nearby where you can swim with sea lions, whale sharks, manta rays and more. There are also boats of every kind for hire to go fishing, kayaking, or simply explore the remote white sandy beaches of islands and coasts.
1. Good Food & Great Friends
A fond memory of my month in La Paz were all the delicious things that would come my way from Ursula’s RV kitchen. One day, she sent Hans over with a freshly made warm apple, almond, raisin and cinnamon-topped German pancake for lunch. Yum!
While I managed to burn one side of the onions beyond all recognition, Ursula saved the meal with a perfectly cooked and spiced cabrilla.
When Hans and Ursula visited Thailand last year, Ursula attended a Thai cooking school and came home with lots of delicious recipes, some of which she cooked during our Baja travels.
But Ursula really pulled out all the stops on one of our final nights in La Paz at a dinner party at Bobby and Wendy’s house. She cooked the best Thai dinner I have ever had, and even better, let us watch how to see she did it from beginning to end!
Ursula and her sous-chef Bobby started by chopping up veggies and potatoes for the Shrimp Massaman Curry--
As that simmered inside, Bobby donned a headlamp and fired up his large wok grill in the backyard to start the fried rice:
Meanwhile, the “perros” (Millie and Peanut) entertained us non-cooks. Here, Peanut enjoyed a cuddle by Dutch ex-pat friends Lia and Alex:
Finally, our delicious feast was served. I wish the smells and tastes could have been preserved as easily as this photo!
Our time in La Paz was infinitely enriched by friends Bobby and Wendy (the former Caribbean sailing buddies of Hans & Ursula who now live year-round in La Paz),
Not only did they help us learn to navigate the city to get to the best coffee grinder, best fish market, spice store, hardware store, and much more, they were gracious to host various get-togethers and introduce us to their fellow friends in town.
They also VERY generously “adopted” Millie for the days when Hans, Ursula and I did our day trips and tours. Millie and Peanut seemed to get along as nicely as we humans did!
Thank you Bobby, Wendy, and Peanut for making our month in La Paz such a memorable and magnificent one!