Beautiful La Paz, Baja California Sur
La Paz is the capital city of the Mexican state Baja California Sur. The city boasts a magnificent bay on the Sea of Cortez. Its marine attractions and islets make it a popular vacation destination. In fact, many consider the beach areas of La Paz to be the most beautiful on the whole Baja Peninsula. While the city itself has a population of 215,178, its larger metropolitan region also takes into account the towns of el Zacatal, el Centario, and San Pedro; this large geographical region is regarded as the fourth-largest municipality in the nation in terms of area.
Although the city was officially founded in 1535, its area had been known by hunter and gatherer peoples since Neolithic times. Rock paintings and other artifacts dating as far back as 10,000 years ago attest to their presence in most regions of the Baja. Hernan Cortes founded a little colony by the bay of La Paz, but named it Santa Cruz. The settlement was abandoned, however, until the bay was rediscovered again in 1596 and given its final name, La Paz.
Of course, even though a Jesuit mission was established in La Paz in 1720, it was also abandoned within a few decades due to indigenous uprisings, the harsh climate, and outbreaks of disease. La Paz wouldn’t become permanently settled until 1811. The city has an interesting literary connection; it was featured in the internationally acclaimed work The Pearl by John Steinbeck in 1947. It also played a major role as the setting of Scott O’Dell’s Newbery Honor Book The Black Pearl in 1967.
With its tropical dessert climate, La Paz is a landscape of contrasts. From the rich marine life of its waters and coastal region to the surrounding sun-drenched lands with this hilly and desert-like terrain, La Paz enjoys a varied setting. Both hot and dry, the city doesn’t receive much rainfall throughout the year—just enough to support a few streams. The beaches of La Paz are noted for their sloping nature and white sands. The waters off the coast of La Paz were historically famous for pearl diving—hence the city’s connection to adventure tales! Today, the waters are noted for their populations of sport fish like marlin, tuna, and sailfish.
Due to its natural scenery, La Paz is an internationally acclaimed tourist destination. Water sport enthusiasts and eco-tourists favor La Paz for its nearness to UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Isla Espiritu Santo as well as to other regional islets and islands that make up this unique biosphere. Pearls are still found in the waters of La Paz, but many tourists simple come to enjoy the great scuba diving and snorkeling there. Sea kayaking, swimming, sunbathing, and boating are popular, too. Like elsewhere along the ocean and seaside settlements of the Baja Peninsula, sport fishing is immensely popular and many visitors favor La Paz for this activity. As the capital, La Paz is home to cultural attractions as well as resorts and hotels to suit a myriad of budgets.
More Things to See and Do in La Paz
The Regional Museum of Anthropology and History: Established in 1981, this museum features artifacts and exhibits of the indigenous peoples who historically made their home in the region as well as throughout the peninsula.
Boat Tours: Although the sea attracts scuba divers from all over the globe, many tourists prefer to catch a glimpse of the sea fauna from boats. Sperm whales, orcas, humpback whales, gray whales, whale sharks, dolphins, sea lions, and many other creatures can be found in these rich waters that Jacques Cousteau once referred to as “the aquarium of the world.”
Sierra de la Laguna: The mountain biosphere reserve is located just south of La Paz. It’s known for its crystal pools, streams, and enchanting flora. Hiking the region is a popular tourist activity.
Cave Paintings: While many regions throughout the peninsula boast ancient cave paintings, various sites surrounding the city can also be viewed for this indigenous artwork created thousands of years ago.
Mountain Biking and Off-Roading: Because the terrain is hilly and mountainous, many outdoor sports enthusiasts find the landscape to be a welcome challenge for biking and off-roading adventures.