La Paz

The arbor in La Paz resort town, Mexico
The arbor in La Paz resort town, Mexico

La Paz is the capital city of the Mexican state Baja California South.  The town boasts a magnificent bay on the Sea of Cortez.  Its marine attractions and islets make it a popular vacation destination.  Many consider the beach areas of La Paz to be the most beautiful on the whole Baja Peninsula.  The city has a population of 215,178. However, the broader metropolitan region takes into account the towns of El Zacatal, El Centenario, and San Pedro.

Pichilingue Harbour, La Paz, Baja California, Mexico
Pichilingue Harbour, La Paz, Baja California, Mexico

History

Founded in 1535 the area was known by neanderthals 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 but named it Santa Cruz.  Abandoned and rediscovered again in 1596 and given its final name, La Paz.

John Steinbeck's "The Pearl" takes place in La Paz
John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl” takes place in La Paz

The Jesuit mission formed in 1720, and abandoned within a few decades.   La Paz became a permanent settlement in 1811.

Incidentally, the city has an impressive literary connection in the internationally acclaimed work The Pearl by John Steinbeck in 1947.  It also played a significant role as the setting of Scott O’Dell’s Newbery Honor Book The Black Pearl in 1967.

Geography

With its tropical desert climate, La Paz is a landscape of contrasts.  From the abundant marine life of its waters and coastal region to the surrounding sun-drenched lands with this hilly and desert-like terrain.  Both hot and dry, the city doesn’t receive much rainfall throughout the year—just enough to support a few streams.  The beaches slope with white sands.  The waters off the coast are famous for pearl diving.  The seawater is full of sport fish like marlin, tuna, and sailfish.

The Malecon harbor front road in La Paz, Baja, Mexico
The Malecon harbor front road in La Paz, Baja, Mexico

Tourism

Due to its natural scenery, La Paz is an internationally acclaimed tourist destination.  Water sports enthusiasts and eco-tourists love it for its proximity to UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Sites like Isla Espiritu Santo as well as to other regional islets and islands that make up this unique biosphere.  Pearls still exist in the waters of La Paz, but many tourists come to enjoy the excellent scuba diving and snorkeling.  Sea kayaking, swimming, sunbathing, and boating are popular, too.  Like elsewhere along with the ocean and seaside settlements of the Baja Peninsula, sport fishing is popular.  As the capital, La Paz is home to cultural attractions as well as resorts and hotels to suit a myriad of budgets.

Ocean View of La Paz Mexico
Ocean View of La Paz Mexico

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 live in the rich waters that Jacques Cousteau once referred to as “the aquarium of the world.”
  • Sierra de la Laguna: The mountain biosphere reserve is just south of La Paz.  It’s known for its crystal pools, streams, and enchanting flora.  Hiking the region is a favorite 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.

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