Visitors to La Paz, Mexico will often ask me what there is to do in and around the city. “We have a beautiful cathedral, a five kilometer-long (and growing) malecon, a fantastic anthropology and natural history museum and a wide range of delicious dining options to suit all tastes and budgets”,...I might reply.
But for me the real treasures of La Paz and its neighbouring localities were constructed not by humans, but by nature; its beaches. And in Mexico camping on them is permitted.
This article serves as a rough guide to some of the most popular beaches in La Paz.
This is a favourite beach for some due its fantastic views of Isla Espiritu Santo and the sea food restaurants selling delicious shrimps, fried fish and clamatos. This is a good option if you want everything provided for you. In peak season, Tecolote Beach can be a little chaotic but there are also times, such as mid-week in off-season, when it is rather tranquil. Tecolote is a great place for swimming offshore for those that have the ability and experience.
Just five minutes from Tecolote, Balandra Bay is a protected area of fauna and flora and one of the most popular beaches for residents and visitors. The bay consists of some seven beaches consolidated by an area of shallow water with a deep pool in the middle. Low tide exposes a sandbar that runs partly across the bay making it possible to stroll out in ankle deep water. Balandra is partially wrapped by a mountainous backdrop and has a channel that leads into a lush mangrove that serves as a nursery area for a wide range of fish species and also habitat for resident and migratory birds. This place is truly stunning and a must see for any beach lover visiting the area. Of course, at busy times in can become quite crowded. Arrive early to snap up one the free palapas. Because Balandra is subject to special protection, there are no facilities here and you cannot fish or extract any plant or animal of any kind.
These beaches are neighbours and are the closest beaches, aside from the malecon, to the city. You can drive from the centre of town in around 10 minutes, cycle in 20 and even walk or jog if that’s your thing.
El Coromuel is a small beach divided into two parts by a rocky outcrop that provides support for the landward end of the pier. Several family sized palapas, plus a bunch of smaller ones are peppered along the right side of the beach and are free to the public. Three of them are connected to disabled access ramps that lead from the car park to the water’s edge. The raised walkway that backs the beach features several restaurant bars selling clams and beverages. Wash rooms are available; just remember to pop a propina in the tin for the cleaners that keep the facility in good hygiene. The pier and its pilings provide habitat for much marine life and is a great place to snorkel. Buoy lines help protect swimmers from currents. Beyond the now redundant water slides to the far of the beach is a platform area built into the cliff face from which you can observe a large part of the bay with a birds-eye view.
La Concha is shared by the general public and a small hotel resort. The entire beach is open to all however the loungers and palapas here are private. Day passes are available at low cost which also grants you access to the family friendly open air pool. Perhaps 20-30 metres offshore, the peak of a partially submerged rock breaks the surface. On closer inspection with mask and snorkel the rock turns out to be a whole lot larger than initially perceived and harbours the usual sessile and free swimming suspects’ common to the rocky reefs of the Sea of Cortez.
El Caimancito is also used by a private resort but this beach has its own public-use palapas as well, the largest of which is linked to the car park by a wooden path for disabled access. A short pier constructed of stone provides surface area for sponge and algal colonies while also creating a habitat for rocky reef fishes. Depending on wind direction if any, usually one side of the makeshift pier is sheltered from the elements creating a child-friendly confined water area.
These two beaches are somewhat remote and are also divided by a small fish camp and a relatively high cliff. This side of the headland is more exposed to the elements so on very windy days there can be a lot of wave action. For the most part, the gentle onshore breezes create a surface current that gently pushes one back towards the beach. Neither of the two have any facilities nor are there any shops nearby so you will need to take everything you need with you.
Saltito is a favourite for locals that prefer beaches with less people. From the area where you leave your vehicle it’s necessary to traverse a large sand dune to reach the beach. The course sand here has an exfoliating effect on the soles of bare feet and is evidence of a high energy coastline. It’s possible to hike up the cliff on the far left of the shore, the summit of which will gift you with a panoramic view of the open ocean and the Cupalo Canal which separates Isla Cerravlo, AKA Jacques Cousteau Island, from La Paz. If you swim out from the far left of the beach you will pretty soon encounter a rocky coral habitat supporting a plenitude of marine life.
Los Muertitos is often wrongly referred to as Saltito but is the other side of the cliff. A sandy track leads you to a large parking area and from here you walk down one of several micro- arroyos onto the beach. The fish camp is far right, this side of the cliff. Under the surface, stony coral colonies all but carpet the sea bed. This shallow reef begins just a few feet from the shoreline. Elegant corals and various gorgonians and sea fans can also be found here.
When visiting the beach it’s important that we consider the environment. Even if there are cans for garbage it is best to take your rubbish away with you where possible as the cans can become full and overflow at busy times. Shells and such should not be removed as this contributes to coastal erosion. Motorized vehicles, including quads and buggies, shouldn’t be driven on the beach, even if there doesn’t seem to be anyone around to enforce this.
For your safety, it’s a good idea to understand the concept of rip tides, undertows and surface currents so that you know how to avoid them, or safely swim clear of them should the need arise. Attempting to swim directly to the beach against a rip tide is a common reaction but is by far your worst possible option. Instead, swim perpendicular (across) until you are clear and then head for the shore.
Beaches are a popular location to spend time with friends and family and there are many others to discover around La Paz and in the wider municipality such as those in La Ventana, Los Barrilles and Todos Santos. For a hassle beach experience you may consider a guided beach tour by road or boat. You can contact me directly for more information.
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