I recently found myself on the Baja Peninsula, in La Paz, Mexico with a few days to kill before a camping trip on nearby Isla Espiritu Santo. I was pleasantly surprised by this sleepy city by the sea, and after visiting Cabo San Lucas later in the trip, I decided La Paz was much more my speed! I found Cabo to be very Americanized, with lots of drunken Gringos, cruise ship passengers and everything in English and US Dollars. You can get by on very little Spanish in La Paz, but it’s always fun to at least try speaking Spanish, and the town felt much more like Mexico to me than Cabo did. In my short experience, it seems Cabo is great for an all-inclusive vacation if you’re looking for sunshine and relaxation, but to experience any Mexican culture, you will need to travel a little bit further.

A beginner's guide to La Paz, Mexico

How to get there

You can fly in to La Paz from mainland Mexico; however, I was using American Airlines miles and chose to fly into Cabo San Lucas. From the San Juan del Cabo airport, I would be taking an Ecobajatours shuttle to La Paz. I imagined this to be an adventure in itself – a bus across the Mexican desert – how dangerous! Alas, it was an air-conditioned passenger van that even had wifi – so much for living on the edge! All told, the ride takes about 3 hours and stops in other towns like El Pescadero and Todos Santos, which I’ve vowed to return and explore on another trip. As a woman traveling alone, I felt quite safe in the area, but used common sense and took the usual precautions when traveling after dark.

A beginner's guide to La Paz, Mexico

Where to stay

My lodging for this stay was the lovely Posada Luna Sol, which is base of operations for Mar Y Aventuras outfitters. I loved the colorfully tiled guest rooms, although other rooms did not have windows and were therefore less cheery and bright. There were many common areas to relax and take in the surroundings. Breakfast was served each morning al fresco by the pool, and filtered drinking water is available throughout the hotel.

A beginner's guide to La Paz, Mexico

Places to eat

Posada Luna Sol is close to the marina, and a short walk to La Paz’s main attraction, the Malecon. As with many beach towns, the Malecon is lined with restaurants on one side, facing the beach and promenade on the other. There is no shortage of delicious, inexpensive tacos to be found along the Malecon. My personal favorite were the 20 peso tacos at the open-air, fast-food Super Burro close to my hotel. Be sure to stop by La Fuente afterwards for ice cream to satisfy that sweet tooth!

A beginner's guide to La Paz, Mexico A beginner's guide to La Paz, Mexico

Water sports and marine activities

The main draw to La Paz is the ocean, of course. There are any number of excursions to be had in the surrounding area. You can choose from whale watching, kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, diving and swimming with sea lions. Trips range anywhere from day trips to 11-day excursions. I chose a 4-night getaway to Isla Espiritu Santo, where the outfitter has an established campsite for the winter.  From our base on the island, each day we could choose from hiking, kayaking or snorkeling. Twice we visited a sea lion colony at the north end of the island, where we encountered the friendliest sea lions I’ve ever seen! They were happy to play with us, biting our snorkel fins and allowing for a ton of photo opportunities.

If you just want to do some plain ol’ sun worshipping of course, there are plenty of beaches to visit in the area, such as Balandra Beach, Pichilingue Beach or Tecolote Beach.

A beginner's guide to La Paz, Mexico

Other things to do

For those wishing to stay on land, I would suggest shopping along the Malecon, and a visit to the La Paz Cathedral. Nearby towns like Todos Santos are worth a short road trip, and you can explore the desert along the way. Jeep rentals are quite popular in town for this purpose! For those who might want to travel to the mainland, there are ferries here that will take you to Topolabambo and Mazatlan from the ferry terminal at Pichilingue.

A beginner's guide to La Paz, Mexico

Have you been to La Paz? What were your favorite things to do? Let us know in the comments below!

This is a guest post by Leigh Wilson.

Leigh is a Chicago-based travel blogger and photographer.  She loves rugged adventure travel, especially when it’s topped off with a five-star hotel and spa visit.  In 2017, she will embark on a 10,000-mile road trip with her dog, seeking out the best dog-friendly spots in the Western United States.  You can find her travel stories at her blog Campfires & Concierges, follow her on Instagram @campfiresandconcierges and Pinterest @leighlwilson.