Whether you love the bustle of city life, or prefer more space and quiet, La Paz offers its residents a mix of amenities, culture and adventure that’s tough to beat.
Do you love being in the middle of it all, part of a bustling, busy scene? Or do you prefer a quieter, slower pace, with no lights or noise to get in the way of your stargazing or a full moonrise over the water? Like the children’s story book, whether you are a “city mouse” or a “country mouse” is one of those decisions you need to make when you’re contemplating a move to La Paz, BCS.
When Jim and I first came to La Paz looking for a potential vacation/eventual retirement home, we really didn’t know much about the area. We had heard about La Paz from some of the locals in Cabo San Lucas, where we owned a time share. They spoke in almost reverent tones of the city’s stunning beaches, the miles-long waterfront Malecon, and the peaceful, laid back vibe.
That is why, when we began our search for a longer-term home, we decided it was time to check out La Paz. The morning after we arrived, we met our real estate agents and, like any good potential buyer, went over the criteria we had provided in advance. We wanted a single family home, not a condo, preferably a one-story with 2-3 bedrooms. We also needed a good-sized fenced yard for our two large dogs. Based on those criteria, and our budget, our agents had selected several listings to show us (just like on HGTV!) and off we went. But, as we set off in the opposite direction from downtown La Paz, out the Transpeninsular Highway 1 into the desert, we looked at each other, both thinking the same thought: “Where the heck are we going?”
We made a left turn and bumped along a rough dirt road. Our apprehension grew. We seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere, not really what we’d had in mind. Then we made another turn, and suddenly we were driving up a paved road through a beautiful community. Before us were single story, hacienda style homes on spacious lots, with stone terraces looking out over the hills to the bay. It was here we found a beautiful two-bedroom home with a stunning view of the Sea of Cortez. We fell in love and, to make a long story short, we bought it.
In the years since, started our own business selling real estate, and we began to tell our own clients why we love living in this quirky, close knit, eclectic and very friendly community called El Centenario. At the same time, we have had an amazing time getting to know all that downtown La Paz has to offer. We regularly hop in our car for the short 20 minute drive into town to shop, eat at the many wonderful restaurants, and walk the famous Malecon.
We understand the allure of both the city life and the country life, and have been fortunate enough to enjoy a great mix of both. So if you’re wondering whether being a city mouse or a country mouse in La Paz is the right choice for you, following are a few things to consider.
City Mouse: La Paz Centro
If you are looking to downsize, love the idea of low-maintenance living and want to be close to restaurants, shops and nightlife, a home in or near downtown La Paz (known as La Paz Centro) is a great choice. Here you’ll find the La Paz Malecon, a three-plus mile stretch of boardwalk and sand that runs along the bay for the entire length of downtown La Paz and beyond. The Malecon has recently been renovated, and the results are simply stunning. Unlike the tourist zones in many resort towns, the Malecon is full of locals who come out to stroll and enjoy the relaxed vibe. In fact, families with small children can be found here any time of the day and even late into the night.
Museums, restaurants, and an organic farmer’s market can all be found within a few blocks of the Malecon. There are also several small grocery stores and open air markets, as well as a downtown shopping district for shoes and apparel. And with regular bus routes and now Uber serving the city, living downtown means owning a car can be optional.
The areas on either end of the Malecon offer a multitude of condo options, all within several blocks of the water, and some with amazing ocean views. Condos typically come with HOA fees, so be aware of the added cost. Prices tend to be higher in this area, and single family homes tend to be multi-story due to smaller lot sizes and to maximize the views, and most will be walled for added security. In general, you are paying for location and view here, not lot size.
Also keep in mind that along with all that convenience come some not so convenient aspects, such as noise that goes late into the night (especially on weekends), tourist traffic and events that block off entire streets, including the Malecon, sometimes for days at a time. Remember, real estate is all about compromises!
Country Mouse: El Centenario
Looking for a bit more space to stretch out, and a more laid-back vibe? The community of El Centenario is just 20 minutes from downtown La Paz and is growing quickly, thanks to its great blend of open space, views of La Paz Bay, and lower home prices compared to many equivalent properties in town. Lots here tend to be larger, many ranging from 1/4 to 1/2 acre, giving owners extra space for pets, a garage, or storage for an RV, boat or off-road vehicle.
The thing we love most about living in El Centenario is its combination of friendly, local community, spacious lots and quiet, peaceful vibe. Because El Centenario faces north east, with views across the bay of downtown La Paz, early risers are treated to spectacular sunrises over the bay. Here, you can sit out on your terrace in the afternoons without being forced inside by the heat to draw the shades. At night, there are no city lights to dim the stars, and when the full moon rises over the bay, you can sit outside on your rooftop terrace and enjoy the moment in quiet solitude.
El Centenario also offers easy access to miles of hike and bike trails, ATV trails for off-road adventures, and the beaches of El Mogote peninsula. Nearby stores including Walmart, Home Depot, Sam’s Club and Liverpool offer plenty of shopping options within a ten-minute drive. Even better, you can get to know your local proprietors, like the organic chicken farmer, who will deliver chicken and eggs right to your door, and the “Heavenly Bacon” man who slices your bacon to order. Read more about them here. There are several small tiendas and fruterias where you can shop for local organic produce and groceries, and tortillerias where you can buy fresh corn and flour tortillas hot off the press. Just try making it home in the car without eating one!
Despite it’s quiet country exterior and spacious lot sizes, locals know El Centenario as a very close-knit, social and friendly community. Restaurants like Bon Appetit, KM14, Baja Pelican, and El Mezquite Verde offer residents and seasonal visitors a place to get together and socialize. Smaller roadside spots such as Tacos Trasvina for fish and shrimp tacos, Los Yñiguez for carnitas (roasted pork) tacos, and Chata and Parcelita cafes are all excellent options for breakfast and lunch at very affordable prices. In a hurry? You can grab a quick lunch at roadside food trucks along the highway. There is even a local hot dog cart on weekends. For more details on these local vendors, check our the series of posts on our blog marked Spotlight on El Centenario featuring different local businesses.
On the hill side of the highway and within a mile of the water are neighborhoods including Lomas del Centenario and the gated community of Haciendas Palo Verde, both offering custom built homes on large lots with views of La Paz Bay. If a home closer to the water is on your list of priorities, the beach community of El Comitan offers homes within walking distance to the beach.
Looking to build your dream home on an ocean view lot? Villas del Centenario is a new, master-planned community now taking lot reservations in the hills of El Centenario overlooking the Sea of Cortez. You can reserve the lot of your choice and work with local builder Baja Custom Homes to design and build your home. Construction on the first homes in Villas del Centenario is scheduled to start this Fall 2021. For more information visit the neighborhood page here.
So, Are You a City Mouse or a Country Mouse?
Whether you are a city mouse or a country mouse at heart, La Paz is an amazing place to live. It is the capital of Baja California Sur, and a livable, walkable city of 250,000 – 300,000 people, depending on the time of year. It has major universities, first-rate health care and hospitals, a world-renowned scientific research center, frequent cultural events, three national sports teams, and so much more. At the same time, La Paz retains the peaceful vibe that gives it its name: La Paz literally translates to “The Peace.” If you’re looking to escape the resort crowds and find a livable city with endless opportunities for adventure, you owe it to yourself to come spend time in La Paz. We promise you won’t be disappointed.