What are the beaches like in La Paz? It’s one of the most common questions we get from people who are thinking of visiting or even moving to La Paz. Sure, you want to know about the local culture, the home prices, the restaurants and fun things to do here. But let’s not kid ourselves, most expats from the U.S. and Canada come to La Paz looking for a beach vacation or a beach lifestyle. And wow, does La Paz deliver!
There are many beaches to explore in and around La Paz. Some are more popular and attract crowds, others are more secluded and offer a chance to get away from it all. However, if you are new to the area, you can’t go wrong with a day spent at Playa Balandra and Playa Tecolote (Playa is the Spanish word for “beach”). These two often top the lists of best beaches in Mexico.
We say “and” because the two beaches are only minutes apart, and visiting both in one day offers a nice balance of relaxation and fun, in our humble opinion!
Playa Balandra is frequently ranked as one of the best beaches in Mexico by travel sites, and for good reason. The white sand beach overlooks a stunningly beautiful saltwater lagoon, encircled almost all the way around by the rocky shoreline that protects it from the wind. This makes Playa Balandra a very calm, safe beach for swimming. The water is crystal clear and shallow enough that on most days you can walk the entire way across the bay to the other side. One note: keep an eye out for the small white stingrays that burrow into the sand on the bottom. Shuffle your feet as you walk to avoid stepping on one by accident!
Wade out to the middle of this calm, clear bay and you’ll feel as if you are standing in the middle of a travel magazine ad. The water is turquoise; the bottom is soft white sand, and a few sailboats and yachts may be bobbing just beyond the small entrance to the bay. The water here is so calm some people bring pool floats and drift the day away, as if enjoying nature’s giant swimming pool. It is truly heaven.
The calm, shallow water also makes Playa Balandra a perfect spot to learn or practice stand-up paddle boarding. Who cares if you fall when you’re in 2-3 feet of water and the bottom is soft white sand? Paddle around the bay, then venture around the corner to the next beach to look for sea shells, and snap a picture of the famous El Hongo, or “Mushroom Rock.” The shallow waters along the rocky outcroppings are also great for snorkeling.
Come in the morning to snag one of the free palapas for shade, or bring your own umbrella. You will also need to bring your own snacks and beverages, as there are no facilities or services here (including restrooms).
After a morning spent at Playa Balandra, you’ll notice the crowds starting to arrive around lunchtime. When the parking lot fills up, and your stomach starts to rumble, you know it’s time to head up the road to Playa Tecolote. Just around the corner from Balandra, this much larger stretch of beach has several restaurants, and (thank goodness) restrooms, along with kayak and jet ski rentals.
Tecolote offers equally warm and beautiful water (when the wind is not up), with gentle waves lapping the beach. Arrive in the early afternoon to grab a beach table, and enjoy fresh seafood and your favorite beverages just steps away from the water. The large menu at Restaurant Bar El Tecolote (the big blue restaurant to the left as you drive in) includes fresh ceviche, aguachiles, giant stuffed chocolate clams, fajitas, tacos and more. As you munch, you’ll be rewarded with a view of Isla Espíritu Santo, the protected sanctuary island just off the coast where tour operators take visitors to snorkel with sea lions.
Feeling restless? Rent a jet ski right on the beach in front of the restaurants and zoom around the bay.
On the way home, you can stop back in downtown La Paz at the upstairs restaurant at Harker Board overlooking the malecon for great sunset views, people watching and cocktails. They also serve up some of the best burgers in town.
Rent a car from one of the many car rental places downtown, or take one of the city buses that go from downtown La Paz to Playa Balandra and Playa Tecolote.
Playa Balandra: Go early to get one of the free shade palapas, or bring your own umbrella, chairs or beach blankets, snacks, drinks and water toys. No services here, although there are sometimes kayaks and paddleboards available to rent.
Playa Tecolote: Bring $$ to reserve a table or to pay for water sports rentals. Tables are for restaurant patrons only and require a deposit that is deducted from your bill. Menu prices are in pesos. Jet skis are available to rent by the half hour.