Ports of Call: La Paz
The appropriately named city of La Paz, Spanish for “The Peace”, is a favorite winter base for cruisers who live the snowbird, sun-chasing lifestyle. Like the gray whales who make the same pilgrimage, Pacific Northwest boaters have traveled south to the Gulf of California in the winter and made the spring voyage back north en route to Alaskan summers since time immemorial. La Paz, the state capital of Mexico’s Baja California Sur, has been a desirable destination, resupply point, and launchpad for aboriginal communities, the Spanish conquistadors, John Steinbeck, and visiting boaters through the ages. Tucked inside the Gulf of California on the eastern side of the Baja Peninsula, the large and protected Bahía de La Paz is simultaneously spared the full wrath of open Pacific weather and is located near many of the area’s most alluring islands and destinations.
Older guide books often paint La Paz as a sleepy, picturesque fishing town with a sportfishing and tourism focus. However, La Paz of 2018 is no more a small fishing town than is Olympia, Washington, with a growing population of over 250,000 and a lively urban culture. Make no mistake, La Paz is a proper city. While one can stay within the boating and tourism bubbles that naturally form around the resorts and marinas, there’s plenty of authentic Mexico a stone’s throw away in the form of historic sites, public art, excellent museums, great restaurants, and, best of all, friendly locals who love their city.
Additionally, it bears underscoring that La Paz is in a Spanish-speaking country. You will not be in the vast, surreal touristscape of Cabo San Lucas, and most of the locals speak their native Spanish with no need nor interest to learn English. Knowing Spanish basics and having at least one person in your group who can converse will go a long way to navigating and enjoying what the city has to offer. At the very least, say “hola” instead of hello and “gracias” instead of thank you to show some respeto por la cultura (respect for the culture). As with any unfamiliar location, good sense and the buddy system go a long way to keeping crewmembers safe and happy.
For boaters, La Paz is helpfully loaded with many excellent marinas, boatyards, and supply stores. Marina La Paz and Marina Cortez are the nucleus of a boat-friendly district in the heart of downtown near the Abaroa Boat Yard and the local go-to boat supply store, Lopez Marine. Farther north a few miles, Marina CostaBaja is a high-end marina within a resort, complete with associated restaurants and businesses. The Bercovich Boat Works boatyard (Talleres Navales Bercovich) is a full-service yard near the fuel dock of Marina Costa Baja for those in need.