La Paz

Highway to Todos Santos. Baja California Sur, Mexico.
Highway to Todos Santos. Baja California Sur, Mexico.

“The Peace” it is called, a town located in a bay near the tip of Baja California Sur, nestled between the Sea of Cortez and the rugged peninsula.

I didn’t come to La Paz looking for anything in particular. It just seemed like a an ideal way to ease myself into Mexico. The sole basis of that choice, was a John Steinbeck novel, one called The Pearl, and later on, Log from the Sea of Cortez.


I had timed my arrival with the start of their Carnaval, the week of excess leading up to Lent. It turned out to be a pleasant distraction for what I ended up doing in La Paz – thawing out from the cold in Seattle, where I had spent the previous three weeks, reacquainting myself with the sun and sea breeze, gathering my thoughts, and also getting some precious sleep, which I was quite deprived of at that point.

Many come to the Sea of Cortez for what lies beneath its surface. The UNESCO world heritage listed gulf is considered one of the most diverse bodies of water on the planet (though overfishing is making its consequences felt), and aside from conservation, there is an array of game fishing, sailing and various other water-based activities to enjoy. But I didn’t set foot in the water once. Instead, I wandered for hours everyday along the Malecon, its seafront boardwalk (made of cement), looking out over the water as the sun slid below the craggy horizon of the peninsula, breathing in the salt and light and quiet around me. The Malecon seems built for those of us to whom walking is a daily salvation.


Stretching for miles along the town’s sea front, it was an amalgamation of contrasts to this stranger’s eye. Resorts, bars, and thatched shelters dot its beaches for enjoyment, yet as the last of the light faded, fishermen would pull their boats up on the sand, gather and mend their nets before leaving for home, while their vessels hunkered in the sand like sleeping animals waiting for a new day.

After the sun went down, the festivities of Carnaval would commence, closing off a long section of the main street. Carnaval in La Paz is nothing like the debaucherous glitter and glamour of the same festival in Rio de Janeiro, more a family-friendly fair that included many popular music acts. I spent hours there every night, enjoying the luxury of live performances, which I experience very rarely, shooting where I could, and in general just taking it all in.

Balloon seller

La Paz was not the Mexico that I expected, not that I had a huge amount of expectation to begin with. But as a new traveler without the experience to filter and balance information, so much of what I read on the internet had me almost convinced that Mexico would a veritable hive of scum and villainy. La Paz is nothing at all like that. I walked around on my own late at night completely unmolested, and despite the fact that I didn’t speak Spanish and few locals spoke English, everyone that I stopped to ask for assistance (mostly in pantomime, with whatever newly acquired Spanish phrases I had at hand) was remarkably helpful, and in many cases, persisted until they were satisfied that they had assisted me in some measure.

The internet has given Mexico a bad reputation. One that La Paz at least, doesn’t deserve.

Muchas gracias to my host Steve for his generosity and the sanctuary of his home.


  1. That guy in gold looks like he wants to rip your head off Charlene! Cool shots and story as usual! :)

    1. charlene says:

      Thanks :) He probably did Mark. Considering I didn’t see anyone else taking photos with anything that wasn’t a cell phone.

  2. Johannes says:

    I think it comes down to, if you have a good experience you may tell one person, but if you have a bad experience you tell ten.
    Safe travels!

    1. charlene says:

      That and bad news travels faster, yes. Well, really bad stuff does happen in Mexico, as it does everywhere. I guess I’m learning (very slowly) not to give in to that paranoia, while still remaining safe. Thanks for dropping by Johannes :)

  3. Brian Miller says:

    Nah, the guy in gold is bored and mildly curious. :)
    That boat shot is killer, and your writing and pacing is lovely.

    1. charlene says:

      Thanking you :)

      I’m hoping it’s just mild curiosity. I really wanted to say “nice hat!” to him but had no idea what “nice” was in Spanish at that point.

  4. I was there last year and also had a great experience. I didn’t spend much time in La Paz since I was sailing, but that part of Mexico it’s very isolated from the rest, so it is much safer.

    1. charlene says:

      It was be great to sail down there. How long were you sailing for?

  5. Great story amiga, thanks for a glimpse into your La Paz. Nos vemos!

    1. charlene says:

      Thanks :) If I go back there again I will go in the summer, when it’s really hot, so I can swim. The water is incredible and the beaches aren’t crowded either – hermit win. Si, nos vemos ;)

  6. Ed says:

    So great to see a post from your current location and our mutual obsession with the Sea of Cortez and Steinbeck. I have to agree with Brian, the post is paced perfectly.

    1. charlene says:

      Cheers Ed. I’m in Mexico City now and find myself wishing I’d stayed in La Paz for another week. I was so tired while I was there that the few days passed by in a zombie blur. Next time. I will say it was quite a thrill to be there though, walking in (or near-ish, as the case probably was) Steinbeck’s footsteps. Are you planning to visit?

  7. Radek says:

    Third image is a killer one i agree although i very much like the boats one – kinda reminds me of Baltic beaches – i get same vibe from the second image as when i walked there alone. The other day i complimented Flemm on his writing skills but i think i love yours even better, it supplements and enhances your imagery very well in my opinion. Hope you’re writing down all the experiences and all the different senses you got from being in Mexico in your pad !

    1. charlene says:

      Thanks Radek, that means a lot:) Mexico is giving me a lot to write about, internally and externally, so yes, notebook filling up too fast. If this keeps going I will have a library to drag around with me…

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