Explore Baja California Sur and La Paz with the Experts

When inviting 10 lucky travel agents in Southern California to be part of a FAM (or “familiarization”) trip to La Paz, Mexico, I had at first told them that La Paz is a lovely city, small, enjoyable and retaining the quality of a quaint Mexican fishing village. Funny, as I was corrected by one of the participants, with the following: “LA PAZ, the picturesque, quaint and undiscovered capital city of southern Baja California.”

Yes, how true. As I would discover, La Paz, is no longer the sleepy fishing city along the coast of the Sea of Cortez between Los Cabos and Loreto Bay. Rather, the capital of the state of Baja California Sur has grown into a city – a charming and peaceful place nonetheless.

From San Ysidro to Tijuana and to La Paz

ALMA AirlinesGetting to La Paz, we experienced a totally different route for us Southern Californians. We drove to San Ysidro, CA, across the border from Tijuana, Mexico, and parked our cars before boarding Mexicoach for the 15- to 20-minute trip over the border to the Tijuana airport to catch our ALMA Airlines flight to La Paz.

Arriving at the lovely General Aberlardo L. Rodriguez International Airport, we were amazed at how clean and open the airport is, and impressed with the variety of its shops and eateries and by how quickly traffic moved.

ALMA Airlines sales rep. Jorge Burciaga escorted us to the VIP Lounge where we were briefed on the history of the ALMA Airlines, founded in 2006. Aerolineas Mesoamericanas (commercial name: ALMA de Mexico), based in Guadalajara, Mexico serves more than 24 destinations, with a fleet of 15 Bombardier CRJ-200 50-passenger regional jets. The flight from Tijuana to La Paz was 90 minutes.

Discovering the Picturesque La Paz, Mexico

SunriseManuel Marquez de Leon International Airport in La Paz is very clean and decorated with beautiful tile everywhere. We were pleased at how quickly our bags arrived. Collecting our bags, we boarded our waiting bus, hosted by Ecobajatours, to begin our fabulous journey into the picturesque, quaint and undiscovered capital of La Paz.

Just a few kilometers north of the Tropic of Cancer, La Paz is a historic city founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1720. You can walk the beautiful Malecon (sea walk) and observe beautiful sculptures throughout the city.

La Paz was the base for our travels through the region and we spent the next four nights at our respective hotels: Araiza Palmira and La Concha Beach Resort. What more can I say, as our rooms at the La Concha Beach Resort overlooked the Sea of Cortez, with a beautiful sunrise every day?

Naturally, Ecobajatours and the La Paz Hotel Association wanted us to experience every offering that they have during our short stay in La Paz. So we had a busy schedule.

Day Two to Espiritu Santo

Tours SnorkelOn Day Two, we boarded our ‘special open air boat’ and cruised toward Espiritu Santo Island, a UNESCO site at the far end of the Bay of La Paz. Espiritu Santo and the other islands in Gulf of California were designated a national park by the Mexican government last year.

Our captain took us breezing along, hitting some of the waves along the way to the volcanic rock formation on Espiritu Santo, called Los Islotes, where you find the most impressive sea lion colonies in the region with their swimming and barking – unafraid of our group.

The captain stopped our boat for swimming and snorkeling in the pristine water. We just didn’t have time to do our kayaking experience – perhaps another trip.

Day Three to Puerto Lopez Mateos and Whale Watching in Magdalena Bay

WhaleDay Three began with a pick up at our hotels at 6:30 a.m. to begin the journey with boxed breakfast to Puerto Lopez Mateos where we boarded a boat for whale watching in Magdalena Bay. This boat ride lasts about two hours and gives everyone the opportunity to sometimes touch some of the grey whales that swim in the gulf during their January-April breeding season. Truly a great experience, watching and observing these mother whales and their young.

Sadly, we had to leave our new friends, the whales, in their winter playground. Most of us fell asleep heading back to La Paz.

Day Four in Todos Santos, between la Paz and Los Cabos

Tados SantosDeparting the hotels around 7:30 a.m. on Day Four, we headed toward Todos Santos, the picturesque city on the Pacific side of Baja California Sur, halfway between La Paz and Los Cabos. Todos Santos was well worth the one-hour drive from La Paz as this is one of Mexico’s quaint towns, with much history dating to 1723, when the Mission Our Lady of the Pillar of Peace was founded.

The House of Culture and Museum is a must see in Todos Santos, which has become an art colony where one can find handicrafts and other gifts to bring home.

Hotel California

Hotel roomNaturally, we had lunch at the famous Hotel California, which supposedly inspired the song by The Eagles. You can book one of eight rooms in the Hotel California and you will be told stories and tales about this hotel. Another “don’t miss” experience.

Upon our return to La Paz that evening, we were feted by the La Paz Hotel Association and Ecobajatours at our Farewell Dinner at the Hotel Grand Plaza. Our host for the evening was Rosa Romero Velez, director general with the Asociacion de Empresas Hoteleras y Turisticas de La Paz Fideicomiso de Turismo de La Paz. Rosa along with Jorge Luis Sanchez, director general of Ecobajatours, and Hector Manuel Castro Salazar, president of the Hotel Association, shared the last evening with us. Truly a wonderful evening.

Our group of agents was amazed by what La Paz has to offer. It was truly an eye opening experience and we were most grateful to our hosts for being given this opportunity to share their La Paz for four nights and five days.

A Nod to Hotels

We would like to thank the following hotels from the La Paz Association for their generosity: Araiza Palmira, Club Cantamar, Fiesta Inn La Paz, Grand Plaza La Paz Hotel & Suites, La Concha Beach Resort, Los Arcos, Hotel Marina and Hotel Seven Crowns. In Todas Santos, the “Hotel California.”

These hotels offer a wide variety of accommodations for divers, fishermen and resort properties at reasonable rates.

Delicious food A Nod to Restaurants

I must give a mention to Restaurant El Patron for their hospitality and the Club de Playa “El Tecolote”/H. Miramar and the Tour Isla Espiritu Santo. And not to be forgotten, our last breakfast before heading to the La Paz airport, the unique restaurant “El Bismarkcito” famous for their fish tacos and seafood. Not to be overlooked.

Fam Trip La Paz 2008 was coordinated by Ecobajatours, ALMA Airlines and the Asociacion de Emprpesas Hoteleras Y Turisticas De La Paz. For more information on Ecobajatours, visit; on ALMA Airlines,; on hotels, La Paz Hotel Association.

This article, “Southern California Agents Experience Baja California Sur and La Paz” was originally featured in in May 2008 as well as Mission Valley News & Views and was reproduced with permission.

Dick Slaker works for Adventures in Travel, San Diego, and also owns a cruise agency, Cruisemart of California.

Photography used with permission from Alice Gerschler, photographer and travel agent for Travelwise International in San Diego.

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