La Paz, the historical state capital of Baja California Sur is found 159 kilometers (99 miles) North of Cabo San Lucas and 189 km (117 miles) from San José del Cabo. It’s the largest city in the state with more than 215 thousand inhabitants that enjoy one of the highest standards of living in all of Mexico.
In the course of its history, the famous bay of La Paz has been visited by conquerors, pirates and missionaries. The first attempt to conquer the peninsula was on May 3rd, 1535, when Hernán Cortés stepped ashore at present-day La Paz, which he named Bahía de Santa Cruz.
However, being very inhospitable and arid, it took almost two centuries before colonization began in earnest, in 1720, when the Jesuit missionaries Juan de Ugarte and Jaime Bravo, with their spiritual force, brought the population to its knees and built the Mission of Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz.
Within 30 years it was abandoned due to revolts led by Guaycura and Pericú Indians, disease and the harsh weather conditions, once again there was a period with settlements until 1811.
La Paz became California’s capital in 1829 after Loreto was destroyed by a hurricane. La Paz took off after the 1,044 mile Transpeninsular Highway was built through it in 1973 and in 1974 became the capital of Baja California Sur.
Nowadays, the capital of the state of Baja California Sur is an attractive destination with an excellent choice of ecotourism, marine and athletic activities, all in a lovely setting famous for its magnificent sunsets.
City & Sights
One of the best places to see the sun go down is along the famous Álvaro Obregón boardwalk. Built in the 1920s, it has recently been remodeled; an evening stroll not only lets you enjoy the twilight colors over the bay but gives you a chance to see the bronze sculptures that adorn this lively, modern avenue.
Along the boardwalk, you will also find the tourist dock where you can board theme cruises that offer regular passenger service. Opposite the boardwalk is a three-mile-long street lined with hotels, discotheques, romantic bars and shops selling folk art, fishing and diving equipment and other items.
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Velasco Garden (Jardín Velasco)
Velasco Garden is a favorite gathering spot for city residents. It is located in the historic downtown area and is flanked by a number of important old buildings that form a significant part of the heritage of the people of Baja California.
Cathedral of Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz
On December 3rd, 1720, a mission was founded on a site chosen by the missionaries Juan de Ugarte and Jaime Bravo, who had come here from the mission at Loreto. Faced with the hostility of the indigenous population, the missionaries abandoned the site in 1735.
The Cathedral was built in 1871. This beautiful building is laid out in the shape of a Latin cross and has a gable roof and two pyramid-capped towers, within you can find a lovely altar dedicated to the Virgin of Nuestra Señora de La Paz (Our Lady Peace).
South Californian Youth Institute
This attractive building was once the Government Palace and now houses an organization that provides information and guidance for young people and promotes culture and the arts.
La Paz Anthropological & History Museum
This modern building has several different exhibition rooms showing archeological, anthropological, mineral and historical items collected on the peninsula. It’s located right in the heart of La Paz. Includes a collection of fossils that date back 60 million years, engraved rocks and cave paintings show how life was for the first humans on the Baja peninsula. There is also a Botanical Garden.
Fossils of different species, utensils used by indigenous groups, maps and stories of the independence and revolutionary eras all form part of the museum’s collection.
El Serpentario de La Paz (La Paz Herpetarium)
This open-air facility is a great place to see snakes, reptiles and spiders, scorpions and other arachnids at close range. Its purpose is to educate and foster ecological awareness among visitors. More information.
“Professor Jesús Casto Agúndez” Cultural Center
The local arts scene is well presented in this modern cultural complex. It houses the City Theater, the Prof. Carlos Olachea Boucieguez Art Gallery, a children’s library, the Prof. Filemón C. Pineda Public Library, the Grey Whale Museum, green areas, a children’s playground and ample parking.
La Paz Carnival
La Paz has a rich cultural heritage with colorful traditions like “Carnival”, an event that started here a century ago and which attracts local, national and world-famous artists and a variety of large-scale performances.
La Paz is ready to party the last week of February or the first week of March.
A number of events take place on the sea-side boardwalk, including The Burning of Bad Humor, the Crowning of the King of Happiness and of the Queen of Carnaval, the awarding and prizes to the Queen of Poetry of the Poet Laureate, a spectacular naval combat with fireworks and the traditional parade with allegorical floats.
Close to La Paz you’ll find deserted beaches, bays and impressive untouched offshore islands. If you go further inland you’ll find deserts, the Sierra de La Laguna mountains and various oasis.
The natural bountiful ocean and the clean environment attracts sport fishermen, scuba divers, tourists, famous naturalists, whale watchers and tourist of all ages to this exquisite and peaceful peninsula in Mexico where they can enjoy and wonder over the beauty nature has to offer.
Author: M. A. Gallardo