Many cruisers choose the relative isolation of the mid-channel anchorage, to give a little more separation from the sometimes noisy waterfront, and the temptations of town. More likely they find the waterfront anchorage areas too full and have moved the next logical spot.
The long La Paz entrance channel can be a bit confusing to first time arrivals, in particular the first three buoys at the channel entrance, near Costa Baja Marina. It’s a bit of a dogleg, with no obvious above-water obstructions to starboard, but plenty of barely covered reefs in this area. Be careful, and make sure you spot ALL the buoys to make the turn, NOT cutting the corner in any way. After that it’s a leisurely 3.5 mile channel cruise to the anchorage and town.
There is a significant rib of sandbar that runs parallel to the channels in the harbor off of La Paz proper. This can be impossible to see on a falling tide, as the muddy estuary water empties into the sea. On a rising tide or slack high, it can be quite striking and makes anchoring location easier to manage. If you choose to cross the bar, be VERY careful about where you choose to do so, and note that anchoring near it can mean your boat might be softly aground on the larger tides.
Boats typically anchor in two rows, one on the south, and one on the north side of the bar, keeping clear of the channels that run on either side as well. Anchorage is in 10-25 feet in good holding sand.
The La Paz Waltz: This is a real thing, and unfamiliar to most west coast cruisers. The tidal currents in La Paz harbor run quite strong, with eddies and flows that often run against the prevailing breeze, causing very interesting anchoring positions of the boats on the hook in this area. It’s not uncommon on a breezy afternoon to find boats facing into the breeze, but all the way FOREWARD on their rodes, or being held sideways to the breeze and chop by a current. Different styles of boats will respond differently in these situations, as well as slack moments of lazy eddies, bringing anchored vessels shockingly close to each other on a regular basis. If you give room, pay attention, and don’t leave your boat until a full tide cycle has passed, you should be fine.
La Paz is blessed with the largest collection of marine services, marinas and boatyards on the Baja peninsula, and is also a bustling tourist town and the state’s capital. Restaurants, hardware stores and groceries are abundant (although you have to walk a bit for groceries), and some of the best ice cream on the planet is your answer to afternoon heat.
If you’re in La Paz during winter months, keep an eye out for whale sharks in the outer bay and off the channel entrance north and east of the commercial shipping pier. These are amazingly beautiful and strange creatures, but oblivious to boat traffic. This makes them vulnerable, and requires a sharp eye when transiting these areas. If you haven’t had a chance to spot them from you boat, or swim with them yet, hire a panga on the La Paz waterfront for a whale shark tour. You won’t be disappointed.