The relatively lively and touristy waterfront at La Paz is a popular anchorage, with excellent shore access and all the distractions of La Paz’s central tourist district. It’s a largely open roadsted with decent protection from the south and SE, and a couple of different areas that attract many of the cruisers.
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.
Cruisers tend to gather in two areas along the waterfront, in order to keep the channels clear and afford the most protection:
1) The Boneyard – So named for the collection of decrepit local craft in various states of disrepair, the area to the NE of Marina Cortez still has room for a dozen or more cruising boats along the outside of those resting on private moorings and their own hooks. Make sure to give ample room (more than normal) for other boats, buoys and docks/piers, and leave the channel and area around the tourist pier clear. Anchoring is in 15-25 feet in mucky sand with good holding.
2) Off the Marinas – There is a wedge of space to the W/SW of Marina de La Paz with only a few private moorings, and typically space for 5-10 boats at anchor. Note that the navy base to the south requires boats to not anchor any further east than the dock at the Marina Palmar yard. Anchoring here is in 12-20 feet, good holding in mucky sand. Again, make sure your boat will not be in the channel that marks the NW boundary of this area.
NOTE January 2024: There have been a few boats in this area that have been asked by navy vessels to move, even though they appear to be in the allowed area. It’s possible the rules are changing regarding this area, and we’re working to get it nailed down. In the meantime, best not to be the boat closest to the navy pier.
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. Give room, pay attention, and don’t leave your boat until a full tide cycle has passed, and 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.
La Fuente, our favorite ice cream joint in Mexico, calls La Paz home, with three locations in walking distance of the marinas or waterfront anchorage, including the newest spot within a stone’s throw of Marina Cortez. They make their own waffle cones and waffle latas (small cups), and the ice cream is rich, creamy and delicious. Great paletas (ice cream bars), too.