As drive-by tourists, we don’t see enough of any city or area to opine even a quasi informed “best of” list. It takes years, perhaps decades, to become somewhat informed — I was still discovering things about Boise, a city I’ve lived in a better part of my life, within days of embarking on this journey — and we only spent three weeks in La Paz. Nevertheless, I figured since I enjoy reading “best of” lists, that I’d likely enjoy writing one, so here you go:
Best Restaurant: Taco Fish La Paz.Our experience here was hectic. The restaurant was crowded. The lines were long. The wind was angry. And I struggled to communicate our order in Spanish. We sat on one of the patio tables, a mistake because of the wind (we later moved inside). Our order arrived “to-go” and with an extra horchata (I thought I had ordered “por aqui” and jamaica juices…). Yet our fortitude was rewarded. Unlike most battered fish tacos, which dabble dainty pieces of fish in the tortilla, Taco Fish La Paz slabs an entire thick-cut, fried fillet in the tortilla. They also have a topping and salsa bar with every type of sauce, coleslaw, and salsa imaginable. Everything appeared and tasted home-made and fresh. It was also, especially compared to restaurants along the malecon (boardwalk), relatively inexpensive. Honorable Mention: Beef super burros from the food cart kitty-corner of Parque Revolución and across the street from the Chedraui Supermercado.
Best Noise: Dude announcing the Loteria game in the Parque Revolución across the street from the apartment we rented. Loteria is Mexican bingo, for all I can tell — and unlike most bingo in the US, they play for real money in Mexico! Each player is assigned (or buys?) deck(s) of randomly-generated pictures. The announcer extracts ping-pong balls from a basket, calls out the pictures (el mano, el hombre, el leon, la guitarra, el arbol, etc.) on the balls, and then the players fill their cards. Once filled, I presume they yell “Loteria!”, though I never actually heard that. All I heard was the rhythmic, apathetic, yet hypnotic voice of the announcer. A few rounds in, and I’d be a few minutes asleep. Honorable Mention: The sunrise and sunset bell songs from the Catholic church around the corner from our apartment. It’s pleasant waking to bells.
Best Beach: Playa de Balandra, discussed here. Honorable Mention: Playa El Tecolote (the picture above is from here). We ended up staying here, on a whim, the last two nights in La Paz. We had planned to spend those nights in Todos Santos, on the Pacific side. But from what we could gather, talking to folks that had made that trip, what the city has in colorful and unique streets and structures, it lacks in people — it seems gringos have overrun the place. In addition, the more I travel, the less I’m interested in the buildings of man and the more I’m interested in the buildings of nature. Anyway. So in route we changed our mind and headed to Playa El Tecolote. While not as quaint as Balandra, and while we did have one poor experience at a restaurant on the beach (Restaurant El Tecolote, I believe), the beach and views are scenic and vast. It’s also easier to camp here than Balandra.
Best Cultural Event: Carnaval La Paz. Situated along the five kilometer malecon, Carnaval La Paz took me back to the Boise River Festival Days (will someone, perhaps the Treefort folks, please bring back that festival!). It had rickety carnival rides, food and drink booths galore, six large stages (that I counted), and multiple parades. We missed the parades. But we did catch some rides (see video below) and musical acts. Most of the acts we saw were scantily-clad preteens dancing to explicative-laden American rap music. I questioned if this was “a thing” in La Paz (can there really be that many dance troupes in one city?) and if any of the locals were comprehending the content of the music. Perhaps I’m just a prude parent…. We did catch the opening act for Molotov (a famed Mexican punk band), and they were pretty good, though my ability to understand Spanish quickly evaporates when spewed via punk. Honorable Mention: Museo de La Ballena, where our very knowledgeable guide taught us more than my very limited brain can contain about whales and other non-mammalian vertebrates, like these guys.
Best Area In Town: I must admit: I did not love La Paz as a city — I enjoyed its northern neighbor, Loreto, much more — but I did love the surrounding beaches. As such, I’d recommend La Paz as an excellent jumping-off point to any of the many wonderful beaches within an hour’s drive (the beaches here are much better than Cabo, where we’d visited a few years ago; Cabo just has nicer hotels). However, should we stay in La Paz again, we’d likely stay near Cathedral de Nuestra Senora de La Paz. This area, based on our cursory inspection, appeared more charming and certainly featured more restaurants and shops. Honorable Mention: We did not visit here, but there seemed to be some nice hotels and rentals, with access to private beaches and marinas, just north of the malecon.
Best Educational Experience: We stayed in La Paz to attend Spanish school at El Nopal Spanish Language Academy. We had an excellent experience here. They tailored classes to all our levels. The owners, Juan and Marta, were friendly and accommodating. And we all left even more self-conscious of how far from fluency we are (though equally encouraged to get there). Honorable Mention: Thinking I was telling a lady that she was putting on makeup but instead telling her that she was buttering herself (maquillarse vs. mantequilla-se).