Picture of the whale shark sculpture on the Malecon in La Paz, Mexico cruise port

The La Paz Mexico Cruise Port, Everything You Need to Know

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You might not know that La Paz is a stop on a few Mexican Riviera cruises, but it absolutely is. If La Paz is a port of call on your cruise, you are lucky as you are most likely on an eight-day Mexican Riviera Cruise that includes stops such as Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas and more than likely cruising with Carnival Cruise Line or Princess Cruise Line. The cruise port itself is not located within the town of La Paz. It is located in Puerto Pichilingue, about 20 km from La Paz. Luckily, the cruise lines make visiting this wonderful town easy for its passengers. Keep reading to learn about the many wonderful excursions and things you can see on your port visit to La Paz.

About the La Paz Mexico Cruise Port Terminal

When cruise lines port in La Paz, they do not dock directly in La Paz. Instead, the cruise port terminal for all cruise ships is located at Puerto Pichilingue or the Port of Pichilingue. The cruise terminal in Puerto Pichilingue is located in an industrial area. Upon arrival, you will have a nice greeting with a Mariachi Band playing music to welcome you to the La Paz cruise port. You will find many local vendors on-site selling souvenirs for you to take home. As you make your way out, you will come to a building. Past the building, you will find the shuttle buses that are available to take you into town. Buses that are used for paid shore excursions are also located in this area. In order to explore La Paz, you will need to take a shuttle bus into town or go on an excursion.

Take the Cruise Port Shuttle Bus into Town

Since Puerto Pichilingue is 20 km from La Paz (about a 30-minute drive to town), you will need to take a shuttle bus if you want to explore La Paz on your own. The cruise ship has procedures for accessing the shuttle bus, which might include getting a ticket for the bus. The cruise line will provide any necessary information before arriving at the port. The shuttle buses provided by the cruise line are complimentary for its passengers and will drop you off at the bus terminal in town, which is centrally located across the street from the Malecon or boardwalk in the heart of La Paz

It is a good idea to know the shuttle bus schedule so that you can be sure to return to the ship by the all-aboard time. When you are ready to return to the cruise ship, head back to the Tourist Bus Terminal to catch the shuttle. Be prepared for a long line when catching the shuttle bus back to the cruise ship, as you will encounter many passengers returning as well. As a precaution, I suggest giving yourself extra time to return to the ship so you make it back before all-aboard time. If you happen to miss the shuttle bus, you can take a taxi back to the ship.

Picture of the Tourist Bus Terminal in La Paz located across the street from the Malecon
Tourist Bus Terminal in La Paz

Can I Explore the Area Near the La Paz Cruise Port on Foot?

This is a question I have been asked several times. The short answer is no, I do not recommend doing this. The nearest beach is on the other side of the bay, where the cruise ship is docked. It is a very small beach, and walking to it would take around 40 minutes. Of course, you will have to make the walk back if you do not find a taxi. The Baja Peninsula is a desert and can get very hot. This would make for an uncomfortable, potentially dangerous walk you might not be properly prepared for. I recommend taking a shuttle into town or scheduling an excursion through your cruise line. 

Exploring the Wonderful Town of La Paz, Mexico on Your Own 

Booking an excursion when making a stop at the La Paz cruise port is not necessary. If you choose not to book an excursion, you can explore La Paz on your own. You just need to make your way to town from the cruise terminal via a shuttle bus. 

Having La Paz as a stop during your cruise is a great way to learn about and explore this town. If this is your first time visiting the Baja California peninsula, you are in for a treat. Cruising is a great way to get to know this area and possibly turn this into an extended vacation in the future. If you decide to make La Paz a future vacation stop, you can fly into Cabo San Lucas.  La Paz is an easy two-hour drive from Cabo. You can also stop in Todos Santos on the way to La Paz

The Wonderful Sites of La Paz Mexico

Whether you explore La Paz on a shore excursion or on your own, there is plenty to see during your stop in this beautiful town. One of the first things you will notice is the strong tie between the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) and the town of La Paz. This will be apparent as you walk around the town and see the numerous art murals and sculptures that depict the local marine life that decorate the city. The sea and its marine life play a large part in the economy of La Paz and are treated with utmost respect. The sea also adds tourism to the town’s economy when you add cruise passengers to this mix. You will notice that tourists are very welcome in La Paz, and the locals are very friendly and helpful to visitors.

Exploring the Malecon and the Historic Center on Your Own

As you arrive at the Tourist Bus Terminal from the La Paz cruise port, you will notice that the Malecon, the waterfront boardwalk, is across the street. The La Paz Malecon is three miles long with many sites to explore on both sides of the street. 

You will find one of the La Paz letter signs on the Malecon for a fun photo opportunity. If you’re lucky, you will find a gentleman with a drone offering to film a souvenir video for you.  We did this on our recent trip to La Paz. The video was quick and a lot of fun to make. It was only $7.00 USD, which I felt was a relatively inexpensive souvenir to take home. The video was airdropped to our phone without any issues. 

The La Paz letters at the Malecon are one of three you will find while exploring La Paz. One is in town near the central park and another across the street from the Malecon. 

Picture of the La Paz letters sign on the Malecon in La Paz, Mexico.
La Paz letter sign on the Malecon

As you make your way along the Malecon, you will notice the many sculptures that honor La Paz’s ties to the marine life in the Sea of Cortez. The Malecon also has many beaches to explore and a playground. Across the street from the Malecon are many shops, cafes, bars, and places to eat.

Visiting the Historic Center of La Paz

If you walk a few blocks into town from the Tourist Bus Terminal, you will be in the Historic Center. Here, you will find the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, the Museum of Art of Baja California Sur, and the Velasco Garden.

If you visit the Museum of Art of Baja California Sur, there is a Luminarias light display. This light display is similar to the Urban Lights display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. If you are looking for more La Paz letters, you will find them in the Velasco Garden across the street from the Cathedral. 

While walking around La Paz, you can visit Mercado Francisco Madero off Revolucion del 1910 and Santos Degollado Street. Here, you will find vendors selling souvenirs, leather goods, and clothing with traditional prints. If you are hungry, there is a food court area where you can grab a bite to eat.

Picture of the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de La Paz, Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in La Paz during the day.
Catedral de Nuestra Señora de La Paz
Picture of the Luminarias display behind La Paz's Museum of Art during the daytime.
Luminarias display during the day
Picture of the art mural outside of El Mercado Francisco Madero in La Paz.
Art mural outside of El Mercado Francisco Madero

Grab a Bite to Eat in La Paz

If you are hungry, there are many places to get something to eat. There are many places to eat across the street from the Malecon. One of our favorite places to eat in La Paz is the Patio Peninsula Restaurant and Bar. They also have some great drinks at the Patio Peninsula Restaurant and Bar. We recommend trying the Mojito. You can also find places to eat on the streets past the Malecon and near the Historic Center.

Picture of the mojito we had at Patio Peninsula Restaurant and Bar.
Mojito from Patio Peninsula Restaurant and Bar

Another place we like to eat in La Paz near the Malecon is Mucho Gusto Tacos and Mezcal Bar. In addition to tacos, they also have Americanized food like burgers and hot dogs. You can also do a mezcal tasting if you like. If you are looking for a cool treat, you can also find several ice cream shops. The two main ones you will see on the Malecon are La Fuente and La Michoacana. Both sell ice cream and paletas (popsicles).

Picture of the Mucho Gusto Tacos and Mezcal Bar sign inside of the restaurant.
Mucho Gusto Tacos and Mezcal Bar sign
Picture of the three tacos Mireya ordered from Mucho Gusto Taco and Mezcal Bar
Tacos from Mucho Gusto Taco and Mezcal Bar

Taking an Excursion in La Paz Through the Cruise Line

Cruise lines offer excursions for the various ports of call on their itinerary. There are tours for everyone, but you should read the description as all excursions vary in activity level. There are usually a variety of city highlight tours and more adventurous excursions to choose from.

The plus side to purchasing a tour through the cruise line is that you do not need to worry about the logistics. The cruise line handles transportation and has vetted the tour operator managing the excursions. Most importantly, the cruise ship will wait at the port for a cruise-offered excursion if there is a delay. The ship will not leave you behind. Here are some of the different excursions you will likely find offered by the cruise lines when in the port of La Paz, Mexico.

Go on an All Inclusive Snorkel Tour to Isla Espiritu Santo

Isla Espiritu Santo is a very popular snorkeling spot in La Paz. Isla Espiritu Santo is a protected area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of the most ideal places for snorkeling in La Paz. The water is crystal-clear and has a lot of flourishing marine life. Isla Espiritu Santo was famously referred to as “the world’s aquarium” by Jacques Cousteau.

To get to Isla Espiritu Santo, you will board a catamaran or boat and head over to the island. You will have a scenic ride to Isla Espiritu Santo and may also see Isla Partida. Isla Partida used to be part of Isla Espiritu Santo but has since separated from Isla Espiritu Santo. There is now a small section of water that separates both islands from each other.

Once you get to the designated snorkel spot, you can get in the water to snorkel. The tour company will provide snorkel equipment for the snorkel tour, so you only need to bring your own snorkel equipment if you want to. While snorkeling on Isla Espiritu Santo, you will see many colorful tropical fish and coral reefs. There is also the possibility of snorkeling with Sea Lions during an excursion to Isla Espiritu. Since this excursion can take up to 6 hours, lunch will typically be provided.

Snorkeling with a seal at Espiritu Santo Island
Snorkeling with a seal at Espiritu Santo Island

Go Snorkeling with Sea Lions

Want a chance to snorkel with Sea Lions? Then this tour is for you. You may notice on your cruise that you may have a couple of options or more for snorkeling with Sea Lions. Where you go snorkeling with Sea Lions is up to you, depending on the excursion you choose offered by the cruise line.

When snorkeling with Sea Lions, you are snorkeling with them out in the ocean. You will be snorkeling with wild Sea Lions, not Sea Lions in captivity. You should be careful not to get too close and be aware that male Sea Lions can be territorial. Sea Lions are also known to nip or bite when curious, so be careful of your hands while snorkeling.

If you choose to snorkel with Sea Lions, you could snorkel with them at Isla Espiritu Santo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with amazing coral reefs. You could also snorkel with Sea Lions at San Raphaelito. In addition to snorkeling with playful, curious Sea Lions, you will see the amazing marine life and coral reefs around La Paz.

Spend a Day at Balandra Bay

The most beautiful beach near La Paz is Balandra Beach in Balandra Bay. There is an excursion that takes you there by boat so you can enjoy some time in Balandra Bay. While in Balandra Bay, you will have the chance to go swimming and snorkeling. The water here is amazing, and depending on the tide, you may be able to walk around to some of the seven beaches that make up Balandra Bay.

While at Balandra Bay, you will also see a famous rock formation called Mushroom Rock. Depending on your tour, after spending time in Baladra Bay, you may go to another area to snorkel. Gaviota Island is one of the other snorkel spots you could be taken to to snorkel. Here, you can choose to snorkel, go for a hike, or relax on the beach. 

Picture of the well known rock formation in Balandra Bay called Mushroom Rock.
Mushroom Rock

Take the La Paz City Highlights and Shopping Tour

During a city tour of La Paz, you will explore the Historic City Center, where the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace is located. In front of the church is the central plaza of La Paz, Jardín Velasco, where one of the three La Paz letter signs is located. Located across Jardín Velasco, facing the Cathedral, is the Museum of Art of Baja California Sur.

While walking around the city, you will see many art murals and statues that honor La Paz’s ties to the Sea of Cortez. There are many statues along the Malecon, the boardwalk, and the beach, such as a whale shark and the Pearl. There are also many shops and places to eat across from the Malecon. You will also find another of the three La Paz letter signs at the Malecon.

Depending on the tour, you may stop at one of the beaches in La Paz or make a couple of other stops. For example, you may be on a tour that stops at a pottery factory, where you can look through the decorative pieces they make. The other stop is a weaver’s shop, where you can buy bags, hats, and other items.

Take a Day Trip to Todos Santos

Todos Santos is about a one-hour drive from La Paz on the Pacific side of Baja California Sur. On your port day to La Paz, you can go on an excursion to visit Todos Santos. Todos Santos has a large artistic influence, with many local murals and artworks. As you explore Todos Santos, you will see beautiful artwork on buildings, streets, and shops.

During the excursion, you will visit the historic Mission Church in Todos Santos. The Todos Santos letters sign is near the Mission Church, which is a perfect picture opportunity. The most iconic landmark you will see in Todos Santos on this excursion is the Hotel California. There was a time when there were rumors that the Hotel California in Todos Santos inspired the Eagles song, but the rumor has since been debunked.

While in Todos Santos, you will get a taste of the local food, and where you eat will depend on the tour. Depending on the tour offered by the cruise line, you might get to do a tequila tasting. Like many city tours, you will be given time to walk around and shop for souvenirs. There is an area just past Hotel California called the Wishing Tree Bazaar, which has several vendors and a bar you can visit during your day trip.

View of the Todos Santos letters
View of the Todos Santos letters

Go on an Excursion to El Serpentario

La Paz has a Reptile and Wildlife Rehabilitation Center called El Serpentario. At El Sepentario, reptiles and animals are either being rehabilitated for release back into the wild or considered permanent residents. The center has a variety of reptiles and animals to see, including various types of snakes, both venomous and non-venomous, lizards, turtles and tortoises, guinea pigs, and birds.

In addition to the numerous reptiles and animals you can find at El Serpintario, there are many native plants. The many native plants at El Sepentario create a more natural environment for the reptiles and animals being rehabilitated. While visiting El Sepentario, there may be opportunities to interact with the reptiles and animals. If you have children who like reptiles and animals, an excursion to El Sepentario would be a great idea.

Going on Excursions Not Purchased Through the Cruise Line

Even though the cruise lines offer excursions, you do not have to purchase one of the excursions. You can purchase an excursion from a cruise excursion tour provider like Shore Excursions or another tour provider like Viator or Get Your Guide. You can also set up an excursion from a local in the town. Local tour operators are easy to find and have stands or shops on the Malecon and across the street from the Malecon.

Many of the excursions offered by local vendors are similar to the ones the cruise lines offer. However, if you do purchase an excursion outside of the cruise line, you will need to make sure you return to the cruise port by the all-aboard time. Some excursion operators will drop you off at the port, or you will have to make sure you are back at the bus terminal in time to catch a shuttle to the port. You might also need to set up transportation, such as a taxi to the cruise port. 

Be Sure Your Self-Purchased Excursion Fits Within Time Limitations

You should also be aware of how long an excursion will last. You want to make sure your excursion isn’t so long that you will miss returning to the cruise ship in time. Keeping an eye on the time is key to returning to the ship by all-aboard time. We highly recommend planning your day carefully. You want to give yourself enough time to return to the ship before all-aboard time. If you go this route, keep in mind the cruise ship does not need to wait for you if you are running late.

Do Not Risk Returning Late to Your Cruise Ship

Returning late to the cruise terminal puts you at risk of having the cruise ship leave without you. Cruise ships only wait for an extended time for cruise-offered tours, but they do not have to wait if you are not on one of their excursions. Depending on the number of passengers that have yet to return by all-aboard time, they will likely wait for a little bit. However, you do not want to risk the cruise ship leaving without you. You might entertain people by being a pier runner, but this is not a risk you want to take.

Enjoy Your Day in La Paz Mexico!

No matter how you choose to spend your port day in La Paz, we hope you have a great time. Enjoy the amazing views of the Sea of Cortez and the many art murals in the city. If you choose to go on an excursion, enjoy your time in this beautiful place. If you decide to explore La Paz on your own, you can read our blog on 24 Incredible Things to Do in La Paz for even more information. We hope this helps you plan your port day in La Paz.

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