Within the creation of any great work of art, you can usually see certain elements of that great work in several previous works, but none of those previous works have all the elements at one time. It is the same with great beaches. You probably have your own list of the elements that make up a great beach. Here’s the list for my wife, Jet Metier:
- Warm weather.
- A cove or a bay, perhaps with a view of an island.
- Warm, clear water (preferably different shades of blue).
- White, powdery sand.
- Gentle access (no hard slopes), and easy to walk on.
- Clear skies.
- Few people.
- Safe conditions.
- Clean, with a place to put trash.
- Unthreatening marine flora and fauna
- A place where the dogs can play safely (not be attacked by other dogs, get swept out to sea, etc.)
Here are just a few of the contenders that we visited during our six weeks in the general La Paz, Baja California Sur area, keeping in mind that we visited from the middle of May until the beginning of July, which is off-season, and that there are probably many, many more great beaches we don’t know about.
La Ventana Bay
No surprise here. My wife picked our house in part based on her criteria above. From the house we were renting, I could walk directly down the hill about 7 minutes and be at the beach. There, I could release our two dogs, who would play in the surf or chase birds, because there was usually either no one there, or just one or two other people, for miles. However, other than our rental home just up the hill, there were no services.
On a whim, I decided to put on a diving mask and try snorkeling. Being from Southern California, I was immediately astounded. Within water just two feet deep, I saw several varieties of fish. Within 5 feet depth, I saw coral. If you wanted to, you could just stand in a few feet of water, put on a mask, stick your head in the sea and feel like you were in a giant aquarium.
The beaches north of La Paz are a kayaker’s paradise, although we saw very few kayakers. In fact, we saw very few people at all, as one beautiful beach after another rolled by on our left. Every once in a while, you would see a restaurant on the shore, with palapas and perhaps some campers. The sea would be glistening as birds stood on exposed rocks perhaps 40 yards from shore.
The most famous of these many beauties is Balandra, and if you’ve seen a picture of a beautiful beach near La Paz, it was probably Balandra. There was a concession stand selling dresses and hats and another that rented umbrellas for shade, which was a bit odd, because there were several palapas available at no charge.
Like many of the other bays along the way, the perfectly clear water in Balandra is about two feet deep for what seemed like more than a hundred yards. You can see people 50 yards away, in the sea, standing, talking with one another while holding drinks, or floating by on a raft just a bit higher than knee level of the people standing in the water.
No more than 10 minutes past Balandra, the road dead ended at Playa Tecolote. As you arrive, you have the choice of one large restaurant to the right, and one to the left. In either restaurant, if you buy a meal, you get to use the palapa and their bathrooms. If you don’t, there are still many places further to the right or left you can use for free.
We tried each of these restaurants on separate occasions, and both were very, very good, with prices higher than we had become accustomed to in Baja, but perhaps 50% or less of
what you would expect to pay in a beach area in Southern California, but with no charge for parking. You can use the bathrooms (not fantastic), get a great meal, shade, and enjoy the white sand and clear, clean, flat water. You can even rent a kayak for a very reasonable amount, and a jet ski as well. However, even with all these services, there were very few people there; perhaps 25% of capacity, at most. At both restaurants, the waiters loved our dogs and called them by name. We were able to take long walks completely undisturbed. My wife had sea bass, which came as an entire fish, for about $7.50. She loved it.
Bahia de Los Sueños
In my wife and my opinions, I saved the best for last.
In order to get to Bahia de Los Sueños from where we stayed in La Ventana, you have to drive to the same road to get to the intersection where you would make a right to get to La Paz, but instead of making a right, you make a left. This takes you through the agricultural area of Los Planes, and then, to more and remote areas. You can go to the public beach to the left, or you can go just a bit further, over a cattle guard, and approach a guard with a gate. We were told to tell him we were going to the restaurant, which we did, and which was enough to get him to lift the gate.
We drove on dirt roads for about 8 minutes or so (of course, no guardrails, steep drop-offs, no signs, many alternative choices, etc.), and then, we saw a small sign, which we followed.
Suddenly, appearing before us were elegantly placed palm trees, a nice place to park in the shade over powdery white sand, and a large building. I walked up the stairs, past the three pools and a group of about 10 people eating lunch on the patio of what looked to be about a 5,000 square foot game room with a bar extending almost the entire left side, and kitchen in the back. There was a pool table, other games, and above, on the open second floor (the ceiling must have been close to 30 feet high), ran an elaborate miniature train.
To put it mildly, this is not what I had expected to find in this remote place. It was like Citizen Cane had come to Mexico and opened his home to the public. What was this place at the end of the dirt road?
The waiter explained that it was a restaurant and that the boutique hotel was up the paved, palm tree shrouded walking path, and we were welcomed in the restaurant… with our dogs! There was no charge for parking or the magnificent view, which we could see through the palm trees.
Are there more beaches like the ones I describe above in the La Paz area? Yes, we visited more than we have space to describe here. Also, I am quite certain that, given how all the components of the perfect beach are in abundance in this area for probably more than a hundred miles, there are many, many more, some perhaps even more beautiful. We just haven’t seen them yet.