Scuba Diving in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
La Paz is one of the world's great destinations for divers of all levels. Located on the Sea of Cortez in Baja California Sur, Mexico, dive sites around La Paz give divers the opportunity to view an abundance of wildlife including giant mantas, whale sharks and hammerheads. Jacques Cousteau has called the Sea of Cortez the “Aquarium to the World,” and La Paz is a great home base for your tour of the world’s aquarium.
Getting to La Paz
Flying into La Paz
There are direct flights into La Paz (Alaska Air/Horizon Air and AeroMexico have daily flights to Manuel Márquez de León International Airport) but they can be prohibitively expensive depending upon where you are flying from and when you wish to travel.
Flying into Los Cabos Int'l in San Jose del Cabo (SJD)
Another more viable option of getting to La Paz is to fly into San Jose del Cabo (SJD) and arrange for transportation to La Paz. Alaska, Continental, United, Frontier, US Airways, Delta and Aeromexico all have flights into San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico (SJD-Los Cabos Intl.)
Driving from Los Cabos to La Paz
Renting a car and driving is an easy and fun option. National Car Rental offers reasonable one-way rentals from Cabo to La Paz, but you may want to consider keeping the car for you entire trip and returning when you fly back out of Cabo. One-way rentals cost much more than round-trip rentals. Although you can always find transportation around La Paz, a car may be convenient depending upon where you are staying (see Where to Stay in La Paz below for more info). The drive from Los Cabos to La Paz is about 130 miles. Remember that PEMEX gas stations may only take cash. Also, refill the gas tank before you return the car because unless you pre-pay for gas beforehand (which is expensive), you'll be paying about twice as much for gas as you would at the nearby PEMEX station.
- Directions from Aeropuerto de Cabo San Lucas (SJD) to La Paz
- National Car Rental: About US$30-40 per day with international insurance if you make your reservation before you arrive at the airport.
My friend and I drove from the Dollar car rental place near SJD and took the eastern route (Hwy 1) up to Los Barriles where we got pesos at the atm and stopped for a snack and cerveza. The drive is on a well-paved, but windy road with varying speed limits. From Los Barriles we continued up Hwy 1 to La Paz. We spent about 4 hours on our trip, including the stop in Los Barriles.
The drive home via the western route is beautiful as it follows the coast. Todos Santos is a great place to stop for lunch.
The car rental ended up being twice as much as the price we were quoted after they added the "mandatory insurance" and taxes. But we did get a nice VW Jetta-like car with air conditioning and plenty of room and vroom.
Bus, Taxi or Shuttle from Cabo to La Paz
You can also take the bus from Cabo San Lucas to La Paz. From Cabo International Airport take a taxi or shuttle into San Jose del Cabo and then take the bus to La Paz. The bus departs every 2 hours and costs $130 pesos.
- Cabo public transportation information - Prices for airport shuttles and airport taxis. Prices and schedules for buses from Los Cabos International Airport to La Paz.
Where to Stay in La Paz
Where you stay in La Paz depends upon what you are looking for and on your budget. If you are going to La Paz for a diving trip, it makes sense to decide upon the dive shop or tour group that you are going to be using, and then deciding on where you will stay based upon that. With most morning dives leaving at around 8 AM, you don’t want to spend too much time traveling in the morning. Some diving outfits offer transportation to and from hotels, especially if they are associated with resorts, but with others you will have to make your own arrangements on getting to the dive shop.
I've stayed at La Concha and dived with the Cortez Club. The Cortez Club is located at La Concha, so it was easy to wake up in time, grab some breakfast, and walk to the Cortez Club. It was about 50 yards from my hotel door. If you make your hotel reservation through the Cortez Club, they may be able to get you a better deal than going directly through the hotel. You can swim in the beach at the hotel and there are tons of fish to see right on the shore.
Our Dive Master, Carlos, was great and the dives were lots of fun. They seem to work well with people of varying experience. I brought my snorkeling gear and wet suit (water was still about 60 degrees in April), but rented BCD, regulator and weights.
La Paz Beach Hotels
Checking out La Paz before getting there
A really cool way to check out La Paz before getting there is by using Google Earth. You can virtually fly to “La Paz, Baja Sur” and get a lay of the land, see where your dive outfit is located in comparison to your hotel, and get an amazingly close-up view of the city. You can also focus in on the dive spots you hope to hit! Add layers to see photos and locations of hotels and attractions.
Map of La Paz
Dive Operations in La Paz
If you are planning on completing your Open Water Diver certification in La Paz, be sure to call the dive outfit beforehand to confirm a few things:
- They offer the Open Water Diver course
- They will honor the referral from your initial dive course
- That the instructor who is qualified to give you the certification will be available on the day(s) that you wish to complete your certification
The Cortez Club
The Cortez Club is a full-service dive center that also offers diving and snorkeling trips and a full-range of courses. The Cortez Club website has a lot of information and gives you a good idea of their offerings and prices. The Cortez Club is associated with two hotels, La Concha Beach Resort and Costa Baja Resort and Marina. The Cortez Club also offers rentals for other watersports including kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, waverunner rental and waterskiing.
Baja Diving and Service and Club Cantamar
The cornerstone of Club Cantamar, Baja Diving & Service, started in 1983 and is a family-run operation. Baja Diving & Service has its home base at Pichilingue Bay, which is located 10 miles (17 km) north of La Paz, which means that same distance closer to the dive spots around the islands, shortening the boat rides in half. They offer equipment rentals, dive and snorkel trips, and education. Multilingual young men and women instructors teach courses with SDI, NAUI, PADI, CMAS standards, as well as TDI and ANDI. Club Cantamar is also a resort hotel with rooms, jr. suites and condos.
Alvaro Obregon 1665-2
Baja California Sur
Tel: (612) 1221826
Baja Aventuras is an official Padi Dive Resort and RAID Dive Centre Gold located on the malecon of La Paz Baja California Sur. Check out Scuba Diver Girl's blog post on Baja Aventuras.
Fun Baja offers Scuba Day Trips, Scuba Camping Adventures, Scuba Diving Certification Programs, Kayaking, and Snorkeling Camping excursions or an Island Day Trip. They also offer many Land Tours if you are traveling with non-divers or if you need to take a day off before flying. Their offices are located in CostaBaja Resort & Marina in La Paz.
La Paz Diving Service
Tel: (612) 125 6228
Scu-Baja Diving Center
Tel: (213) 891-9408
Dive Sites Around La Paz
- The Salvatierra "The Wreck" - a ferry shipwreck sunk in 1976 after colliding with a nearby reef. Lying on a sandbar in 60 ft of water, it is a fantastic “artificial” reef, full of sea life. I saw Moray Eels and giant puffer fish here. Visibility wasn't great, but it was a really fun and easy dive.
- Rocas Lobos "Sea Lion Rocks"
- Los Barcos de IslaGaviota "Gaviota Wrecks"
- Las Animas - a collection of tiny islets in front of San Josè island, where strong currents maintain a permanent population of pelagic fish. Good year-round, especially for extended live-aboard trips.
Isla Espiritu Santo
- El Bajo "Marisla Seamount" - an underwater mountain rising to 60 ft. from the surface, where the schooling hammerheads were first spotted. Great diving year-round for experienced divers.
- Los Islotes "The Colony" -home for more than 350 very playful sea lions that love to perform for divers and snorkelers. Good diving year-round for all levels with an anchorage that is well protected from prevailing winds. Some of the Sea Lions were very friendly, but most just ignored us.
- Naked Lady "Los Muellecitos"
- Rocas Tintorera "Tigershark rocks"
- Isla Ballena "Whale Island"
- Fang Ming & Lapas 03 - La Paz 03 and Fang Ming, two rusting Chinese long liners, were sunk in November 1999 near the Island of Espiritu Santo to promote artificial reef development for sport divers.
La Reyna "The Queen" and La Reynita "The Little Queen" - islets in front of Cerralvo Island with huge concentrations of both pelagics and tropical fish. Whale encounters are common in the channel during the boat trip from La Paz.
More complete information on dive sites can be found on these websites, and in the great reference books listed below:
- Baja Diving: http://www.bajadiving.com/divesites_lapaz.html:
- Good Dive: http://www.gooddive.com/diving-mexico/la-paz-diving.htm
- In La Paz: http://inlapaz.com/dive_sites.html
John Steinbeck's travel log and philosophy on the Sea of Cortez.
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