La Paz Selected As One Of The World’s Greatest Places 2021

The Mexican seaside city of La Paz is two hours north of the popular Cabo San Lucas and its busy resorts, but with its laid-back vibe,

it might as well be a world away. Visitors can take a relaxed stroll on the malecón, a three-mile-long pedestrian walkway right along the Sea of Cortez, lined with ocean-inspired sculptures and open-air cafés. The newly opened Baja Club Hotel, by boutique Mexico City developer Grupo Habita, occupies a colonial-era former private mansion.


Epic marine-life encounters are the main draw to La Paz and its surrounds—these are the waters Jacques Cousteau referred to as “the world’s aquarium”—and there are plenty of boat excursions to choose from. On uninhabited Espíritu Santo Island, just offshore, the glorious Camp Cecil de la Isla has luxe canvas tents with a canopy of stars overhead. With new American Airlines direct flights from Dallas and Phoenix, La Paz is primed to welcome many more guests this year. —Terry Ward

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Mexico’s Newest Billionaire Escape You’ve Never Heard About

Cabo may have the glitz and glamour, but La Paz is evolving into Mexico’s under-the-radar hideaway for the world’s seafaring billionaires.


Located 110 miles from Los Cabos International Airport, the beach city does not boast a single five-star hotel, luxury fashion boutique or celebrity chef restaurant. Instead, it’s La Paz’s access to the Sea of Cortez, the UNESCO-protected waters referred to as “the aquarium of the world” by Jacques Cousteau, that is luring some of the world’s largest superyachts.


Their destination? Puerta Cortes, a gated, 500+ acre resort five miles from downtown La Paz where ocean-view rooms start at $130 (compared to Cabo, where rooms at luxury hotels average more than $1,000 per night during the same period). Despite the lack of 800-thread count bedding and a Pilates studio, Puerta Cortes boasts something no Cabo property can: 70 marina slips that can accommodate yachts up to 280 feet.


That may not be big enough for Steven Spielberg’s 282-foot Seven Seas, which routinely anchors just past the dock on the bay, as did David Geffen’s yacht on New Year’s Eve. Larry Ellison, Bill and Melinda Gates and billionaire Dennis Washington all dock or anchor at the resort. The draw? Once-in-a-lifetime access to marine life, beyond-blue waters and a scene-free assortment restaurants, shops and activities.


“This is the kind of place where Bill and Melinda Gates can walk down the Malecon [the three-mile beachfront walkway in downtown La Paz] without anyone bothering them,” says Jeffrey Curtiss, an English ex-pat who moved to the area full time in 2005. “Unlike the eternal spring break feeling at Cabo, the wealthy don’t feel threatened here and can be close to wildlife.”  


They don’t just want to see marine life, they also want to protect it. Last year, Leonardo DiCaprio produced Sea of Shadows about the Sea of Cortez’ most endangered marine mammal, a small porpoise known as the vaquita marina. Christy Walton, widow of John T. Walton (son of Walmart and Sam’s Club founder Sam Walton), owns a home in La Paz and dedicates herself to both land and maritime environmental initiatives.  

(courtesy Hollywood Reporter)

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Super Mega Yachts at La Paz

Some of the worlds biggest yachts come to La Paz!

(with the exception of one!)


Venus is a super yacht designed by Philippe Starck‘s design company Ubik and built by Feadship for the entrepreneur Steve Jobs at a cost of €105 million. Jobs died in October 2011, a year before the yacht was unveiled.

The minimalist yet eye-catching exterior style of Venus is reminiscent of an Apple product, like the iPhone or iPad.


Ostar – is a 52 meter Feadship, build in 1998. She can accommodate 11 guests and has a crew of 12.  She has a steel hull and an aluminum superstructure. The motor yacht is designed by Andrew Winch Design.


Rising SunFrequented by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Beatrice, the Princess of York, the Rising Sun offers a living area of over 8,000 square metres over five levels and 3,300 square metres of deck space lavishly layered in teak. Jacuzzzi bathrooms and countertops fashioned out of onyx gives the yacht a particularly sumptuous atmosphere.  To further ensure the absolute comfort and enjoyment of every guest onboard, the luxury yacht is also equipped with a full gymnasium, a wide-ranging wine cellar and a sauna and a spa. The basketball court on the main deck doubles up as a helicopter pad when required and the private cinema features an enormous plasma screen offering limitless entertainment to royalty and celebrities alike.



With a cozy size of 32 feet, this yacht has not been frequented by any celebrities! It is however furnished for down to earth human types who have a zest for life and who realize that a yacht experience is not expensive.


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The History of the Panga

If you have never experienced a tour of the Sea of Cortez in a Panga, THIS IS A MUST DO!

(Story courtesy of Heather Steinberger)

The story behind pangas, the boat that changed the world

Our trip to the sea lion colony at Los Islotes was scrapped, a casualty of the roaring northwest winds that frequently tear up Mexico’s Gulf of California in winter. As the driver pointed our boat’s nose beyond Isla Espíritu Santo’s somewhat sheltered embrace, the full force of the snotty weather hit.

The San Lorenzo Channel erupted with confused, steep, breaking seas. Vision blurred from the barrage of salt spray; I could no longer see the island nor the Pichilingue Peninsula ahead.

I could see our driver, lips set in a thin line, with one gnarled hand firmly grasping the wheel and the other on the throttle. The engine screamed as he alternately throttled up and dialed back, deftly maneuvering the boat across the menacing channel. Some of my companions screwed their eyes shut, knuckles white as they grasped whatever handhold was nearby.

It was easy to fall in love with this nimble yet tough little workhorse, especially since a colorful fleet of pangas adorns the working waterfront in La Paz, Baja California Sur’s nearly 500-year-old capital city. Strolling the malecon one evening, we watched fishermen rinse off their catch and wade ashore to load it into trucks. We also saw brightly painted signs advertising a whale-shark trip aboard this boat or a dive excursion aboard that one. Pangas are busy here, and there’s no question that the vessel is deeply woven into the culture. But did it originate here?

Back home, I did a little digging. My search yielded a surprisingly small collection of articles that made brief references to a World Bank-funded Yamaha project four decades ago. I also discovered a labyrinthine series of online forum discussions among hard-core panga fans, all debating the boat’s true origins. This was curious. Was the panga the result of a worldwide Japanese engineering effort, or was it a product of its own environment? In either case, how did it come to change the world?

Meeting Mr. Panga
Today, Mac Shroyer owns and operates the bustling downtown Marina de La Paz with his wife and son. When the Shroyers first arrived in Baja California Sur in the 1960s, however, the marina business was not his first calling. Boats were.

“I pursued what interested me,” said Shroyer, who originally worked as a teacher in California. He and his family sailed the Sea of Cortez in a boat he built.

The Shroyers settled in La Paz, then a sleepy colonial city of just 35,000 people. When they arrived, fishermen along the coast were still plying local waters with plank-on-frame double-enders, introduced from the coastal town of Guaymas on the Mexican mainland in the 1950s, or little plywood variations of the boats, which had a transom and could carry a small outboard. The arrival of ferry service and construction of the 1,063-mile-long Transpeninsular Highway in remote Baja California Sur — which wasn’t even a Mexican state until 1978 — changed everything.

“All of a sudden there was a possibility that locally caught fish could be shipped on ice to the United States and mainland Mexico,” Shroyer said. The fishing cooperatives needed more substantial boats that could carry a 40 hp outboard.

Shroyer had been building small plywood sport-fishing boats near the La Paz waterfront, but he quickly shifted gears to fiberglass. When we met, he shuffled through myriad papers in his modest upstairs office, unearthing the piece he sought. It featured a 20-foot-4-inch boat with a beam of 6 feet 6 inches. Open, sleek and skinny, with a modified-V hull — innovative, yet bearing an unmistakable kinship with existing local craft, it had a slender shape, a notched transom and a rounded bottom.

“First I made a mold for a 22,” he said. “I put a couple of banco [plank] seats across and air chambers fore and aft. Then I cut it off so I could make it a 20-footer.”

He estimated that he drew the lines in 1968, with the first boat in production at his building business, Embarcaciones Bajacalifornianos, in 1969-70. And it was the right boat for the right time, particularly since U.S.-built fiberglass fishing boats didn’t suit local conditions.

The panga was simple — no inside floor, no cockpit, no extraneous beauty marks — but it was efficient and cost-effective, and it had superior handling and carrying capacity. A couple of guys with nets and longlines could go through the surf, travel 40 or 50 miles and bring back a sizable load in a boat that would handle properly. It’s stable, seakindly and very safe.

With the panga, fishermen on the Baja Peninsula’s west coast could even surf through the Pacific swells onto the beach, nose up. Then the men on shore could quickly pull the boat up onto the beach, preventing the next wave from hitting it.

This fiberglass panga, Shroyer said, was the first to be designed and built, and it was unique to the area. But was it?

The Yamaha Debate
When asked if Yamaha was actually responsible for the first fiberglass pangas, Shroyer shook his head.

“It was the other way around,” he said emphatically. “We did it here first.”

In the 1970s, Mexican President Luis Echeverría authorized the building of pangas throughout the country. The World Bank financed the project, and Yamaha partnered with Mexican builders, including well-known Imensa in Mexico City, to produce the boats. The Japanese company provided engines, of course, as well as its own engineering expertise.

There is no question that, around this time, Yamaha’s manufacturers also got into the panga business. “They built stacks of pangas to sell motors,” Shroyer said. “Their project worked fairly well, but the Japanese version had a big, bulky gunwale and foam for flotation. Most of the boats ended up on the east coast of Mexico.”

The Japanese panga differed in that it was 22 feet long with a 5½-foot beam with a more rounded, rising bow — as Shroyer noted. It also had a flatter transom and a Delta pad underneath to help it ride on top of chop and to make it easier to beach. In Asia, these boats were even called Yamahas.

Yamaha advocates contend that the company took inspiration from traditional surf-fishing boats all over the world and distributed the plans to local builders (such as Shroyer) so they could make their own versions. Yet Shroyer’s plans are clearly of his own hand.

Today, pangas are decked out as center-consoles and cruisers. 

Later, I contacted Rob McDaniel at Sarasota, Florida-based Panga Marine for his take on panga history. Three decades ago, McDaniel became acquainted with Mexican pangas while vacationing and fishing in the Yucatán. He has been building his pangas stateside since 2005. When I told him about my search to find the first fiberglass panga, he told me that a librarian friend had dug deeply into the history of the World Bank project to see if she could confirm any specifics.

“She didn’t find anything,” he mused. “I know Yamaha had early participation in the project, shopping around and forming partnerships with local boatbuilders.”

Shroyer was not a Yamaha partner, so was it possible that he developed the La Paz panga independent of the World Bank project?

“I think so,” McDaniel said thoughtfully. “Both the stories might be true.”

As the 1970s marched on, and as Yamaha pursued its partnerships with builders elsewhere in Mexico, Shroyer continued producing pangas for local collectives. He produced approximately 3,000 pangas until 1982, when the devaluation of the peso spelled the end. Shroyer gave the molds to his employees, who are still building pangas in some form to this day.

Enthusiasts will continue to debate who was first on a global scale, but either way, there is no doubt Mac Shroyer is a major figure in building the boats that changed the world.

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Travel Guide From Kayak

Get more ideas on what to do on the La Paz Travel Guide.

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