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La Paz may be Mexico’s best-kept secret. It sits on the southern end of the Baja Peninsula, tucked into a protective cove off the Sea of Cortez a few miles north of the Tropic of Cancer and a two-hour drive from its more high-profile, tourist-trotted Cabo San Lucas.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Spanish for “peace,” the city of 252,000 moves at an island pace, a mellow lifestyle that has attracted a hearty expat population from Canada and the States. It also lures legions of mainland Mexicans; as a result it has the country’s highest concentration of residents with PhDs.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The city sees an average of 340 days of sunshine annually, with steady winds and calm waters that attract sea kayakers, snorkelers, and stand-up paddlers.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Each evening, the locals intermingle with the modest number of tourists that walk along the boardwalk—or malecón. This wide pedestrian boulevard runs the entire length of the city and stretches further out to other public-access beaches.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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A variety of statues like this one (and the previous image of a mermaid chasing a dolphin) line the malecón.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The close proximity of the ocean also ensures that there is loads of fresh seafood on offer. These chocolate clams are a local specialty, served live with a squirt of lime, hot sauce, and soy, and chased down with a lime-infused Tecate. Try ‘em at Biskmarksito, an open-air restaurant on the malecón.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Fresh seafood at the town’s central market.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Five blocks from the beach sits the main city square, where you’ll find a more kinetic city typical to other Mexican towns. La Paz serves as the capital of South Baja, and politics is still its primary economic engine. But tourism runs a close second.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Development is happening here—and while properties like CostaBaja (pictured) are grand and include a golf course, a 115-room hotel, and a 250-boat marina, local governance ensures that these projects present a full plan of sustainability before they’re allowed to break ground. CostaBaja, for example, derives all its water from an on-site desalinization plant.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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This beach is the future location of another resort. Right now a family lives here, as they’ve done for generations, subsisting on fishing in the protected cove.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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When construction starts, the family will be hired by the property to oversee the beach. They’ll continue to fish and also be moved into modern residences. Here the patriarch of the family overlooks his home.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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While there is decent hiking in the mountains further inland, the real draw of La Paz is its proximity to the Sea of Cortez, which boasts more than 900 islands (244 bearing UNESCO World Heritage bio-reserve status). Its waters host more than 85 percent of the marine mammals found in the Pacific and 35 percent of marine mammals in the world.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Jacques Cousteau dubbed the place the largest aquarium in the world. From October to March, whales migrate through the waters, and between December and February whale sharks can be seen right of the beaches of La Paz. The islands also serve as bird rookeries.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Divers, snorkelers, and sea kayakers can make week-long adventures in the Sea of Cortez, using La Paz as their home base. But day-trippers can hook up with La Paz-based outfitters like Fun Baja for daylong trips.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The journey starts with an hour-long boat ride out to Isla Pardita (pictured), where you snorkel with a lively group of sea lions that live in the waters.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Then you travel to Ensenada Grande, a mellow, undeveloped beach where you’re given time to use the sea kayaks, try paddle boarding, go for a hike up the ridgeline, or… sit and enjoy the view.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The crew’s chef, meanwhile, prepares a lunch of fresh fish tacos served with a cilantro cream sauce and lemons.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Then you return to La Paz, pausing along several of the bird sanctuaries to take in the avian population. And—if you get lucky—the dolphins that live in the waters off La Paz may play in the boat’s surf as you head back.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
 
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