La Paz is a vibrant capital city. A cultural jewel of Baja California Sur, with all of the services and energy that you’d expect from a city of almost 300,000 residents.
After exploring your way around the top-rated restaurants and cafes, galleries and museums, gently sloping streets enriched with colourful murals, and of course the 5 kilometres of waterfront Malecon, you absolutely must day trip to La Ventana to get that intimate Mexican beach town experience!
A mere 40 minutes from La Paz, hugging a beautiful wide sandy bay is a fishing village that still only has one paved road.
Take a single turn anywhere off the main drag and the dirt road leads you up and into a desert landscape or conversely flows down towards sand dunes and the salty sea breeze.
“La Ventana” is the most commonly used name in reference to an area that is actually two towns, side by side: La Ventana, and directly to the north, El Sargento. They each run narrow and long, mirroring the coastline of La Ventana Bay.
Getting to and getting around La Ventana and El Sargento does require the use of a vehicle. Public transportation is sparse to non-existent, there are no official taxis in town, and the distances between sites are large enough that walking would be a tiring and inefficient use of your time. A car rental out of La Paz is a good option, or hiring a driver-guide for the day.
Over the summer months that make up the “off-season”, these two towns combined have less than 500 permanent residents! However, because of very specific geographic and climactic features the town balloons over the winter months with thousands of kiteboarders who come to ride the “El Norte” winds that blow hard and long from December to March.
Whether you’re visiting in January or July, there are more than enough features to keep any visitor of any interest busy for many days, but here are my highlights from within a few different categories that you could include for a perfect day trip from your La Paz accommodations.
Because La Ventana and El Sargento stretch nearly the full length of the bay’s coastline, there is no shortage of sand to lay your towel on! Head down any of the dirt roads leading off the main paved road and you will find a beach access point.
Protip: beach accesses are individually numbered; note which one you’re at so that in the event of any medical emergency or automotive snafu, you can accurately report your location…because “on the beach” might not cut it!
At one of the furthest points accessible by a non-4-wheel-drive vehicle is one of the coolest natural features of the area: The El Sargento Natural Hot Springs! Emanating from the sand, geothermal heat warms shallow pools of water that people trap within circles of rocks. For the best soak, aim for a time between the highest and lowest tides of the day – if the tide is too high the ocean water will completely submerge the rock pools, and if the tide is too low the pools might be too hot to sit in! There is no natural shade or services at the hot springs beach, so make sure to bring a beach umbrella or wear good biodegradable sunscreen, as well as bring refreshments.
Location: Natural Hot Springs of El Sargento (click to open location on Google Maps)
Hiking or Mountain Biking Trails
Right in the centre of La Ventana on the paved road, you’ll find the Rancho Cacachilas Mountain & Bike Hub renting mountain bikes and offering repair services. They also have a warm-up ring with jumps and bumps similar to what you can find out on trails, but without all the fringing cacti to land on while you get used to your wheels!
Whether you rent a bike, have your own, or just decide to hike them, there are a number of fantastic groomed trails around town with each a different landscape to enjoy.
Photo by Cody Doherty on Unsplash
The most popular is probably the Cardon Corridor Trail, located on the southernmost edge of town. The cardon is the tallest cactus in the world and a protected endemic plant within the Baja peninsula’s Sonoran desert ecosystem. The trailhead starts around the Ventusbay Restaurant and Hotel and is an easy walk/ride due to very few elevation changes!
You don’t have to go very far from the start of the trail, either, to see the biggest cacti, so turn back whenever you’re content. Start walking here.
Next, I’d recommend the Punta Gorda Trail at the completely opposite, northern edge of town. This hike gives you the scenery of the rocky cliffs with clinging cacti and desert flora overlooking La Ventana Bay and the magnificent Cerralvo Island. If you’d like to, pack a bathing suit and towel to take a dip at the arroyo beach which acts as the u-turn for the return leg of the roundtrip hike. This is a trail of moderate-difficulty, where you’ll get a bit of a workout from elevation changes, but nothing too technical. The roundtrip distance if you go all the way to the official u-turn is 5.8km (3.6 miles) – my hubby and I did it in an hour and a half, comfortably.
To get there, drive north (water on your right!) on the paved road until it ends, following a dirt road now along the bay, down past the El Sargento Hot Springs and up through the little borough of El Jalito, then park your car as close as you feel comfortable to this starting point (my 2-wheel drive has to stop about 300m before the official start of the trail, as the last little bit turns into big rocks and loose sand).
Restaurants and Street Food
If you spend at least the day in La Ventana-El Sargento, you’ll have time to sample at least a couple of the FANTASTIC yummies around town. There are honestly too many to get into too much detail, so I’ll list some of my favourites here for you to Google and check out the menus & reviews for yourself:
Nomada (organic, fresh, veggie & vegan options)
Birrieria Don Manuel (stewed beef tacos served with a rich consommé)
Baja Bites (fresh seafood tacos with unique twists)
Urquiza Tacos Cessy’s (Mexican food stall painted white with blue trim, with a large menu made fresh to order – LOVE the empanadas)
Cafe Bar KM-0 El Sargento (great coffee and delicious baked goods)
Fun and Festivities
Acting as the social and geographic hub for most of the kiteboarders in town over the winter, Playa Central can also be relied upon to be open during the slower summer season when some other businesses in town shut down.
Photo by Tim Marten on Unsplash
The bright yellow warehouse turned bunker-of-fun offers guests free use of their ping pong table, giant Jenga, shuffleboard, basketball net, hoop-on-string game, and other games you can play with a drink in one hand. Feeling more zen but like you want to watch other people have a good time? On a windy day, the rooftop terrace will give you a bird’s eye view of the aquatic acrobatics of some of the most elite kiters in the world.
Adventure on the Water
Sport fishing is probably the other primary industry in La Ventana, next to wind sport-related tourism. If you’re into angling you can’t do much better than a few hours cruising around Cerralvo Island, the offshore landmass facing La Ventana and little sister to the famous Espiritu Santo! Sportfishing with Lalo is one of the oldest and most trusted locally-owned operators in town. Reserve an outing ahead of time as tours depart early in the morning.
Photo by Todd Cravens on Unsplash
If you’re more into wildlife observation tours, then check out Ashleys Gym Osuna on Facebook and their impressive video posts of marine encounters. Best to reserve in advance for this as well!
I hope you feel armed with enough info to enjoy a day trip to La Ventana from your La Paz accommodations. If you haven’t booked your stay yet, reach out to Trip&homes to see their La Paz accommodation options ranging from apartments to entire homes, but with a top-of-the-line customer service experience throughout!
By: Terri Lynn Manna