Visit La Paz for the surf? You bet you should!
Whether they fly in with their boards from far-flung destinations or make the border hop from California, droves of people head to Baja California Sur every year (in winter AND summer) on the hunt for that perfect wave.
It’s easy to see why when you look at the map and realize we’ve got both the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California sometimes only an hour’s drive from each other!
So why do so many surfers choose to base themselves in La Paz over San Jose del Cabo or Cabo San Lucas?
Thankfully, today, more and more “sport tourists” are also culturally curious; cruising the coastlines looking for somewhere they can actually live, while in between waves. And La Paz is the most liveable city you will find!
Flat-water days spent strolling in this vibrant capital city will undoubtedly lead to friendly chats with local residents (yes, even with your broken Spanish and Google Translate). The numerous museums, cultural exhibits, and local festivals balance your experience of life in Baja California Sur. La Paz isn’t all about tourism, and so offers an opportunity for connection with the heritage and the people – a connection perhaps as strong as the one you’ll feel with the waves.
And, oh, the waves!
I’m going to touch on three of the most popular surf spots around La Paz, tell you what makes each one so special, and provide an insider tip for each when preparing for your visit.
Photo by Serg Alesenko on Pexels
Located on the Pacific side, 1.5 hours from La Paz, Cerritos Beach is pure fun and festivities!
A shallow beach break over a sandy bottom makes this a wonderful place for beginners to learn and also fun boogie boarding for your non-surfing friends or family.
Beyond the inside white water, more experienced surfers enjoy steady right-hand breaks toward the north end of the beach and also a possible left-hand break, depending on the interaction of the swell and a sand bar mid-beach. Waves are clean and fast with not a lot of downtime in between sets.
One thing about Cerritos, with all this amazingness, is you won’t be the only one there! Camping is a popular activity on this beach and there are board rentals and classes available, as well as restaurants and hotels fringing the beach. But, the atmosphere is what makes this surf destination special!
Pro-tip: Spend your day on this beach and you could also get lucky with some star sightings – either our biggest winter “snowbirds”, the humpback whales down from Alaska, or surf pros such as Kelly Slater.
2. Costa Azul – the summer spot you can count on.
Located on the Gulf of California near San Jose del Cabo and known as “Zippers”, this exposed beach and reef break has the most consistent and powerful surf in Baja California Sur – 94% of waves here are clean, groundswell, right-breakers.
The best month here is undoubtedly May, but the summer season, in general, is the best time to surf Zippers. That’s when the offshore winds are primarily from the northwest and the best swell direction comes from the south.
Mostly a spot for experienced locals, there is also an opportunity for learning here. South of the main arroyo (a dry, sandy riverbed) the middle break is more beginner-friendly in smaller swell conditions.
Pro-tip: It starts getting pretty hot around this time in BCS, so though the waters are nice and comfortable in your board shorts, a rashguard is recommended for sun protection – UV ratings are consistently 11+ (extreme).
3. San Juanico – the longest wave potential.
Depending on who you ask, this is the second-longest wave in the Americas, or the longest in the world, or…the internet is also undecided. But, 100% of everyone you ask who’s ridden San Juanico agrees that it’s magical.
Another warm-weather spot but this time on the Pacific side, San Juanico or Scorpion Bay is best visited in April/May when the southern swells really turn this spot on.
Photo by Oliver Sjöström on Pexels
Worth the drive (and a couple of nights camping), at just over 6 hours from La Paz, San Juanico is made up of 4 different breaks that when the surf stars align can join together into one! The resulting ride can be over a minute long!
The best wave is the third one, followed by the second which has a chiller but more consistent vibe; bring your longboard if you’ve got one. It’s known that the breaks at San Juanico can be inconsistent and a bit too small sometimes, but just one great day and it’ll be a ride you will never forget.
Pro-tip: bring everything you need for your time here because the small town of 300 residents doesn’t offer a lot of services.
So, with all of this info at your disposal now, I will say with confidence that I look forward to seeing you out on the waves around La Paz and walking the La Paz Malecon at sunset!
By: Terri Lynn Manna