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La Paz Geography

Artwork on the Malecón La Paz, Mexico
Credit: Jack Hamilton

La Paz is situated on the southeast coast of the Baja California peninsula in the state of Baja California Sur (BCS). The city proper faces the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California), but the municipality extends across the southern peninsula, from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific Ocean, and includes the communities of Todos Santos and Puerto Chale. Although not as well-developed as Los Cabos, it has many of the same features that make its neighbor so popular.

The city proper is the largest in BCS, located 90 miles north of Los Cabos, about a two-hour drive. A few miles north of the Tropic of Cancer, the city is located on a bay with the same name, almost closed off by El Mogote.  Waters here are calm because of the Sea of Cortez and the bay, with the area noted for turquoise waters and soft, sandy beaches.

The municipality (surrounding rural areas that are under the jurisdiction of the city) has an average altitude of 100 feet above sea level. There are several islands in the Sea of Corte and two mountain ranges: Sierra de la Giganta and Sierra de la Laguna. The latter has the highest peak at about 7,300 ft. above sea level, but this point is shared with the Los Cabos municipality.

The area is desert, noted for its elephant trees and giant roadrunner, along with other plants and wildlife adapted to the harsh conditions.  Lower elevations are hotter, with cactus and thorny scrubs. In the highest elevation, which receives the most moisture, pine and holm oak can be found. Wild animals range from small birds and rodents to deer and wildcats in the mountains.

But La Paz’s emblematic environment and wildlife is marine, especially that of the Sea of Cortez. A United Nations World Heritage Site, Jacques Cousteau once called it “The aquarium of the world” with its whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions. The most important island near the city is Espiritu Santo, which is a wildlife sanctuary home to 53 plant species and animals found nowhere else.

La Paz is in the Mexican Pacific Standard time zone, which is the same as the U.S. Mountain Standard time zone. It observes daylight saving time beginning the first Sunday in April and ending the last Sunday in October.