My name is May and thanks for stopping by my blog on Playa Balandra – one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico. I grew up in Saigon, Vietnam and moved to the US when I was 17. At the age of 20, I met my husband Derek. Since then, we have been traveling everywhere together.
As a couple, travel is our biggest passion. Before 2020, we mainly traveled internationally to places like Europe, Asia and Australia. At the start of 2020, we bought an old delivery van and converted it into our tiny home on wheels. We have been on the road for about two years now. Traveling and photography have always been big parts of my life ever since I was young.
When we started Vanlife, the Baja Peninsula was at the top of our list. What delayed us to start our Baja road trip until recently was mostly our concerns about the safety of traveling through Mexico. After a lot of extensive research, we finally decided to undertake this adventure this year and so far it has proven to us that our worries before were totally unfounded.
Our itinerary: Ensenada, Guerrero Negro, San Ignacio, Mulege, Loreto, La Paz, Santiago, San Jose de Cabo, Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos. We have been gone for about three weeks and recently made it to La Paz.
Our Amazing Time at Playa Balandra
We read many blogs about La Paz before our trip and Playa Balandra stood out in every must-visit list mentioned in other guides about La Paz. Also, Playa Balandra is considered one of the most beautiful beaches not only in Mexico but in the entire world (known as the Aquarium of the World). It’s that famous destination that you can’t miss on your Baja road trip!
When we first arrived here it totally surpassed our expectations. Its crystal clear turquoise waters and white sand dunes set to a desert backdrop of cardon cactus are absolutely stunning. And it’s amazing to see that Balandra is still empty! Besides the dirt parking lot and a few palapas on the main beach, Balandra appears untouched – which is just so special.
We took a hike at Playa Balandra to the top of the hill to enjoy the view of the whole bay. If you park in the small dirt lot in front of the main beach, there is a small hill where you can get an amazing view over the bay. The trail is steep and rocky but worth it to see Playa Balandra from above! From the hill we flew our drone to get that famous Instagrammable shot.
One of our favorite moments from visiting this beach was relaxing under a palapa and preparing a fruit plate. One of our favorite things about Baja is their street food vendors. But Playa Balandra is a natural protected area so no one sells anything here. We bought pineapples, jicama and coconuts before our visit and just prepared a Mexican-style mixta fruta plate.
Where to Stay near Playa Balandra
It’s very easy to get to Playa Balandra. No hiking is required. You can drive there and park at the dirt parking lot right next to the beach. To base yourself somewhere close for a couple days to explore Playa Balandra, you can stay in La Paz Central. La Paz Central is a vibrant colorful town.
With traditional Mexican tile works, colonial architecture, and a laid-back old-world water-front malecon with courtyards and squares – La Paz Central feels like something out of a vintage film. The malecon is a place where you can find hotels, street food carts, modern coffee shops, artisanal tasting rooms and high end restaurants. It’s where everything happens.
For vanlifers, if you prefer something quiet and can camp next to the ocean, Playa El Tecolote is the place to be. It’s located about 5 minutes away from Playa Balandra. So if you miss your turn to be accepted into Playa Balandra when the visitor quota for the day is reached, you can go to Playa El Tecolote for the day and wait until the next day to try your luck again.
There are restaurants, bars and shops at Playa El Tecolote where you can buy coconuts, beer, umbrellas and chair rentals. We had the best ceviche at this beach (only $10 and the ceviche was packed with shrimp and octopus)!
Good to Know Before you Go
Definitely arrive at the beach early (by 7:30am). La Paz limits the number of visitors to Balandra per day (150-200), so be prepared to get your car in line at 7am to be able to get in. And when we were here, there was one officer going around telling people that everyone had to clear out by 2:30pm.
These restrictions are due to this area being declared by the environmental authorities as a Natural Protected Area. Once slated for resort development, it was saved by locals and activists who wanted to preserve its unspoiled landscape. Thanks to their efforts, it’s now a natural protected area. That is why the beach is pristine and untouched. But getting in can be tricky.