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La Paz is not itself a beach city, but within a 10- to 45-minute drive from the center you'll find some of the loveliest beaches in Baja, reminiscent of the Caribbean with clear, calm turquoise waters.

The white-sand beaches that line the malecón are the most convenient in town, but locals don't generally swim there -- La Paz is a commercial port and the water in the bay is not particularly clean. The best beach nearby is immediately north of town at La Concha Beach Resort; nonguests may use the hotel restaurant/bar and rent equipment for snorkeling, diving, skiing, and sailing. It's 10km (6 1/4 miles) north of town on the Pichilingue Highway, at Km 5.5. The other beaches are farther north of town, but midweek you may have these far-distant beaches to yourself.

At least 10 public buses depart from the malecón between 8am and 5:30pm for beaches to the north. From the bus station at the corner of Independencia, buses stop at the small Caimancito (5km/3 miles), Coromuel (8km/5 miles), Tesoro (14km/8 3/4 miles), and Pichilingue (17km/11 miles, just north of the ferry terminal) beaches. Pichilingue, Coromuel, and Tesoro beaches have palapa-shaded bars or restaurants, and umbrellas and beach chairs for rent.

But with a little extra effort, you can reach the most beautiful of these outlying beaches, playas Balandra and Tecolote, approximately 29km (18 miles) from La Paz at the end of a paved road. The water is a heavenly cerulean blue, the beaches look out upon Isla Espíritu Santo, and several local restaurants specialize in lobster. To get there on your own, take a bus to Pichilingue; from there, take a taxi the remaining 13km (8 miles), or rent a car and follow the signs.

If you want to take a general tour of all the beaches before deciding where to spend your precious vacation days, Viajes Lybs (tel. 612/122-4680) offers a 4-hour beach tour for $25 per person, with stops at Pichilingue, Balandra, and Tecolote.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.