Baja Buffett

A Baja Buffet for Single Travelers

La Paz, on the southern tip of Baja California, offers single adventure seekers a selection of delicious dishes, luxurious relaxation and spicy surprises.

CostaBaja BeachClub
The Beach Club at CostaBaja.

After a long hiatus from Mexico, my 4-day trip to the La Paz region of Baja California was a delicious whirlwind of cultural tastings. The flight to La Paz via Alaska Air was pleasant; the complimentary ice cold Jones Root Beer a nice touch. Alaska Air has direct flights to both La Paz via LAX or the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. If you arrive in the summer months, be ready for a blast of furnace-like heat outside the small, efficient, air-conditioned La Paz Airport doors. November to March is high season, but for those who like it hot and appreciate off- season prices, summer and early fall are a good choice.

La Paz is far down on the peninsula, located on the eastern shore of Baja where the Sonoran desert meets the Sea of Cortez. Although quieter and more laid back than Cabo San Lucas, which is an hour drive south by car, La Paz is experiencing a growth spurt of new resorts, and retirement and vacation homes. If you decide to stay in Cabo, there are tons of great Cabo San Lucas hotels to choose from.

Across the bay is the residential golf resort community of Paraiso del Mar (Paradise of the Sea), best reached via the swift and quiet electric boats that ferry passengers across from La Paz. For those interested in investing in a permanent holiday home here, condominiums and private homes are for sale, with penthouses and villas to follow. Paraiso del Mar will be completed in 13 months and will feature a marina and a hotel. The first of two 18-hole Arthur Hills designed golf courses are already attracting an international following, and the Club House serves up melt-in-your-mouth grilled Angus beef fajitas.

Paraiso-del-Mar Thunderhead
Paraiso del Mar pathway with giant thunderhead cloud.

On my first evening in La Paz, I made arrangements to enjoy a chef-designed Italian dinner. Rather than take a taxi, I strolled along the Malecon, a 3 mile-long promenade on Paseo Alvaro Obregon along the Bahia de La Paz on the Sea of Cortez. The string of striking and whimsical bronze sculptures that dot the path were aglow from the setting sun; this is a wonderful way to unwind, cool-off and check out the local social scene.

A mix of casual cafes, elegant restaurants and bars with hot music and salsa dancing at spots such as the Fandango are all within walking distance. For a different kind of sweating, there is late night beach volleyball – tipsy or not. The back street shops and historical arcades are best explored on a lazy afternoon.

LaPaz Fandango SalsaClub
Fandango – one of the best salsa clubs for dancing the night away.

Just a few months old, Palermo’s Ristorante is an outpost of Italian sophistication. The warm woods and Capiz-shell wall sconces echoed the magic-hour light of sunset, and above, disc lights reminded me of a dozen full moons in a dark sky. Chef Alessandro Mancuso was warm and charming, and his kitchen did not disappoint; you could almost taste the delicious Italian and Mediterranean dishes with your eyes.

Crisp sliced baby romaine, fresh tart dressing, generous shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano and salty-sweet fried pancetta with house-made croutons made for the best Insalata di Cesare I’ve ever had and it was a good litmus test for the entire menu. Another salad, Il Giardino di Eden, was composed of tender greens with the ripest cherry tomatoes, marinated olives, ricotta cheese, grapefruit wedges and cucumber dressed in aged balsamic vinaigrette, more deep and sweet than acidic.

Entrees from their seasonal, specialty and mesquite grill menus included chicken stuffed with prosciutto, fontina and spinach, three wood-fired pizzas, salmon and grouper with cous cous and peppercorn sauce, and tagliatelle with pancetta, mirepoix and meat sauce. Happy to accommodate special diets (gluten free) Alessandro prepared my own personal gorgeous mixed seafood risotto to enjoy in lieu of the pasta and pizzas.

Palermo’s Ristorante
Palermo’s Ristorante along the Malecon.

The Sea of Cortez is populated with an enormous variety of sea life and is home to three major marine biology institutes. One of the best places to explore the 20,000 species of fish and sea mammals is on the nature preserve island of Espiritu Santo. The Baja Pirates charter service offers fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and sea kayaking but their light lunch is really a snack, so if you plan to spend the day at sea bring a something more to eat.

Cruising to Esperitu Santos
Cruising with the Baja Pirates of La Paz.

The charter boat zoomed past cactus-studded islands with dramatic guano-frosted rock formations, the cool breezes masked the intense sun — so serious sun block is needed. Surrounded by excited and noisy sea lions, I spent a couple of hours on Espiritu Santo snorkeling and sunbathing before taking a dingy to a secluded island beach for some real quiet time. Late in the afternoon, the ship’s crew was hard-pressed to pry me from the shallow, warm, crystal clear sea.

After building up a serious appetite from being out on the sea all day, I looked forward to drinks and dinner at the CostaBaja Resort & Marina Beach Club despite the drive through the ever-present construction zones. The pools and lounges there are so inviting it’s tempting to sleep outdoors under the stars. It was exquisite to sip the Beach Club’s special mojitos as the sun set over the cabana beds. Since the resort’s developer has strict policies to protect the ecosystem, the pelicans and cranes were able to enjoy the twilight as much as I did.

It was a very hot evening, but was cooled by the sounds of a waterfall fountain under the large Beach Club palapa complete with life-sized artist-crafted cactus. Dinner started with Lions Claw scallop carpaccio marinated in fine herbs, olive oil and garlic. Next: al pastor fish, marinated in a typical Mexican sauce made of achiote placed atop a bed of pineapple, onion and cilantro — light and delicious. Dessert was pure chocolate decadence with a chocolate fondant and superb Mexican coffee.

Located along the environmentally protected coast, this lovely resort deserves a return visit. Their residential villas are available for rent and the Fiesta Inn gives serious golfers an 18-hole Gary Player designed course with wandering terrain from hilltop to ocean that will be completed this summer.

CostaBaja Beachouse
Sunset at CostaBaja.

The next morning, being a serious taco lover, I couldn’t wait to try Bismarkcito. Established in 1968, this casual and friendly open-air restaurant with beach views claims to be the “home of the fish taco.” With choices such as lobster, abalone, squid, octopus, shrimp and marlin, to name a few, this is a great place to enjoy the maximum taco experience. Self-serve toppings include salsas, fresh and tart coleslaw, super hot sauce, peppers and sautéed onions. The extensive menu also includes Angus beef, seafood cocktails, oyster, fish and shrimp entrees, soups, chowders and paella — and for breakfast you can always opt for their tempting huevos rancheros.

Bismark-Cito
Full of fish tacos and happy at friendly Bismark-Cito.

The small Bohemian artist’s community of Todos Santos is a great day-trip. Located midway between La Paz and Los Cabos on the Tropic Of Cancer, this designated “magic town” is a great place to refresh and wander. The streets are lined with galleries, shops and vintage arcades featuring fine art, native crafts, leather goods and jewelry at every price point; and architecture buffs will appreciate the remnants of the town’s colonial past.

Todos Santos Shops
One of the many Todos Santos shops featuring local crafts.

For the finest handcrafted silver jewelry, visit Brilanti Jewelers featuring the work of the acclaimed multi-generational Brilanti family of artisans. Pintoresco is a one-stop shop for art and crafts and modestly priced jewelry. The Galleria Logan, with its bright multi-colored walls, mosaics and flowering garden drew me in from the hot street and I was surprised to discover that the painter and proprietor, Jill Logan, is a fellow singular from Laguna Beach!

Greater Todos Santos has a number of restaurants and boutique hotels including the legendary Hotel California on the main drag of Calle Juarez. For lunch the charming La Coronela garden restaurant, filled with colorful murals and ironwork, would be an excellent choice and there is a bar for cold beer or cocktails.

VISIT / STAY / DINE

Palermo’s Ristorante
Paseo Alvaro Obregon at Hidalgo
La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
011-52-612-123-1222

Baja Pirates of La Paz
10016 Pioneer Blvd Ste 110
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670-6217
866-454-5386

CostaBaja Resort
Km. 7.5 Carretera a Pichilingue
La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
866-409-9940

Todos Santos
Visitor’s Guide

Hotel California
Calle Juarez between Morelos and Marquez de Leon
Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico
011-52-612-145-0525

Brianti Jewelers
Centenario and Topete
Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico
011-52-612-145-0799

Gallery Logan
Calle Juárez at Morelos
Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico
011-52-612-145-0151

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