LAST UPDATED: NOVEMBER 3, 2023
This post shares everything you need to know about visiting Balandra Beach in La Paz, Baja California Sur.
Considered Mexico’s most beautiful beach, we’ll cover the current restrictions, how to get there, things to do and tips for your visit.
This article may contain affiliate / compensated links, that may earn me a small commission, at no extra cost to you. For full information, please see our disclaimer here. While all efforts have been taken to ensure the information included in this post is correct and current, travel information such as opening hours, business operations and prices change frequently. If you find anything in this post that is incorrect or outdated please let me know in the comments so I can update it for other readers.
About Balandra Beach
If you thought Caribbean waters and tropical palm trees were Mexico’s version of beach paradise, think again.
Balandra Beach in La Paz, Baja California Sur is one of the most spectacular beaches in the country – but it doesn’t look anything like you’d expect!
A sheltered bay with seven different beaches, the scenery is simply breathtaking.
With its crystal clear water, beautiful sandy beaches and stunning desert mountains covered in giant Cardon cacti, it’s not hard to see why Balandra is ranked as one of the best beaches in the world.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about visiting. With recent restrictions and capacity limits at the beach, it can take some careful pre-planning.
Is Balandra Beach open?
So what is the deal with Playa Balandra?
Is Balandra Beach open? Is Balandra Beach closed? Can I visit?
There is SO much conflicting information about this beach. Before I go any further, I want to take the opportunity to clarify the situation about Balandra.
All this business with restrictions and capacity limits started during the pandemic.
In 2020 and 2021, there were COVID-related restrictions at the beach to avoid overcrowding and help with social distancing etc.
The very strict numbers permitted at the beach each day resulted in people waking up at 4 am and lining up for hours to get into the beach. That’s all done and dusted now.
However, the capacity restrictions have remained.
Because the beach is a protected area, the local authorities decided that reducing the number of visitors each day was probably not a bad idea. To avoid putting too much pressure on the natural area and overcrowding the beach.
These restrictions have been constantly evolving since 2021.
These capacity limits and protection measures became even more important since a boat accident in August 2022 polluted the area.
A private yacht caught fire in Balandra Bay and sank, which resulted in oil, extensive debris, fuel and ash polluting the bay. The beach was closed for over two months whilst the clean-up effort took place. You can read more about the accident here.
This really ramped up the rules around Balandra Beach, and a whole host of new laws were introduced to protect this fragile area.
So here we are, in 2023.
Balandra Beach IS open, but there are restrictions, time slots and capacity limits.
In the following sections, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the current restrictions.
If you’re reading information on the internet, do so with the context of this mini-history. The beach was closed for a while, and access was really restricted in the past, but it’s not so bad now.
There is still a lot of outdated information out there, but I hope this helps you decipher what is old and what is more current.
Balandra Beach restrictions
🚨 This information is accurate as of November 2023
There is no official website or information published online about the restrictions at Balandra Beach. It can be confusing to know what the current situation is. I have tried to ensure this is as accurate as possible, but if you are visiting and find any of this to be incorrect, please do let me know in the comments so I can update it for other readers.
⏰ CAPACITY LIMITS AND TIME SLOTS
The city of La Paz enforces a capacity limit and a time limit for visitors to Balandra Beach.
As of November 2023, there are two daily entry slots, both with a capacity of 450 people:
- 8 am – 12 pm
- 1 pm – 5 pm
When we visited, there was staff at the entrance counting the number of people coming in cars and buses.
Once the capacity is reached, access in that slot will close.
Even if 100 people leave at 10 am, you won’t be allowed in until the next slot at 1 pm.
If the 450 is reached, access stops. It’s not a revolving 1-in-1-out kind of set-up.
Government staff, security and/or police will enter the beach prior to 12 pm to clear out the first session. The same thing will happen at 5 pm, and the beach will close for the day.
It is recommended to arrive early for the shifts and get in line.
Weekends and holidays have seen big lines, and we would suggest arriving up to an hour early to secure your place in line if you’re visiting during peak periods.
If you visit on a weekday outside of holidays, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting in.
If you haven’t finished exploring after the first shift is up, do what we did and head to nearby Tecolote Beach for lunch and then return before 1 pm to line up for re-entry.
💰 POSSIBLE ENTRANCE FEE NOT ENFORCED
An entrance fee was proposed in late 2022 after the yacht accident, and there was a lot of information published about this.
However this did not eventuate, and as of November 2023, there is no entrance fee to Balandra Beach.
🗓️ LOCALS ONLY 1ST SUNDAY OF THE MONTH
On the first Sunday of each month, access to the beach will be restricted to La Paz residents only.
If you are a tourist visiting La Paz, please factor this into your plans.
There is limited information about this online, but as far as I can tell, this is actually being enforced. If you experience otherwise, please let me know!
🍦 NO FOOD VENDORS
Another new regulation is tighter control of street vendors at the beach.
There were never any consistent food stalls at Balandra, but vendors occasionally came to the beach selling drinks, snacks, ice creams etc.
However because the beach is a protected area, this is illegal and the government will be cracking down on this from November 2022.
There should be no food or drink vendors on the beach at all.
If you visit Balandra Beach as of November 2023, pack your own food and drinks, or visit nearby Tecolote Beach afterwards for a meal.
What makes Balandra Beach so special?
Baja California Sur is full of beautiful beaches, but why is Balandra Beach so special?
With all the confusion and drama around visiting the beach, is it even worth it?
Yes! Balandra Beach is definitely worth visiting, and even though it seems complicated and a lot of effort, you can’t miss seeing this special place with your own eyes.
Consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in Mexico and even the best beach in the world, there is something incredible about Balandra.
For starters, Balandra Beach is not actually just one beach. It is technically a bay, that contains seven different beaches!
Sheltered from the Sea of Cortez, the bay is very shallow, making the waters almost translucent, and all shades of blue.
At low tide, when the water level drops, patterns of swirling white sandbanks are revealed. This creates a stunning view, comparable to the famous Hill Inlet in the Whitsundays, Australia!
It’s not just the physical beauty of this place that makes it so special.
Balandra Beach is part of a protected area, which means that it has, thankfully, remained free of any development.
Besides a few palapas and kayak rentals in the parking lot, the entire area is just nature at its finest.
This is a complete contrast to some of Mexico’s other popular beaches, which are lined with sun loungers, beach clubs and vendors.
Balandra is a pristine stretch of untouched paradise, where nature shines!
Balandra Beach hours
As of November 2023, there are two entry slots to visit Balandra Beach:
- 8 am – 12 pm
- 1 pm – 5 pm
Each four-hour slot has a capacity of 450 people. At the end of the slot (12 pm and 5 pm) police and security will come onto the beach to clear out visitors.
It is recommended to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the entrance time to get in line. If you avoid holidays and weekends, you shouldn’t have to wait too long and should have no trouble getting access in your desired slot.
However peak periods have seen very long lines, and people being turned away. Arrive extra early in this case and bring a book to keep yourself amused while you wait!
If you haven’t finished exploring after the first shift is up, we would suggest heading to Tecolote Beach for lunch and then returning before 1 pm to line up for re-entry.
Balandra Beach entry cost
There is no fee to visit Balandra Beach.
An entrance fee was proposed after the yacht accident, and there was a lot of information published about this.
It’s not uncommon to pay a national park to visit natural attractions in Mexico.
The fee proposed was 54 MXN Pesos for domestic and international tourists. Local residents of La Paz, as well as children under 12 and seniors over 60, would be exempt from this fee.
As of November 2023, this fee is not being charged.
No tourists have reported being charged this fee upon entry to the beach. It remains completely free.
We would happily welcome an entrance fee to the beach. If it does come into effect, please be understanding and considerate. It’s a small fee for us, and worth every cent, especially after the mammoth clean-up effort that was required to restore the bay to its pristine condition.
Be aware of scams from local tour operators claiming you have to pay an entrance fee.
The Cortez Club is a local tour company selling national park bracelets that they claim are required to visit the beach. This is NOT TRUE.
They are attempting to sell the bracelets for 160 MXN Pesos or $8 USD per person, and you have to collect the bracelet in person from their office on the way to the beach.
The Cortez Club uses the Visit Balandra website to sell the bracelets. The website is kind of authentic, as they do run tours to the beach which are real, but the entry fee thing is a scam.
If you see anything like this, it is a scam. Unless you are asked to pay by the staff at the entrance to the beach, don’t hand out any money for a visit to Playa Balandra.
Facilities at Balandra Beach
There are virtually no facilities at Balandra Beach. It is natural and undeveloped, and the government (thankfully) wants to keep it that way.
- ✅ Parking – there is a free, paved parking lot. This has limited spots, and you may need to park along the entrance road if you miss out.
- ✅ Bathrooms – there are a couple of dry latrines available for a small fee (10 MXN). Please do pay for the bathrooms as they are offered and maintained by local volunteers.
- ✅ Palapas – there are around 20 free palm-thatched palapas on the beach for shade. Get in early if you want to snag one.
- ✅ Umbrella and chair rental – there are usually vendors renting umbrellas and chairs near the entrance. Prices start at 300 MXN for umbrellas, and 100 MXN for chairs.
- ✅ Kayak and paddleboard rental – there are vendors renting kayaks (from 350 MXN for 1 hour, 200 MXN for 30 minutes) and stand-up paddleboards (from 300 MXN for 1 hour).
- ❌ Food and drink vendors – there is no food or drink available for sale at Balandra. Bring everything that you need or head to nearby Playa Tecolote.
- ❌ Rubbish bins – there are no rubbish bins at Balandra, so please pack out all your rubbish.
Where is Balandra Beach
Balandra Beach is located in the municipality of La Paz, Baja California Sur.
How to get to Balandra Beach from La Paz
If you’re coming from La Paz, the easiest way to get to Balandra Beach is by car.
The drive takes about 30 minutes, following Highway 11 (La Paz – El Tecolote Road). It is paved the entire way.
There is free parking once you arrive.
We really recommend renting a car for your time in La Paz/BCS. Driving in Baja is the best way to see all the natural beauty of the state, and gives you total freedom to explore at your own pace.
By taxi or rideshare
If you don’t have a rental car, you can take a taxi, Uber or DiDi from La Paz.
A ride share is the more affordable option, and you can expect to pay around 250 pesos one way.
If you go down this option, do keep in mind it can be tricky to get back to La Paz at the end of your day.
I wouldn’t rely on getting an Uber or taxi from the beach, so be prepared to catch the bus back.
Or at least start trying to call an Uber earlier in the afternoon rather than later so you have time to make alternative plans if you can’t get one.
Do be aware the cell service can be spotty on the beach.
The cheapest and easiest way to get to the beach without a car is via the dedicated Playa Bus.
Tickets cost 60 pesos each way.
The bus leaves from the La Paz Malecon Bus Station. It stops at a few beaches along the way before reaching Balandra Beach.
After some intense research, I have found the current timetable (November 2023). The Playa Bus service is run by EcoBajaTours and you can see a photo of the timetable on their Facebook page.
👉🏼 From La Paz – Balandra: 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6:30pm
👈🏼 From Balandra – La Paz: 8:45am, 9:45am, 10:45am, 11:45am, 12:45pm, 1:45pm, 2:45pm, 3:45pm, 4:45pm, 5:45pm, 7:15pm
Given the entry slot times for the beach, the bus doesn’t really align with the morning slot (8 am – 12 pm).
If you were visiting during low season, you could try taking the first bus (8 am) and just hope the capacity hadn’t been met by the time you arrived, around 9 am. You will have to leave at 12 pm.
The bus works better for the afternoon slot.
Take the 12 pm bus to be at the beach before it re-opens at 1 pm. You can then choose to return at 4:45 pm, just before the beach closes at 5 pm. Or hang around a little until the next service at 5:45 pm.
On your way to the beach, the bus will usually drive you into the car park. However, when you are leaving, you will need to walk approximately 10 minutes out to the main road and hail the bus.
Another option to consider is taking an organised tour of Balandra Beach. If you don’t have a car, this can be a great option.
There are tours that visit Balandra via land. But many will reach the beach via boat, providing a unique experience.
How to get to Balandra Beach from Los Cabos
We would highly recommend spending a couple of nights in La Paz, but if you really can’t spare a few days, you can squeeze it into a long day, but it will be rushed.
You’ve got essentially two options to visit the beach from Cabo:
- 🚗 Drive yourself there in a rental car: The drive is about 2.5 hours from Cabo San Lucas, and a little longer from San Jose del Cabo. Taking Highway 19 via Todos Santos is the quickest route.
- 🚐 Join an organised tour: I think this is the best option to avoid a very tiring day driving 5+ hours. If you join a tour, the transport is taken care of and you enjoy the day more. This tour combines the beach with stops in La Paz and Todos Santos.
It is technically possible to take the bus from Cabo – La Paz and then La Paz – Balandra. But it would take far too long for just one day, and aligning the timings with the opening hours of the beach would be near impossible.
10 Things to do at Balandra Beach
Once you arrive at Balandra Beach, you’ll be able to enjoy all that this beautiful place has to offer!
In addition to ogling the incredible beach before your eyes, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy.
Like any beach, you could choose to simply lay on the sand, sunbake and go for a swim. But Balandra Beach is worth exploring a little further!
1. Get some epic views from the lookout
If there’s one thing you can’t miss at Balandra, it’s the viewpoint.
Located on a small hill just above the car park, you get an outlook of the entire bay.
The trail is clearly marked, and it’s a short, sharp incline but it’s totally worth the effort for the reward!
2. Hike around the bay
If you’ve still got some more energy, the bay is surrounded by cacti-covered desert mountains, crisscrossed with hiking trails.
I know hiking on a day at the beach doesn’t sound too appealing, but you will be missing out if you don’t get up in the mountains and explore the bay on foot!
We roughly followed this trail on AllTrails, which looped around the mountains from the car park. We got stunning aerial views of the different beaches in the bay, and even out to Isla Espiritu Santo deep in the Sea of Cortez.
There are a ton of other trails, some leading to neighbouring Playa Tecolote. Check out the map on AllTrails for some other options.
3. Float and swim
The thing I loved most about Playa Balandra was how calm it was. No big waves to throw you around, or strong current.
At times it can be too shallow to even ‘swim’, but you can always laze about and float in the water.
There are deeper sections of the bay if you want to properly swim, just look for the darker blue areas.
4. Explore the different beaches
You can choose to stop and relax at some of the beaches you discover on your hike. Or return to your starting point and lay down your towel at one of the closer beaches.
There are seven beaches to explore, and if you visit at low tide you can walk out through the shallows to beaches across the bay.
If you’re willing to carry your things in a waterproof bag or hoist them above your head across the bay, you will likely find a private beach all to yourself!
5. Walk out to the sandbars
One of the most beautiful parts of Balandra is the sand bars that appear in the middle of the bay as the tide goes out.
You can walk all the way out to the middle of the bay, in water no deeper than your ankles!
Such a unique experience to be almost walking on water, and enjoying soft white sand and translucent water.
6. Go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding
It’s possible to rent stand-up paddleboards and kayaks from vendors in the car park.
Kayaks are around 350 MXN for 1 hour, or 200 MXN for 30 minutes. Paddleboards are a little cheaper, at 300 MXN for 1 hour.
They aren’t always open, so don’t count on them.
It’s best to time your rental with high tide. If you attempt to kayak when the tide is low, you’re not going to get very far! Once the tide has lowered and revealed the sandbanks, the water is too shallow in most places to paddle.
Otherwise, head towards the mangroves at the back of the bay for water deep enough to actually paddle through.
7. See the iconic mushroom rock
What many would consider the most iconic part of Balandra Beach is the Hongo de Balandra, a mushroom-shaped rock formation.
This rock is hidden around the corner from the main beach, on the next beach over.
You need to wade through the shallows to reach it.
To be honest, I don’t see the attraction and I don’t think we even went that way to see the rock. It was surrounded by tourists taking photos.
But if you’re into that, you can find the rock on Google Maps here.
8. Go snorkelling
I want to mention snorkelling here because it is frequently listed as one of the best things to do at Balandra Beach Mexico.
If you’ve got snorkels, you may as well bring them with you. As far as I saw, they don’t rent them on the beach.
However, unless you walk/wade way out into the bay, it’s not really possible to snorkel.
The water is so shallow, and quite frankly there isn’t really that much to see. The water is so clear you can see any fish or rays from above the surface, but it’s mainly sand, not rocks or coral.
9. Get into the mangroves
The lungs of Balandra, the complex mangrove system that purifies the water, sit at the far end of the bay (away from the ocean).
The best way to get into the mangroves is via a kayak or paddleboard.
If you’re interested in exploring this ecosystem, we would recommend taking a specific paddleboarding tour.
That way you won’t be relying on a paddleboard rental being there when you visit, and you get the benefit of a local guide leading you and teaching you more about the flora and fauna.
This is a great tour that transports you to Balandra by boat, with a guided paddle around the bay and mangroves. They include lunch on one of the beaches, and you get to stop to swim with the sea lions on the way back to La Paz.
10. Visit nearby Tecolote Beach
When you’re finished at Balandra Beach, we recommend heading just a few minutes further up the road to Playa Tecolote.
This beach is not sheltered inside a bay like Balandra, so the waves are rougher and the water is deeper.
Whilst it can never compete with Balandra Beach for scenic beauty, Tecolote is a great option if you want to swim, snorkel or do any water sports.
The beach here is also more developed than Balandra Beach, and it is lined with restaurants, bars and little souvenir stalls. There are toilets here you can use for a fee.
We spent most of our day at Balandra Beach, then headed over to Tecolote for a late lunch and beverage with our feet in the sand before returning to La Paz.
Best Balandra Beach tours
As you can see, it’s very easy to visit Balandra Beach on your own without a tour. Especially if you’ve got your own vehicle.
However, there are some benefits to doing a tour. If you are based in La Paz and don’t have a rental car, doing a tour can solve the problem of transport. Approaching the beach via boat is also a very unique experience in itself.
Some tours purely focused only on the beach. There are other tours that combine a visit to Balandra Beach with other popular things to do in La Paz. Here are some of the top options:
- 🏄🏽♀️ Balandra by paddleboard – this is a great tour that transports you to Balandra by boat, with a guided paddle around the bay and mangroves. They include lunch on one of the beaches, and you get to stop to swim with the sea lions on the way back to La Paz.
- 🥾 Active Balandra hike, kayak and snorkel – this fantastic tour combines snorkelling and kayaking at Balandre Beach, with a hike to neighbouring Tecolote Beach. A seafood lunch is included after your hike.
- 🛥️ Balandra Beach by boat – Visit Balandra offers return boat transfers from La Paz to Balandra Beach, with a stop at San Rafaelito, a small sea lion colony where you can jump in the water and swim with these playful pups! (Ignore any attempt to make you pay an entry fee to the beach or buy a bracelet)
- 🦭 Whale sharks, sea lions, Balandra combo – this combo tour with On Board Baja includes swimming with the whale sharks, a stop at San Rafaelito to snorkel with the sea lions, and finally lunch and paddleboarding at one of the outer beaches at Balandra. We did this tour and also visited the beach separately by car.
Tips for your visit to Balandra Beach
Check the capacity limits
The time slots and restrictions are constantly changing, and information is not necessarily accurate online.
We recommend checking in with your accommodation in La Paz to get the latest information before your visit, to avoid disappointment!
You can also check the latest reviews on Google and TripAdvisor.
I try to update this post as regularly as possible too. If anything here is outdated, please let me know!
No food or drink facilities at Balandra Beach
There are basically no facilities at Balandra Beach, so you will need to pack all your water, drinks and snacks for the day.
Be sure to take any rubbish out with you, as there are no bins.
Tecolote Beach has restaurants and vendors nearby, but you will want plenty of time at Balandra, so come prepared!
There is very limited shade
There are a few palapas for shade on the main beach, but they can fill up very quickly.
It is usually possible to rent a beach chair and umbrella from vendors just before you enter the beach, but I’m not 100% certain they are always there.
If you are visiting in the warmer months and think you will need shade from the sun, arrive early to try and secure a palapa or one of the rental umbrellas.
Alternatively, BYO a beach umbrella. You can pick these up cheaply from a supermarket in La Paz.
Watch out for stingrays in the water
Rays love hanging out in the shallow, sandy waters of Balandra Beach.
If you are walking through the water across the bay, it’s best to shuffle your feet so the rays can hear you approaching and have plenty of time to get out of your way.
They are not aggressive, and nothing you should be worried about, but stepping on one accidentally isn’t good for you or them!
Regardless of the restrictions, Balandra Beach is one of the most popular things to do in La Paz so it can fill up with visitors.
If you can avoid a weekend or holiday visit that’s ideal.
Arrive early in the morning, and I would suggest planning on spending the whole day there.
The hike is well worth doing, and hitting the trails early in the morning is best to avoid the heat of the day. Then you will want a few hours to relax on the sand and in the water during the afternoon slot.
Leave the beach as you found it
Balandra is one of the most spectacular natural attractions in all of Mexico, but it is very fragile. Even more so after the yacht accident.
Now more than ever, visitors need to respect and preserve the beach.
This means taking out any rubbish you bring (there are no bins), and not spilling any food or drink in the water or on the beach.
Don’t feed any birds, fish or animals.
Don’t wear body lotions or sunscreen if you can help it. Even biodegradable sunscreen can be damaging! Instead, bring a beach umbrella for shade and hats and clothing to cover up from the sun.
Keep noise levels to a minimum, be careful where you are walking to avoid stepping on wildlife, stick to trails if you are hiking and generally be conscious and considerate of your impact on this beautiful place.
Final thoughts on Playa Balandra
Balandra Beach really is a slice of paradise. It should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Baja California Sur.
I hope this guide has helped you plan your own visit to Balandra and has given you some accurate and up-to-date information.
If you have any other questions that I haven’t answered here, please don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments below.
And, if you are headed to La Paz be sure to check out my complete travel guide, covering the best things to do in La Paz, where to eat, where to stay and other travel information.