By Patrick Connelly
After 400 years La Paz is finally living up to its name. Originally a center for pearls in pre-Colombian times, the indigenous population was wiped out by smallpox shortly after the arrival of Hernan Cortez in 1535. In their place came adventurers and carpet-baggers, greedily looking for riches under the ocean’s surface. It was a frontier town, nestled against the Sea of Cortez and surrounded by brilliant desert. The rags-to-riches mentality did not stop at the shoreline, however, as pirates plundering the Pacific shipping lanes took refuge in the safety of the harbor. Centuries later, the town’s population exploded as the Baja Peninsula became a haven for those fleeing the violent revolution on the mainland.
Ironically, it took the downfall of the pearl industry in the 1940′s to really stabilize La Paz’s economy. Gone were the vagabond entrepreneurs, tempted by the pink and black pearls, flocking to the town for work. Today, the city of 170,000 is quite, friendly, and…peaceful. In stark contrast from its nearby neighbor, Cabo San Lucas, the pace of life moves to the slow rhythm of the waves. In recent years La Paz has also become a destination for expats and retirees, drawn to the relative seclusion, friendly locals, and inexpensive living costs.
The time is prime for buying or renting property in La Paz. Investors all over the world are realizing the potential for Mexican coastal tourism and seaside property is being snatched up quickly. Long gone are the days of Cancun, Acapulco, and Cabo being the only places in Mexico with foreign interest. While not ignored, La Paz has been able to escape the gringo spotlight up to now, mainly due to the attention its sister city to the south receives. Thus, living expenses are normally quite less than the more tourist cities. Cabo San Lucas real estate is much more popular for expats and is only 150 miles away. Very modern, beautiful rental properties can still be found in the $100,000-$200,000 range in and around the city, dramatically less than similar ones in Cabo. Also, the general cost of living is much less, ranging from $1,500 a month to whatever opulence you desire.
Because of the established infrastructure already in place, tranquil location, white sand beaches, and proximity to other expat and tourist hotspots, investing in La Paz is as close to a surefire bet as you can get. Property appreciation levels are expected to keep increasing over the next decade and Baja continues to be a more attractive place for foreign investors. The city is serviced by good roads and an international airport, as well as access to the ocean. It truly is the next big thing in Mexico, and for the time being incredible value still exists in this city of peace.
Flickr photo by Monalisa