One thing that makes the La Paz, Baja, Mexico area pretty cool is that there are a lot of neat places nearby. Hailing from San Diego, the closest “cool place to go anchor for the weekend” was 80 miles away to windward, at Santa Catalina Island. And honestly you couldn’t even anchor there as the primary destinations have moorings installed. Here in the sailing Mecca of La Paz however, there are several islands, many large bays, and countless smaller coves within a few hours. Further destinations are merely another hour or two away beyond that, and so the story goes for hundreds of miles up Baja’s interior peninsula.
Balandra isn’t the closest stop north of La Paz, but it’s the most popular. On a busy weekend you’ll have a dozen boats in the cove, half of which are local charters letting their sunburned gringo clients zip around on suped-up tenders and drink margaritas. And yes, that’s “busy” for here.
Though we had plans to head to Espiritu Santo Island, a student in Cora’s Mexican preschool we have her enrolled in gave us an invite to a birthday party on the beach in Balandra. We’d been here before for a single night when coming in from Bahia Los Muertos, and this time we spent three days and two nights anchored in this beautiful cove.
We had some friends on Classy Lady II that showed up as well with their five year old daughter Solis. They sold their last sailboat, bought a powerboat, and are looking to build a new sailboat. If you think we have an interesting story, trust me, these guys have us beat hands down.
There are really two aspects to Balandra: as an anchorage and as a beach.
As an anchorage it is relatively straight forward although first time people in the La Paz area will likely be spooked by the Los Coromuelas that kick up around sun down, howling wind out of the south west until ten the next morning. There are also crappy little flies that don’t bite but otherwise manage to annoy the hell out of you as they land on your face, neck, ears, and every other square inch of skin. Happily, these odd insects don’t seem to enter the cabin all that frequently and don’t hang out after sun down. Their domain is the uncovered pitch heat: probably where you’ll spend the least amount of time.
The beach of Balandra, or Playa de Balandra, is the real gem of this bay. It’s weird to look two hundred yards out and see people standing in waist high seas but that’s how this place works. The water is crystal clear, fish zip around by your feet, there is no surf, and for hundreds of yards the water is so shallow and calm that even the most timid beach goer finds themselves happily flapping around in 80 degree (f) water. Also, the bugs that are present in the anchorage are mysteriously absent here.
The ice cream man has his little cart that he pushes with high volume wheels: not only do they handle the sand well, but in deeper water the whole thing floats so he can push it along like a barge. Like a lot of Mexico, it’s the strange blessing and curse of stunted economic development that allows beaches like this to be accessible to the average citizen and not have a resort built right on the sand. Charlotte and I frequently walk around and shake our heads saying, "Imagine what this place would look like if it was in the States." I sincerely hope that as Mexico continues developing and growing as an economy it can preserve locations like Balandra: the natural beauty around here is quite literally, priceless.
We've only been there in the month of May, and the Coromuels blow pretty steadily from sunset until about ten in the morning. Balandra seems to be affected more than the rest of La Paz so expect 25% stronger winds as a minimum.
There isn't much fetch, so you can anchor wherever you like but we've gone about 100 yards off the south wall with good success. In 20' of water let's say you're letting out 150' scope, so keep ~200-300' off the wall because the daily NW winds will put you stern-to it. At night time though, when the Coromuels kick up, you'll be happier with the big rock wall in front of you and also no other boats to drag and screw you up.
If you're not totally confident with your ground tackle, make sure you're onboard before sundown and the minute the wind kicks up from the S-SW, back down hard on your anchor to make sure you've got it biting. That might be considered normal Coromuel advice, we didn't do it, but I saw another boat make it happen.
There are trash cans on the beach, vendors selling over priced drinks and snacks, the ice cream man shows up around 1400, and there are some built-in palapas if you can get to the beach early enough.
It's about two hours from La Paz motoring.