May 26, 2005, 8:55 AM
Post #7 of 15
"Someone mentioned La Paz, I believe in Baja California, as a beautiful place with a large expat community. Has anyone been there who can offer some first-hand impressions of it as a place where Americans might want to retire? (The usual considerations: cost of living, climate, cultural amenities, physical attractiveness, anything else you can think of). Thank you for your help."
Hello, as promised, an update after my two-week visit to La Paz in late April/early May. An article is supposedly forthcoming in the AARP magazine, so those interested in the area will want to watch for it. Meanwhile, a few notes. My first attempt was book-length, so interested folks should email privately with any questions: email@example.com
La Paz is almost heaven to me but probably not for everyone. I've lived abroad for most of the past 30 years, in Egypt for 20+, so my expectations may differ from those of many North Americans. Esteban's remark that La Paz "feels" smaller than its population is right on target, but that's one of the main attractions in my case: goods and services without the traffic, crowds, litter, pollution, and stress that are typical of large cities.
Residents are welcoming and kind, proud of their city and delighted to help visitors enjoy it but not at all aggressive. Touristwise, Mexicans far outnumbered foreigners during my stay. Folks of all nationalities were laid back and considerate, and "ugly American" types and other undesirables were refreshingly scarce. I did a lot of walking around alone and had no problems anywhere, though I must have looked more than clueless enough to be an easy target. Two days before I left, a Mexican resident warned me to avoid the "bad areas" (which I'd somehow managed to miss).
If you love sun, wind, sea, desert, and marine wildlife, the climate and surroundings are pretty close to ideal. Sunsets and desert views are splendid. I've read that such things get old with time, but that's not been my experience, and I'm willing to take the risk. Residents say it gets very hot in August/September.
Beaches, within a 15-20 minute drive from downtown, are lovely and uncrowded. There are plenty of opportunities for water sports. Sea kayaking, which I tried for the first time, is cheap, fun, and good exercise. Snorkeling with the sea lions at Los Islotes is a delightful treat.
Expenses may be higher than on Mexico's mainland, but nothing seems truly outrageous, though housing is all over the place. Some properties seem ludicrously overpriced and others a steal (even if unaffordable by me). Rentals are hard to pin down because many aren't advertised through conventional channels. You have to ask meet people and look around, which takes more than a couple of weeks because residential areas are pretty spread out. I'd plan to spend time in temporary quarters before committing to anything long-term.
Retirees who count on frequent trips NOB should take note: "It's only a 2 hour flight back to the USA" seems to apply only if you're headed to or from LA. It took me a whole day to fly to LAP from New York and another to fly from LAP to Indianapolis (12-14 hours and 3-4 flight legs each way).
I met a couple of resident gringos but didn't run across gringo enclaves. For this short visit, I got by with minimal Spanish and no car, but to live there happily, I'd want to acquire fluent Spanish and wheels.
Somebody is going to have to work really hard to talk me out of wanting to retire there.