Playa Balandra (Balandra Beach) has been called the most beautiful beach in Mexico. As someone who has traveled extensively in Mexico, I can understand that sentiment. Mexico is home to thousands of breathtaking beaches, but Balandra is different.
With calm, shallow water painted with several stunning shades of blue, Balandra rivals Tulum and Cancun’s famous white sandy beaches and even Playa Carrizalillo, my favorite beach in Mexico.
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A trip to Baja California Sur, Los Cabos, or La Paz is not complete without a stop at Playa Balandra. However, a visit requires some planning due to strict opening hours and frequent changes in local regulations.
In this up-to-date Playa Balandra Beach Guide, I share everything you need to know before visiting this enchanting beach, including some insider tips to help you make the most of your experience.
Since regulations can change, bookmark this page and revisit it closer to your trip (unless you’re already on the way!) for the most accurate information.
Before we dive into the Playa Balandra travel guide, I’ll answer some common questions. If you’re just here to figure out how to get to the beach or read my insider tips, keep scrolling to that part of the article below.
What makes Balandra Beach so popular?
Balandra Beach is a jaw-droppingly beautiful beach in Mexico. The shallow water is crystal-clear as you wade through it but appears in several gorgeous shades of blue in the distance. While nearby beaches are similarly stunning, Balandra sticks out because of its size and surroundings.
Dry, deserty cliffs stick out above the water, and mangrove lagoons wind through certain areas of the bay. The beach’s natural beauty has made it a favorite day trip from Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, and it has made the nearby city of La Paz an increasingly popular destination for tourists and expats.
A little bit of Balandra history: In 2008, local environmentalists collected over 18,000 signatures on a petition to protect Balandra Beach from development. Because of their dedication, the beach and surrounding bay are now protected by the local government from further development.
In addition, due to the beach’s increased popularity, new regulations have been put in place to protect the area. For instance, the number of daily visitors is strictly capped and controlled. This makes Balandra a little less easy to visit than nearby beaches, but it’s worth it to preserve the beach’s natural beauty and biodiversity.
Where is Balandra Beach?
Balandra Beach is located inside Balandra Bay, in the state of Baja California Sur in Mexico.
The beach is about 30 minutes away from La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. Balandra is about two hours and 40 minutes away from Los Cabos.
The closest airports to Balandra are La Paz International Airport (40 minutes away) and Los Cabos International Airport (two hours and 40 minutes away).
To find directions to Playa Balandra via Google Maps, click this link.
Is Balandra Beach Closed?
As of May 2023, Balandra Beach is open for visitors daily with specific time windows.
Balandra was closed several times over the past few years but is now open again. Some information online is still out of date, so make sure you’re checking a trusted source for up-to-date info about the beach.
There is no official Balandra Beach website (though there are some fake ones that look real), so your best bet is to check my regularly-updated blog (what you’re reading now) and check Google Maps reviews from recent visitors.
Essential Mexico Travel Resources
Have a Mexico trip coming up soon? There are a lot of travel companies out there, but some are better than others. After traveling to dozens of countries and living abroad on several continents, here are some of my favorite websites and resources for planning unforgettable trips.
First Timers Guide to Visiting Playa Balandra
I keep this guide up-to-date, but if you notice any differences when you visit Balandra or have any questions, please let me know by commenting at the bottom of the article.
Ready? Now we can dive into the Playa Balandra travel guide!
How to Get to Balandra Bay
Balandra Bay is thirty minutes outside the nearest city (La Paz), and the easiest way to visit it is via car or tour, though you can also take a bus from La Paz. Below you’ll see the directions to get to the beach from La Paz as well as from Cabo.
Balandra Beach Directions from Los Cabos
Travel north on Highway 19 past Todos Santos. Once you reach La Paz, take Baja California Sur La Paz-El Tecolote. The Highway will eventually become Highway 11. You’ll pass several other beaches such as Playa El Tesoro and Playa Pichilingue before arriving at Balandra.
Top rated Playa Balandra Tours from Los Cabos
★★★★★ 5/5 Stars out of 10+ reviews
Pickup in Cabo San Lucas.
Explore Playa Balandra on your own time with a private tour guide and driver. Plus, you get to stop at Todos Santos and Cerritos Beach on your way back to Cabo.
“This tour was the absolute highlight of our trip to Cabos. Balandra beach is the most beautiful beach I have ever been to, the pictures just dont give enough justice to this place. The tour was just perfect, our guides, Ricardo and Hector, made sure we had enough time to visit every place and that we enjoy it at our own rythmm it is your own private tour, so everything was perfect!”REVIEW FROM Sergio ON VIATOR
Balandra Beach Directions from La Paz
There are a few ways to drive to Balandra from within La Paz, but generally, the best route is to drive along Highway 11 north. After passing several beaches and driving for about thirty minutes, you’ll reach the beach.
Top rated Playa Balandra La Paz Tours
★★★★★ 5/5 Stars out of 74+ reviews
Meet at Balandra Beach. *Tour guide can coordinate taxis*
My personal recommendation for an unforgettable Balandra day trip. Your tour guide will take you to snorkel and kayak at Balandra, and then hike to nearby Tecolote beach. You’ll have the opportunity take in stunning views during your hike and explore hidden beaches. Lunch is included (vegan options available on request)!
“Best way to experience the Balandra area hands down!!! The guides are so friendly and knowledgeable, and the activities are a blast and the best combination of things to give you a comprehensive understanding of this wonderful place. It was hot for sure but the hike felt totally manageable since you get the breeze up on the hillsides and some shade as you explore the intertidal zone. We learned a ton about the local vegetation, wildlife, and even geology and anthropology. Our guides’ went out of their way to make sure we had a total blast, and it worked. Big time recommendation over here!!!”REVIEW FROM Aksel ON VIATOR
★★★★★ 5/5 Stars out of 36+ reviews
Meeting points in La Paz.
Split your day between the stunning beaches of La Paz (Balandra and Tecolote) and the historical city. After spending the morning at Tecolote and Balandra beach, your tour guide will help you understand La Paz as you explore the city’s historical neighborhoods, visit an artisan workship, and walk along the Malecon boardwalk.
“Jonathan was an excellent tour guide. He provided so much historical information that rounded out our understanding of La Paz and Baja Sur. Our lunch at Tecolote Beach was delicious. I will recommend this tour company and Jonathan to others.”REVIEW FROM Barb ON VIATOR
Balandra Insider Tips for Your First Visit
1: Disregard outdated information online
Before I visited La Paz for the first time, I was confused about all the conflicting information online about Balandra, from opening hours to whether or not you have to pay (more on that below).
Most of all, I was confused because some travel blogs noted that Playa Balandra was closed, yet dozens of people reviewed the beach daily on Google Maps. Turns out, those articles were just out of date.
Once I had all the information I needed, visiting Balandra was pretty easy. My takeaway: don’t let any conflicting, out-of-date reviews or articles keep you from exploring this beautiful beach!
2: Do not “pay” for a ticket or pass (Balandra Beach is FREE!)
There is an official-looking (but fake) website that sells National Park bracelets to tourists, telling them that they need to pay for the bracelet online and pick it up in person on their way to the beach.
Before visiting Balandra for the first time, I wasn’t sure whether this was true. But I drove up to Balandra anyhow and was admitted into the beach without any sort of ticket, bracelet, or payment.
As it turns out, this misleading website is run by a local tourism company known to rip off tourists. Sadly, many people fall for it, thinking they won’t be allowed into the park without the bracelet.
If you search through Google Maps reviews of the beach, you’ll see some people saying you need to pay for a bracelet ahead of time and others reporting that they got in for free.
Apparently, even after entering the beach, people who bought the bracelet still didn’t realize that they didn’t need it (perhaps due to a language barrier with the staff at the beach?)
My point is, do not fall for this Balandra Beach scam. Just drive (or take your tour or bus) straight to the beach, wait in the car line (if there is any), and the staff will waive you through—no fee required.
Note: the National Park bracelets may be legit National Park passes (I’m not sure). But you don’t need them to get into Balandra.
3: Arrive at 8am or 1pm
As of 2023, Balandra Bay has strict opening hours. Typically, the beach is open from 8am-12pm and then again from 1pm-5pm.
This means that if you come at 11am, you will have to leave one hour later for the hour-long period in which the beach is closed. If that does happen to you, you can drive to a nearby beach (5-10 minute drive) and then return to soak in more of the Balandra magic.
However, for the best experience, arrive right at or before the opening time. There could be a long line depending on the day of the week. When I recently visited on the weekend, there was a short line at 8am, and we were waived through within a few minutes.
4: Bring everything you’ll need for the day
There are no tiendas (stores), bars, or restaurants at Balandra. Besides a few bathrooms, the area is undeveloped, and vendors are prohibited from selling along the beach.
There are a few nearby beaches with beachfront bars and restaurants (I recommend Playa El Tesoro), but since there are lines to enter Balandra, it’s best to keep your spot and bring your own food for the day.
Taking in the view of Balandra Bay from above
5: Hike to see the beach from above
One of the best things to do at Balandra Beach is hike up cliffs directly next to the parking lot, where you’ll get a panoramic view of the bay from above.
You can hike up quickly right after entering the beach and get an idea of what areas of the bay you want to explore when looking down from above.
To the left, you’ll see mangroves and the main beach area; to the right, you’ll see the famous mushroom rock; and ahead, you’ll see secluded beaches on the other side of the bay (you can reach them via kayak).
6: Walk to the famous mushroom rock
The famous mushroom rock, or Hongo de Balandra (in Spanish), is northwest of the parking lot. It’s a large boulder that looks like a mushroom.
Also sometimes known as the La Paz mushroom rock, the landmark has become a symbol of nearby La Paz. However, it’s important to note that the original rock was replaced years back after the top of the mushroom broke off.
You can reach the mushroom rock by walking northwest past the parking lot, through the shallow water to the very end of the nearby beach. If you visit Balandra Beach on a busy day, the location of the Balandra mushroom rock should be obvious, as many people often line up to take a photo with the famed landmark.
7: Don’t waste your time kayaking in the main area of the bay, but do explore the mangroves via kayak
You can rent double kayaks (and sometimes paddle boards) for 400 pesos (about $22 USD) in front of the Balandra parking lot.
If you choose to rent a kayak, I encourage you to use it to explore the mangroves southeast of the parking lot. I made the mistake of kayaking through the shallow water in the main area of Balandra Bay, which was a bit boring since you can walk through the shallow water more quickly than you can paddle via kayak.
8: Do the “stingray shuffle”
Playa Balandra is home to a diverse ecosystem of wildlife, including stingrays. They are beautiful animals, and seeing one in the wild is exciting, but it’s important to be careful in their territory.
While generally harmless, stingrays can sting humans if stepped on or scared. Stings are incredibly painful and can be deadly in very rare circumstances.
To avoid being stung, shuffle your feet as you walk through the shallow water, where stingrays like to burrow under the sand. This notifies nearby stingrays that you’re in the area so they can swim away without risking being stepped on.
9: Pack it in and pack it out
This might seem obvious, but it’s so important, so I want to emphasize: clean up after yourself. Even with daily limits to the number of visitors at Balandra, the beach is heavily trafficked and easily accumulates trash.
Practice respecting and caring for the local environment by taking all your trash with you and leaving the beach better than you found it.
Hotels and Resorts Near Balandra, Mexico
The closest hotels and resorts are about twenty minutes south of Playa Balandra, on the edge of La Paz. These are a few of my favorite darling hotels and resorts just a short drive from Balandra Bay.
Costa Baja is one of the nicest resorts in the La Paz area. It’s on a tiny peninsula, just twenty-five minutes from Balandra. The resort’s Espíritu Spa and stunning bay views make it the perfect place to relax on a Baja California Sur trip
Orchid House is an idyllic boutique hotel with only eight rooms, located right on the water, just twenty minutes south of Playa Balandra. The hotel is situated near Coromuel Beach, another stunning La Paz beach with stunning blue water and incredible sunsets.
Hotel La Concha is a budget-friendly beachfront hotel twenty minutes from Playa Balandra. The hotel is within walking distance of several businesses and La Concha Beach.
Is Balandra Beach open?
As of 2023, Balandra Beach is open. Although the beach was closed on several occasions throughout the past few years, it is now open for the foreseeable future.
Is Balandra Beach free to visit?
Yes. Playa Balandra is free to visit. You do not need to pay beforehand or upon entry to visit the beach.
Can you swim in Balandra Beach?
Yes! Although the water is too shallow for swimming in certain areas, you can certainly swim at this gorgeous beach. Just be sure to watch out for stingrays (do the stingray shuffle) when wading.
What is the closest airport to Balandra beach?
La Paz International Airport is the nearest airport to Playa Balandra, located fifty minutes south of the beach. The La Paz airport has direct flights to Tijuana, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Culiacán, and Mazatlan, and connecting flights to destinations throughout Mexico and the US.
Is Balandra Beach good for snorkeling?
The clear water in Balandra Bay makes it easy to see fish, stingrays, and other marine wildlife, but generally, the areas near the parking lot are not great for snorkeling because there is little to see. Still, bringing some snorkeling equipment and exploring the bay can’t hurt; you might encounter some incredible wildlife!
Playa Balandra Photos Gallery
Final Thoughts: Is Balandra Mexico’s Most Beautiful Beach?
Playa Balandra is absolutely stunning. There is no doubt about that. After traveling to beach destinations across the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Pacific, I have yet to encounter a beach comparable to Balandra. Playa Carrizalillo in Oaxaca is still my favorite beach in Mexico, but Balandra is a close second.
These two beaches are incredibly different—Balandra has calm, clear, shallow water, and Carrizalillo has small but surfable waves. Balandra is large, vast, and far away from any town, whereas Carrizalillo is a small yet secluded cove but within walking distance of town. Plus, these two beaches are hundreds of miles apart. If you ask me, I’d say to do your best to visit them both!
I’m curious what you think—based on the pictures above or your own experience visiting Balandra Beach. Is it the most beautiful beach you’ve seen in Mexico? Are there other Mexican playas that beach lovers like me should explore?
Looking to explore other La Paz beaches? Check out my full guide to 12 Stunning La Paz Beaches for an overview of other beaches in the area.