Thursday April 25 2019

Posted by Tomas on December 11, 2018
  • La Paz Malecon at sunset
    La Paz Malecon at sunset
  • The expanding number of strip malls should make Southern Californians feel right at home.
    The expanding number of strip malls should make Southern Californians feel right at home.
  • Liverpool offers the highest level of upscale department store shopping in both Cabo San Lucas and La Paz.
    Liverpool offers the highest level of upscale department store shopping in both Cabo San Lucas and La Paz.
  • The closest thing to Mall Shopping in La Paz is still struggling for diversity of stores and clients
    The closest thing to Mall Shopping in La Paz is still struggling for diversity of stores and clients
  • Previously we only had four medium sized markets now we have superstores and satellite markets
    Previously we only had four medium sized markets now we have superstores and satellite markets
  • Let's not forget the OXXO invasion. There are more than 120 in La Paz alone, driving mom & pop corner stores out of business
    Let's not forget the OXXO invasion. There are more than 120 in La Paz alone, driving mom & pop corner stores out of business
  • Traffic on Mexico's Highway 1 has increased dramatically over the years, but remains light by northern standards
    Traffic on Mexico's Highway 1 has increased dramatically over the years, but remains light by northern standards
  • Driving Baja's Hwy 1
    Driving Baja's Hwy 1
  • The four land road between la Paz and Cabo San Lucas trimmed time from that road trip and added safety.
    The four land road between la Paz and Cabo San Lucas trimmed time from that road trip and added safety.

Several times over the 15 years of the BajaInsider's history I have looked at what has changed since I arrived in Baja to live, now 18 years ago. Here is part one of my reflections on the changes that almost two decades of time has brough to the city, state, peninsula and country I now call home.

Baja California Sur now holds the title of the most visited state on the west coast of Mexico with nearly 45,000 passing through each week, surpassing Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco. The Los Cabos region in certainly the tourism hot spot in Mexico and the big income earner for the state by a significant margin. La Paz, the state capital, remains the southern state's largest city with a population burning in on 275,000. Much of the growth in the state is domestic relocation, with unskilled labor wages some of the highest in Mexico and opportunities attracting people from all over Mexico.

Most of my time has been spent here in Baja California Sur, the second favorite state of North American refugees, as the northern state of Baja California is home to the largest number of Americans and Canadians. I lived part of my second and third years in Cabo San Lucas and return to La Paz to call it home since then. 

The growth and expansion of most of the things I see in La Paz are amplified several times over in the Los Cabos area. Los Cabos has everything from a Mercedes dealer to Costco to support the ever growing number of resorts, restaurants and local residents. Although I regularly visit Los Cabos, my preference as a boater makes La Paz the better choice, so much of my perspective is from 14 years in La Paz.

As with any rapid growth there are advantages and disadvantages. In looking at what has changed in the five years since I last updated this article I realized it was too large a task for one article, so I'll start with the items that struck me first as the biggest changes 

Shopping: Without a doubt the greatest change is the availability of products. The year after I arrived the mall in Cabo San Lucas opened the big expansion and for several years the niche shops struggled and turnover was high. Today the mall is busy and populated with brand name stores and marina side restaurants. Highway 1 from Cabo San Lucas to San Jose del Cabo is lined with brand name stores and auto dealerships that leave little difference from Southern California.

In La Paz we had just two grocery stores, each with two locations when I arrived. Today there are 5 major chains represented with 5 superstores and at least 10 "compact" markets of those chains. La Paz now has its own real mall with a Liverpool store as an anchor and an Apple I-store. But here some of the niche stores are still struggling and there is a plethora of new, unoccupied retail space available in the city. Space in older buildings remains vacant for long periods of time despite low rents.

Loreto recently received its first real supermarket, but shopping for a lot other items in Loreto still means a trip to La Paz.

Driving: The runner up in significant changes has to be driving the peninsula. Baja's main route, Highway 1 has been improved to the point our original Baja Road Reports are no longer needed. Other than temporary road closures for the most dramatic weather, the highway presents no more challenge than any US two lane highway. The central section near the state borders in the middle of no-where remains the roughest, but most arroyos have been bridged to make travel on the roadway more dependable.

Here in Baja California Sur the completion of Hwy 19 along the Pacific coast now provides 4 lanes of smooth pavement from La Paz to Cabo San Lucas and the by-pass has trimmed about 30 minutes from a trip to the Los Cabos airport. The new Cabo By-pass road around the city and directly to the airport makes access from La Paz a breeze.

With the growth has come traffic. Now those from larger cities can still get a chuckle from what we call 'traffic' but you do need to plan your departure times and destinations to accommodate morning and evening slowdowns. In 2000 in BCS there was less than one car per household today that number is approaching 1.7 cars per household. The caliber of vehicales you see on the road has changed too. It's just just the big SUV's and pickups anymore, Porche, Audi's and Mercedes aren't that rare a sighting. 

The increase in traffic has put more strain on the infrastructure, and in the rainy season the roads can become treacherous for your suspension, with one pothole blending into the next. Many roads have now been widened and roadbeds constructed to federal standards and many surfaced in concrete, so hopefully they will endure longer.

Boating: The Sea of Cortez is why I'm here and recreation on the Sea is a major draw to the majority of the southern state. Cabo San Lucas remains the busiest harbor in the state with hundreds of fishing and adventure charters departing daily. But it offers very little in terms of recreational boating compared to further north in the Sea of Cortez. La Paz remains the gateway to recreational boating on the peninsula with the new marina in Puerto Escondido near Loreto expanding boating in the central Sea.

Originally the domain of sailors, the past couple of years have seen a literal explosion of power yachts in local waters. The winter sail cruising crowd decades ago brought recreational boating to the Sea, but limited availability of diesel and hurricane season insurance requirements kept the number of powerboats to a minimum. In a recent quick survey of local marinas, powerboats are now equal in number to sailboats and are likely to become the majority in the next couple of years. The caliber of vessels has changed too, from the original 'pirate cruisers' that 'discovered' the Sea on boats under 45', the average boat to multi-million dollar sail and power yachts now exploring the Sea.

This growth too has brought its down side. You now must employ a tour company to swim with the sea lions or whale sharks and a number of locations are closed to anchorage. With the easy of travel, the growing reputation of the Sea and availability of facilities it is also easier for those not truly prepared for the adventure to get out on the Sea and into trouble.

In the real estate market I have been here through the boon and the crash. In a feeding frenzy that lasted through 2006 North Americans were buying just about any chunk of property they could get their hands on, sometimes with dubious results in projects that remain unfinished today. Luxury real estate has begun to return to the Los Cabos area and the Cerritos area has begun to expand. But large luxury projects in Todos Santos and La Paz remain struggling propositions, where single family retirement homes and domestic real estate purchases keep the market on life support. Real estate has certainly changed and to that end I have asked a real estate expert to provide us a story on the current state of real estate in the southern state.

I have requested an update on real estate from some of our most trusted sources, we'll cover that in Part II.


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