Take a Walk Along the La Paz Malecon
July 2008: A walkway along the waterfront of La Paz, Baja California Sur provides more than 5 kilometers of beautiful scenery, wonderful people and a taste of what is La Paz.
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The Malecón is one of La Paz’s most endearing features and has long been a focal point of La Paz life. The walkway along the frontage of the Ensenada de La Paz, or Malecón, is a favorite place to stroll on Sunday afternoons, enjoy the sunset on almost any evening and of course is the home to Carnaval La Paz. The word 'Malecón' literally translate to levee or jetty, but in this case really means boardwalk.
This past year the Malecón has been dramatically extended. When I say ‘dramatically extended’ I mean that the walkway is now significantly longer and that the rapid pace of construction more than doubled the sea side promenade.
It seemed the downtown segment of the Malecón rejuvenation took years. Stretching from Calle Marcos de Leon to the fresh water windmill near Club El Moro, it just seemed to be nearing completion when it would be torn up again and a new design would be implemented. Finally, President Fox visited La Paz and opened the first rejuvenated section back in 2005.
There are still some finishing touches to be put in place and it may take a transplanting or two before all the newly planted palms survive, but it's completion rivals any civic beautification project I have witnessed. regularly patrolled by the Tourist Police, the walkway is safe, well lit and open to be enjoyed by all residents and visitors to La Paz. During the summer it has astonished me that entire families are out strolling the Malecón with your children still impishly powering around in Big Wheels as the clock strikes midnight.
The Malecón has always been an important feature in La Paz life as well. Originally the working waterfront, it was home to the fishing and pearling industry that flourished here. Gifted with a beautiful view of about 330 sunsets per year, the area evolved into a focal point of La Paz culture. The bandstand as it is seen today at the foot of 16th de Septiembre has been there sine the early 1900’s. The municipal pier and the fishing pier provide the opportunity to walk right out over the bay. In the early morning it is not uncommon at certain times of the year to see dolphin within a few hundred yards of the city, chasing prey and playing. The original La Perla trading company store, established in 1860, still stands opposite the main plaza at the foot of Calle 5 de Mayo.
Much of the original section (shown in red) has been home to the yearly Carnaval events. The Municipal Pier (magenta arrow) is just 2 blocks from the bandstand and main stage area. Every year booths, vendors and amusement rides line most of this old section of the Malecón. The parade route extends along the full length of the old section.
The waterfront walkway has become increasingly popular as a place for morning exercise. Hundreds of La Paz residents walk briskly along the nearly 5.5 kilometers which now stretch from Marina de La Paz (yellow arrow) in the SW to Playa Coromuel (green arrow) in the NE. Every morning, even when the Baja temps dip to a frosty 45°Fm you will find the devoted exercisers out there, trudging along with parkas and scarves wrapped about their faces. (I find this particularly amusing having grown up in a climate where freezing parts of your face off was a real possibility)
The Malecón will link the Marina de La Paz in the SW and Marina Palmira (blue arrow) with downtown for shopping, dinner or just a stroll with friends. The walkway is popular with dog walkers, children on big wheels, joggers and bicyclists. The Fisherman's Pavilion has been cleaned up and repainted. Opposite Club El Moro at the beginning of the Carretera Pichilingue, the lot has been opened and provides a place to park nearly in the middle of the newly completed 3.5 mile walk. Unfortunately, there are no current plans to link the walkway to Marina CostaBaja (red arrow) at the north end of the Ensenada.
In El Centro, opposite the Municipal Pier, the Malecón has spilled across the street where the first of many down town streets has been turned into an arcade where musicians perform many nights during the week under the eyes of the large sea mammal mural painted on the wall adjacent tot he courtyard by world renown artist Michael Wyland two years ago.
The Malecón has been graced with a series of artworks as well. Every few hundred yards along the walkway is a small plaza which curves out into the bay. There are lots of whitewashed wrought iron benches along the way, some facing street side, others facing the water view. The focal point of each mini-plaza is a sculpture. The artworks are by a variety of artists and include the La Paz Dove of Peace sculpture near the new transit station (sometimes referred to as “Paloma Gorda” or fat pigeon, I can’t imaging how people came up with that!)
Many of the newest artworks are from the same artist Octavio González from Tepatitlan , Jalisco. Cast in bronze on the mainland, the statues include a breaching whale, an in-flight Manta and mermaid playing with a dolphin, which I believe to be the best of his works along the walkway. His works are available in miniature at many local art galleries as well as online. The waterfront castings stand 5 to 11 feet tall.
At night, particularly Friday and Saturday nights, the Malecón becomes the place to see and be seen. Traditionally, young couples wait to stroll the Malecón as a pair until the relationship has become somewhat solid. Singles cruise up and down the street in cars, generating the weekend “Malecón Crawl” bringing traffic along the SW most third to a virtual standstill.
So, next time you are in La Paz take a stroll from one end to the other of the new promenade, check out the art work and enjoy a sunset, perhaps enjoy an ice cream. Relaxing and enjoying the beauty of life is so much of what La Paz is about.