In La Paz, Mexico, the Malecon is a 3 mile long strip of artwork, gathering spaces, and jaw-dropping views. Recently renovated, the Malecon is a boardwalk of sorts, hugging the coastline of the Sea of Cortez and providing a public space in downtown La Paz. Statues, plazas, shops, and restaurants all line the Malecon, which maintains a certain quaint authenticity devoid of many of the trappings of a typical main tourist drag. Fisherman moor their boats in the waters just offshore bringing back fresh catches of grouper, yellowtail, and mahi mahi, which local restaurants are happy to cook up for hungry guests.
More than anything, the Malecon serves as a gathering place. Groups of teenagers glide down the walkway on their roller blades, young couples take slow strolls at sunset, and families pedal slowly by popcorn vendors on bicycles. In the main plaza, break dancers spin, pop, and flip next to a political gathering touting the latest local candidate in the run up to election season.
Perhaps the best way to experience the Malecon is to walk its stone pathway from one side to the other, soaking in the sea and the local culture of La Paz. Every few hundred feet, nautical themed statues provide a reminder of the real attraction in La Paz is – the sea.
Humpback whales, hammerhead sharks, bottle nose dolphins, and mermaids are all cast in iron and set on pedestals for passersby to admire. Perhaps the most enigmatic statue is not of a sea creature, but of Jacques Cousteau. In the statue, a gaunt caricature of the famous undersea explorer peers out over the sea with a wry smile on his weathered face. Cousteau spent time in the area leading several explorations and even has even has an island named in his honor just off of the coast of La Paz.
Taquerias and local seafood restaurants provide plenty of places to stop for a snack along the way. Carne asada tacos, ceviche, and daily catches are popular items on the menus of local dining establishments.
The Malecon is at its best in the early evening as the Sun begins to set over the Sea of Cortez. Because of La Paz’s position on a unique peninsula-on-a-peninsula, the coastline actually faces West to the sea of Cortez (while most other Sea of Cortez shorelines in Baja California face east. Because of this, the residents of La Paz are privy to spectacular sunsets over the sea. And with 330+ days of clear, sunny weather every year, it’s not hard to catch one of these sunsets.
As the sun falls towards the horizon, groups pause and gather along the banisters and railings overlooking the ocean. The sky comes alive with colors and the stones of the Malecon glint in the warm, soft light. But just as the sun sets on the Malecon for the day, the action is just getting started across the street at the bars and clubs.
By night, the Malecon takes on a livelier, festive atmosphere. Expat hotspots, trendy dance clubs, and traditional bars all spill out onto the sidewalks with revelers drinking and dancing. And even without the sun shining, the Malecon is still packed with people either out for an evening stroll, hopping between bars and restaurants along the strip, or stopping to enjoy frozen yogurt or boba tea.
From all along the Malecon, echoes of Banda music can be heard. Musicians carrying their trumpets, trombones, tubas, accordions, and guitars either stroll or cruise in the back of pickup trucks, happy to play for whoever wants to listen, while the pulse of the beats can be felt through the street.
Even after midnight, the Malecon is still filled with life, and not just from the bar hoppers. Families are still out strolling and many of the restaurants are still going strong well into the night. And by the early morning hours as the bars empty out and the late-to-bed head home, the first morning strollers on the Malecon are making their arrival, signaling the beginning of another day on this Mexican boardwalk.
John’s Note: My accommodations in La Paz were graciously provided by FlipKey, a vacation rental service partner of Travel Rinse Repeat. All words, photographs, experiences, and opinions are my own.