Malecon is a Spanish word that refers to a paved public walkway by a lake or ocean; it's commonly called an esplanade in English. A favorite pastime in many Mexican cities is walking along the malecon. It's similar to a boardwalk like the famous one in Atlantic City, New Jersey, or a promenade, like the Brooklyn Heights Promenade on the East River in New York City.
Several Mexican cities have lovely malecons that are perfect for strolling, people-watching, and looking out at the ocean.
You can feel the breeze and smell the salt air in your regular street clothes, sort of a fully dressed version of walking on the beach. Many malecons are also the home of public art, street performers, and vendors, so there is always something interesting to see and do.
Puerto Vallarta's malecon was revamped and renovated in 2011. The Voladores de Papantla perform along here, sculptures dot the path, and art walks are offered weekly during high tourist season. Puerto Vallarta's 11-mile-long malecon is the center of nightlife and socialization, with restaurants and bars that offer great views of the sunset over the Pacific along with tasty Mexican food and drink. It's pedestrian-friendly; no cars, buses, or taxis are allowed on the malecon. The malecon begins at Hotel Rosita and ends at the amphitheater, called Esplanada Aquiles Serdan.
The fortress city of Campeche, on the Yucatan Peninsula, has 4.5-mile-long malecon with sculptures along it that honor the city's history.
A favorite is the Novia del Mar, a statue of a girl looking out to the Gulf of Mexico, waiting for her pirate lover to return. At the point on the malecon furthest from the city center you'll find a batch of seafood restaurants, just the right place to stop after an evening walk. Campeche's malecon is a spectacular place to be as the sun rises over the Gulf.
Mazatlan looks out onto the Pacific, and its 13-mile malecon along its coast is said to be one of the longest in the world. Its restaurants, bars, and hotels have superb views of the Pacific, and getting to them on the malecon is at least half the fun: You'll see the Pacific for your entire walk and can engage in some great people-watching, too, if you're so inclined. Mazatlan stages events on the malecon, like the Pacific Great Marathon, International Motorcycle Week, and the Mazatlan Biking Tour. Carnaval plays out on the Mazatlan malecon, and that is a verifiable bucket-list experience. But just catching the sunset on the way to dinner is enough.
La Paz commands a stellar view of the Pacific Ocean from its location in Baja California Sur, and it makes the most of it with its renowned malecon. It began life as the center of La Paz's fishing and pearling industry, now transformed into a mecca for restaurants, bars, shops, street vendors, and statues. Its fishing pier lets you walk over the bay, where you'll see dolphin early in the morning if you're lucky. All along the malecon you'll find places that extend out toward the bay with benches and art. The malecon in La Paz is three miles long and like Mazatlan's, it is the home of the La Paz Carnaval.
But the most fun to be had is just strolling along, seeing and being seen, and basking in a beautiful sunset over the water, filling your view.