A Seaside Stroll along the Malecon - Havana’s Seawall

maleconIf I had to name the simplest and at the same time most attractive and evocative spot in Havana city, I would certainly say the Malecon. It's probably the most famous and iconic seaside promenade in Cuba, a true reflection of the city's many lives, love, sadness, fun and of course, an outdoor meeting point for thousands of Havana residents every day. Everyone visiting Cuba should take a walk along the Malecon seawall as part of their exploration of the city. Take the route when heading for the old city, or simply stroll along taking in the many sites, sounds and smells.

This grand Havana promenade comprises a wide avenue of six lanes edged by a broad concrete sea wall along the northern coast of the city and the Malecon beach extends over 8 kms in length, making it the most popular meeting place in the Cuban capital. A must see if you are passing through Havana, the Malecon perfectly highlights the richness of the city's architecture, with countless historically important buildings in various states of restoration forming a stunning background that's been in existance since the start of the 19th Century and took more than thrity years to build.

malecon havanaFrom this extensive waterfront promenade you can easily access to the main urban centers of Havana and many of the major tourist spots of the Cuban capital. Connecting Old Havana with the exclusive Miramar neighborhood and passing through the respected Vedado district. Likewise, the bustling streets of the capital flow toward the Havana seafront inclduing 23rd Street, Los Presidentes and Paseo avenues.

I don’t know of any visitor who has not let out some kind of emotion for this wonderfully unique corner of the world. This magnificent concrete snake, that protects the city from the might Caribbean Sea never fails to inspire the adventurous as they stroll from Varadero or Trinidad into Havana city. Admire the scenery - a timeless view of Havana's historic urban skyline to one side and the rolling sea to the other.

After hours driving, travel exhaustion often makes travelers snooze and recover energies for arrival in Havana. But just crossing the tunnel under the bay of Havana and hitting Malecon Avenue always gets the same reaction: A look of amazement with much flattery. I'm used to seeing this again and again. What does the Malecon in Havana have? After all, it’s just a concrete sea wall dividing the city from the Caribbean Sea. Why does such a simple breakwater captive so many visitors? I think I can only reply that the Malecon "is alive, it breathes and is a vital part of the capital, the people and those who visit it."  

malecon beachThe Havana Malecon is a social mirror, a reflection of our culture. People attend here to sing, dance and recite poetry. Thousands of Cubans meet here daily, there are many who found love in this romantic hideaway and other whose passion was sealed here with a first kiss. People come to relax in the evenings or as Cubans say "to catch a ten '(meaning a ten minute break) go fishing, exercise, listen to music or chat about sports. But many also come to mourn, ease their pains, disappointments and losses, reflect and simply ponder. There are those who fantasize and gaze at the horizon trying to see the lights of Florida, just ninety miles away.

havana carnivalHavana's iconic promenade is always busy. In the early evening it reaches fever pitch, The Malecon beach comes alive as Havana's residents flock to the area to enjoy the sea breeze, meet up and enjoy one of the finest sunsets on the island. The Malecón is also the place where political demonstrations and public parades always end up and of course, it's the cultural center of the island's annual carnival celebrations when this famous sea wall becomes the beating heart of the city's party, home to countless floats, a sea of colour throbbing to the beat of traditional drums, salsa and reggaeton.

The Malecon has, according to its public lighting, two distinct sectors. To the east - covering an area which includes Old Havana and Centro Havana, the streetlights are yellow and the activity is basically in the daytime. As you head west to 23rd Avenue, the lights change to white and this marks the evening strip, where people head after dark. Every sunset is a gift of stunning color and the best of all it’s "free". Three boroughs benefit from sharing the strip, Old Havana, Central Havana and Vedado. Which of those areas is better? Hard to choose!

Contemplando puesta de sol en el Malecón de La HabanaOld Havana is a must, very close to all the main attractions including Plaza de Armas Square, Av. del Prado and Almacenes San Jose; It is the ideal spot to contemplate the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress and Havana Morro Castle. This section is the main area for sightseeing.

Central Havana section from Av. del Prado up to 23rd Avenue in Vedado leads to a lovely part of the coastline with several restaurants like La Abadía and La Castropol. The latter with a tasty bakery, plus a restaurant, La Taberna on the ground floor, where pizzas and sweet pastries are cooked on coal. Upstairs a fusion cuisine restaurant with sea view and an air-conditioned room offers a mixture of dishes prepared with olive oil.

vistas malecon y morroFinally, we have the stretch in Vedado from 23 Avenue to the Fifth Avenue tunnel in Miramar. It begins with a unique setting to admire most of the waterfront, the Cuba National Hotel. With free entry you can access the gardens of the building nestled on a hill and enjoy a delicious Cuban cocktail while enjoying the panoramic view of the Havana coastline. I recommend once there to ask at the lobby for details of the Cabaret Parisien for the night. Heading west you will reach the Anti-Imperialist Square, the Restaurant Paladar El Litoral, the busy cafetería Chuchería (with comedy shows), the nightclub Jazz Café for those who love music and the popular Restaurante 1830.

I think there is no time for boredom in Cuba and I urge you to spend time visiting the island to appreciate the enigmatic icon of Havana and its friendly people. Remember to bring some sun protection, sunglasses, a hat and a bottle of water. The rest will be pure fun. See you along the seawall sometime.

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