Archive for April, 2009
New developments are being built in La Paz on the Baja, but will the economy and tourism downturn slow sales? That's the big question.
Penny-pinching American tourists, a devalued peso and
endless stories of drug cartel shootouts are hammering Mexico’s tourism economy
at a time when new projects are searching for time-share and vacation home
buyers. Old tourist haunts are missing their regular customers.
a lot of Americans forget,” said Steve, the American owner of the Cabo Cabanas
he built six years ago in Loreto, “is you fly right over the troubles they’re
having in the north.”
laments that business was down this winter and spring, although a top rating in
the new Moon tourism book helped bring in new customers. But just a block away,
a recently redeveloped five-star historic hotel, La Mision, looks nearly empty,
with no one sipping margaritas around its enormous pool.
April, I’ve decided from years of
Baja trips, is great weather to escape south for a fishing trip and relaxing
getaway. I dodge the crowds (and prices) at Cabo San Lucas in favor of smaller
East Cape hotels and La Paz up the coast. Every year, I stare in amazement at
new developments spreading out from Cabo.
In recent years, several projects
broke ground around La Paz, a city visited more by Mexicans than gringos for
its uncrowded beaches, malecón restaurants and awesome sunsets. A new marina is
open, and three new golf courses are going up, including the Costa Baja Resort,
Gary Player’s first course design in Mexico.
The only question right now is
who’s going to buy? Sales offices were usually empty as I strolled by them in
downtown La Paz.
One Colorado couple I met had been
in La Paz for two months. “Sometimes we’re the only people in the restaurants
when we go out,” they said.
According to the Gringo Gazette, a
Cabo-based newspaper, “off the record” discussions with local Realtors say real
estate sales have ground to a halt, maybe down 75 percent from a year ago.
A big part of the disconnect is the
slumping peso, which tumbled about 40 percent against the dollar in the past
few months, as well as the closed credit windows in the U.S. When sales prices
of vacation properties are translated into pesos, sellers must pay the capital
gains tax at a much higher peso price. A million-dollar sale a year ago was
10.6 million pesos, but today, it’s about 15 million pesos, with the higher tax
rate eating into profits, if there are any. According to one Realtor, this is
kicking an already slumping real estate market in the teeth.
Despite the gloomy news, developers
are betting big on the Baja’s “desirability” factor. Entire hillsides outside
La Paz are marked with white paint, showing lots for new homes. Glossy
magazines still promote homes priced anywhere from $7 million in Cabo to
$300,000 and less in Los Barriles, Todos Santos and La Paz.
Near our fishing spot around Isla
Cerralvo, prolific for dorado, sea bass and larger sailfish and marlin in the
summer, there’s now a speed bump on the dirt road and signs promoting a project
with the theme “The dream is worth the drive.” From here, Mexican captains
launch their pangas, sturdy but basic fishing boats, from an area called Muerto
Bay in the Sea of Cortez.
But “muerto” or “death” in
translation didn’t seem to fit with the developer’s desired image. So now the
area has been renamed “Bay of Dreams,” or Bahia de los Sueños.
It’s a hot, dusty region where
agriculture, a salt mine and
fishing were the only businesses. Today, workers scoot around on golf carts,
and water pipes are being laid for the GranSueño hotel, golf course and private
“casitas”. A new paved road now makes the area just an hour drive through the
desert and mountains from the East Cape, and an airstrip is ready for private
One thing for certain, Mexican
resorts have learned the fine art of enticing Web sites, and on the Baja, the
coastal mountain and deep blue ocean views are as scenic as anywhere. For
bargain hunters like myself, more pesos to the dollar make the Baja even more
affordable, and our Frontier flight was packed with Coloradans heading for the
sun and resorts.
Mexico is making a big investment
on repaving roads and rebuilding bridges, and our four-hour drive up to Ciudad
Constitución to Loreto on Highway 1 was completely safe and pleasant, passing
through just one checkpoint where the military police looked in our cooler and
waved us through. Walking around
Loreto, police would stop traffic, smiling and waving me across. Somebody down
here put the word out – be nice to visitors.
is word that increased checkpoints, and possibly fingerprinting and digital photos,
are being put in for a “Southern Baja, Safe State,” keeping out any bad guys
fleeing from the north. Although an inconvenience for visitors traveling by car
or camper, it’s probably better to be safe than sorry.
Dave Rogers gets a plug for his new social media startup, Localbunny.com, at Downtown Boulder's breakfast meeting discusson on using social media.
A good pounding of wet spring snow couldn't keep more than 100 downtown Boulder businesspeople from learning more about how to tweet, blog, yelp and simply try to understand the rapidly growing world of social media.
While doing a little exploring in the desert on a recent trip to Loreto, Mexico in the Baja, we came across a small arroyo, lush with ferns, palms and other plants thriving from a small spring-fed creek.
It was the green foilage in the middle of the arid desert that attracted us, but we soon discovered this is also an area known as Cuevas Pintas, an archeological zone with some interesting ancient paintings on rock walls in a sheltered area near the stream.
Several paintings are scattered throughout the La Giganta Mountain Range, and these are the closest to Loreto, just about 15km to the west on the road that leads to Las Parras from Highway 1. The road is paved for part of the way now, and crews, as of April 2009, were busy working to complete the paving. We turned around when the paving ran out because of our small rental car, but the gravel road is passable.
You'll now see a sign posted on the side of the road for Cuevas Pintas, making it pretty easy to find. A small trail leads up the canyon and along several beautiful pools of water. There's only a small fence and information sign protecting these paintings, but the area was surprisingly clean given how accessible it is.
It's easy to see the appeal of the area to the ancient peoples of the Baja, and it's believed most of the paintings were probably done by shamen, possibly in some type of ceremony.
I haven't found a lot of information on this particular site, but did find a good site on petroglyphs and pictographs in the northern California Baja.
Photographing these paintings just makes me want to find some more next trip down to the Baja.