The term Malecón is used throughout the spanish speaking world, but it’s in Cuba’s capital of Havana where the word is truly part of the local heartbeat. The 8km coastal esplanade is quintessentially Cubano – one moment the sun will be high with the pavement scorching under foot and wheel, the next waves will be crashing over the barriers blasting the neo-classical facades with the full strength of the Caribbean. Havana is temperamental, unpredictable, thrilling and exhausting all at once.
Seeing the Malecón in person should be any visitors first stop when arriving in the country – you’ll witness the highs and lows all in one place. Classic cars cruise up and down the stretch day and night, shimmering in the sunlight but bellowing out smoky exhaust fumes. During the day locals line the walls fishing or passing time in the looming shadows of the tallest buildings; in the evenings couples, families and friends head to the seafront to socialise in the seabreeze. Along the vast road you’ll find examples from most of Havana’s architectural styles, in a plethora of bright pastels and crumbling concrete. With the loosening of commercial restrictions, building crews are busy up and down the stretch renovating derelict and battered former glories into the new era’s premier hotels, cafes and bars.
Walking or riding along the Malecón makes it easy to imagine Havana in it’s more opulent time before the Revolution – when American mafia money was king and Americana was queen. While there are plenty of newer vehicles on the streets, the swarths of classic cars alongside the retro cityscape provide many moments for visitors to be transported back in time. Locals have passed these cars on through generations, prize jewels in a country with limited possessions and excesses. Many are used for tourist taxis – easily to grab or hail down throughout the city, especially downtown in Vieja.
The Malecón creates a curve in the coastline of Havana, a smooth hip of a shoreline that is evocative from every angle. Looking back provides a panorama of waves and sherbet hues, while ahead Morro Castle sits across the harbour.
Head over the bay of Havana to the Morro Castle for sunset to witness the full stretch of the Malecón bathed in amber and pinks hues – pollution’s perfect pay off.