Note: All images may be clicked on to bring up a larger
version of that photo.
This large hotel on the south edge of La Paz is a very
prominent structure - 13 stories, I believe. It is made up of
two separate towers, connected by walkways. The two towers are
not parallel, but open like a funnel to catch the breeze - the
success of this design is attested to by the many frigate birds
using the updrafts to soar on. The buildings are quite visible
from the entire La Paz waterfront.
Thirteen stories seems correct since thirteen is considered an
unlucky number and, if anything has been unlucky, it has been
the Gran Baja Hotel. (I'll refer to this structure as the Gran
Baja Hotel, although it has had other names over the years.)
I'm not an expert on this subject, but I've spent about 10
years living, for at least part of each year, next to the
Gran Baja Hotel. During a good part of that time the hotel has
been active and, at times, a delightful place to stay, dine, or
The hotel was constructed so that the top two floors contain
suites with balconies. This is quite evident when you look
closely at the hotel. In 1987, a single room on the lower
floors cost $35US a night, while a suite of two rooms and two
baths went for $50US on the top floors.
Start of Construction
The hotel was built at the time of the completion of the paved
highway down the Baja California peninsula (about 1972) - it was
the southern most of the string of La Pinta and El Presidente
Hotels which were designed to provide the traveler with
comfortable accommodations along this remote highway. Probably
the El Presidente in La Paz was to be the crowning jewel in this
string of hotels. In any event, this 13 story giant of a hotel
was originally an El Presidente. (There is now,
in San Jose del Cabo, a more southernly El Presidente.)
These hotels along the new highway were financed by the Mexican
government in a fashion which, for many years, was typical of
such matters: it was really a joint venture, with the
government taking all the financial risk and certain private
"investors" being in line for any profits. This was a time when
very large loans from U.S. banks were flowing into Mexico, and
"white elephants" were being constructed throughout the
country. The ultimate risk takers were, in fact, U.S.
At the time of construction, the hotel was located well out of
the city of La Paz. It is on the channel which connects La
Paz Bay and the large ensenada (lagoon) to the southwest of the
city. Due to the strong tidal flow between these bodies of
water, the location is not one which would favor a major tourist
hotel. At times the tidal flow can reach 5-6MPH! There is also
some question as to the quality of the water due to outflows
from sewage treatment plants (some distance away, but the
tidal flow moves the water throughout the channel). All in all,
not the place you'd expect to find a "big-time" hotel. (I
happen to enjoy living in the area, but for reasons other than
what the resort-oriented tourist would be looking for.)
This particular area did have some hotels prior to the Gran
Baja, so the choice of location was not completely unjustified.
Just south of the Gran Baja may be seen the remains of the Hotel
Cocos (named after a large grove of coco palms just back from
the water). For a time the old hotel rooms were used by workers
at the Gran Baja, but they are now completely abandoned. A
large white building there housed what has been a restaurant and
bar, and, briefly, a whore house. The name was El Caracol Loco
(The Crazy Snail) - and the building sort of looks like a snail
In front of the Gran Baja and El Caracol Loco is a large
abandoned pier. For a number of years this was the home of NAO
Yachts and the Club de Yates. In the mid to late 80's this was
an active site for visiting yachts. Yet, in the long run, it
also became another defunct part of the Gran Baja scene.
Just south of the remains of the Cocos Hotel is the La Posada
Hotel, now named "La Posada de Engelbert" (Engelbert Humperdink
purchased the hotel about five years ago). This hotel also
predates the Gran Baja, and is the only hotel to have survived
in this area of La Paz.
At some point the El Presidente Hotel was sold by the original
sponsoring group with, I believe, the government continuing to
be responsible for all the financing. It then became the "Gran
Baja Hotel." In later incarnations it was known as the "Ramada -
La Paz," the "Riviera del Sol," and then back to the "Gran
Baja." During some of these transitions extensive alterations
were made. It had to be very expensive!
(After the first sale, the El Presidente moved to a location
equally far to the north of the city, and languished there for
many years. It is now the Hotel La Concha.)
During the first five months of 1987 I lived on a sailboat just
north of the hotel. It was a great place for meals - I would
have breakfast there several mornings a week. If guests were
visiting, dinner at the Gran Baja was outstanding and
inexpensive (e.g., Chateaubriand for two: $8US, total!).
The "yachtees" (i.e., "boat people") could use the swimming pool
area if they just bought an infrequent drink of any sort. There
was often live music at night.
About four years ago the hotel was purchased or leased by a
group which has been very successful with Mexican hotels (the
Los Arcos in La Paz, the Hacienda and Finisterra in Cabo San
Lucas). However, in the long run, they also faltered, and the
Gran Baja has been closed for almost two years. Rumors
occasionally hint of a new group purchasing the hotel, but
nothing comes to fruition.
In February of 1996, an auction for the hotel was held in
Ensenada. The minimum bid was set at $6 million US - there were
no bids made!
One curiosity, somewhat in line with the way this hotel has been
taken advantage of, is the matter of repainting the building
about four years ago. The color had always been that of plain
concrete, but a new paint job turned the edifice to what I will
call salmon. Shortly thereafter, salmon buildings
appeared all over La Paz. Envy? Unlikely - probably just a lot
of salmon-colored paint being "skimmed off!"
Fred Metcalf (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Written in April, 1996.)
(Revised in August, 1996)
(Photos added in May, 2000)
Some information from Rodolfo Rodriguez - April, 2006
Three weeks ago, Land's End Realty's salespeople in La Paz, including
myself, made a tour of the property. I know that at least
Coldwell Bankers Rivera was invited to a similar explanation.
The architect showed us drawings (blueprints), a display and
paintings about the project for the "Grand Baja and Spa Resort"
consisting of 123 condos, spa, tennis courts, pool, restaurant,
etc.. A second phase consists of town houses (villas) and more
condos. In average, three previous rooms plus their access aisle
become one condo. It will have 11 floors plus the pent houses.
The sizes range from 1110 to 2558 sq. ft., and from 1 to 3 bedrooms.
Prices are averaging 160 USD per sq. ft., 130 in presale. There is
no start date, only "around June" but presale has started and
reservations are being made.
Report from Richard Adcock - January, 2006
Construction has begun to turn the hotel structure into condos.
Several rooms will constitute a single unit. No information yet
about the sponsor or prices.
Report from Fred Metcalf - May, 2004
The cleanup of the hotel was completed, but then work stopped.
Nothing has been done for several months, and there are no
rumors suggesting any reconstruction schedule. A few squatters
were moved from the land furtherest away from the water, and a
fence constructed along that street (and the street was widened!).
The neighbors are probably dreaming of expensive buyouts by the
Melia Group, but that's just wild conjecture at this point. It
is clear that the hotel and surrounding land are part of a joint
venture - while there appear to have been two buyers involved,
both were from Spain and probably are just separate subsidiaries
of Groupo Melia.
Report from Richard Adcock - December, 2003
The hotel proper has now been purchased by a group from Spain.
At the moment there is no confirmation if the group is
associated with the Melia group which had purchased the
surrounding land, but it would make sense that the hotel and
land would be developed as a single parcel.
The interior of the hotel is being cleaned out, with a great
pile of refuse building up on the north side. It is being carted
away in large trucks. The rumor is that the hotel will be
operational sometime in early 2004!
Report from Richard Adcock - October, 2000
The land to the north and east of the hotel has been sold to the
group owning the Hotel Melia chain. This land stretches in an
"L" shape from the beach to Rangel street and south past the
entrance to the Gran Baja. It seems that the next natural move
will be for the group to purchase the Gran Baja at a good price.
Comments from Earle Robitaille - September 26,
I, my son, and two friends spent a couple of nights at the El
Presidente in 1972-73, just after they had opened. It was a
All the hot and cold handles on showers and sinks had been
reversed. They had three or four new pool and snooker tables,
with 3-4 racks and 15-20 cues per table, but no balls! The
ping-pong tables also suffered from the same lack of balls.
The staff was trying very hard to please the guests, but all
their pleas for help went unanswered. There were not enough
linens for all the rooms, and many had not yet recieved the
lamps that were to be the only source of light. As I remember,
they switched our room two or three times before they found one
where everything worked.
The food and the view was great. In subsequent years we too
found the La Posada and used it from that point on.
Earle Robitaille (email@example.com)