Sleeping

Hotels in town are all walking distance from restaurants and the main plaza.

San Lucas RV Park (campsites US$6) From between Km 181 and Km 182 on the Transpeninsular (south of town), a 1km (half-mile) road leads west to this spacious RV park. It has a good beach a boat launch, flush toilets and hot showers.

Motel San Víctor (cnr Av Progreso 36 & Calle 9; r US$15; ®) Basic but quiet, this pleasant, family-run operation on a shady street is more than fine for a good night's rest. Rooms are dark and simple but ample and open onto the shaded parking area.

EIFFEL BEYOND THE TOWER

Few know that French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923), so renowned for his tower in Paris, also played a significant role in the New World. New York's Statue of Liberty is his most prominent transatlantic landmark (he was the structural engineer), but his constructions also dot the Latin American landscape from Mexico to Chile. Santa Rosalia's Iglesia Santa Bárbara is only one of many examples.

In 1868, in partnership with the engineer Théophile Seyrig, Eiffel formed G Eiffel et Compagnie, which later became the Compagnie des Etablissements Eiffel. Among its notable creations in South America were the Aduana de Arica (Customs House, 1872) in Chile, Arica's Iglesia San Marcos, the gasworks of La Paz (Bolivia) and the railroad bridges of Oroya (Peru). Most of these were designed and built in Eiffel's workshops in the Parisian suburb of Levallois-Perret and then shipped abroad for assembly.

What might have been his greatest Latin American monument effectively ended his career. In the late 19th century, Eiffel had argued strongly in favor of building a transoceanic canal across Nicaragua but a few years later he obtained the contract to build the locks for Ferdinand de Lesseps' corruption-plagued French canal across Panama. Implicated in irregular contracts, Eiffel was sentenced to two years in prison and fined a substantial amount. Though his conviction was overturned, he never returned to his career as a builder.

Hotel Olvera (% 152-0267; cnr Av Montoya & Playa; r with/without air-con US$30/20; a) 'Rickety' is an understatement for this creaky old hotel, but the place is definitely endearing (and atmospheric) once you're settled in. Rooms are worn but clean, and the best ones open onto the big balcony overlooking the streets below. It's a good place to pretend you're on the run from the law. Careful on that staircase.

Hotel del Real (% 152-0068; Av Montoya 7; r US$25-35; a) In yet another historic building, the Hotel del Real offers adequate rooms in the original building in front and more spacious (but pricier) rooms in the newer add-on out back. A small banistered stairway leads up to a huge wooden porch. Unfortunately its location on a busy street makes it a bit noisy.

Hotel Las Casitas (% 152-3023; www.santarosalia casitas.com; Transpeninsular Km 195; r US$55; ®[email protected]) Santa Rosalia's newest hotel, 3km south of town, has only five rooms, but each is beautifully tiled and has a private balcony and sublime views of the sea from the queen-sized beds. A hot tub completes its allure.

Hotel Francés (% 152-2052; Av Cousteau 15; r US$60; ®[email protected]) Up on Mesa Francia, the historic Hotel Francés once provided all the 'necessary services' (as the INAH paper on the door explains) to lone French employees (men) of the Compañía del Boleo. Possibly more fun then, it now offers an atmospheric restaurant, a small swimming pool, wonderful views of the rusting copper foundry and air-conditioned period-style rooms. The walls are covered in original fabric wallpaper.

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