Some Like It Hot... and Historical
Travelers to Mexico have lots of beach resorts to choose from. So why pick Mazatlán over Cancún or Los Cabos? Because Mazatlán (“Land of the Deer,” in Nahuatl) combines beachy resort glitz---sun, sand, glittering swimming pools, highrise hotels---with a vintage downtown. It’s a combination that’s hard to beat. And recent upgrades to the beautiful old quarter---early 20th- and late-19th-century mansions, the ethereal cathedral, and picturesque plazas---makes exploring Old Mazatlán more enjoyable than ever.
A successful commercial port and supply center for mining operations in the Sierra Madre, Mazatlán (correctly pronounced mah-zat-LAN) began to thrive in the late 19th and early-20th-centuries. One-, two- and three-story buildings in historical center epitomize tropical Latino architecture: massively thick walls, wrought iron balconies and window grills, exposed beams holding up high ceilings. The majority are painted faint pastel colors with white trim. Downtown Mazatlan’s is dominated by several tall hills, including Cerro del Crestería, with its working lighthouse. Acapulco-style divers plunge into the sea near the base of Cerro de la Nevería, another downtown hill named for ice once stored in a cave at its base.
Many downtown building were extensively restored and rejuvenated in 2005 and 2006. It’s more pleasant than ever to cruise its wide streets in search of open-air cafes and a small but growing number shops selling gifts and handcrafts.
More Things to Do
There’s lots for the active traveler to do in Maz. A large sport fishing fleet makes its home in the safe anchorage of Dársela Bay, a waterway that embraces the old city on its leeward side, while the Pacific Ocean hugs the others shore. Surfing is popular among locals and visitors, who catch swells spring through fall especially at Punta Camarón and Playa Bruja to the north as well as several spots closer to downtown.
Mazatlán’s sport fishing fleet is huge and experienced; you’ll find it near the Pacífica Brewery, which emits hops-flavored steam from its large facility. From this area, catch an inexpensive water taxi to cross the channel to Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island), for 18 holes of golf at Club de Golf Estrella del Mar (tel. 669/982-3300). This seemingly endless stretch of sand, with informal eateries right on the sand selling hot food and cold drinks, invites jogging and horseback riding as well as long walks on the beach. ?>
Other active types choose the beachfront malecón for walking, jogging, blading and bike riding. This broad, flat, asphalt path is well-lighted and punctuated with far-out statues and monuments. The 10-km-long (6 mi) boardwalk stretches all the way from downtown to the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), home to highrise hotels and boisterous, tourist-oriented bars and restaurants. Many of Mazatlán’s aquatic activities take place or depart from the Zona Dorada beaches. Playa Gaviotas (Seagull Beach) offers bumpy banana boat rides, parasailing, JetSkis, and other toys. Offshore, Isla de los Venados (Deer Island) has several nice beaches of its own, and restaurants right on the sand rent snorkeling equipment and dispense cold limeade and grilled fish. Access the small island, about 15 minutes offshore, on a package tour or come aboard “El Tiburón,” an aquatic war relic that departs from the El Cid hotel.
Besides a charming downtown area, Mazatlán competes well with other vacation meccas because of its prices. Airfare to Mazatlán may be more expensive than to busier destinations like Cancún or Puerto Vallarta, but once you reach this pretty Pacific city of about 700,000 residents, you’ll spend less than in mass-tourism resorts where an $8 fish plate is a thing of the past.
For more things to do as well as hotels and restaurants, check out our Mazatlan Travel Guide.