Mazatlan more than sandy beaches

Mazatlan more than sandy beaches

Mardi Gras, music and history await visitors

Irene Middleman Thomas, For Postmedia News

Published: Saturday, October 19, 2013

When it comes to making memories, Mexico's Mazatlan has your number.

If it feels familiar, maybe it's because Mazatlan has been catering to tourists for half a century. If it feels comfortable, perhaps it's because it lacks the glitz of other, newer resorts. If the pockets feel full, it's because Mazatlan still pleases its visitors with very reasonable prices, unlike many Mexican resort towns.


Mazatlan doesn't try to compete with the luxury of Cancún, the sexiness of Acapulco or the colonial quaintness of Puerto Vallarta. It doesn't need to. The popular destination, almost 1,300 kilometres south of Tucson, Ariz., on Mexico's Pacific coast, lies at about the same latitude as Hawaii.


Its waters are neither turquoise nor crystal clear, but they are delightfully gentle and warm, and a pretty blue, with beaches stretching for miles.A port city of some 500,000 residents, Mazatlan happily swells to accommodate the 1.5 million vacationers, sport fishermen and snowbirds who arrive each year.


Mazatlan is one of Mexico's oldest tourist resorts and home to one of the world's three major Mardi Gras carnivals, comparable only to those in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro.

Boasting the biggest commercial shrimping fleet in Latin America with more than 500 boats, Mazatlan also has one of the largest tuna fishing fleets in the world.

Visitors, however, often feel they are in a small beach village rather than a large city, because of the way Mazatlan separates its commercial and business sectors from its resort areas.

The city's existence doesn't revolve around tourism – it is a thriving metropolis. In fact, thousands of people live and work here without having anything to do with the travel industry.


For tourists, however, Mazatlan offers an abundance of riches:

One of the longest stretches of uninterrupted beaches in Mexico; water temperatures between 18 C and 24 C year-round; nightlife set to music ranging from mariachi to disco to piano bar to salsa; colonial architecture; a wealth of handicrafts; and an endless supply of sidewalk and seaside restaurants.


The city, first settled in 1531 by the Spanish, began to develop quickly in the mid-19th century. To see Mazatlan as the Mazatlecos do, take one of the open-air jitneys (pulmonias). Or stroll the 20-kilometre boardwalk (malecón) between Playa Olas Altas and Playa Norte.


The breezy stretch, studded with impressive statues and monuments, is the pride of Mazatlan, running from one end of the town to the other. Here, visitors will find the hotel zone, fishermen selling their catch at dawn, lovers embracing, locals gossiping and entrepreneurs selling coconuts, shrimp brochettes and mangoes on a stick, dripping with lime juice. The walk takes vacationers past Mazatlan's outstanding aquarium and into Old Mazatlan's Plazuela Machado (Machado Square), the heart of the city.


There's a strip of open-air seafood restaurants on the north side of the plaza. One of the most famous is lively Pedro & Lola's, named after two singers/actors from Mazatlan, Pedro Infante Cruz and Lola Beltrán.

Pedro & Lola's wide variety of shrimp platters is reasonably priced and delectable. Grilled with butter and garlic (camarones al mojo de ajo), downed with a good Mexican beer such as the local Pacifico lager or the heavier Negro Modelo, is heaven after a day on the beach.


Time is also well spent admiring the twin-spired cathedral (built in 1875), the city's main plaza and the beautifully restored Angela Peralta Theatre (built in 1860). The theatre is a neoclassical-style building named after the beloved 19th-century opera diva who died from yellow fever after her only performance in Mazatlan.


Strolling on the way to Playa Olas Altas, travellers pass El Puerto Carranza, an old Spanish fort. The stroll can conclude at High Divers Park, where young men climb to a towering platform and plunge to the sea below. This typically happens in the late afternoons, but it's not an everyday occurrence.


The most famous beaches in Mazatlan are Playa Norte, popular with locals, Playa Sábalo and Las Gaviotas on the resort strip, Playa Olas Altas and Las Brujas for surfing and high waves and Playa los Cerritos, one of the city's finest uncrowded beaches on the north end of the hotel zone.


Lively Sábalo Beach is perfect for jet skiing, windsurfing, parachuting, sailing, sport fishing, etc., while the adjacent Cerritos Beach and Playa Norte are known for clean sand and peaceful sunbathing. Mazatlan's Emerald Beach area to the north is being developed as a tony area with posh shops, hotels and restaurants. There's a beach perfect for every mood – romance, action, peace, adventure and people-watching.


The islands off Mazatlan are a must-see, and are accessible by small boat, kayak or island cruise. Isla de la Piedra, (actually a peninsula), with its 16-kilometre, unspoiled palm-lined beach, is dotted with sand dollars. Hammocks and horses are available for rent here, and thatched-roof cafés sell freshly smoked fish.


Isla del Venado's gorgeous, calm beach, with its superb view of Mazatlan, is just 10 minutes away. Its southern point features many secluded coves filled with soft sand and seashells. Snorkelling, while not quite on the level of the Caribbean, is highly enjoyable in the warm Pacific water. Mazatlan offers several excellent places for shopping, including Galeria Nidart, which carries both modern art and handicrafts; the Mazatlan Arts and Handicrafts Center; and Sea Shell City, a place that specializes in the exhibition and sale of seashells and other materials from the sea.


When to visit Mazatlan? The weather from October through May is delightful. You should have a sweater handy in the evenings, which are cooled by the ocean breezes.

Mazatlan Gets a Makeover

A revitalized, restored vacation destination once again lures travelers to its markets, beaches and bullfights.


The mood in the Plaza de Toros, hot in the afternoon sun, crackled like popcorn. Suntanned cowboys in big-brimmed hats spotted distant friends and waved. Pretty girls passed out red roses to people holding preferred “shade seat” tickets while vendors hawking beer worked the crowd. Ladies spread sunscreen on their arms and strangers compared notes on the afternoon’s event, the Carnaval Week bullfight.

Bullfights, a weekly winter sport here in Mazatlan, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, run from Christmas through April. But the bullfight held during Carnaval week, featuring world-famous “rejoneador” Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza, is the highlight of the season, and it packs the arena.

Challenging the bull, the charismatic Hermoso and his string of horses — he travels with six trained Lusitanos — are superstars, leaping, dancing and spinning, melding the crowd into a cheering, gasping, groaning, clapping, handkerchief-waving mass.

While we waited for the first bull to enter the ring, I overheard a conversation behind me, a couple discussing the anticipated return of the cruise ships to the new terminal, and plans for their new house overlooking the beach. Another family moving to Mexico, I wondered?

Immigrants heading south, instead of Mexicans coming north?

A classic beach retreat since Hollywood celebrities discovered it in the 1940s, Mazatlan has been an outcast of late, smeared by the same headlines that paint most of Mexico as crime-ridden and unsafe. But this couple seemed to be ignoring conventional wisdom.

“Are you living here permanently?” I asked, turning around to introduce myself. “Maybe you’ve met my friends. They live in that neighborhood up on the hill.”

“Vacation for now, but permanently soon,” said Edward Klop, a company owner from British Columbia, smiling and leaning over to shake hands. “Why? Because people here are so decent. Look at this crowd. I’ve never seen so much beer drunk by so many people who are so good natured,” he said. “You don’t find that very often. You’ve heard of the Vancouver riots, haven’t you, after that famous Stanley Cup match? People got drunk, turned over cars, broke store windows, looted merchandise. That doesn’t happen here.”

“Mexicans are family people,” added Yvonne Klop. “They take their kids when they go out to eat or to a concert. The kind of restaurants we’d like to eat at in Vancouver, or San Francisco or New York, don’t allow kids.”

Right about then, the crowd broke into cheers and Hermoso cantered into the ring mounted on a white stallion. Whether or not you condone bullfighting, it’s impossible not to watch Hermoso as he gets down to business, teasing the bull until it charges, then wheeling away, leaning and turning, whirling and circling the ring with the angry bull in pursuit, staying just inches away from those two long horns. Finally dispatching the bull, Hermoso took a victory lap and the ladies tossed red roses. The fight committee awarded prizes and the crowd collected their hats and cushions and filed peaceably away.

South of the border

The Klops, when they do move, won’t be outliers but part of a settled expat community, full- and part-time residents who contribute time, energy and ideas to the town.

“There are more than 10,000 Americans and Canadians in Mazatlan,” said Francisco “Frank” Cordova, secretary of tourism for Sinaloa, speaking by phone from Miami. “They rent apartments and some even own houses. Now, if it wasn’t safe, why would they be here?”

Drug cartel murders are a fact, he conceded, and violence is the federal government’s most pressing internal security issue, he said. But most violence occurs in the mountains or along the U.S. border, far from Mazatlan’s Golden Zone, the tourist district along the beach.

The U. S. State Department, in fact, suggests that U.S. citizens exercise caution in Mazatlan, particularly late at night and early in the morning, and limit their travel to the Golden Zone and the historic town center.

“There isn’t any crime in the Golden Zone, not that we’ve heard about,” said Paul Petty, who’s spent most of the past 12 years here in town.

At last things are turning around, promising Mazatlan’s best year for tourism in a decade. Visitor numbers have been climbing and hotels and restaurants have invested in better facilities and more security. More than $6 million in state and local funds has been allocated for tourists coming from the United States and Canada, says Carlos Berdegue, president and CEO of Mazatlan’s four El Cid hotels. “Our group and convention programs have been very successful, the cruise lines are returning and the airlines are looking at creating more capacity,” he said.

Cruise ships return to port

Energy Saving Tips

Energy Saving Tips

Air conditioning and heating:

Use vegetation to your advantage, planting trees in strategic points helps deflect cold drafts in winter and create shade in the summer.

By installing awnings or overhangs inclined, aluminum shutters, tinted glass, coatings, mesh and plastic films prevents the sun from reaching directly into the house. So you can get savings in electrical energy consumption by the use of air conditioning.

Proper insulation of ceilings and walls helps maintain a comfortable temperature in the house.

If you use central air conditioning units, also isolated ducts.

It is relatively easy to seal windows and doors of the house with silicone paste, to keep out the cold in the winter months and keep it cool in the hot months.

When buying or replace the equipment, check that it is suitable for your needs.

Give periodic maintenance and clean the filters regularly. Watch the thermostat, it can mean an additional savings of electricity if left at 18 ° C (65 ° F) in winter and 25 ° C (78 ° F) in summer.

In dry weather use the cooler, is cheaper and consumes less power than air conditioning.


The saturated filters and dust deposits and debris from the vacuum, make the engine work overload and reduce its life. Change them whenever is necessary.

Check that the hose and fittings are in good condition.

Audio and video:

Do not leave lighted lamps, radios, TVs or other appliances on when no one is using.

Toaster and Oven:

Always keep waste clean the microwave oven, electric oven and toaster, this way they will last longer and consume less energy.


Use CFLs in place of incandescent bulbs, they provide the same level of illumination, last ten times longer and use four times less energy.

Paint the inside of the house with light colors, the light reflects in them and require less energy to light.

Electrical installation:

Check that the electrical system is not leaking. To do this, disconnect all electrical appliances, including watches; turn off all the lights and check that the meter disk does not move, if the disk is spinning, check the installation commands.


Wash in full load each time, this will decrease the number of sessions weekly wash.

Use only the necessary amount of detergent; excess amounts, produces more foam and makes the engine work more than it should.


A blender that works easily lasts longer and spends less; check that the blades are always sharp and not broken.


The iron is another device that uses a lot of energy. Use it in an orderly way and planned, this saves energy and reduces costs.

Iron as many clothes as possible each time, due to connecting it often causes more energy expenditure than to keep it on for a while.

Iron thick clothes first, or the one that needs more heat, and leave the thin, that requires less heat, to the end, disconnect the iron just before the end to take advantage of accumulated temperature.

Do not let the iron connected unnecessarily.

Check the surface of the plate so that it is always smooth and clean, so heat is transmitted uniformly.

Check that the cable and plug are in good condition.


The refrigerator is one of the most energy-consuming appliances in the home.

Place the refrigerator away from the stove and out of reach of the sun's rays. Check that the door seal perfectly and regularly reviews the package, if it does not close properly, it can generate a consumption three times higher than normal.

Let food cool before refrigerating. The correct position of the thermostat is between the numbers 2 and 3. In hot weather, thermostat should be between the numbers 3 and 4.

If you are planning to buy a new refrigerator, select the one which consumes less electricity. Check the energy efficiency label, which indicates that the device complies with the Official Mexican Standard and saves energy. Remember that automatic defrost consume 12% more electricity and that means more spending.

Defrost the refrigerator and clean with damp cloth grime that builds up in the back, at least every two months. Clean the condenser tubes located on the back or bottom of the device at least twice a year.