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Mazatlán, Mexico - Travel Destination

Balmy Days on the Tropic of Cancer

by André Gayot

Some call Mazatlán "the pearl of the Pacific." This climatic location is certainly a kind of a gem with an average temperature of 75 degrees, 60 in the "cold" months and 82 in summer. At the time when the North of the continent freezes, more than 150 hotels with their ten thousand beds, plus numerous time-shares, condos, trailer parks, you name it, fill up with winter "birds" fleeing from the frigid big U.S. and Canadian cities. The fugitives from the cold come here to have their winter ball in the sun, clad in bathing suits and shorts, although nights are cool and a sweater is welcome.

Pink flamingos in (permanent) residence at Pueblo Bonito Emerald Beach Resort & Spa
Pink flamingos at Pueblo Bonito Emerald Beach Resort & Spa

There's more to do here than just sipping beer on the beach. On the subject of beer, this is where a German created the highly-regarded Pacifico right on the Tropic of Cancer. And on the subject of beaches, there are nine of them, but check for dangerous tides in some areas.

Mazatlán started with a few settlers who must have had a hard time surviving until a garrison and military defenses were established in 1793. Thereafter, ups and downs alternated: wars, revolutions, mining booms and busts. Consequently, what is left of this past to still admire dates from the nineteenth century. As for the first settlers, the Nahuatl, the Totarame, the Xiximes, the Cahitas Indians, they apparently dug more for deer hunting (Mazatlán means Land of the Deer in Nahuatl) than constructing pyramids and temples. From a thin population of 500 in the middle of the 19th century, Mazatlán has grown to nearly 450,000. This augmentation was supported by the activity of the commercial harbor, which is the principal Mexican port on the Pacific coast. In the last ten years, tourism has induced an accelerated boom in construction. High-rises have surged fast — too fast, regret some — in abundance along the Malecon, a four-mile ocean-side walk fringed with hotels, apartments and condos.

A Colonial City by the Beach

The fishing industry is the other major sector, hence the not-to-be-missed shrimp and seafood generously served as fresh as it gets in all the restaurants. Mazatlán is a major exporter of shrimp. Nowadays, the city thrives essentially on tourism, which, as everywhere, can be impacted by the world economy. The first tourists here were Hollywood's beautiful people who in the '40s discovered that this then-remote area was a fisherman's paradise filled with marlins, sailfish and mahi-mahi. Mazatlán would be a sleepy tropical town if it were not for the appetites and the dollars of the many visitors. Enough to feed a huge population of musicians, artists, artisans, chefs, waiters, hoteliers, farmers, taxi drivers, jewelers, painters, etc.

Soothing evenings on the beach
Fresh oysters along with rich ceviche
Soothing evenings on the beach
Fresh oysters with rich ceviche

A colonial city by the beach? Indeed the romantic and "muy simpatica" part of the town is situated in its southern part noticeably around Plazuela Machado where Mazatláians dine and enjoy bands and singers performing on the gazebo, and so should you after a stroll in the narrow streets and a visit to the Angela Peralta Theater inspired by la Scala of Milan. In November and December, shows, ballets and concerts are presented daily to the public by local as well as international artists including the famous Cuban National Ballet. The Casa Machado, Edificio Juarez, the nearby Plaza Revolucion, the lively Mercado Central and the unusual Cathedral Basilica, which mixes styles and bears a lighted Star of David between its steeples, also contribute to depict the aesthetics of the colonial era close to the beach.

Ready for the carnival
Ready for the carnival

At the northern end of the city that stretches along a beach of fifteen miles, in the New Mazatlán, sparkles the classy Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay, boasting 378 luxurious suites and most likely the top choice in resorts. It overlooks quiet and secluded Emerald Bay from the top of a 20-acre gated and manicured domain. No street traffic, for there's no street, no jets above your head — all you hear is the sound of the waves licking the beach. This tranquility is in itself a luxury after the hustle and bustle of the Zona Dorada, the Golden Zone (a ten-minute drive; there's a free shuttle every hour to the other Pueblo Bonito hotel downtown).

Restaurants, bars, shops and their partying patrons radiate an exciting energy especially at the time of the famous carnival (February) — said to be the second best in Mexico after Vera Cruz. 300,000 participants sing, dance and play to the sound of the big bands loud with many brass instruments, called the bandas Sinoalenses or Tamboreros. Don't forget the frenzy at the bullfight on Sunday afternoons. After all this trepidation you will appreciate your 425-square-foot apartment at the Pueblo Bonito with its fully equipped kitchenette that is quiet and soothing thanks to its high ceiling and pastel tones. That's the prelude to the conclusion of a day which will culminate after a sip at Kelly's Piano Bar with a dinner at La Cordelière right on the beach, where fresh seafood is rightly the mainstay, or at The Bistro with its international cuisine. If you overindulge, don't overlook the fitness center and the Armonia spa or burn some more calories on the lighted tennis courts.

Ballet and fun galore at the Mazatlan cultural festival and carnival
Ballet and fun galore at the Mazatlán cultural festival and carnival

The Pueblo Bonito Mazatlán, located close to the Zona Dorada, is an alternative for those who want animation and activities à la Club Med with sports, games, shows and dances. Less luxurious, this all-suite hotel boasts 247 suites, appointed with two queen size beds, a fully equipped kitchenette and a private balcony. In an oceanfront setting, Cilantro's serves the specialty of the house: seafood grill for two, a succulent combination of lobster, fish, scallops, shrimp, calamari and oysters. Las Palomas offers traditional Mexican fare, while Angelo's serves Italian dishes like its signature osso bucco.

But don't spend your entire vacation at the hotel! You don't want to miss the local opportunities: strolling in the historic quarter, golfing at the nearby reputed El Cid course, deep sea fishing, or touring the old mining villages like El Quelite with its cobblestone streets or Copala and its baroque church in the Sierra Madre where John Huston shot one of his famous films.



Los Arcos
Ave. Camarón Sábalo 1019
Mazatlán, Sinaloa
This is one of the best places in all of Mazatlán for fresh seafood, and the service is commendable. Live music is often performed here.

Pedro y Lola
Carnaval 1313, Centro
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82000
Right in the heart of Plazuela Machado, the atmosphere here is what brings people in, and the service keeps them coming back for more. With international cuisine, a bar that stays open until 1 a.m. and live music playing on the weekends, this is a go-to place for experiential dining.

il Mio Capriccio
This Italian restaurant offers unique dishes, not your typical spaghetti and meatballs, and quality service.

La Casa Country
Ave. Camarón Sábalo S/N Frente a Hotel Holiday Inn
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82100
This restaurant with a rustic decor specializes in steaks and meats.

Il Mosto
Calle Sixto Osuna 510-b, Plazuela Machado
Mazatlán, Sinaloa
We recommend sitting outdoors at this Mediterranean restaurant in the popular Plazuela Machado.

El Topolo
Constitucion 629 Centro
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82000
A favorite in Mazatlán, this go-to place for special occasions (such as birthdays or Mother's Day) sits in the peaceful, central courtyard of an old home. Salsas and guacamole are made tableside, and the food is consistently good.

El Guamuchilito
Teodoro Mariscal
Mazatlán, Sinaloa
The quality of the food here is fresh, fresh, fresh. Cooked Mazatleco style, portions are generous and the seafood is incredibly affordable. While the interior is basic — plastic chairs and tables — the service is outstanding. This is a popular local hangout, located one block off the malecón. Since it closes around 8 p.m., consider dining here at midday.

Avenida Playa Gaviotas 408 Zona Dorada
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82110
A Mazatlán tradition, Pancho's gets our vote for the most consistently quality food and service in town. We prefer the ocean location, especially around sunset, which is easy walking distance from the Golden Zone hotels. Try the guacamole prepared tableside.

Avenida La Marina #335
Mazatlán, Sinaloa
This brand-new restaurant is popular with young adults despite its location on a busy street. It offers unique seafood dishes (not just prepared in garlic or chile sauce) including octopus, squid, and seared tuna.

Al Agua
Ave. Camarón Sábalo Zona Dorada
Mazatlán, Sinaloa
This large palapa on the beach with a good selection of seafood, ocean views and free parking is very popular with locals.


4 Key Hotels

Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay

201 Av. Ernesto Coppel Campana
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82110
Situated on twenty acres with breathtaking views overlooking the Sea of Cortez, this resort offers peaceful respite from the buzzing city below. With five restaurants, four bars — including one at the adults-only pool — private beaches and flamingos to welcome you into the garden terrace, you may not want to leave the grounds once here. This is one of the most luxurious hotels in all of Mazatlán.

Hotel Playa Mazatlán
Av. Playa Gaviotas 202 Zona Dorada
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82110
A Mazatlán tradition, the beach here is absolutely stunning and includes every water sport you could want. Summers are exciting, when travelers can witness Olive Sea Turtles laying their eggs on the beach. Most service personnel have worked here for years and treat customers exceptionally well. Rooms are spacious, but not fancy, aside from the higher-end suites. All-inclusive reservations are also available.

El Cid Castilla Beach Hotel
Ave. Camarón Sábalo
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82110
Just two blocks from the Golden Zone, resting against the beach, this hotel has enough for couples, singles or families. Boasting eight pools and numerous restaurants and lounges, the only set back might be the large crowds that come here. But you almost can't beat the all-inclusive value.

Inn at Mazatlán
Camarón Sábalo 6291 Zona Dorada
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82110
Located on the beach in the bustling Golden Zone, this Mexican Riviera hotel is ideal for vacationers who want easy access to nearby shopping, city attractions, restaurants and nightlife spots. Free, in-room movies and spacious suites also make this is a good place for families. The food at Papagayo is tasty and accommodations are an excellent value for the money.

Las 7 Maravillas
Avenida Las Palmas, 1 Colonia Los Pinos
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82000
This brand-new bed and breakfast is located in the historic area of downtown Mazatlán, with galleries, museums, the plazas, market and beach just a short walk away. Each room is furnished in a different international style.

3 Key Hotels

Las Flores Beach Resort
Avenida Playa Gaviotas 212 Zona Dorada
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82110
In the heart of the Golden Zone, this hotel shares sand with one of the best beaches in Mazatlán. Nightclubs, restaurants, cinemas and jewelry shops are within a short walking distance. And since many of the rooms have recently been renovated, you're sure to get your money's worth here.

Costa de Oro
Camarón Sábalo 710 Zona Dorada
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82110
This large hotel in the heart of the Golden Zone has 230 guest rooms catering to both business and leisure travelers. It is right on the beach just a short walk to many shops, restaurants and attractions. It also has nice swimming pools.

Olas Altas Inn
Av del Mar 719 Tellería
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 82140
Although not directly on the beach, this hotel is centrally located right on the malecón, so runners, roller bladers, pedestrians and bicyclists have four miles of oceanfront promenade right out the front door. It also features a rooftop spa and an affordable oceanfront restaurant.

Recommendations by Dianne Hofner Saphiere and Greg Webb,

Images by Andre Gayot, Go Mazatlan and Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort & Spa

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