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Romancing Mazatlan

18 min read

Traveling is the experience of knowledge

Visitors can indulge their every desire in the ultimate expression of sensuality along Mexico’s West Coast, while enjoying a shimmering sun and the pulsating rhythm of Mazatlan. For those who wish to focus on one another and put the world aside Mazatlan has delightful pleasures that will keep the travel passion on edge.

Mazatlan sign on the Malecon or walkway
The colorful Mazatlan sign is on the famed Malecon or walkway. Photograph by Halina Kubalski.

A proud working city, long noted as the largest port between Los Angeles and the Panama Canal, Mazatlan finally decided she was tired of playing second mariachi to flashy Cancun, artsy Puerto Vallarta, and the upscale demeanor of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. Without a touch of pretension, the city stopped pouting, dabbed on a new shade of ruby red lipstick, bought a stunning shoulder-length brunet hairpiece from Mexico City, and picked out the latest in casual fashion from Los Cabos.

fishing boats adjacent to the Malecon, Mazatlan
Fishing boats adjacent to the Malecon. Mazatlan is home to Mexico’s largest fishing fleet. Photograph by Halina Kubalski.
Mazatlan Malecon bike and walkway
The Mazatlan Malecon bike and walkway is the longest in Mexico stretching over five miles in length. Photograph by Halina Kubalski.

A diligent and often overlooked city is strutting her stuff and turning heads with newly landscaped streets, detailed renovations of cathedrals, theaters, and the UNESCO designated Historic District, along with a stunning malecon artistically enlarged with fluttering palms, benches, art work and a bicycle path, adjacent to the Bay of Banderas that stretches over five miles, nearly the entire length of downtown.

Lovers stroll in the cool of an evening, edging past families with enough progeny to fill a bus, cyclists are out for a spin, while clever street entertainers amuse or astonish in exchange for a few pesos, and a blaze of colorful art work in search of a new home stands tall on a forest of easels.

A Mazatlan visit offers a bright new look at the Mexican Riviera making aficionados of Mexico wonder why they waited so long to become acquainted. Located on a splendid peninsula, on the same latitude as Hawaii, 1,000 air miles from Los Angeles and 200 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, the city is brimming with energy and the spirit of fiesta. Mazatlan’s long and endearing sweep of bay is unchanged featuring some 15-miles of picture-perfect beach where the blue Pacific eternally laps against the sand, fishing boats are stark on the horizon, and surfers play in the salty foam.

open-air Pulmonia in Mazatlan
Unique to Mazatlan the open-air Pulmonias, the city’s version of a golf cart, first appeared in 1965. Photograph by Halina Kubalski.

Open-air Pulmonias, clever versions of a golf cart that are always entertaining and a bit eccentric, first appeared on the malecon in 1965 much to the chagrin of the cabbies. Like busy worker ants, they haul visitors to beach resort hotels, stylish boutiques, restaurants, and bars where they can listen and dance to everything from Mazatlan’s classic Banda Sinaloense, the sonorous tambora, the brass of the Mariachi’s, and the ubiquitous salsa.

English speaking waiters, hip to the latest north of the border lingo, keep drinks flowing. The Pulmonias, occasionally with singing drivers and excellent suggestions, can maneuver visitors to Plaza Revolucion the main square with its classic Victorian-style wrought iron bandstand, and the adjacent, twin-steepled Baroque-revival-style cathedral, built in 1875 with an organ from Germany.

Historic Old Town

Historic District or Old Town, Mazatlan, at night
The Historic District or Old Town, a UNESCO site, is the only colonial district on the West Coast of Mexico. Photograph by Halina Kubalski.

Two blocks south of Plaza Revolucion is a celebrated showcase unique to the entire West Coast of Mexico — the stunning 20-block Historic District or Old Town surrounding the restored Italian-style Angela Peralta Theatre. Built between 1869 and 1874, this venerated National Historic Monument presents opera, jazz, symphony, and ballet performances, and is the home of the noted Conservatory of Music and Dance. The theatre, restored to its original 1900’s finery, fits perfectly with the narrow, cobbled streets once designed for horse and carriage, lined curb-to-curb with structures each with their own character, and all holding tight to a by-gone age.

twin-steepled Baroque-revival-style cathedral at the Historic District
The twin-steepled Baroque-revival-style cathedral, built in 1875 is adjacent to the Historic District. Photograph by Halina Kubalski.

Renovated edifices with classic iron grills and balconies wrap around Plazuela Machado in a timeless surrounding, setting a blissful mood. On the north side of the plaza are a medley of restaurants with sidewalk tables and chatting diners including Pedro & Lola’s named after two renowned singers, Pedro Infante and Lola Beltran, serving Sinaloa regional dishes and live music.

Retirement Mazatlan-Style

guitarist at the Mazatlan Historic District
A guitarist in the 20-block Mazatlan Historic District. Photograph by Halina Kubalski.

With all the outside gloss, the city has a powerful inner strength. A Forbes article named Mazatlan the world’s #3 Destination for North Americans to Retire behind Portugal’s Algarve Region and Valletta, Malta. Long before the article some 10,000 Canadian and U.S folks discovered the city and moved in, forwarding address no problem. Many of these retired North Americans or Mazatiecos serve their new home as tourist aide volunteers, helping visitors with directions and information.

El Cid, The Best of The Mexican World

El Cid Marina at La Marina
The El Cid Marina at La Marina, one of four El Cid Mazatlan resorts, offering sailing, yachting and dive excursions. Photograph by Halina Kubalski.

The private sector, always on the move, contributed greatly to the city’s face-lift when family owned El Cid opened their first hotel in 1972 led by founder Julio Berdegue Aznar. El Cid has developed, full-fledge, to four Mazatlan properties and a personal community of over three thousand families. Visitors discover a splendid Marina and Yacht Club, a fleet of sailing and charter boats, an on-site dive center, bird watching and nature tours. The La Marina El Cocay Spa and Fitness Center opened in 2017 and for golfers a prestigious golf school, along with 27 challenging holes of golf designed by Lee Trevino.

restaurants at the colonial Historic District
The colonial Historic District is filled with restaurants, a popular choice for visitors and Mazatiecos alike. Photograph by Halina Kubalski.

For those on the go, pop up to the top of Cerro del Vigma or Lookout Hill for a spectacular view of the city and sprawling coastline, or take a 45-minute hike to El Faro lighthouse, the second tallest in the world, 450 feet above the sea, for another great view. On the way to El Faro divers can be seen performing a version of the Acapulco cliff diver’s swan dives from El Mirador and the steep rocky cliffs at the south side of the city.

With one of the world’s largest shrimping fleet, Mazatlan offers a catch and release sport-fishing center for anglers who crave to test their skills. Surfing is best at Lupe’s Point and at Los Pinos. Snorkelers should try Cannon’s Point and Cerritos. A popular Mazatlan memory is an excursion to Deer Island, located a mile offshore where the day is spent snorkeling among coral reefs, kayaking, hiking, lounging on the beach and slathering on sun block.

Dining Mazatlan

Hector's Bistro at the Historic District
Hector’s Bistro in the Historic District, is noted as one of the finest French-Italian restaurants on the West Coast of Mexico. Photograph by Halina Kubalski.

A suggested culinary visit to Hector’s Bistro includes a chat with Chef/Owner Hector Peniche who in 2014 opened his French-Italian influenced Bistro in the Historical Center to rave reviews and quickly carved a deep niche in the Mazatlan dining scene. Personable Peniche, raised in Mazatlan, honed his culinary skills working for Four Seasons in London, Mexico City, and Punta Mita.

He said, pointing to his kitchen, “I came from a poor hard-working family and attribute success to my father’s advice to be the best. I brought a mentality from Europe, not recipes.” Peniche makes his own bread in his adjoining Via Condotti restaurant and works with an open fire and cast iron cooking pieces. Reservations advised.

El Cid's Executive Chef Luis Ignacio Pazos Garcia and tacos
Left: El Cid’s Executive Chef Luis Ignacio Pazos Garcia, born and raised in Mazatlan, cooking in some of Mexico’s top resorts, has been honored with numerous El Cid dining awards. Right: A plate of tasty tacos prepared by the El Cid chefs. Photographs by Halina Kubalski.

El Cid’s Executive Chef Luis Ignacio Pazos Garcia, born and raised in Mazatlan, inherited his love for seafood from a family of fishermen, and the kitchen from his Grandmother. Cooking in some of the top hotels on Mexico’s West Coast, Pazos works with 44 kitchen staff and cooks, and four Chefs’s including Chef’s Pedro Rios Millan, and Luis Villa, who collective have been honored with a basket full of El Cid dining awards with their authentic Sinaloa cuisine featuring a keen bond to shrimp and Mazatlan locale seafood.

Mazatiecos’ Dining Suggestions

To truly know Mazatlan is to dine at Panama bustling with energy and passion offering the flavors of Sinaloa and with their own bakery. Cenaduria Chayito with three restaurants, one in the Historic District, all noted for regional cuisine. Mariscos EL Beto is a little “carreta” with award-winning seafood. El Presidio, located in an old plantation in the Historic District, family owned, designed around towering trees, and a central patio, has the longest bar in Mazatlan, live music, and regional cuisine, perfect for evening dining.

platter of bread baked by El Cid's Chef's Pedro Rios Millan and Luis Villa
A platter of bread baked in house prepared by El Cid’s Chef’s Pedro Rios Millan and Luis Villa. Photograph by Halina Kubalski.

Where else in Mazatlan than El Cid’s La Marina Restaurant would you enjoy three talented, hard-working, guitarists lighting up the room on Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. setting a festive mood, the nicely dressed servers moving to the rhythm. El Cid then hosts the trio to a large breakfast, a rarity indeed in Mexico and Latin America.

Panama Restaurant
Mazatlan’s Panama Restaurant is a huge favorite with their own bakery, and a must visit. Photograph by Halina Kubalski.

For all the changes Mazatlan has the feel of discovery retaining enough charm to suit the most jaded traveler.

El Cid; Mazatlan Today; Go Mazatlan

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7 Comments

  1. Lanny Aplanalp

    April 17, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    Wow, this is a very good eye opening article about Mazatlan. My wife and I were there once but obviously we missed a lot and now we are very eager to go to Mazatlan again to see and enjoy so much that we now know we missed. Thank you, Travellingboy for bringing so much to our lives, and in such a romantic, descriptive and colorful article. We’ve found a real “Gem”.

    Reply

    • Richard Carroll

      April 17, 2020 at 6:23 pm

      Hi Lanny,

      Thanks so much for your kind comments. Mazatlan is a special destination.

      Reply

  2. Stacy

    April 18, 2020 at 7:54 am

    I loved this article and appreciate all of the details that one would miss if traveling without Richard’s tips and guidance. Great article!

    Reply

  3. joan Gilmore and Dick Eisenrod

    April 18, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    How can we not want to get on the next plane to Mazatlan. This article has whet our appetites for more than just food. Everything about Mazatlan looks amazing and the article is pure poetry.

    Reply

  4. Arthur Reiner

    April 18, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    With this article we learned so much about Mazatlan, for us it was just another Mexican resort.
    Now we realize what a gem it is. The bad part is that with the current situation we have to wait for while before travel will go back to normal.
    Thanks for the beautiful and inviting description.

    Reply

  5. Maxine Babalis

    April 19, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    I’m always delighted to read yet another of Richard’s well-crafted descriptions of exciting places. Halina Kubalski has an eye for capturing the colorful sights and events. Together they invite the reader to travel to the beautiful places they visit, and make us wish we could begin our travels today.

    Reply

  6. Bill Jones

    April 21, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    GREAT Article! I’m ready to pack my bags!

    Reply

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