Mazatlan — more than beautiful beaches

Story & photos by Barbara Beckley

Sipping a michelada, Mexico’s delicious beer, Clamato juice and lime concoction, under a beach palapa on one day. Admiring a 17th century church on the next. Watching artisans at work along a country road on another. Then zipping around town in a Pulmonia and feasting on the world’s largest and most delicious shrimp — true — in a stylish restaurant. 

Mazatlán, on Mexico’s sunny Pacific coast, is more than just another beach destination. Founded by the conquistadors in 1531, the coastal city boasts a proud history and traditions that enrich a beach vacation with culture, art, and lasting memories.

Of course, its sunny beaches are the main attraction. They put the city on the world map back in the 1970s as one of Mexico’s original beach destinations. Since then, ocean-front resorts continue to multiply, chic vacation homes crown the hilltops, and many colonial buildings are now beautifully restored vacation rentals, restaurants, nightspots, boutiques, and museums.

The El Cid Resorts, a local family-owned business, got its start during those early days and has blossomed into a Mexico-wide collection of beach resorts, still family owned and operated. I stayed at the El Cid Marina Beach Resort, a contemporary-style property overlooking the Mazatlán Marina, with a private beach only a minute away by the free water-taxi.

Day one found me, predictably, lounging under a palapa, michelada in hand, enjoying the ocean view and strolling mariachis at the tiki-themed Molokay restaurant, a beachfront institution since 1954. Pure heaven. But it had been an adventure getting there. I was on Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island), Mazatlán’s popular offshore islet, with 5 miles of beaches, tiny villages, beach restaurants, and a few boutique hotels. Like everyone, I took the 20-minute ferry ride across the harbor and then climbed into an open-air tram that was pulled by a farm tractor to get to the beachfront restaurant.

Another creative mode of transportation, the Pulmonia, like an oversized golf cart with a driver, were my wheels the next day, perfect for touring Mazatlán’s famous malecon (a seaside boardwalk), the largest in Mexico. From the Centro Historico, it parallels the ocean for 13 miles, with beaches, strolling entertainers and vendors, restaurants, shops, and nightclubs. The Pulmonia even made it up Icebox Hill for sweeping views of the city and down into town, where I hopped off to explore touristy items at the Mercado and view the gigantic fresh-from-the-sea shrimps at the street-side Fisherman’s Market. Mazatlán is the world’s shrimp capital, bringing in more than 40 tons annually. “The configuration of the ocean floor is the ideal shrimp habitat,” explained Rodolfo Osuna, my guide and proud Mazatlán native.

In the Centro Historico, I was impressed by the beautiful Mazatlán Cathedral, completed in 1899, and the equally ornate 19th century Angela Peralta Theater.

Night was falling as I walked across Plaza Machado, the city’s principal square in the 1880s, and up the stairs of a grand colonial former residence now home to Restaurante Casa 46, helmed by Chef Marino Maganda, a founder of the New Mazatlán Cuisine movement. Looking down from a table on the restaurant’s coveted second-story balcony, I watched the twinkling lights and stylish sidewalk café scene below. Chef Maganda’s menu was exquisite including delicious mushroom cappuccino (way more than soup) and lamb osso bucco.

From the beach into the Sierra Madre Mountains took about an hour on the High Country Tour, but centuries into the past at the gold and silver mining towns of Concordia and Copala, both founded in 1565. Furniture and pottery-making studios lined the road into Concordia, now famous for hand-carved furniture. In the city square, I couldn’t resist taking a selfie in the gigantic rocking chair, artfully placed in front of its 18th century San Sebastian Church.

Farther into the mountains, Copala appeared like something out of a fairytale. Its church is untouched since opening in 1748, facing the small cobblestone square. We lunched at Alejandro’s Restaurante — famous for banana cream pies — set in a colonial mining headquarters building across from the church. “Was this a fireplace?” I asked my server about a beautiful mantel with a blocked-off opening beneath.

“No, it’s the entrance to a mineshaft,” she answered. “Whoa,” I said, backing away. That was a surprise. As was the 4-foot-long iguana lounging quietly on a palm leaf outside my window when I returned to the resort.

Just a few delightful examples that Mazatlán offers more than you expect.

To learn more, visit GoMazatlan.com (www.gomazatlan.com).  



Feb 2020


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