Mazatlan Reinvigorated

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The dedicated silver-haired Canadian who rollerblades up and down Mazatlan’s beachfront boardwalk every day is never alone. The 4.5-mile malecon is always busy, but even more so in the late afternoons as strollers enjoy the Pacific breezes. Some form part of the almost 9,000 full-time residents from Canada and the U.S. Many don’t personally know their fellow passersby but still say hello, since they see each other every single day. Mazatlan is buzzing in every respect.

Indeed, this past summer brought a new daily nonstop flight from Dallas via American Airlines, the international Quiksilver Surf Classic—so successful that the multinational company has already signed up for next year—and much foreign investment, including state-of-the-art high-rises in Emerald Bay and lots of meetings business for the beautiful Mazatlan International Center. And as if that’s not enough for naysayers, more than two million visitors in 2010 says it all, says Julio Birrueta, director of marketing for theMazatlan Hotel Association. “This is a tourism destination, a place to have fun,” he states. This is, after all, the birthplace of Señor Frog’s, Pacifico beer and possibly the good life. Of course, fishing aficionados know that this is one of Mexico’s top angling destinations; foodies are aware of this as well, especially since Mazatlan is world-famous for its fat, juicy shrimp. Golfers know that it’s the site of great courses, including La Marina Golf Course in the burgeoning area of Marina Mazatlan. But that’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

around town All three sections of Mazatlan—the Golden Zone, Old Mazatlan and New Mazatlan—are growing. The Golden Zone is known for its hotels, nightlife and swimmable beaches, and those traveling with kids might want to stop by the Mazatlan Aquarium, which offers sea lion shows and the chance—for adults—to swim with nurse sharks. Not far off is Diego’s Beach House, a great spot for “salsipuedes”—shrimp tacos—and perhaps a ToniCol, a local and very yummy vanilla cola. The bus marked Sabalo Centro is a good way to see the Golden Zone and the boardwalk and reach the center of Mazatlan for less than $1.

In the Golden Zone, there’s Emporio Mazatlan, a member of Summit Hotels & Resorts, with ocean views from all 133 rooms and suites. A big plus to this hotel—besides the beautiful pool area, hammocks and day beds overlooking the beach—is its proximity to the aquarium, the baseball stadium and Fiestaland, the city’s club-and-disco complex. From here, and from much of the Golden Zone and Old Mazatlan, it’s easy to spot three small islands sitting side by side. Emporio Mazatlan and other hotels can help arrange snorkeling and other excursions. Rates at the hotel start at about $127 per night.

Old Mazatlan and its Historic Center are also enjoying renewed popularity with new galleries and shops, plus hundreds of 19th century buildings protected as national landmarks. Those who spend some time enjoying the shoreline in town get to admire the different monuments by the boardwalk—to Pacifico, to the continuity of life, to the open-aired, only-in-Mazatlan vehicles known as pulmonias. The Historic Center is the home of trendy sidewalk cafes and bars, the gorgeous and still-working Angela Peralta Theater—built in the 1870s and now housing an award-winning dance company—and a seemingly nonstop roster of live performances and cultural events. The city’s cathedral is another unique stop, as each of its stained-glass windows features a Star of David.

Those who’d rather stay in Old Mazatlan, within walking distance of the historic center and its many attractions, have a gorgeous option in Casa Lucila. Owner Conchita Valades de Boccard and her husband—transplants from San Francisco—commandeered the restoration of this 19th century mansion and designed eight big rooms that are named after Conchita and her seven sisters. The hotel is named after their mother. In front of the hotel is a sculpture to famous Mazatleco actor and singer Pedro Infante, with an eyeful of the Pacific beyond. Not far is El Mirador, from where cliff divers jump into the sea. Rates here run from $65 to $195 during low season, depending on the room.

shiny & new One advantage to Mazatlan is that there is no shortage of varied hotel products, including many new and recent openings. In New Mazatlan, the Emerald Bay area is home to three favorites: the Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort & Spa and its vast gardens, roaming flamingos and neoclassic-like buildings; the more intimate and very new Crowne Plaza, which comes with a sushi bar and lets guests do little more than jump between the pool and the beach; and the RIU Emerald Bay, which is a world of its own. Budget-conscious families who still want that beachfront experience, not to mention the all-inclusive concept complete with nightly shows, will love the family-friendly RIU and its art deco lobby. Rates here start at $72 pp per night dbl, with kids staying for free.

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