Mazatlan Reinvigorated

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Then there’s Las Villas Hotel & Spa at the Estrella del Mar development, a world away from the hubbub of the city and even of New Mazatlan—it’s just 10 minutes away from the international airport, in fact. This is a great place for unwinding, with spacious rooms, small courtyards that are great for a low-key drink—perhaps after an awesome dinner at Los Delfines Restaurant—and no doubt the most private stretch of shoreline in the area. Estrella del Mar is home to the biggest turtle sanctuary in Mexico—last year it released more than 150,000 hatchlings—and is so serene, after a couple of hours on site it’s hard not to sign on the dotted line for one of the waterfront condos so many are already snatching up. Rates at Las Villas start at $120 per night; guests pay just $50 during low season for a round of golf at the beautiful 18-hole course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., cart included.

sports & side trips Just 20 miles northeast of Mazatlan in the tiny hillside town of El Quelite, an adorable place called El Meson de los Laureanos serves tasty Sinaloan dishes and lots of ambiance. Its owner, Dr. Marcos Osuna, is a long-time advocate of offerings outside of the city. “We should not let rural communities go down,” he explains. No need to worry—there is lots to do in the outskirts of Mazatlan, especially for those wanting to soak in the culture and the thrills.

One cool spot is Vinata Los Osuna (no relation to the kind doctor), where visitors can learn about the tequila process, explore the blue agave fields and buy a bottle of 100 percent Blue Agave Los Osuna, a recent multiple award winner at the World Spirit Competition in San Francisco. Not far is La Noria, a village known for its handcrafted leather goods.

Huana Coa Canopy Adventure, about 45 minutes outside of the city, is right next door to Los Osuna and offers a zipline adventure of nine crossings, 12 platforms and one last rappel from a giant tree to reach the ground. The entire experience, plus a nature walk, is priced at $75. The company also has horse trekking ($50) and ATV excursions ($75). An ATV-zipline combo experience is priced at $125.

what’s next Next year will see the opening of the new highway going east to Durango through the mountains, via tunnels and bridges. “It’s going to be a spectacular road that’s going to give Mazatlan a new dynamic, particularly because it’s going to open opportunities to develop tour circuits between such historic cities as Mazatlan and Durango, with the difference being the beach (in Mazatlan),” says Birrueta. The ride to Durango will take just 2.5 hours, he explains, which would make it a quick and highly scenic trip on one of Mexico’s famously comfy bus lines.

“Long term, we have Teacapan, the integrally planned resort area (developed by FONATUR) which will have more than 40,000 hotel rooms just 50 miles south of Mazatlan,” explains the director of marketing. “It already has its own airport and extends close to 7,000 acres…it should be a new Cancun.”

The biggest event coming up: Mazatlan’s 114th International Carnival, taking place Feb. 16-21, 2012. It’s one of the world’s biggest and most famous, with a week-long celebration of live music, dance, folklore, street parties and lots of culture.