Aztecs at nightMazatlan sits on the Pacific coast of Mexico just south of the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Although known for it’s resorts, the city of Mazatlan has a population of over 350,000, and was a prosperous port town before it became a tourist destination. Sinaloa, the Mexican state where Mazatlan resides, is known for its abundant agriculture, which makes it an excellent destination for good fresh authentic Mexican food.

I stayed at the lovely El Cid Marina resort. It’s a very tranquil place, and it wasn’t hard to get relaxed watching the palm trees flow in the breeze and the boats in the marina bobbing on the tide. It is one of many of the resorts in the Zona Dorada area of Mazatlan. With miles and miles of beach and a boardwalk second only to Rio De Janero in length throughout Latin America, Mazatlan has everything that you are looking for in a beach destination. Bars, restaurants and shops line the strand. Towering Rocky Islands along the coastline make for breathtaking views, and statues depicting themes that are important to the history and the culture of Mazatlan stand at regular intervals on the boardwalk.

Olas Atlas at night by Jason Fitzpatrick on In The Know TravelerFollowing the advice of the Moon Handbook Mexico edition, I decided to go a little off the beaten path of sun, sand and resorts and visited Olas Altas (Old Town) Mazatlan. In the 40's, 50's and 60's, movie stars like John Wayne and Gary Cooper stayed in the beautiful old European-style hotels along the Machado Plazuela. However, when the giant resorts of the Zona Dorada opened up, the older parts of town fell out of favor and into disrepair. Thankfully, in the past decade there has been a major effort to restore the charming old neighborhood. One of the best examples of the restoration is the Angela Peralta theater, named for the famous opera singer who passed away in Mazatlan days before she had a chance to perform. It was one of the first buildings to be restored, and it is a classy and beautiful colonial tropical architecture. On a warm and beautiful December night, I was fortunate enough to dine on the patio of the Pedro & Lola restaurant on the plaza. With excellent fresh seafood, Christmas decorations illuminating the plaza and great live music it was truly a night to remember. The restaurants owner J. Alfredo Gomez Rubio joined us. He was not only a charming host, but he is also one of men responsible for restoring the neighborhood. Like the theater, the restaurant is named for two famous singers who performed in Mazatlan. Olas Altas is not to be missed.

Also highlighted in the Moon Handbook was the Caterdral Basilica de la Concepcion, Mazatlan’s main cathedral. It’s a truly impressive structure with two spires and a beautiful ornate facade. I happened to be visiting during the Our Lady Of Guadeloupe Feast Day. The Cathedral was packed with families, and all off the young children were dressed as Aztecs to commemorate Mexico’s conversion to Catholicism. It is one of the biggest celebrations of the year throughout Mexico.

What makes Mazatlan remarkable is that visitors can explore the beautiful beaches for a resort experience, but can also experience the beautiful warm culture of Mexico in an authentic way. There’s an amazing variety of activities and places to see. It really is a destination with something for everyone.

Written and photographed by Jason Fitzpatrick

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