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All About Mazatlan – Mexico

ugly Mazatlan

ugly Mazatlan

All About Mazatlan – Mexico

Mazatlan is a highly developed seaside resort area on Mexico’s Pacific coast. It’s situated nearly in the middle of the country’s long, long coast, which puts Mazatlan a few hours north of Mexico’s even more famous resort areas of Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco.

It’s also directly across from Baja Peninsula’s southernmost tip. In fact, Mazatlan has one of the main ferry services between Baja and mainland Mexico.

Early in Mazatlan’s resort history famous movie stars used to visit. Many stayed there while filming Westerns up in Durango, about 3 hours inland from Mazatlan and way, way up on the central plateaus, full of vast flat scrubby land with cacti.

Mazatlan has miles and miles of golden sand beaches with several huge rocks just off the coast, which make for very picturesque daytime views and even better sunsets.

Mazatlan Beach and offshore rocksThe original town also has a core historic district full of renovated buildings, churches and plazas.

All sounds great, right?

It certainly sounded fab to me – miles of beaches and a colonial town? I was in…

Until I arrived. That’s when I discovered that today Mazatlan is exactly my idea of a beach-side nightmare! Look up the word ‘nightmare’ in the dictionary and I’m sure there must be a picture of Mazatlan.

While the long, long beaches are indeed very pretty and the offshore rock islands very picturesque, the development running alongside it all is absolutely horrible. Mile after mile of ugly concrete resorts and hotel towers line the entire beachfront. Behind that is a roaring highway, full of traffic and lined on both sides by a never-ending series of chain fast-food restaurants, bars, touristy Mexican taco places, souvenir shops, gas stations and convenience stores. It’s a total mess!

It’s like the Mexican version of Phuket or Koh Samui Islands in Thailand or notorious Kuta Beach in Bali. All those places I also consider total nightmares. Exactly the places I evade like all hell.

To make matters worse, all the hotels in Mazatlan are those icky lower to middle-class mid-range, very mainstream family vacation resorts. The architecture is awful. The interiors tacky. The facilities full of noisy children yelling and racing around. Loudspeakers blare out the latest game for the kiddies or exercise programs for adults. Yeeee-ukkkk-oooo!

It’s the kind of place I want to race away from as soon as I arrive.

Unfortunately for me, I had to stay a full week in Mazatlan. In a residential area right behind the horrid Hotel Zone. I was on assignment to inspect seven resorts there. Lord have mercy on me!

So I had to make the best of it. I tried to focus on Mazatlan’s good points and the opportunities I had. For one thing, I had a bike to ride during my first two days. I cycled the long malecon (seaside pedestrian walk) into town and back each day. Except for the roaring traffic right beside me on the highway, I enjoyed pleasant rides along the ocean with views of beach and coastline.

I also took long beach walks every evening, doing my best to ignore all the ugly buildings, hordes of families & children, and groups of drunken young Mexican guys. During the day I worked on my tan – carefully – one hour per day.

undeveloped beach at Stone Island - MazatlanI also made a couple worthwhile excursions in Mazatlan. One day I visited acclaimed Stone Island, which has an actual ‘au naturale’ beach, sans hotels or chain restaurants or skyscrapers. Whew, what a relief!

Another day I visited Mazatlan’s lighthouse, perched atop a small rocky headland just south of town. And I finally located the elusive historic district, where I admired the few pretty buildings and the small art museum.

But my very best day in Mazatlan was courtesy of one of the resorts I reviewed. Beautiful Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort invited me to the Hydrotherapies Room at their Armonia Spa, voted as one of the world’s Top 20 Spas in the World by Conde Naste!

 at Armonia Spa hydrotherapy room

at Armonia Spa hydrotherapy room

I luxuriated in the various baths, specialty showers and eucalyptus-scented steam room for over two hours. Fully relaxed, afterward I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around the luxurious resort property, full of landscaped gardens, an isolated & slightly wild beach and lovely sitting areas with panoramic views over the resort and Pacific coast. The gardens even have free-roaming Pink Flamingoes and Black Swans!

Aside from those few excursions, since it was best to otherwise escape the horror of Mazatlan, I retreated each day to my accommodation to get a chunk of work done and de-stress while listening to my favorite music. That way I would have a lot more free time the follow week when I could escape Mazatlan all together and finally enjoy a great, undeveloped, chilled-out beach area in San Blas, about three hours south.

glimpse of Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort from their slightly wild beach

glimpse of Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort from their slightly wild beach

So despite it’s horrid over-developed and ugly Hotel Zone (and equally ugly town area) Mazatlan does have a few unmarred beauty spots, pretty coastal views and long, sweeping beaches.

I personally would never like to return. But people who like beaches backed by big hotels and lots of city stuff and traffic would probably find Mazatlan really great. I know all the locals I met seem to think Mazatlan is absolutely wonderful. All I can say is, “different strokes for different folks!”

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