By Brandon Schultz
Directly across the Gulf of California from Los Cabos, Mazatlán is surging back into the Mexican spotlight as the nation’s fastest growing destination by flights and tourism investment. Considerably older than the country’s flashier resort towns (Cancún, Los Cabos, etc.)
Mazatlán isn’t just for hotels; it’s an actual city, and that means it comes with recognizable heritage, culture and a much greater variety of attractions (and eats) than its much younger counterparts, feeding the modern traveler’s insatiable appetite for authenticity.
Dive in to the seafood spectacle
With the largest shrimping fleet in Mexico (about 400 boats) and the largest tuna fleet in Mexico and Central America, it’s only natural that seafood is the hallmark of Mazatlán cuisine. For a signature Mazatlán experience, head to El Cid El Moro Beach Hotel and have lunch at La Concha, overlooking the sparkling sea and serving up the best of its bounty. Order the seafood grill for an array of lobster, sea bass, shrimp and octopus, but save room for a Mazatlán-style campechana, a gorgeous parfait of scallop, octopus, salmon, cucumber and onion in a light broth. Afterwards, head to El Cid Marina Beach Hotel for a sunset ride on the property’s grand bay cruiser, including snacks and an open bar during the three-hour jaunt along the coast.
El Cid Resorts operates two additional hotels in Mazatlán with shuttle service connecting all four, providing ultimate convenience and a stress-free stay. The expansive property contains 22 restaurants and bars, and an all-inclusive plan is the ideal way to experience all of them. Optional Club Elite service offers added benefits like VIP check-in and check-out and access to a private lounge where complimentary drinks and canapés are served throughout the day. Throughout El Cid’s four properties you’ll find fitness centers, spa facilities, tennis courts, a golf course, beaches, heated pools, and water sports among other traditional amenities you’d expect from any full-service resort.
Walk (or ride) the malecón
If you’re familiar with Latin American coastal towns, you’re no stranger to a malecón. These picturesque esplanades line the shores of many of the region’s best destinations, but Mazatlán is home to the longest in Mexico and, in fact, one of the longest in the world. Join the Mazatlecos as they take advantage of cooler morning temperatures for their daily exercise, afternoon bites from street food vendors, shimmering sunset views in the evening and after-hours drinks from the many bars and restaurants that line the 13-mile walkway. If you plan your visit carefully, you can also find yourself swept up in the world’s third largest Carnival celebration, taking place along Mazatlan’s famous malecón each year.
Feeling exhausted after a day of exploring? Feel free to ride home in a pulmonia, Mazatlán’s unique open-air taxi resembling a tricked-out golf cart. They rarely featuring doors, so hold on to your cell phone (and everything else).
Taste the “tequila”
Technically speaking, agave spirits can no longer be labeled “tequila” unless they come from the state of Jalisco and a few neighboring municipalities, so you can’t exactly go on an official tequila tasting in Mazatlán, located in the state of Sinaloa, but you can find the same spirit, and at a distillery with a dramatic heritage dating back to 1876. Take a short trip to Los Osuna, where a scandalous family history of political rebellion, assassination and mayhem may have actually led to the legislation limiting tequila to Jalisco in what some consider a revenge law against the Osuna family. In 2000, the fifth generation of Osunas received permission from the Mexican president to resume production and distribution of its historic spirit, but the legacy brand still can’t call its product “tequila,” of course. Visit the romantic property for a step-by-step tour of the distillation process and witness the production first-hand, from grinding the agave to hand-stickering the finished product, and pick up a bit of “distilled agave” to bring home a piece of tequila history.
Visit the villages
Among Mazatlán’s most charming features is its collection of neighboring villages, so travel a few miles from Los Osuna to the 16th-century village of La Noria to start your village adventure. The once bustling mining town still benefits from remnants of the industry today but is better known now as a quiet village prized for its traditional craftsmanship, particularly leatherwork. Stop into a couple of workshops and explore the centuries-old techniques still employed on saddles, shoes and more. You’re welcome to simply take pictures and ask questions (you’ll find some English speakers around), but savvy travelers will be glad they saved their souvenir budget for these villages, where the highest quality handmade goods are available for less than the cost of airport trinkets, and the local artisans will certainly appreciate the business.
While village-hopping, be sure to stop by El Quelite and have a bite at El Meson de los Laureanos for an experience that stimulates all (yes, all) the senses. The sprawling indoor/outdoor restaurant serves a wide variety of traditional dishes from the tamest (basic tacos) to the more adventurous (sliced tongue) throughout countless spaces and colorful courtyards packed with art, artifacts, history and congenial commotion, including random visits from plenty of village animals. Meander far enough and you’ll find yourself among a menagerie of pets including exotic birds, pigs, turtles and a herd of goats living in abandoned bar room. If you visit at the right time, you may even catch a show from one of the region’s famous dancing horses.