There is something seductive about Mazatlan. The destination has an intoxicating, authentic essence. Elegantly unpolished, Mazatlan is on the brink of a renaissance as local government is pouring in investment by the millions. This is all good for the destination, which has been working hard to regain its footing after reports of drug violence a few years back.
Still, with investment comes development, affluence and a changed tourism landscape. This is certainly good news for Mazatlan and Mexico overall, but as of now Mazatlan is still in that sweet spot of quintessential Mexican soul. And this is why now is the time to visit.
The city on the Sea of Cortes offers something few other destinations in Mexico can: the charm and history of colonial Mexico combined with the country's iconic beach life. Strolling the cobblestone streets of downtown is evocative of Old Havana, or historic Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Colonial Mazatlan has seen the influence of Spain, France and even Asia, thanks to the city's mercantile history. And a recent investment is enabling the city to renovate and restore much of the beauty that makes this part of the city so spectacular.
Next year the city will host the annual Tianguis Turistico event, and until then the government will be working hard to put the finishing touches on the city. The 13-mile-long malecon is undergoing a face-lift, redoing the path, brightening up the art and giving a makeover to El Faro Lighthouse.
The cultural offerings of Mazatlan are also being redone, such as the Angela Peralta Theater, which was recently refurbished. Officially opened in 1874 as the Rubio Theater, it was renamed the Angela Peralta Theater after the death of the internationally renowned opera singer from an epidemic of yellow fever contracted onboard a ship as she arrived at the port in 1883. Art walks fan out from the Plaza Machado and wind down the city's cobblestone streets.
A vendor at Mazatlan’s Mercado Pino Suarez, opened in 1900. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mazatlan Tourism Board
A trip to the nearby Mercado Pino Suarez rewards travelers with a vibrant display of fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, artisan cheeses, meats, chicken and a colorful flourish of local souvenirs. Opened in 1900 and referred to as the Iron Palace, the market has notable French influence, recalling the open ironwork of the Eiffel Tower, a passion of then-president of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz.
If staying downtown, there are two hotels that ought to be at the top of the list: the Jonathon Hotel Boutique and Casa Lucila Hotel Boutique. Jonathon Hotel Boutique is a neo-modern hotel in the heart of Mazatlan's Centro Historico, with just 18 rooms. Bedrooms give off an almost lounge-like essence with backlit headboards, opaque glass accents and bathrooms with black and white accents and deep soaking tubs. But the piece de resistance is the rooftop bar and restaurant with views over downtown and the cathedral.
Casa Lucila is the hip and funky hotel with a decidedly Mexican vibe. A rooftop infinity pool overlooks the sea and the crescent stretch of beach downtown. There are only eight rooms in the property, each with its own unique name and design. The restaurant serves Sinaloan cuisine for breakfast and lunch, with an outdoor patio overlooking the sea. There is also a small spa featuring one-hour treatments for $60 each.
A street in El Quelite, with its red-tile roofs, pastel-colored colonial architecture and cob-blestone streets. Photo Credit: Meagan Drillinger
Travel outside of Mazatlan to find yourself in El Quelite. Marked by red-tile roofs, pastel-colored colonial architecture, cobblestone streets and brilliant bursts of bougainvillea, El Quelite is quintessential Mexican countryside. In the town explore the traditional bakery, with a brick oven manned by an 82-year-old veteran of bread making.
After a visit to the Our Lady of Guadalupe church, and the traditional Mexican cemetery, head over to El Meson de los Laureanos, the most famous restaurant in the state of Sinaloa and one of the most famous restaurants in Mexico. This charming hacienda-turned-restaurant gives new meaning to farm to table, as courtyard is teeming with iguanas, parrots and the occasional roaming chicken. Behind the restaurant is a small farm with donkeys and a goat. The menu here is nothing short of exceptional, with fresh, soft cheeses; guacamole; salsas; grilled meats; quesadillas; and more, all displayed on brightly colored terra cotta pottery. The experience is more museum meets zoo than sit-down lunch, but that's part of its undeniable charm and curiosity.
Several airlines recently added nonstop service to Mazatlan: United out of Chicago and Houston, Delta out of Minneapolis and Sun Country out of Minneapolis and Denver. For more on Mazatlan, go to www.visitmexico.com/en/main-destinations/sinaloa/mazatlan.