Although Mazatlan is by no means a new destination in Mexico, it certainly is one of the countrys best kept secrets.
The colonial city on the Sea of Cortez fell on hard times a few years ago in terms of safety concerns, but has fought its way back with a vengeance. While still a little rough around the edges, Mazatlan is nothing short of ruggedly beautiful, with historical architecture, jungle-blanketed mountains and stunning sunsets.
It might be a tourist town, but Mazatlan still retains its true Mexican soul. In the past few years, investment money has started to trickle into the destination, as services and infrastructure continued to improve. If 2017 was the year for Mazatlan to ascend, 2018 will be the year it officially arrives. Not only is the destination set to be the host of the next Tianguis Turistico, the country's annual tourism tradeshow, but the colonial city on the sea is investing millions in its infrastructure to match a rise in demand.
International tourism to Mazatlan is up more than 8 percent for 2017. The summer season brought more than half a million tourists, which is a 13 percent increase from the same period in 2016. Through August, roughly one and a half million tourists visited the destination, a year-over-year increase of 12 percent. Because of this increased demand, Mazatlan is expecting a more than 30 percent increase in available air seats, as well as more airlines flying to the destination. This will boost existing markets, as well as open up new markets for tourism. United Airlines, for example, recently announced the introduction of nonstop flights from both Chicago and Houston to Mazatlan for the winter season.
Hotels are also growing in the city. A Holiday Inn recently opened, and properties under construction include a Courtyard by Marriott, Radisson Park Inn and the Ibis Hotel near the convention center.
For a downtown boutique colonial experience in the heart of Old Mazatlan, consider hotels like Hotel Jonathan or Casa Lucila. For the best all-inclusive experience, El Cid Hotels & Resorts has the monopoly. And for outstanding customer service, Pacific Palace is at the top of my list.
Some of the changes in Mazatlan were highlighted at the 23rd annual Fiesta Amigos Event, which marked tourism initiatives in the city. The four-day affair, which wrapped earlier this month, drew more than 200 tour operators, wholesalers, airlines, agencies and media outlets. It happened to coincide with Dia de los Muertos — always a festive event in Mazatlan.
Other highlights include the facelift to the 13-mile malecon. The seaside promenade is being extended and renovated to be more accessible to runners, bikers and walkers. Monuments and landmarks are also getting a refresh as part of the city's renaissance project. Mazatlan's culture is being reinforced in the newly refurbished Angela Peralta Theater, which originally opened in 1874. Other renovations include the preservation of the 19th century Spanish/French/Italian colonial architecture in the Centro Historico. The Plaza Machado, the heart of the area, is surrounded by fine-dining restaurants, fruit bars, bistros, craft beer bars, galleries and boutiques. From Plaza Machado, tourists can now join art walks down the cobblestone streets.