Mazatlan, an easy-going beach city on the Mexican Riviera (1,000
air miles from Los Angeles and 200 miles north of Puerto Vallarta)
has long been noted as a family-friendly destination. On the same
latitude as Hawaii, Mazatlan is an intriguing old port city where
salty sailors from throughout the world once shipped out silver and
gold, giving the place a flavor that Hollywood often tries to
capture in swashbuckling period adventure movies. Festive and
diverse, Mazatlan is a comfortable haven for clients on holiday
with their children.
Take the beaches all 17 miles of eye-popping sand and surf.
Fifteen of them stretch northward from the original old city and
are bordered on one side by a seawall and a bustling boulevard of
beach resorts and lively sidewalk cafes and on the other by long,
Mazatlan is one of very few Mexican resort cities that allows
surfing in town great for the kids and ideal for parents who want
to keep an eye on them. Notable in-town surfing locations are Playa
Los Sabalos, Playa Los Gaviotas, and Los Pinos Beach, known by the
local dudes as “the Cannon.”
Along the breezy malecon (a popular seaside road), clients can
hop on an open-air, three-wheel pulmonia, a clever version of a
golf cart. Rattling like an old Model T Ford, they haul tourists to
the hotels and restaurants or up to Cerro del Vigia (Lookout Hill)
for a view of the harbor.
Another city vista and fun-filled family outing is the 45-minute
hike up Cerro del Creston to the El Faro Lighthouse tucked away at
the south end of town. The walk begins at the end of Paseo
Centenario near the sport-fishing docks. The lighthouse is the
second tallest in the world 447 feet above the sea. Only Gibraltar
is taller. On the way to El Faro, divers can be seen performing
swan dives from steep rocky cliffs at the south side of the city,
not unlike Acapulco’s famed cliff divers, but without the
Golfing families can tee off at the El Cid Golf & Country
Club, which has 27 holes, including a Lee Trevino nine-hole course.
Public courses include the Estrella Del Mar Golf Course, an
18-hole, 72-par beauty and the Club de Golf Campestre. Fees are in
the $70-to-$75 range. Kids can rent water-play equipment at the El
Cid’s Aqua Sport Center while their parents are golfing.
Families can experience the other side of Mazatlan and a bit of
history at Plaza Revolucion and the adjacent neo-Gothic-style
(1875) cathedral, six or seven blocks from the beach in the center
of town. Nearby is the Mercado Municipal the central marketplace
one of the largest, most complete and colorful shopping areas on
the coast and the city’s heart and soul. Hundreds of items,
including clothing, meat, vegetables and exotic fruits, are sold in
a maze of stalls and shops.
Minutes away to the south is the original main plaza, Plaza
Machado, replete with galleries, museums, sidewalk cafes and
carefully restored, 18th-century homes.
Concordia and Copala. Vista Tours will pick you
up at any hotel and take you on a six-hour trip via bus high into
the Sierra Madre foothills to the remote villages of Concordia and
Copala. The first stop is Concordia, a former mining town, filled
with baroque architecture and artists who create traditional
furniture and other handicrafts. Resident pigs wander the narrow,
cobbled streets while being serenaded by crotchety roosters.
From Concordia, the road sweeps 14 miles upward over the rocky
Magestral River to Copala, circa 1565, and a small central plaza in
front of the San Jose stone church, built in 1740 and among the
oldest in Sinaloa State. Ringed by mountains, Copala boasts views
of distant ridges and peaks, cattle ranches and a bit of silver
mining left over from the old days.
Lunch at Daniel Garrison’s restaurant is a highlight. The
personable and articulate Garrison, whose mother and grandparents
were born in Copala, serves traditional Mexican plates and a famed
banana cream coconut pie.
Visitors can see the old cemetery on the hill, choose from a
number of hiking trails or relax in the plaza.
The price for the excursion is $40 per person with lunch. Beer,
soft drinks and bottled water on the bus are included.
Other side trips include a three-hour City & Shopping Tour,
priced at $18 per person; a five-hour Tequila Tour to the arts and
crafts village of La Noria, then to La Vinata, the only tequila
distillery in the state of Sinaloa, and El Habal village and El
Habaleno restaurant. The price is $27 per person (there is also an
optional stop for lunch at El Habaleno).
Web site: www.vista tours.com.mx. All tours are
Where to Stay
With more than 8,000 rooms in Mazatlan, accommodation rates are
generally lower than those in other Mexican coastal resort
El Cid Mega Resort is Mexico’s largest self-contained resort
with four hotels: the Castilla Beach Hotel, the Marina El Cid Hotel
& Yacht Club, the Granada Country Club and the El Moro Beach
Hotel. Call 800-525-1925; Web site: www.el cid.com.
Following are medium-priced beach hotels that offer special
programs for families:
Hotel Playa, 800-762-5816, Web site: www.mazat
lan.com.mx; Los Sabalos Resort Hotel,
800-528-8760, Web site: www.mazatlan. com.mx; Pueblo Bonito
Resort, 800-990-8250, Web site: www.pueblobonito.com;
Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay, 800-990-8250, Web site:
www.pueblobonito.com; Riviera Beach Resort;
800-782-4298, Web site: www. mazatlan.com.mx; Royal Villas
Resorts, 800-898-3564, Web site: www.mazatlan. com.mx.
When You Book
High season is approximately Nov. 16 through March 15;
shoulder, March 16 through June 15; low, June 16 through Nov.
Mazatlan’s colorful Mardi Gras Carnival celebration
takes place the last weekend before Lent, during shoulder season.
Dating to the mid-1920s, Carnival is a celebration of fireworks,
parades, dancing and merry making. Advance reservations are
advised. Mazatlan Web sites: www.mazatlan.com.mx;