Mazatlan: A historic colonial city on the beach
It’s a story of old and new – a colonial city, laid-back beach bars and perfect sunsets.
From the Historic District (Old Town) with its cobblestone roads to the Golden Zone with its new eight-km malecón (boardwalk) to the nearby charming town of El Quelite, Mazatlan has it all, offering visitors the best of a two-world getaway – a relaxing beach vacation and an authentic, cultural Mexican experience.
Located on Mexico’s Pacific coast, north of Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan – which recently came away from Hurricane Willa unscathed – is known as “The Pearl of the Pacific,” but remains a bit of a hidden secret among Canadians, especially those in the east. This is due, in part, because of a lack of direct access. But Sunwing is doing its part to take care of that, offering more direct service than any other carrier. New for this winter are weekly flights from Montreal, operating from Dec. 18 until April 16, 2019, to go along with service from Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon.
The tour operator recently hosted a fam of about 160 travel agents to Mazatlan, and the feedback has been very positive. “It’s very authentic,” said one. “It’s got that Mexican feel, you feel like you’re really in Mexico.”
For Andrew Dawson, chief operating officer for the Sunwing Travel Group, it was his first trip to the destination, and he was suitably impressed.
“It’s a good, affordable option. It represents the real Mexico,” he said. “Guests will feel like they’ve had a real Mexican vacation, not just a stay at an all-inclusive complex.”
He added that it’s a great option for those that love Mexico and the “been there, done that” crowd who have been to Cancun, etc. many times.
“There’s so much to do,” said Dawson. “I would encourage guests to get out of their resorts and explore. We have a full range of Sunwing Experiences.”
Accommodation options include the all-inclusive Riu Emerald Bay, overlooking Brujas Beach. Features include weekly beach parties, water sports, daily kids club, and more. Sunwing clients also enjoy exclusive “RIU-topia” inclusions such as unlimited à la carte dining and spa discounts.
Other options include The Local Hotels Mazatlan, located on a pristine stretch of sand beach, Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort & Spa, a top-rated family resort, and El Cid Castilla Beach Hotel. What to do, what to see
Sporting 12 miles of coastline, Mazatlan is a beach lovers and watersports enthusiasts’ dream come true, offering everything from surfing and parasailing to sport fishing, kayaking and paddle surfing. Visitors can even watch cliff divers.
For duffers, there’s two golf courses, and for sunsets, there’s not much better.
If the season is right, visitors can go whale-watching, December to March, with many tours offering guaranteed sightings. Baseball fans can take in a Venados de Mazatlán game, of the Mexican Pacific League.
Mazatlan’s Golden Zone, or tourist area, is home to world-class resorts, restaurants and shops, as well as several markets. In Old Mazatlan, travellers can admire 19th-century neoclassical architecture and churches (including the towering Immaculate Conception Basilica), as well as quaint cafés and plazas.
Other points of interest include the lighthouse (El Faro), located at the summit of El Creston hill and one of the tallest natural lighthouses in the world; Mazatlan Aquarium, featuring 34 saltwater tanks, 17 freshwater tanks and an aquatic theatre. A new aquarium is currently under construction; Pino Suarez Open Market, the oldest and largest market in Mazatlan, and located right downtown.
Mazatlan is also known for its cuisine and is especially renowned for its fresh seafood and regional specialties. Recommended pit stops: Fat Fish, known for its ribs, Panama, and Joe’s Oyster Bar (a nightclub on the beach), all located in the Golden Zone.
For those that make it to El Quelite, a visit to El Mesond Los Laureanos is a must. Using only locally grown produce – there’s no junk food here – the restaurant is one of the most famous in all of Mexico. Think homemade cheeses, etc. Be sure to speak with owner Marcos Osuna, a renowned advocate of the region.
Other excursions can be made to the Three Islands: Lobos, Venados and Pajaros (Sea Lions Island, Deer Island and Bird Island, respectively). Each are ecological reserves for goats, deer and numerous species of birds indigenous to Mazatlan. A fourth option is Stone Island, known for its beautiful beach where visitors can ride ATVs or go horseback riding.
Like many Mexican cities, Mazatlan is renowned for its annual festivals and celebrations. The city’s Carnaval (or Mardi Gras) has a 120-year tradition and ranked one of the most eminent in the world, second largest to Brazil.
Seeing Mazatlan the Sunwing way
Available Sunwing Experiences in Mazatlan – which are commissionable and allow clients to pay upfront in Canadian dollars – include: Stone Island Tour; Deer Island; Snorkel BBQ Beach Party; Mazatlan Night Out; Copala Colonial Tour; Canopy Tour & Mezcal Tasting; Quelite Tequilla Tour; Jungle Tour; Durango One Day; ATV Tour.
Editor’s note: Sunwing’s team on the ground in Mazatlan is top notch, very helpful and knowledgeable. Agents’ clients are advised to make use of them – they’re there to help out with any issues or concerns.