Mazatlán, with its population of nearly a half-million, makes for a bit of a culture shock to us small-towners. La Paz feels like a sleepy little village by comparison. Mazatlan is a real metropolis with dozens of major stores (they even have multiple Walmarts), several movie theaters, a beautiful brand new mall, hundreds of beachfront hotels and condos, world-class restaurants, a downtown historic district, a major airport and cruise ship terminal…and thus loads of people. Tourists, taxis and trinkets, oh my.
In a city of this size, it takes us a while to figure things out. Daily, I research “things to do” via the internet. Tripadvisor.com & mazatlanlife.com & mazatlantoday.net are go-to sites. But the most important and accurate method of obtaining info on a new city is to mercilessly interrogate other newly-arrived cruisers. What did you discover today, how do you get there, was the restaurant good, how much was it, where exactly is that tequila factory… etc., etc. Several of us arrived within a few days, so we are all on the same discovery train together, comparing notes and exchanging helpful tips when we run into each other on the docks. But the best way to find things? Lots of walking.
Not Your Typical Tourist
We prefer to take our time and do one new activity a day. And we never run around all day and all night like typical tourists on a 7-day time-crunch. Yes, I do remember those days… force-feeding each precious moment chock full of activities within our severely limited amount of vacation-time, thereby craving another vacation after our vacation and ultimately catching a cold from all the stress. Funny, I still have some difficulty releasing that mentality. But oh, how freeing to possess this luxury of time; we are immeasurably fortunate.
But for practicality’s sake, going slow saves us from contracting that dreaded and contagious disease “travel trauma”, symptoms which can include: fatigue, sluggishness, irritability leading to extreme whining, severe hunger (again leading to extreme whining), loss of orientation or just plain lost, sunburn, dehydration, urge to pee with no restroom in sight and wrenched back from walking 10 miles in one day. Wait, OK, sometimes these things still happen. Still, we try not to recreate forced marches, Brian IS retired after all. Plus, heck… we just wouldn’t want to tax ourselves. Need more hot tub time. Not less.
First Two Weeks in Mazatlán
So it took about a week just to get our bearings; and another week just to finally get comfortable with the place. The size of this city is bit intimidating at first, but we have warmed up to it and, after peeling back some layers, found it very interesting. Here’s an approximate rundown of our 2 weeks.
Christmas: Arrive after 48 hours at sea. Check-in, breakfast, tour pools and hotel grounds, relax, Christmas celebration dinner with buddy-boaters "Starfire".
Day 1: Wash the outside of the boat. (You’d be amazed how much salt can cling to a boat after only 3 days.) Clean and put everything away that’s strewn around inside from overnighting: (jackets, lee-cloths, blankets, sleeping bag, etc.) Discover pool. Internet rocks here!
Day 2: Taxi-ride to the mall to watch Star Wars with "Starfire". Yes, aside from getting the boat clean, this was our first priority. 2 tickets for @$9 total! Sipping wine and snacking on pizza while lounging in cushy recliner chairs is a divine way to see this great film. Fresh gelato in the mall!
Day 3: First venture downtown via 50 cent bus-ride with "Starfire". Walk through the crazy, claustrophobic-inducing Pino-Suarez market covering an entire city block and filled with everything from pig heads & pineapples to sombreros and buckets 'o shrimp. Stroll down the ocean-side Malecon. Stop at Hotel de Cima’s restaurant Del Mar 48: best breakfast skillet ever (loads of cheese + sour cream) and fresh OJ mimosas!
Day 4: Rest by pool. Too much walking yesterday! Hamburgers and drinks at the pool restaurant. Laundry day.
Day 5: Try another bus ride downtown. Buy veges at market. Discover the beautiful cathedral. Lunch near Plaza Machado, a quaint, colonial town square… finally, a quiet refuge in the midst of this big city. Buy fresh and uber-delicious brownies at Dolce Mami bakery.
Day 6: New Year’s Eve! Lovely potluck dinner on board "Sea Dancer" with "Harmony, BC" and "Starfire". Fireworks displays from multiple resorts kept us awake for hours upon hours!
Day 7: Walk 3 miles to the nearby Marina Mazatlan. Shrimp ceviche for lunch at Gus y Gus. Hot tub! It’s windy and “cold” today, so the hot tub is juuust right.
Day 8: Taxi to Walmart to re-stock cheese (OK other stuff too). Watch movies all day in the boat.
Day 9: Free shuttle ride to breakfast buffet on the beach at the sister hotel, El Cid Morro. Walk the tourist beach in the Hotel Golden Zone (Zona Dorada). Tour of the marina harbor and estuary in "Starfire’s" dinghy. Frosty cervezas at Chill & Grill on a warm day.
Day 10: A very long and very high walk to “El Faro”, the 2nd highest natural lighthouse in the world (after Gibraltar) at 523ft above sea level. Made it back to the historic district for lunch at Delirium for amazing tacos and delightful cucumber/mint water before we died of exhaustion.
Day 11: Too much stair-climber yesterday - Brian’s back got wrenched! Not going anywhere today. What did I say about taking it easy?
Day 12: Dinner and a walk down the Malecon with "Starfire" before they head south. Our friends on “Cuba Libre” arrived from the States. As did “Lokomaika’i” and “Swagman”, sailing in from Marina Palmira in La Paz. Lots of dockside chatting. Now that we’ve been here over a year, it’s funny how often we’ll see a sailboat show up in a marina and say “Hey look, it’s so-and-so!”
Day 13: Tacos al pastor y quesadillas with "Cuba Libre" at a delish taco stand. Discovered "gorditas", mildy sweet, puffed-up tacos for 6 pesos. That's about 35-cents. Night tour of the city by car with "Cuba Libre", for whom Maz is essentially their second home.
Staying for Carnaval
All in all, we can’t complain. We continue to peel back some of those layers and are discovering unique aspects of Mazatlán life. While it is a bit too busy of a city for our tastes, we will be staying through the first week of February to attend Carnaval. Mazatlán boasts (according to some websites) the 3rd largest Carnaval (Mardi Gras) in the world (after Rio and New Orleans) attracting upwards of 500,000 visitors. It is, at the very least, the oldest and possibly largest in Mexico, with only Veracruz rivaling. While we’re not exactly fond of crowds, we may as well stay an extra couple weeks and take advantage of the opportunity. Elaborate parades, delicious food, music galore, even a mock naval battle with fireworks...now THAT should be interesting!