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Exquisite Mazatlan, the "Pearl of the Pacific," is located 674 miles northwest of Mexico City and is truly a tourists dreamland.Mazatlán is a pleasant, busy commercial port city located in Mexico's State of Sinaloa. The city, with a population of about 400,000 people, sweeps northward for 15 miles from the El Faro lighthouse, the highest in the Western Hemisphere.
A city housing nearly 750,000 people, Mazatlán is the single largest port in between the Panama Canal and Los Angeles. Mazatlán is packed with a myriad of engaging features and activities that make it a fabulous place to visit.The tremendous sportfishing, some of the best in the world, and the spacious, glorious beaches continue to be two of the most enticing features of Mazatlán. The golf scene is evolving and luring many tourists, as well. There aren't too many other places where you can tee off on a lush, sparsely populated course on a seventy-degree December morning. Mazatlán's elegant yacht harbor is becoming quite the destination for the rich and powerful. The best news of all is that the tremendous selection of accommodations and activities have not yet reached the masses, so the majority of resorts are less expensive in comparison to other Mexican destinations.
Old Mazatlán is known as the "Historic Zone" because of its culture and fantastic heritage. This region is an exciting place to do a little exploring. Recent restoration has truly enhanced the atmosphere of the area, and guided tours highlight the most fascinating aspects of Old Mazatlán. Sidewalk cafes and shopping make this a quite pleasurable experience.
Zona Dorada (the Golden Zone) houses the hustle and bustle of Mazatlán. This is the location where you can find the majority of the tourist hotels, most of the upper echelon restaurants, and a tremendously active nightlife. The Golden Zone is any place north of Punta Sábalo, and this is where one of Mazatlán's most well known city attractions is located. This party haven is called Fiesta Land, and it is certainly "party central" of Mazatlán. Fortunately, almost all of the attractions, nightlife, hotels, and clubs are within walking distance of one another.
The first settlers of Mazatlán were the Totorames. Hunters, gatherers, and fisherman, the Totorames inhabited Mazatlán until 1531, when the Spaniards settled. During that time, the area was rich in gold and silver, and the settlers, pirates, and everyone else who passed through tried desperately to get their hands on some of the precious metal. In 1806, the city was incorporated, and then, in the 1830s, a municipal
government was established. It was at that time that Mazatlán started to emerge as an ever-growing seaport. Since then, the port has grown to have one of the largest fishing fleets for shrimp and tuna in the world. Also a fabulous tourist resort, Mazatlán is opening first class hotels and premier restaurants all the time. 
Due to drug gang-related violence, Mazatlán has shrunk and become a boutique port on Mexican Riviera cruises; as recently as 2010, it was the third most popular port for ships making 7- and 10-day cruises from Los Angeles and San Diego to the Mexican Riviera, after Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. In 2015, ships arrive at the city's cruise ship pier at 8:00 am, and depart at either 5:00 or 6:00 pm. In 2015, Mazatlán is slated to host 151,300 passengers sailing on 69 ships
Docking & Local Transportation
As your ship approaches the port, Mazatlán seems to stretch for miles north from the port and the Old City. The resort area of the Zona Dorada, or Golden Zone, about 5 miles from the port and home to dozens of high-rise beachfront hotels, stretches a further 9 miles north. As you'll notice from the number of naval vessels, Mazatlán is also a Mexican naval base.
The cruise ship will dock at the peninsula comercial port area, located directly along Avenida Gabriel Layva and Avenida Barragan. Cruise ships dock about a mile east of centro old downtown. Most visitors head to the beaches in the Golden Zone further west.
The Cruise Terminal has a frenetic atmosphere, with shops stocked with local souvenirs, liquor stores and hovering timeshare salesmen offering free taxi rides or activities in exchange for attending a timeshare pitch.
Old Town Mazatlán is an easy 20 to 25 minute, one mile walk from the Cruise Terminal. Taxis, which are abundant, will take about 5 minutes to the center of the city. If you're planning to go to the Zona Dorada, it's a 20 minute ride.
Taxis from the port, white and green vehicles known as Eco Taxis (669/986-1111), are always plentiful and reasonable in price, averaging about $3 to $8 depending on your destination. A shuttle bus can be taken as well, and your whole family can ride for a reasonable $7.00. There is plenty of room for luggage, whichever means of transportation you decide to take. Any questions upon arrival should be directed to the English speaking Visitor Information center at (669/916-5160).
For cruisers who want to explore the city by car, National Rent-a-Car is located directly at the cruise terminal. You can also rent an open-air Pulmonia, which is a street-legal golf cart. 
Budget Car rental at (669/913-2000) or Hertz Car Rental at (669/913-6060) are two of the most popular. According to the U.S. Department of State, tourists should not travel alone beyond the Golden Zone and Old Mazatlan.
Tips and Considerations -  Mazatlán created a new tourist police force with casually dressed officers who speak English and ride bikes or drive Jeeps. Security cameras were installed throughout the tourist zone to watch the activity or even zoom in on license plates of suspicious vehicles. Despite the amped up security in Mazatlan, crime is still a potential problem. Do not carry large amounts of cash or valuables while in port, and keep your cruise pass in a safe and secure location, preferably in a travel belt. U.S. dollars and credit cards are accepted in Mazatlan. If you plan on taking cabs during your port day, bring along a few U.S. bills for cab fare and driver tips.
Things to See and Do
If you are able to tear yourself away from the glorious beach life that Mazatlán provides, there are a number of other entertaining and interesting activities to occupy your time. For a first-hand aquatic adventure try Flota Estrella (669/982-3878) and go on a deep sea dive.
For a break from the sun and a more tranquil adventure, visit the Acuario Mazatlán (Avenida de Los Deportes 111, 669/981-7815). Another fascinating spot to gather some insight is the Museo Arqueológico de Mazatlán (Calle Sixto Osuna 76, 669/981-1455). Across the street from the museum, art exhibits can often be found.
The glorious Teatro Angela Peralta (669/982-4446) features an assortment of wonderful performances for the whole family. This theater is an Italian style, 841 seat historic monument. Ballets are held at the Peralta regularly, along with other period performances, opera, jazz, and symphony concerts.
Horses can be rented, and you will be free to ride along Isla de la Piedra. There are daily kayaking trips on El Verde Comacho Ecological Lagoon that provide excitement and a fun-filled adventure.
Every Sunday, beginning at 8pm, a free fireworks show is held at the Avenida Rodolfo T. Loaiza 202. This wonderful display is visible from the Hotel Playa Mazatlán or the beach. A Fiesta Mexicana is available at this hotel as well, and features an open bar, buffet, live music, and dancing.
Two blocks south of the central plaza stands the lovely Teatro Angela Peralta, Carnaval 1024, Centro (tel. 669/982-4444; www.culturamazatlan.com), a national historic monument. Built between 1869 and 1874, the 841-seat Italian-style theater has three levels of balconies, two facades, and, in true tropical style, a lobby with no roof. The theater was named for one of the world's great divas, who, along with the director and 30 members of the opera, died in Mazatlán of cholera in an 1863 epidemic. Some city tours stop here; if you're visiting on your own, the theater is open daily from 9am to 6pm and allows tours for a nominal charge. It regularly schedules folkloric ballets, along with periodic performances of classical ballet, contemporary dance, symphony concerts, opera, and jazz. This theater is the home of Delfos, one of the most important contemporary dance companies in Mexico.
The 20-block historic area near the theater, including the small square Plazuela Machado (bordered by Frías, Constitución, Carnaval, and Sixto Osuna), abounds with beautiful old buildings and colorful town houses trimmed with wrought iron and carved stone. On weekends, the streets surrounding the plaza close to cars, giving artists, musicians, vendors, and street performers a chance to set up shop.
The Plaza Principal, also called Plaza Revolución, forms the heart of the city, filled with vendors, shoeshine stands, and people of all ages out for a stroll. At its center lies a Victorian-style wrought-iron bandstand with a diner-type restaurant underneath. Be sure to take in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, at Calle 21 de Marzo and Nelson, with its unusual yellow-tiled twin steeples and partially tiled facade.
The Mazatlan Aquarium
The Mazatlan Aquarium, built in 1980, is the largest aquarium in Mexico. Besides hosting more than 50 saltwater and freshwater aquariums that recreate the ecology of the Sea of Cortez, the Pacific Ocean and nearby lagoons, the aquarium is home to a botanical garden, a planetarium, a sea lion show and a bird theater where macaws and cockatoos perform acrobatics and musical numbers. Brave visitors can don diving equipment and enter the central fishbowl aquarium to swim with a pair of Nurse Sharks. The Mazatlan aquarium is located across the street from the main beach within a one-hectare city park about midway between the historic old town and the Zona Dorada resort area.
Mazatlan Aquarium (or Acuario Mazatlan in Spanish) is the largest in Mexico and ranks among the finest in all of Latin America. Divided into a Botanic Garden and Aquarium, the Mazatlan Aquarium is dedicated to preserving and promoting marine ecosystems and marine species. To learn more about fun things to see and do at Mazatlan Aquarium, visit www.acuariomazatlan.com/?l=en.
Old Town
The old town section of Mazatlan is where tourism in the city began in the 1950s before moving up the beach to the tourist district of Zona Dorada in the following decades. But the old town area itself is an intact colonial style downtown that dates to the early 19th century and since the late 1990s has been increasingly restored and repopulated with boutique stores and gourmet restaurants which dot its cobblestone streets. The central Parque Revolution is a historic plaza filled with shady trees and benches and faces a cathedral with towering spires built in 1875. A museum of archaeology houses artifacts from the history and prehistory, and a museum of art showcases works by Mexican artists. The historic core opens onto Playa Las Olas, a small beach in a horseshoe cove that hosts a handful of restaurants and bars.
The Three Islands
Just off the coast of Mazatlan lie three islands preserved as a wildlife refuge. Their pristine beaches and shallow waters offer snorkeling opportunities. Deer Island, Bird Island and Goat Island are home to large seal colonies and many species of native birds. Guests can explore these islands by foot or watercraft. Tours leave daily from the marina at the El Cid Resort in the Zona Dorada, but visitors can book guided private sailboat or kayak trips
Deer Island Tours - Deer Island is located in the bay of Mazatlan and offers relaxing days in the sun and fun-filled adventures. Head to Deer Island for kayaking, reef snorkeling, hiking, swimming, banana boat ride, and volleyball. Day trips and tours includes lunch, drinks, beach activities and equipment for water sports and a bilingual tour guide. To learn more about things to do at Mazatlan's beautiful Deer Island, visit www.offertours.com/english/activities/kolonahe_kayaking_snorkeling.html.
Searching for a weeklong party? Mazatlán's Carnaval is an extravaganza that is truly an event of monumental proportions. This achievement in delight falls the week before Lent, either in February or early March. Carnaval enthusiasts travel from all over the world to take part in the celebration. In terms of size and magnitude, only the Carnaval held in Rio de Janiero and Mardi Gras in New Orleans top Mazatlán's. The event is highlighted by shows, parades, the crowning of the Carnaval queen, concerts, parties that last all night, and over 150 beverage and food vendors. It is quite a spectacle, but planning ahead is essential, because during Carnaval, there is hardly a vacant room in the entire city.
Golf, Tennis, and Outdoor Leisure
Tourists are finding that Mazatlán features the very best in golf and other outdoor sports. Mazatlán has over one hundred tennis courts, and the El Cid Mega Resort (Avenida Camarón Sábalo, 669/913-3333), is one of the finest. At the very same location you will see a breathtaking twenty-seven-hole golf course designed and completed by Lee Trevino in 1999. Its state-of-the-art facilities and remarkable features make it a must for golf enthusiasts. In addition, guests staying at El Cid's resort receive a 15 percent discount. Also in the heart of the city is the newest course at Mazatlán, Estrella del Mar Golf Club (Isla de la Piedra). This 7,004-yard course has a tremendous staff, with a PGA pro always present to provide help and assistance. For reservations, the club can be reached at (669/982-3300).
Angela Peralta Theater - The Angela Peralta Theater in Mazatlan a stunning Colonial-era building that is among the most important cultural centers in Mexico. Renovated in 1992, the Mazatlan theater is known for hosting the Sinaloa Arts Festival, the Jose Limon International Dance Festival, and the Mazatlan Cultural Festival. Although the Angela Peralta Theater offers dazzling events throughout the year, the season from October to Christmas is particularly rich in events. To learn more Mazatlan's Angela Peralta Theater

Plaza Machado - Machado Plaza (or Plazuela Machado in Spanish) is one of Mazatlan's oldest and most distinguished plazas. Built by wealthy industrialist Don Juan Nepomuceno Machado in 1837, the historic Mazatlan plaza features noted architecture of Spanish and French influence dating to the Colonial Era. Having undergone extensive restoration, today Plazuela Machado offers a gracious place to spend a leisurely day amidst 18th century buildings, theaters, charming cafes, and museums. To learn more about Machado Plaza, visit www.gomazatlan.com/Mexico/Mazatlan/Places-to-Go/Cultural-Sites-and-Museums/Machado-Plaza/Details-10.html.
Municipal Art Center - The Municipal Arts Center offers foreigners and native Mazatlecans alike the opportunity to study art across multiple disciplines. The Municipal Arts Center in Mazatlan provides classes and instruction in sculpture, music, painting, dance, literature, theater, to name a few of the class types available
Mazatlan Cathedral - Mazatlan Cathedral occupies a splendid spot in the middle of Old Town Mazatlan. This landmark cathedral was completed in 1899 after taking nearly 15 years to be built. The Mazatlan Cathedral was consecrated in honor of the Virgin Mary in 1937 and ranks among Mexico's finest architectural landmarks.
Copala - Copala is a highlight of any trip to Mazatlan and one of the top things to do for visitors to the area. For those seeking the experience of authentic Mexico town, Copala is beautifully preserved and little changed from the 16th Century and offers charming cobblestone streets and historic architecture. To learn more about things to do in Copala, visit www.gomazatlan.com/Mexico/Mazatlan/Places-to-Go/Historic-and-Picturesque-Towns/Copala/Details-18.html.
Stone Island - Stone Island is a pristine paradise offering untouched soft-sand beaches, coconut tree groves, and a splendid choice of recreation, including horseback riding, jet skiing, surfing, and beach volleyball. Stone Island is located 15 miles south of The Inn at Mazatlan and the ecological preserve is accessible by sea or by land. To learn more about what to do on Mazatlan's Stone Island, visit mazatlan.com.mx/stoneisladtour/.
Mazatlan Tequila Tour
 Tequila is known all over the world. See how the national drink of Mexico is made on the Mazatlan Tequila Tour. Mexico is the only place in the world where the blue agave is grown and Tequila distilled. You'll see the process up close on a visit to La Vinata, one of the oldest and most prestigious tequila distilleries in Mexico. To learn more the Tequila Tour in Mazatlan, visit www.mazatlantours.org/tequila-tour.htm.
At the western edge of downtown is rocky Playa Olas Altas, a lovely stretch of pounding surf not suitable for swimming. Around a rocky promontory north of Olas Altas is Playa Norte, which offers several kilometers of good sand beach.
At the Sábalo traffic circle, Punta Camarón juts into the water, and on either side of the point is Playa Las Gaviotas. Farther north, Playa Sábalo is perhaps the best beach in Mazatlán. The next point jutting into the water is Punta Sábalo, beyond which you'll find a bridge over a channel that flows in and out of a lagoon. Beyond the marina, more beaches stretch all the way to Los Cerritos. Remember that all beaches in Mexico are public property, so you have the right to enjoy the beach of your choice.
Mazatlán is one of only a few resorts in Mexico where surfing is common on central town beaches. The waves are best at Los Pinos, north of the fort -- known in surfing circles as "the Cannon" -- and at Playa Los Gaviotas and Playa Sábalo. Swells are most consistent from May to September. Other notable surf breaks are found at Olas Altos, Cerritos, Isla de la Piedra, and El Camarón, at Playa Norte. The Mazatlán Surf Center (tel. 669/913-1821; www.mazatlansurfcenter.com), in the Zona Dorada, at Camarón Sábalo 500-4, sells gear, rents boards, and offers surf lessons and Billabong day and overnight camps. Lessons cost $65 for 2 hours and include hotel transportation and equipment. Surfboard rentals start at about $25 per day. Boogie boards are widely available for about $15 per day; wet suits rent for $10 per day.
An enticing beach for a day trip lies on Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island). From the center of town, board a Circunvalación or Playa Sur bus from the north side of the Plaza Principal for the ride to the boat landing, Embarcadero-Isla de la Piedra. Small motorboats make the 5-minute trip to the island every 15 minutes or so, from 7am to 6pm, for a modest price. When you arrive on the island, walk through the rustic little village to the ocean side, where the pale-sand beaches, bordered by coconut groves, stretch for miles. On Sunday afternoons, the palapa restaurants on the shore feature music and dancing, attracting mainly Mexican families.
Eating Out
Mazatlán boasts one of the largest shrimp fleets in the world, so it's no surprise that shrimp and seafood are the specialties. Most restaurants are very casual and moderately priced, offering good value. A cheap-eats treat is to stop in one of the many loncherías (small establishments that are only for lunch, kind of like a home-cooking place, but not a counter) scattered throughout the downtown area. Here you can get a torta (a sandwich on a small French roll) stuffed with a variety of meats, cheeses, tomatoes, and onions, for around $5. Also recommendable is the Deli 28 Centro, Belisario Domínguez 1503, Historic Downtown (tel. 669/981-1577), serving pasta, salads, quality deli meats and cheeses, as well as pizzas. It's open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 11pm.
Angelo's features premier Italian and seafood. Combining great food with a glorious ambiance, this establishment is tremendously popular with tourists and locals alike (Avenida Camarón Sábalo 2121, 669/914-3700).
Señor Peppers (Avenida Camarón Sábalo, 669/914-0101) manages to be both cozy and elegant at the same time. This is your restaurant if you want the best steak in town. Polished silver, crystal, and brass create a romantic atmosphere in the dining room. Yet the bar has a young, lively feeling, that is quite comfortable all while serving great drinks.
Perhaps the best Happy Hour can be found at El Adobe located in the Costa de Oro Hotel (669/913-5344). The combination restaurant and bar has three levels, and you can overlook glorious waterfalls and gardens as you sip your favorite cocktail. Every night between 5 and 7pm you can enjoy a two-for-one (dos por uno) deal on all tropical drinks.
Mazatlán shopping runs the gamut from precious stones to seashells -- with plenty of T-shirts in between. Most stores are open Monday through Saturday from 9 or 10am to 6 or 8pm. Very few close for lunch, and many stores are open on Sunday afternoon. There's also an art walk to a number of galleries from 4 to 8pm on the first Friday of the month between November and May; for details visit www.artwalkmazatlan.com.
La Zona Dorada (the Golden Zone) is the best area for shopping. There are a number of quality silver shops along Avenida Playa Gaviotas, including Pacific Jewelry (tel. 669/913-3754), at Av. Gaviotas 413. It's open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 8:30pm, and Sunday from 10am to 6pm. For more fine jewelry, seek out Rubio Jewellers, in the Costa de Oro Hotel, Av. Camarón Sábalo 710 (tel. 669/914-3167; www.rubiojewellers.com). It's open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 6pm, and Sunday from 10am to 1:30pm.
Sea Shell City (tel. 669/913-1301), at Av. Playa Gaviotas 407, is exactly what the name implies -- more shell-covered decorative items than you ever dreamed could exist, from the tacky to the sublime. It's open daily 10am to 7pm. Michael Gallery (tel. 669/916-7816; www.michaelgallerymexico.com), at Av. Las Garzas 18 off Avenida Camarón Sábalo, has an excellent selection of Tlaquepaque crafts, art, diamonds, and fine silver jewelry. It's open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5:30pm. Señor Frog's, which has its main store located next to El Cid resort at Camarón Sábalo s/n (tel. 669/985-1110; www.senorfrogs.com/mazatlan), is the most popular souvenir store in town, selling Señor Frog's signature shirts, hats, handbags, and beachwear. There are about a dozen branches of Señor Frog's around town. They're open daily from 9am to 11pm.
The Centro Mercado in Old Mazatlán is another kind of shopping experience. Here you'll find women selling fresh shrimp under colorful umbrellas; open-air food stalls; and indoor shops stacked with pottery, clothing, and crafts (mostly of lesser quality). The market opens around 6am and stays open until sundown.
Small galleries and shops are beginning to appear in Old Mazatlán; one of the nicest is NidArt Galería, Av. Libertad 45 and Carnaval (tel. 669/981-0002, or 985-5991 for after-hours appointments; www.nidart.com), next to the Teatro Angela Peralta. It features changing exhibits of contemporary art. Open Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm or after hours by appointment.

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