Mazatlan is a destination with a split personality. Despite the importance of its visitor industry, Mazatlan remains very much its own city. It nicely balances its double indentity as Mexico's largest commercial port while being one of the country's most popular beach resorts.
Mazatlan is Mexico's second largest coastal city (after Acapulco), with nearly 600,000 inhabitants. It has the largest port facility between Los Angeles and the Panama Canal, and is home to Latin America's biggest fleet of commercial shrimp vessels (over 800 boats). Nearly 40 tons of shrimp are processed each year, making Mazatlan "the shrimp capital of the world".
Mazatlan has many events and festivities during the year. Carnival, in February, brings the cities colorful lifestyle to the forefront as thousands of costumed celebrants throng the resort's streets & beaches making Mazatlan's mardi gras the third largest in the world. Fishing and other sporting tournaments, as well as cultural events and various Mexican holidays fill out the year.
Mazatlan has three distinct zones. The port and downtown area, Old Mazatlan, are at the southern end of a peninsula that separates the Pacific from an enormous saltwater estuary. To the north some four miles is the Zona Dorada (the golden zone), home to nearly all of Mazatlan's visitor attractions and beach hotels. Between the two is a long curved stretch of mostly underveloped beach that serves as a sort of buffer between the port and resort zone.This separation allows the resort community to co-exist nicely with one of Mexico's busiest commercial ports.
Since the 1950's Mazatlan has been a major cog in Mexico's visitor industry. Cancun and Ixtapa were deserted sandbars when Mazatlan began earning a reputation for affordable and friendly fun-in-the-sun. The resort grew up hosting weary American motorists who found it a welcome oasis on their journey south. As air service improved, the resort became a mainstay of Mexico's burgeoning tourism industry. In fact, Mazatlan has probably introduced more Americans and Canadians to Mexico than any other resort.
Mazatlan boasts miles of sandy beaches
One of the best things going for Mazatlan is its combination of affordable comfort and laid-back seaside charm. Its long, wide sandy beaches with rolling surf (quite similar to the beaches of Southern California) are lined with fun, open-air bistros and bars. While there's plenty of elbowroom, the sunny beaches clamor with activity. Strolling vendors hawk their wares, parasails float upward, and sunbathers of all ages frolick in the blue Pacific.
Dining (especially for seafood) and nightlife are excellent. Shopping is also first rate, with several fine art galleries and handicraft markets. Sightseeing combines a few colonial era sites with more contemporary attractions. For the sports enthusiast, Mazatlan offers the usual assortment of watersports along with some of the world's finest deep sea fishing. Surfing is excellent as is hunting for waterfowl.
There are some 8,000 units for lodging. Many properties date to the 1960's and 70's since recent construction has been limited, but have been renovated. While not as glitzy as its cousins to the south, Mazatlan is one of the few resorts in Mexico that offers ultramodern deluxe resorts alongside budget beachfront hotels.
Recent declines in air service and fierce competition from Mexico's other Riviera playgrounds, have made the resort work harder to compete. Despite losing some of its popularity, Mazatlan remains a favorite of many West Coast vacationers. While the new kids on the block (Los Cabos, Ixtapa, Cancun) lure visitors with dazzling mega-resorts and the latest in leisure time gadgetry, Mazatlan has stuck to its roots: sun, sea and service.
Mazatlan means "place of the deer"
Mazatlan's colonial-style cathedral