A monument near the cliff divers and Zona Dorada
in Mazatlan, Mexico.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

A staple of the seven-day Mexican Riviera run, Mazatlan, Mexico is conveniently situated north of Puerto Vallarta, and across the water from nearby Cabo San Lucas.  Unlike its resort-laden counterparts, however, Mazatlan has a rich history that dates back to its inception in 1531.

One of the excellent beaches in Mazatlan, off the Zona Dorada.
Photo © 2010 Aaron Saunders 

During the intervening years, Mazatlan has grown from a small fishing village to a major metropolitan centre and a rich, diverse port of call for passengers on Mexican Riviera cruises departing from southern California.  One of the first sights passengers are likely to see of the city is the El Faro lighthouse, installed in 1879.  At first, the Paris-built lens didn’t revolve, causing many seafarers to mistake the light for a star.  Interestingly, it remained that way for another twenty-six years until 1905 when a revolving one was put in place.  Tempted passengers can actually hike their way up to the top of El Faro for a tremendous view of the city – and the Pacific Ocean that surrounds it.

Mazatlan also has the distinction of being split geographically into two major sections: the Centro Historico (Old Town), and the newer Zona Dorada, also known as The Golden Zone.

The classic streets of Mazatlan’s Centro Historico.
Photo © Aaron Saunders 

Centro Historico is a fascinating area of Mazatlan.  It is home to the hundred-year old Pacifico brewery, the Teatro Angela Peralta, and the breathtaking, century-old Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  If you want to see the history of Mazatlan – and arguably the real Mazatlan – go here.

 Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

If shopping is your thing, Zona Dorada might be more to you liking: everything from diamonds to hand-crafted pottery to Burger King can be found here.  It’s commercial.  It’s borderline tacky.  And tourists eat it up.  However, the area is home to some excellent beaches, and those in search of authentic, made-in-Mexico souvenirs won’t be disappointed either.

 Zona Dorada.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

The cruise ship pier is located closer to Centro Historico, but taxis are readily available to whisk passengers over to Zona Dorada.  For a true Mazatlan adventure, take the open-air Pulmonia taxi’s.  Resembling a souped-up golf cart, these nimble vehicles and their skilled drivers whip up and down side streets, in and out of traffic, in an experience that is hard to replicate outside of perhaps a New York taxi cab.  The story goes that when the open-air vehicles first arrived in the city almost forty years ago, regular cabby’s tried to wean prospective passengers away by telling them they’d catch pneumonia.  The name stuck.  Today, they are one of the most popular ways to experience the city.

 One of the open-air Pulmonia’s.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Currency and Language: Mexican Spanish is the official language, though English is widely spoken.  Knowing basic Mexican Spanish, though, will help your interactions with the locals, who sincerely appreciate the effort to learn their language.  It’s beautiful – give it a try.  The official currency is the Peso, though US Dollars are accepted almost everywhere.

To learn more about Mazatlan, be sure to visit the Go Mazatlan website.


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