When I was a freshman in high school (a long, long time ago…) I had a boyfriend for a brief time who was a senior, and for his senior graduation he went with a bunch of his friends to Mazatlan. It was the first time I ever heard of Mazatlan and I had visions of wild beach front bars, long white sand beaches, and palm trees. It seemed so exotic and cool to me then. I am sure it was great back in the 1980s, in fact it might have peaked a few decades before that. By the time I was a senior, Mazatlan was already passé for the high school kids and people started booking trips to Cancun.
Mazatlan is a beach resort past its glory days. I am not sure how else to describe it. It is not ugly, in fact, there is a long white sand beach that stretches for almost 10 miles with warm, gentle, aqua blue waves. The beach is uncrowded and clean. It should be packed. But it was totally empty. Maybe the tourists are afraid of drug violence, Mazatlan has had its problems and had a very strong police presence in some areas. But I personally think they are more afraid of the hotels along the beach that look like they were transferred over from communist era Russia. They were run down cement blocks and did not really give the vibe of tropical vacation. Honestly, most of them just looked like they had not been updated or painted for decades.
Mazatlan is also the birth place of the Senior Frogs bar franchise. If you have never been to one, they are where the “Norte Americanos” like to blow off steam when they exit the cruise ships. They don’t really scream authentic Mexico, but maybe I am just missing something. The crazy thing is that we only actually found two enormous bars, even though you saw the famous frog everywhere. Basically, we realized that there were giant Senior Frogs “official stores” on almost every block with no bar attached. Sam thought they must have discovered the profit margins are much better on t-shirts than on $1.00 beers and tequila shooters.
Also, all along the malecon (the ocean front promenade) which is usually the focus of Mexican beach front destinations, there were huge, strange statues that added to the funky, outdated feel of the city. My favorite was the one of the naked fisherman with a Tin Tin haircut, holding his net like he was going bull fighting. Next to him was a very buxom naked lady looking at him with lusty appreciation. They were all rather bizarre, they must have had a city planner with a great sense of humor.
To add to the 1980s feel, they had a “Muscle Beach” on the malecon and next to it was a small town square dedicated just to breakdancing. I am totally serious, old school breakdancing. It was full of some really impressive kids dancing and apparently they have dance competitions that draw large crowds, we saw the start of one and it looked really fun.
However, even though the beach front was not a huge draw, Mazatlan has one saving grace, Old Town. After six weeks in Baja, it was wonderful to go to Old Town Mazatlan where they had a huge municipal market, food stall after food stall. And best of all it was just pulsing with energy (compared to Baja at least…). It made us realize just how sleepy most of Baja was. For people coming over on the ferry, Mazatlan will be a fun change of pace. However, I would not book a week long vacation here. There are so many better beach destinations in Mexico.
Overall, we had planned on staying just one night, but stayed for three so obviously it did not really suck that much. We went in with almost no expectations, and ended up having a really good time.
Below our a few of our highlights: