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Introducing Mazatlán

Having outgrown its image as a chintzy mid-20th-century resort town, today’s Mazatlán is one of Mexico’s most alluring and inviting beach destinations. Over the past decade, the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ has breathed new life into its historic center, and the ongoing renewal program continues to bear fruit. The result is something truly unique: a historic city with a resplendent colonial district only a short walk from a 20km-long crescent of sandy beach.

To take the pulse of Mazatlán, don’t linger too long in the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), Mazatlán’s traditional tourist playground. There you’ll find knickknack shops, pack-‘em-in restaurants and resort hotels lined up like dominoes, but few surprises. Instead head straight for the city’s gorgeous pueblo viejo (old town). Here, against a backdrop of cobbled streets, crumbling edifices and an ever-increasing number of newly restored gems, you’ll find a cultural renaissance under way. Catch a performance at the wonderful refurbished Teatro Ángela Peralta and then a late-night bite at the atmospheric Plazuela Machado. Step into one of Mazatlán’s excellent small museums or go treasure hunting in one of the many new small boutiques. One big attraction is free for all – the daily spectacle of rocky islands silhouetted against the tropical sunset as the fiery red fades into the sea and another starry night begins.

Old Mazatlán, the city center, is near the southern end of a peninsula, bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Bahía Dársena channel on the east. The center of the city is the cathedral, on Plaza Principal, which is surrounded by a rectangular street grid. At the southern tip of the peninsula, El Faro (The Lighthouse) stands on a rocky prominence, overlooking Mazatlán’s sportfishing fleet and the Baja Ferries terminal.

The beachside boulevard changes names frequently as it runs along the Pacific side of the peninsula north from Playa Olas Altas. It heads around some rocky outcrops, and around the wide arc of Playa Norte to the Zona Dorada, a concentration of hotels, bars and businesses catering mainly to package tourists. Further north are more hotels, two marinas (Marina El Cid and Marina Mazatlán) and some time-share condominium developments.