Mazatlan is a perennial favorite with North American sunbirds and snowbirds alike.

Endowed with a shoreline sprinkled with beckoning islands, a lovely seaside promenade, miles of golden beaches and blue lagoons, it really lives up to its moniker, “Pearl of the Pacific.”

Sometimes, when you’re planning your holidays, you have to make a decision: sun and sand or culture and history? Mazatlan has the distinction of offering the best of both worlds: in the newer Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), developed in the 1960s, you’ll find most of the major hotels, shops, bars and restaurants scattered along the idyllic beaches; meanwhile, in Old Mazatlan or the Centro Historico (Historic Center), life carries on as it did before tourists arrived in the markets, cafes, churches and shady plazas throughout the traditional neighborhoods.

European immigrants brought their traditions, in particular a kind of music that became the trademark of Sinaloa (the Mexican state where Mazatlan is located). You might find yourself dancing to Banda, a form of music that injects Latin energy into German oompah music.

Unique to Sinaloa, it was created when Bavarian immigrants arrived around the turn of the 20th century.  You’ll find that the Mazatlecos, as the locals call themselves, are fun, friendly and  helpful. Anytime of year is good to mingle in cafes and restaurants, but if you want to join the town’s most famous celebration where folks party and dance in the streets, Mazatlan’s famous Carnaval is rivaled in Mexico only by the one in Veracruz.

Mazatlecos are justifiably proud of the gentrification and restoration of the 19th century mansions in the once-crumbling downtown area. Imagine an architectural combination of the pastel palette of Miami Beach and the wrought iron balconies and languid patios of New Orleans. The Mazatlecos call it Tropical Neoclassical.

Foodies will love the variety of restaurants here—from rustic beach shacks to romantic candlelit courtyards. Shrimp doesn’t come any sweeter or fresher and the talented chefs all over town have mastered local recipes. Try them breaded in coconut, marinated ceviche-style in lime juice, mothered in garlic and butter, flambéed in tequila, spiked with a Diablo sauce or just plain steamed.

Getting to Mazatlan is easy, either via good motorways, the international airport or the marina. Once you arrive the choice of accommodation ranges from small family-run hotels to luxurious properties in the Zona Dorada, complete with gourmet dining and spas.  

Situated just south of the Tropic of Cancer, Mazatlan enjoys temperate semi-tropical weather year-round. The average temperature is between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius (77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit). With an average of 300 sunny days per year, it’s always beach weather here. Don’t forget your sunscreen.

Mazatlan has 11 miles of soft sand, tall waves for surfing, the largest boardwalk in Latin America, delicious fresh seafood, excellent golf courses, deep sea fishing and hotels for all budgets. This destination also has a picturesque downtown with museums, cafes and restaurants. Its natural lighthouse rivals the Gibraltar lighthouse, and its port is one of the most import ports in the Pacific Ocean. The best time to go to Mazatlan is undoubtedly during the month of Febrero, when its one hundred year old lively carnival takes place.

Carnival in Mazatlan: to the Rhythm of the Tambora Drum:

The main festival in this state of Sinaloa is just as lively and pompous as any other in the country, and, unlike other carnivals, it is full of culture and traditions. The Mazatlan carnival takes place during the five days prior to Ash Miércoles. To the sound of the tambora (a percussion instrument similar to a drum), thousands of visitors and natives are attracted to the most representative festival in Sinaloa. During these days, band music, popular throughout the north of the country, is heard all over the city.

This celebration, dating back more than 100 years, and with beautiful beaches as a background, is also famous because it offers a variety of cultural activities such as poetry contests, awards for literature, music concerts, theater performances and other high quality artistic shows. Those seeking to laugh as if they were children again, can participate in the flour and confetti fights (in which nobody wins or loses, the aim is to simply have fun).

Enrique Vega Ayala, Official Chronicler of Mazatlan, describes the Mazatlan carnival as follows: “never mind the confetti in our mouths or the flour on our heads, what matters is being there, without any inhibitions, enjoying the sensation of living to the excess, until the pocket is empty, or until our energy comes to an end ”.

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