Mazatlán – Pearl of the Pacific

Sunsets like these are frequent in Mazatlán

 

Mazatlán – La Perla Del Pacifico

Cliff Divers at Olas Altas Beach, Mazatlán

They had me with the Mime. When you deplane from a packed flight onto a hot tarmac in Mazatlán and all you really want is a cold, local-brewed Pacifico on the way into the terminal (super-clean with gleaming floors and nice art) at least there is the charming Mime to welcome you. He’s really good. He just needs a case of cold ones to hand out to arriving passengers. We are, afterall, about 20 miles south of the Tropic of Cancer.

So began a return to Mazatlán after a 10-year hiatus. What I found was the charm and friendliness of the Mazatlécas alive and well.

Fun at the Fish Market in Mazatlán

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New hotels and yacht harbors have been  built as well as a world-class Mazatlán International Center, smartly located near The Golden Zone. This beautiful facility is a testimony to Mazatlán’s serious pursuit of the convention business.

The brand-new Mazatlán International Center

Mazatlán translates as “place of deer” and the Totorames tribe had the place to themselves until they disappeared many years before Spaniards first showed up in 1531. You can see some artifacts in the Museo Arqueológico in Centro Historico.

It was many years until the city emerged from a fishing village. Gold and silver shipments transited Mazatlan’s port from the mines in the mountains during the 1700’s, attracting pirates to the area. In the latter part of the 19th century, the city grew significantly, upgraded its port and buildings and, in the first few decades after the 1910 Revolution, Mazatlán became a modest tourist destination, with several hotels establishing themselves in the old town near Olas Atlas Beach, enjoying popularity with vacationing movie stars.

Near the Art Zone in El Centro

The heartbeat of this enchanting city is strong and the First Friday Art Walk (from November to May) is a great way to experience a bit of the Centro Historico, discover a great meal at one of the sidewalk cafes around the Plaza Machado (1837) and perhaps attend a concert at the multi-tiered Teatro Angela Peralta (1870). We attended a splendid performance there of Mozart’s “Requiem” the on the eve of El Día Del Muerte.

The Mazatlán Symphony Orchestra

 

 

 

Two dining standouts around Plaza Machado: La Bohemia and Pedro y Lola’s.

La Bohemia Restaurant on Plaza Machado

Plaza Machado, Mazatlán

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While on the subject of dining, close to venerable Olas Atlas Beach is a delightful courtyard restaurant, La Bahia, overseen by hostess Maria Lourdes, aka “Malu.” A few dishes we sampled were Pulpo a la Diabla (octopus) and a great rendition of Aquachiles con Camarones.

Lourdes at La Bahia Restaurant, near Olas Altas

Pulpo a la Diabla at La Bahia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only a fun and sun tourist destination, Mazatlán is a huge shrimping port and the state of Sinaloa, in which Mazatlán resides, is Mexico’s top agricultural producer. A trip to the French Colonial-style Pino Suarez Mercado (1899) in Centro Historico speaks to this with butchers at work on fresh meats and fish mongers selling the day’s fresh catch.

Butchers at work in the Mercado

A smile and some beautiful fresh fish at the Mercado

Food stands fill with locals and the feel of a community gathering place is tangible.


This is one of my favorite destinations in Mazatlán and over the years it has become a more comfortable place to wander around.

Fish stand in the Mercado

 

 

 

Born in Spain, Julio Berdegé was a man of vision and personal achievement in Mazatlán’s modern history. Arriving in Mazatlán as a young man, he built Mexico’s largest commercial shrimp fleet and created the first master-planned resort community in Mexico, known as the El Cid Resort and Country Club. As a marine biologist and conservationist, he also had a prominent voice in matters of Mexico’s fisheries management. The El Cid development, now in command of his son Carlos, is dominant in the Zona Dorado of hotels and restaurants which takes off north of the Olas Altas Beach area. One of the newest properties is the El Cid Marina Hotel, which sits along the channel for the marina, has two beautiful pools, a splendid, attentive staff and a unique, private ocean beach accessed by a short water taxi ride. Party fishing boats come in and out of the harbor and the curious can catch a glimpse of what kind of luck prevailed on the day’s fishing adventures. It is my favorite of the El Cid properties. http://marinaelcidmazatlan.com

The El Cid Marina, Mazatlán

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many cities in Latin America have what is known as “The Malecon,” a broad promenade along the beach. Mazatlán’s Malecon is one of the longest in Latin America, stretching miles along Olas Altas and newly widened with new monuments. In Mazatlán they love their monuments.

The Siren Monument along Mazatlán's Malecon, the longest in Latin America

There are monuments to Pacifico Beer (the dramatic copper top of a beer cooking vat), the Fisherman’s  Monument, The Siren Monument, The Continuity of Life Monument (fabulous sculpture of leaping dolphins), famed musician Jose Angel Espinoza Aragon aka “Ferrusquilla” , a delightful, whimsical monument to the Pulmonia, the ubiquitous open-air alternative to taxi-cabs and many more. All the monuments serve to enhance a long amble along Mazatlán’s beautifully upgraded beachfront Malecon.

Monument to famed musician Jose Angel Espinoza Aragon aka "Ferrusquilla"

For a little more immersion into Mexico, Pronatours http://www.pronatours.com.mx can help.

One destination that a day-trip will cover is the nearby country town of Quelite (25 miles northeast). Most of Quelite’s residents are engaged in ranching or agriculture and town has a feel of “real Mexico.” It is in Quelite that Dr .Marcos Osuna built El Meson d’ Los Laureanos, a terrific restaurant in a venerable history-rich building. An excellent host, Dr. Osuna’s kitchen serves recipes handed-down through generations and prepared with a “home cooking” touch that reflects the cuisine of southern Sinaloa.

 

As you walk around Quelite, you can visit a wonderful bakery with a huge stone oven and delicious treats for sale, Our Lady of Guadalupe church and a monument to an ancient Aztec game of “The Ulama,” still played by locals.

Monument to the ancient game of "The Ulama" in Quelite.

Stone oven in Quelite bakery

 

 

 

There are additional tour options available, including a hugely fun cooking and dancing experience called Salsa y Salsa http://www.salsaandsalsa.com, rated the no. 1 tour for Mazatlan on http://tripadvisor.com. Hotel concierges work hard in Mazatlán to connect vistors with a fun experience and are there to make sure you want to come back.

Some quick study of online sites and a little Spanish brush-up can enhance your trip.

Many Mazatlécas speak excellent English, of course, but attempts at conversing in the local language is always bridge-builder. ¡Vámos a Mazatlán!

 

 

Additional Mazatlán and Quelite images at:  http://www.dimarcoimages.com/mazatlan

A local in Quelite, about 40 km from Mazatlán

 

 

 

Aloha from Maui – The First Post

Landing at Kahului Airport

Aloha!  I thought I might inaugurate this blog with a few words and pictures from The Valley Isle.  Maui continues to be a wonderful “easy” destination for people because you can really style your own vacation here.  You can choose from a diverse menu that might include being a “beach potato,” driving to Hana for a night or two of jungle bliss, exploring Up Country Maui, sunrise on the Haleakala volcano, a seasonal whale watch and tasting some wonderful food.  Permit me a few suggestions.

You might have noticed the current banner photograph.  This is a shot I took last night of the seared ahi appetizer at Colleen’s restaurant in the Cannery Building, in Haiku. http://www.colleensinhaiku.com  Colleen Nicolas has been on Maui for many years and has a knack for creating recipes and finding the right people to prepare and serve to her customers.  Colleen’s is one of my favorite places because it is a local haunt and off the beaten path a bit.  They are open for breakfast (great omelets), lunch and dinner.  Another favorite is the Mahi-Mahi Fish and Chips and the Kula Greens Salad with Roasted Local Beets.

If you are going to Haiku, you might consider making a loop from Paia to Haiku, then up to Makawao and back down Baldwin Avenue to your starting point in Paia. You could take a day doing it, and the sights and shops are lovely.  Start with an early morning walk on Baldwin Beach, just west of Paia on the Hana Highway.  Early mornings are best because the trades can pick up by mid-morning.  Parking is easy and the beach walk is sweet.

Baldwin Beach, Maui

After your Baldwin Beach march, drive into Paia and park.  You might grab a bit at Cafe Des Amis (great crepes) or the Mambo Cafe, close to each other on Baldwin Avenue.

Another great place is the Paia Fish House, right on the corner of Hana Highway and Baldwin Avenue (the only stoplight in Paia).  These folks know how to do it and the family-style dining, bring-your-order-to-the-table casual atmosphere is conducive to conversations, sometimes very international.  The fish is always fresh.

Cafe Des Amis, Paia, Maui

Another fun local place in Paia is the long-standing and very high-granola Mana Foods http://www.manafoodsmaui.com/ where some great local organic greens can be purchased in a store seemingly filled with the hippest most blissed-out patrons I’ve ever seen.  Groovy, man.  Seriously, a lovely store with a great selection of healthy products.

And, by the way, if over-nighting, or longer, in Paia is an option, let me recommend the oceanfront Paia Inn, beautifully upgraded and staffed by the sweetest staff this side of, well, paradise. http://www.paiainn.com/

Next up, a Caesar Salad receipe, then, later, some more on Maui.  A hui hou!