The Many Sides of Mazatlán
I’ll come right out and say it: of the three ports on the Mexican Riviera run, I enjoy Mazatlán the most. Located in the state of Sinaloa, this city of just over 400,000 inhabitants won my heart right from the get-go thanks to its rich blend of history, culture, and attractions.
Holland America Line’s Westerdam arrived here just before seven this morning, pulling alongside the cargo pier that has long acted as the city’s cruise terminal. And, in fact, there is a cruise terminal; it just happens to be situated at the far end of the docking area. A tractor pulling a series of trailers whisks guests into the main shopping area of the terminal which I’ve always quite liked, particularly its outdoor beer garden with ice-cold Pacifico’s available for $3 USD.
My journey ashore yesterday to Todos Santos from Cabo San Lucas was an excursion that would appeal to the experienced cruiser that’s been to the Mexican Riviera before and is looking for something different. Today, however, I took an excursion that should appeal to the first-time visitor to the Mexican Rivera: the Old Mazatlán Walking Tour.
I took this excursion a decade ago as a newbie cruiser to the Mexican Riviera aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam and loved it. Today, I wanted to revisit this tour to see if it was still as good as I remembered it.
At four hours in length, this walking tour is a great introduction to what makes Mazatlán so special.
It starts with a pre-paid taxi or taxi-van ride to the city’s Centro Historico, or Old Town. This is the most historic part of Mazatlán, and is located about five minutes away from the cruise pier by taxi. Within this area is an incredible collection of colonial-era buildings, vibrantly painted, that keep looking better every time I come here.
Our tour started at the El Centro Cathedral, which is unmistakable even when viewed from the Westerdam. Built in 1855, it is the principal cathedral in the city even to this day. We were given free time to explore the cathedral at a leisurely pace before strolling down the street to the fabulous Plaza Machado, which was decorated for the Holiday season.
Although our tour included admission to the Theatro Angela Peralta, it was closed off to the public today – and, by extension, to us. I’ve been inside the theatre before and it truly is stunning, so I was a bit disappointed – and a little confused as to why that change hadn’t been communicated to our tour operators.
At any rate, the theatre is named after Angela Peralta, a famed Mexican operatic performer who died here in 1883. According to legend, she sang one last aria from her balcony overlooking the Plaza before passing away due to complications from yellow fever.
We then made our way through the streets to the Pacific Ocean on the opposite side of the city. This only takes about 10 minutes, at which time the tour stopped for our mandated “shopping opportunity.” I honestly don’t see the point to being herded into some jewelry store for 30 minutes, but I’m apparently the minority: the rest of the guests loved it.
After that, we walked on the picturesque walkway running parallel to the sea and Paseo Olas Atlas to see the Cliff Divers perform their daring acts. An even more daring act would be to refuse to tip the cliff divers; the second the guy is in the water, his buddies are all over you for a tip – and you pretty well can’t leave without depositing $1US into their waiting hands.
But, watching the cliff divers was worth it, and that is the only spot in Mazatlán that I’ve ever been even remotely hassled.
To end our tour, we were taken to a local restaurant for ice-cold Pacificos (or a non-alcoholic beverage) and chips and salsa. You can elect to stay for lunch (at your own cost) too, which may guests also did.
While the tour includes return transportation to the ship, I’d like to make a gentle suggestion: don’t do it. Shell out $7 USD and take one of the open-aired pulmonia cars that zip past with handy frequency.
Literally translated as “pneumonia” from the Spanish, these souped-up go-kart style vehicles are unique to Mazatlán; you won’t find them in Cabo or Puerto Vallarta, or anywhere el