The burgeoning resort of Maztalán seems far less dominated by tourism than Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta, its direct rivals, though hotels stretch further every year along the coast road to the north, flanking a series of excellent sandy beaches. Mazatlán peaked in the 1980s, and today much of the downtown seafront looks decidedly tired, despite the steady flow of visitors. There are few activities or sights here – you certainly wouldn’t come for the architecture – but it is a pleasant enough place and the shabby centro histórico has preserved much of its traditional, congenial atmosphere, despite ongoing attempts to spruce it up.
Remember to book accommodation well ahead if you are planning to be here around Semana Santa, when Mexicans descend on the city for massive celebrations, or July and August, when families pack the hotels and beaches. You should also plan around the massive carnival held here in February, one of the world’s largest.
Unusually for Mexico, little is known about the establishment of Mazatlán – in part because it started life as a base for smugglers and pirates. By the early 1800s it was a more respectable mining port, but in the 1920s the beaches started attracting rich norteamericanos and its future was assured. Most tourists stay in the Zona Dorada, the “Golden Zone”, and penetrate the centro histórico only on brief forays, though the latter has far more character.Read More
Mazatlán narco tours
Mazatlán narco tours
Mazatlán may be a languid tropical town where the biggest dangers to tourists are sunburn and hangovers, but it does have a darker side; like many parts of the country, this relates to the drug trade. While most Mexicans are thoroughly opposed to the drug cartels, there remains a fascination with some of the more colourful characters and in many places enterprising locals have created “narco tours”. It sounds dangerous but isn’t – most of the sites included are not currently connected to the cartels and the biggest draw is the enthusiasm and commentary of the guides (note that most drivers speak very little English). Mazatlán has been one of the Tijuana and Sinaloa cartels’ favourite vacation spots for years, and resourceful (or unethical, depending on how you see it) cab drivers have started offering tours of drug-related hot spots; highlights include the seafront Frankie Oh disco, once owned by Tijuana cartel boss Francisco Arellano Félix (now closed); the house once owned by Félix; and the spot where his brother Ramón was infamously murdered in 2002. More uncomfortably perhaps, you may be shown what locals believe is one of the hideaways of Mexico’s most wanted drug trafficker and the current head of the Sinaloa cartel, Joaquín Guzmán Loera (aka El Chapo) – even if he does own the place he’s highly unlikely to be there.
It’s usually just Mexican tourists that take these tours and needless to say, you won’t find information on them at the tourist office, which is totally opposed to the practice – just ask any cab or pulmonía driver on the street (they usually charge M$150–200/hr).