Discover Mazatlan, Mexico's Hidden Gem

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Physician's Money Digest, January15 2003, Volume 10, Issue 1

COMB BEACHFRONT VALUE

One of the country's bargains is Mazatlan,"The Shrimp Capital of Mexico." As the largestseaport between Los Angeles and the PanamaCanal, it's now emerging as a major coastalresort, Mexico's closest resort to the UnitedStates. The historic city boasts the longeststretching beach in Mexico.

But the little coastal town has more to offerthan its seashore. It has incredible value. It'staken the town some time to learn the benefit oftourism, but recently some private developershave spent a hefty sum to rebuild the city's infrastructureand image. New resorts have sprung upto take advantage of the euphoric climate. Justbelow the Tropic of Cancer, at the same latitudeas Honolulu, temperatures hang between 68 and75 degrees year round. October through May isthe dry season, lacking any rain or humidity.

The Mazatlan resorts charge appreciably lessthan other ones in Mexico, perhaps because theylack the spirited nightlife typical of Cabo or Acapulco.For instance, O'Hara points out, at PuertoBonito Emerald Bay Mazatlan (800-990-8250;www.pueblobonito.com/mazatlan), a room pricedat $130 a night would cost $225 in Cabo. In addition,the Emerald Bay will give you 1 night free ifyou buy 4, and if you buy 7, you receive 2 free.Thehotel offers varying deals. Other resorts have additionalspecials. Ask your travel agent or search thetown's tourism site at www.go2mazatlan.com.

PERUSE A HISTORIC PORT

Mazatlan also offers the benefit of being a real,historic port, not contrived like Cancun. The peopleare genuine, not worn out by decades ofdemanding tourists and loud spring breaks, andmore than ready to take you fishing for swordfish,tuna, or marlin. For landlubbers, there are pleasanttours through the city's 20-block historic district.

Carnaval

Constitución

Tour packages can be less expensive than cabfares. In addition, tour operators like Playa Sol(011-52-669-913-7777; playasol@mzt.megared.net.mx) understand where to take visitors. PlayaSol, run by Rosita Parolari (rositaparolari@yahoo.com.mx), has English-speaking guides, likeAndres Magallanes. These guides can show youthe best view of an 1864 lighthouse, the secondhighest lighthouse in the world, standing 505 feethigh on a towering rock. They know the best spotto stand on Icebox Hill for a panorama of the city,know where the most interesting statues standalong the boardwalk, and know that the mostdelightful part of town can be found around thesquare, where Street crosses .

El

Tunnel

The guides can help you explore the Cathedralof the Immaculate Conception, and lead you to , an old-world restaurant with plasteredwalls and 1940's décor. They can take you to thePueblo Bonito Mazatlan resort for breakfast in aroom where fruit cornucopias spill from tiled wallsas in the Garden of Eden, and advise when kindergartenchildren wearing chefs' hats are brought into see Chef Gilberto del Toro at work.

EXPLORE MOUNTAIN MINES

Guides can also drive you into the SierraMadre Mountains to help you discover Copala, aformer silver-mining village built by the conquistadorsin 1565. Not much has changed—the homesare still tucked into the hillside; children ride donkeysalong the cobbled streets and goat pastures;pigs and chickens wander among the houses andeven into the churches' always-open doors.

Copala's Church of San Jose, built in 1610and renovated in 1740, has fallen into disrepair.Those intrigued by Copala's past invariably endup at Daniel's restaurant, which rests on top ofan old silver mine.You can lunch on its veranda,overlooking a hillside of lush mango, coconut,and banana trees. Savor Daniel's famed coconutpie, experiencing as splendid an end as any to amemorable Mazatlan vacation.