Mazatlan – Golden Zone, Tips from Ivan, and El Faro de Navegacion

After our brief detour in Los Mochis and Topolobampo we arrived in Mazatlan. Mazatlan is one of the cities in Mexico I had heard about but didn’t really have a mental picture of what to expect. It’s funny how you create images in your own head of things you don’t know yet. Judgments and predetermination’s creep in despite no actual experience with the thought in question. As we travel, I am working on not setting expectations, and approaching each experience in the moment, casting aside any predetermined doubts my mind has conjured. The result was our experience in Mazatlan was fantastic; part growing beach city, part colonial oasis, part tourist hub. The town boasts a whole range of activities from boat trips to surfing to walking the beach.

After the uncomfortable energy of Los Mochis we were hoping Mazatlan would offer more of the Mexico we know and love. The leering stares and general feeling of being pariahs was not prevalent in Mazatlan. We felt comfortable from the get-go, going to show that you can’t always assume the worst about any location. Our first day we walked along the beach from the city center out to the Golden Zone (a section of beach with big hotels) and tracked down the colorful Mazatlan sign.

After finally snagging the right shot we relaxed at a bar on the beach enjoying a couple of unique mezcal cocktails. Deciding we had hit our daily limit of expensive beach drinks we hopped on the public bus back to our home away from home. For most of our getting around we used the public buses which were cheap and ran up and down the Malecon all day long. That is if you don’t mind the occasional bus ride where you are crammed in like sardines, but at 13 pesos a ride (less than a dollar) its hard to argue with.

Also unique to Mazatlan is the pulmonia, a souped up golf cart/taxi. Having spent 3 months in Southeast Asia we had to say it felt a LOT like a tuk tuk, and they were everywhere in Mazatlan. We used this fun form of transport to get back from the grocery store, and to take us to the bus station when we left Mazatlan for our next city along the way. Relatively cheap, (5 bucks a ride or so) this is a nice way to get around town if you aren’t sticking to the Malecon.

Walking through the streets towards the historical district my conceptions of what Mexico could be were challenged once again. As we winded our way through the cobble stone streets sharply contrasted colors made the colonial architecture pop.

We ended up sitting down for an early lunch at a restaurant in Plaza Machado and watched people for the rest of the day chatting it up with our server, Ivan. Ivan was a great resource for us and recommended two additional cities we had never heard of. After a brief explanation and a quick Google search, we knew we had to see and immediately folded them into our plans. By the end of our meal we were Facebook friends and he continues to message us and check in on how our trip in Mexico is going. He is considering starting an Air BnB in Mazatlan and we promised to be a loyal customer next time we are in town.

Our last night in Mazatlan we decided we were going to climb the giant lighthouse called El Faro de Navegacion. This lighthouse sits 523 feet above the coastline and offers spectacular views shooting back towards the city and out to the big blue yonder. The trail was easy for all ages and abilities as it is paved all the way to the top where the lighthouse is. The lighthouse itself is nothing spectacular, but the view…oh man.

The one downside to the lighthouse was the volume of people who go up to see the sunset. There was very little room to get a photo and although there is a glass bridge you can go walk out on over the edge the line was so long, we elected to call it a night and head down before the crowds got too crazy.

The sunset here with the frigates soaring overhead was a fond farewell to a city that surpassed my expectations at every turn.

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