By Lisa Vivirito
Mazatlan, one of my favorite Mexican destinations, is situated on the Pacific coast almost directly across from the tip of the Baja peninsula.
Mazatlan has its own airport and is a popular cruise port. Set at the foot of the Sierra Madre Mountains, it is on a peninsula that extends into the Pacific Ocean.
Because of this feature, it is one of the Mexican Rivera's premier resort areas. Its scenic beauty is complemented by a festive Mexican atmosphere.
Mazatlan is said to be a city that came late to discover its miles and miles of unexploited sandy beaches. Early in the 1950s, the first couple of hotels in Old Mazatlan, also called Olas Atlas, were main lodging spots for sports fisherman from the United States and Canada.
The city is separated into two areas. In the north it is considered the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone). This is where you find a majority of the hotels and restaurants. In the south there is El Centro (downtown) where the heart of the city is.
Taxis that resemble golf carts take you from place to place. If you are daring enough, a margarita or two at Senor Frog's will be cherished always.
During the winter, bullfights take place every Sunday. You can often hear the cars with loudspeakers mounted on the roof to announce the upcoming contest. This event isn't for everyone, including me.
Acapulco is noted for its cliff divers, but Mazatlan has many brave fellows who jump from the rocky cliffs into the waters.
Be aware that you will be approached for payment to watch them.
Timing is everything, as the water is only six feet at times. This is also a fun spot to bargain for some silver. This is where I purchased my favorite bracelet, which I wore for half an hour until my final offer was accepted.
When bargaining, I always suggest half of what they ask, and then walk away; then the fun really begins. "Hey lady, you're crazy" is usually the first reaction. You'll never have to pay the asking price, and you'll get a nice piece of silver jewelry.
The third highest lighthouse in the world (after that of Gibraltar and Funfria, Spain) is located in Mazatlan. It sits high on a hill, more than 150 meters above sea level.
Mazatlan has one of the largest and best-maintained aquariums in Latin America. In addition to a large collection of fish, they have a sea lion show and bird show that are enjoyable.
To get to old Mazatlan from the Golden Zone is a long, scenic drive along the beach.
While in downtown the cathedral is in the heart of the city, and just across the street is a store called Fabrica de Francia. This is the nicest department store in Mazatlan.
In this area you will find a few shoe stores. If you want nice leather shoes, the price will be right. Just down the street is the Famacia Moderna, one of the biggest pharmacies in Mazatlan. Naturally, many things over the counter here can be bought at great prices.
This whole area gives you a flavor of old Mexico.
One of the best views is atop the Best Western Hotel in downtown. Enjoy a cold drink on their rooftop bar.
Back at the coast, you can parasail and enjoy the beaches.
Some local women will offer to braid your hair, while their beautiful children will offer to sell you Chiclets. I always leave with a pocket-full.
Flying will involve a connection or two, and sailing into port can be done year round. There are numerous choices of hotels in all price ranges. This pearl of Mexico's should not be forgotten.
Lisa Vivirito is owner of Diamond Travel in Vero Beach. Call her at (772) 567-8481 or