Parque Central / Central Park Update

4d55d780179b1adbc4563c98da8f4dc1I announced the new Central Park to you back in 2014, to be built on the site of the current Bosque de la Ciudad in front of the baseball stadium. Plans, naturally, have changed significantly since then, as you can see on its new website. The developers are excellent marketers, the designs are very modern and world-class, and I know this will be a huge boon to tourism and hopefully to schoolchildren and the general community in Mazatlán.

Construction of the Avenida de la Bahía and the park thus far have been a total destruction of the environment, preceded by the burning of the laguna which murdered thousands of turtles, nesting birds, iguanas and badgers, then by filling in nearly two-thirds of it. The one saving grace is that the new avenue will provide much-needed parking for those nearly 1000 spaces lost when they remodeled the malecón, and it will provide access during the sporting events (marathon, triathlon, etc.) that so often close the Avenida del Mar.

We have reported on concrete mixers and painters cleaning out their trucks into the estuary with zero regard for the environment. Our video on that was shared tens of thousands of times, to no avail. The road is nearly done now, and the estuary is nearly completely filled in with reclaimed land. The builders have a lovely video on their site where they show a biologist relocating some of the animals from the current Bosque de la Ciudad to make room for construction.

It looks like the plan is to completely scrape out the existing lagoon and build small islands that will be accessible by paddle boat to visitors. Our current park is a habitat to so many large migrant birds; I do pray they will continue to visit the new man-made, modern lagoon.

29026143_372591056540591_2321390279724105728_o

The new park does look lovely if you don’t think about the flooding that it is most likely to cause. I hope it will be accompanied by civic education around litter and the environment as they’ve said, because otherwise those small islands in the pond are going to become trash heaps. Good news is that designs include water circulation to keep things fresh, and hopefully lots of trash cans and cleaning staff.

I love that the new 5 million liter aquarium, which looks like it will completely replace the old one, will have an exhibit dedicated to Jacques Cousteau, champion of the Sea of Cortés, though no doubt he is turning in his grave to know the environmental destruction leading up to its construction. Greg is excited for the Food Truck Park and the promise it brings.

 

I am excited about the museum as well, designed to look like an oyster, since we are the “Pearl of the Pacific.” It is supposed to contain an IMAX theater and the second floor will have a killer view of the ocean, supposedly, though I think we have so many towers on the malecón that that could be challenging. Best part? The map seems to show it occupying the corner of Insurgentes and Avenida del Mar, where Geronimo’s has stood vacant for how many years. Will be great to get rid of that eyesore!

Plans still include two walkways from the park out to the malecón, which would be hugely welcome to all those who enjoy sports and the outdoors. I’m confident the park will be a huge boon to the city, as long as we can keep it clean and maintained. I remain saddened that “development” has to mean “destruction of nature.”

Shark Tank, Mazatlán Style

dsc_0865UPDATE 3 February, 2017:
The aquarium is open again! Today a video purporting to be created by employees of the Aquarium is circulating on social media. It says that the Aquarium’s new director ordered employees to enter the tank and remove a yellow covering from the window shown above. As you can see in the photo, no yellow covering seems apparent. According to the video, the Aquarium personnel are not qualified to make any repairs or changes to the tank. Sadly, one erroneous hit with a tool, just as the workers finished, caused a crack in the acrylic. The video includes photos. It is hard to know, of course, what actually happened. To me this is hopeful, as it would mean the basic structure of the tank may be sound and the acrylic just needs replacing. Hopefully all will be sorted out soon.

UPDATE 2 February 2017:
The curved acrylic wall of the new shark tank, pictured above, cracked open yesterday afternoon about 6pm, just one and a half months after its inauguration. It was what so many had feared, given the storied history of the building of the tank and the final heated push to get it open before the change in city and state administrations. The rupture caused nearly two million liters of salt water to flood the surrounding area. Fortunately the fissure occurred after closing time, so no visitors were in the facility and staff were quickly evacuated. The Aquarium will be closed while a safety assessment is conducted and repairs are done. It has been reported that the 20 sharks and other sea animals are unharmed and will today be transferred to another tank. Mayor Pucheta promises legal action against those responsible for the shoddy design, labor or materials. Such a sad new chapter in this lengthy and expensive saga, and just before Carnavál.

Mazatlán’s long-awaited 2.5 million liter (660.5 thousand gallon) shark tank, which opened on December 23, includes one of those cool acrylic tubes you walk through to be completely surrounded by fish. The light in the kids’ eyes as they realize they are in the middle of a tank with 23 sharks is most definitely delightful.

Acuario de Mazatlán’s new Tiburonario was built at a cost of 80 million pesos over six years, two governors, three mayors and four aquarium directors; construction was far from the height of efficiency (final costs were 5x more than originally forecast), but unlike other projects, in the end this one delivered to us a first-rate attraction that will generate revenue and jobs for the city for years to come. The aquarium had 435,000 visitors in 2016—a 41% increase since 2013, and in early January when I visited the lines to enter snaked around the block and seating for shows was completely full. Last year the facility took in 20 million more pesos than in any prior year, and I have no doubt the new shark tank will add to that popularity. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with the aquarium’s Director, Milay Quintero Beltrán, just days after she was sworn in to her new position. I was impressed with the knowledge she demonstrated with only four days on the job! Lic. Quintero is a public accountant and holds a master’s in human resources. Brenda García, the Director of Marketing, joined us on my visit. They both were charming, hospitable and extremely enthusiastic about the aquarium, and made sure I was hugged and kissed by a sea lion in a private show. I was guided through the rescue facility, including the veterinary clinic and the temperature-controlled building where the sea turtle eggs are hatched.

I had not visited the aquarium in a few years, remembering it as tired and outdated. Its recent major remodeling, which is nearly complete, is the first in 36 years and one well worth checking out. More modern architecture and new acrylic murals jazz up the space, and plans include a new restaurant beside the shark tank; more fish, additional decorations and finishing to the shark tank itself; overall remodeling and updating with a consistent tropical theme; and the addition of habitats for both penguins and dolphins! If, like me, you wonder why those tinacos/water tanks right in front are such an eyesore, Milay assured me they will be covered up shortly.

The Acuario de Mazatlán opened in September of 1980 as part of the Bosque de la Ciudad (city park) project. The one-hectare site includes 34 salt water and 17 fresh water exhibition tanks, a botanic garden with 75 kinds of trees from around the world, three aviaries, and Latin America’s only frog habitat. It has partnership agreements with both the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California and the Acuario de Veracruz. Mazatlán’s aquarium is administered by DIF (Family Development Department), SEMARNAT (Secretary of the Environment) and PROFECA (Environmental Protection). Its goals include education and rehabilitation. The aquarium regularly hosts school groups and collaborates with the Mexican Academy of Sciences to host “Science Saturdays” for local youth interested in science and technology. The on-site clinic has four veterinary staff who most commonly aid pelicans and sea turtles, but have been known to treat tigers, raccoons and all sorts of birds as well.

mapa-acuario-mazatlan

The aquarium’s sea turtle rescue program has protected over 4,500 nests and released nearly 300,000 babies. The hatchery facility is made of paja, or straw and clay walls, to keep the eggs at a consistent temperature. The eggs are all in OXXO coolers, as the chain of supermarkets sponsors the turtle rescue program. Did you know the eggs must be gathered from the beach within four hours of being laid? They gestate for about 40 days, and then the babies are immediately released. Mazatlán’s aquarium will host turtle specialists from all over Mexico in a convention February 7-9.

While sea turtle rescue is well known, you might not have heard about the aquarium’s Pato Pichichin program. The Pichichin ducks, who are in danger of extinction, reproduce on Bird Island, the northernmost island directly offshore—an environmentally protected area. Young pichichines leave the nest to come to Mazatlán’s lagoons, and some become separated from the flock. The aquarium receives about 300 of these babies annually. Aquarium staff also aid about 72 pelicans every year, most of them injured by fishing nets. Any wildlife that recovers sufficiently and is able to fend for itself is returned to its natural habitat.

The Acuario de Mazatlán is open 9 am to 5 pm every day of the week. You may, like me, be spoiled by having visited some of the world’s best aquariums. Mazatlán’s is much quainter in comparison. I went not expecting to enjoy myself, honestly, more out of curiosity, but I had a hoot of time! If you haven’t been, it’s well worth a visit.

In addition to the fish tanks there are extensive displays of reptiles, birds and amphibians. Admission includes access to all the shows; the four half-hour espectáculos run back-to-back from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm and 3:40 to 5:00 pm, and include tropical birds, sea lions, animals of prey and divers feeding the fish. Most of the aquarium’s show performers are rescue animals who cannot be returned to the wild.

Entry costs 115 pesos for adults and 85 pesos for children 3-11. Swimming with sharks or sea lions is an extra charge (300 and 400 pesos, respectively). The swimming still takes place in the aquarium’s original 123,000 liter main tank.

Did you know that sea lions live in captivity up to 40 years, and eat up to 25 kg of food per day? Or that an owl can turn its neck 270 degrees, not 360? I know you’ll pick up some more fun facts on your next visit, and greatly enjoy yourself. If you’re lucky, you might just get a sea lion kiss, too. Below is the official video from the inauguration of the shark tank.

Enjoying Mazatlán with Kids

Kids love Mazatlán! The list below should help you enjoy our fair city with children—whether you are traveling here on holiday or live here and are wondering about something new and different to do with your kids during school break.

We first published this list in January 2012, so here we are updating it with more current information. The to-dos are organized alphabetically. Enjoy!

  • Aquarium and bird show: The aquarium in Mazatlán is a lot of fun. The most exciting thing at the aquarium is you can swim with the sharks! In addition to the indoor marine exhibits there are entertaining bird, sea lion and animal shows held on outdoor covered stages. Aquarium staff do most of the rescue of marine animals and birds here in town, so we all very much appreciate you supporting this venue.
  • Batting cages: On Avenida del Mar, right next to the double yellow towers (Las Gavias), is a batting cage called Wild Pitch. There is another one up on Avenida de la Marina in the Pacific Golf Center.
  • Beach day: Pick a beach, any beach. You can get chair-side service and do all your souvenir and gift shopping with the vendors at a hotel beach. You can dine on fresh, affordable seafood in a palapa/thatched hut on Playa Pinos. Make sand castles, pick up sea shells and sea glass, play soccer or football, volleyball or catch … You name it, you can’t go wrong with kids and a beach.
  • Bicycling: Biking along the malecón/oceanside promenade is gorgeous, easy and fun! From Valentino’s to the Pedro Infante Monument is about 4 miles one-way, it’s of course a very level ride, and safely out of the traffic. Our friend Estrella Caro runs Baikas, a bike rental located inside the Belmar Hotel in Olas Altas. Her bikes are incredibly wonderful. There is also a brand-new bike rental, Sea Breeze, located beside the La Paloma condominiums, at 7000 A Ave. del Mar (983-4070). Want something a little more adventurous, perhaps for the teenagers—something tougher, like mountain biking? Güero, Kelly, will take you on a tour, or take you around the mountain bike course he has set up. His shop, Kelly’s Bikes, is on Avenida de la Marina. He has bikes to loan out as well.
  • Bird watching, hiking and picnicking: The lush Estero del Yugo nature preserve on the north end of town makes for a day of hiking and bird watching. Bring a picnic lunch, binoculars, and your camera.
  • Boogie board: Bring your own, or buy one at one of the many shops along Avenida del Mar or Av. Camarón Sábalo. It’s a whole lot of fun!
  • El Bosque/City Park: Located one block off the malecón, just south of Ave. Insurgentes, this park has a large pond with waterfowl, swing sets and climbing gyms, a small zoo, and a walking trail. There are play areas in small parks throughout the city, though I recommend you check their safety before letting your kids climb up and slide down.
  • Bowling: Space Bowling, up on the north end of town near Marina El Cid, has fun laser-light bowling at night, and makes for good refuge if you happen to be here during rainy season. The newest bowling alley is inside the Gran Plaza: Recorcholis. There is also an ice skating rink and extensive video arcade here.
  • Boxing: Older teenagers and young adults may enjoy a night of boxing. Our boys love it, as you get up close and personal to the boxers. I imagine the ring card girls don’t hurt their eyes either 🙂 Held on Friday nights about once every month, downtown in the Cancha German Evers.
  • Catamaran: You can have one of the playeros take you and your family out for a cruise around the bay for very little cash. Watch the sea lions (Mazatlán is their southernmost point), cruise past Bird, Goat and Deer Islands, and view the city from the sea. A boat ride is always fun. There are also sailboats, or you can go out on a party boat and enjoy music, dinner or sunset.
  • Dolphin, whale and sea lion watching: Also one of our favorite activities! DEFINITELY do this if you are traveling here! You can read our blog post about this trip.
  • Driving range: Pacific Golf Center on Avenida de la Marina is a whole lot of fun for younger and older kids, as well as adults. They also have batting cages, a bar, and a full restaurant.
  • Fishermen: Sitting near the pangas/boats at Playa Norte beach in the morning, watching the fishermen bring in their boats, unload and sell their fish, can make for a very enjoyable morning for a family. There is excellent fishing in Mazatlán, and if your children enjoy it, you can fish from shore or rent a boat to take your family out deep-sea fishing.
  • Hiking: Climbing up the lighthouse is a terrific family event, with gorgeous views from the top. On this blog you can find many posts about the route. On the north side of town, Estero del Yugo is a gorgeous nature preserve with both a coastal lagoon (fresh water) and estuary (brackish water). Your family can walk or bike several trails. Nature walks and plant medicine tours are offered year-round. They are primarily in Spanish, but Sandra and staff speak English and will do their best to accommodate you. Just give them a call.
  • Horseback riding: There is nothing like a family horseback ride on the beach, or through a forest of palm trees. Rent horses on Stone Island or as you head up the beach north of town (Ginger has recently retired, but there are others who walk the beach in Cerritos renting horses).
  • Inline skating: That 4-mile malecón is calling your name! You and the family can of course walk it, or you can rent skates in Olas Altas at the Looney Bean coffee shop.
  • Ice skating: Yes, you can come to the tropics and let the kids ice skate! The rink is inside the Gran Plaza at Recorcholis.
  • Island day: Spending a day at either Deer Island (one of the three islands in the bay) or Stone Island (it’s actually a peninsula) feels like going back in time to a simpler, more charming era. Pretend you’re shipwrecked, or that you own your own private piece of paradise. On Stone Island there are plenty of restaurants with lots of adult beverages; the beach is great for kids as the ocean is pretty calm. On Deer Island you can get a few things to eat or drink. You can get tours to either island that include banana boating, snorkeling or jet skiing; Stone Island tours often include horseback riding. Stone Island has an affordable water ferry (about US$3 round trip per person).
  • Kayaking: Rent a couple of kayaks on the beach in front of one of the hotels, and enjoy some terrific family time paddling in the bay.
  • Fly a Kite: Buy one anywhere, and spend a few hours flying it on the beach. Enjoy some ceviche, fresh fruit or turnovers/empanadas from a strolling vendor, and maybe some live music from a passing band.
  • Climb the Lighthouse: One of our very favorite family activities, we do this a couple of times a week. The climb only takes about 20 minutes, and the view from the top is gorgeous!
  • Movies: Movie theaters in Mazatlán are MUCH more affordable ventures than they are north of the border. If you don’t speak Spanish, be sure to see a subtitled movie rather than one that’s dubbed. Cinemex in the new shopping center, Galerías Mazatlán (north side of town), advertises a “4D” viewing experience. Cinépolis is in the Gran Plaza; Gaviotas is an older theater near Valentino’s in the Golden Zone; and the two Cinemexes are in the main part of town on Insurgentes Street.
    1. Cinépolis in the Gran Plaza
    2. Cinemex at Galerías Mazatlán
    3. Cinemas Gaviotas
    4. CinemexMaz
    5. CinemexToreo
  • Paint ball: For some weird reason, paint ball is called “Gotcha” in Mazatlecan Spanish. The nearest location is Master Gotcha located behind Casa Country in the Golden Zone. Closed on Tuesdays, check their Facebook page for specials. The second one is Gotcha Las Espuelas, located just outside of town.
  • Parasailing: Before I parasailed I never imagined I’d enjoy it as much as I did! It is amazingly fun and exciting! Book a trip on the beach in front of your hotel.
  • View or tour the Port: Watch the workings of the port from the Mirador or the Old Observatory. Drive, walk or bike up Paseo del Centenario to either of these places, and you will be rewarded with incredible views of the city of Mazatlán and the workings of its port. See the loading and unloading at the docks, the boats of the largest shrimping fleet in the Americas, as well as the tuna fleet. You an also hire one of the panga-owners to take you on a cruise through the Parque Bonfil, to see all the shrimp and tuna boats up close and personal.
  • Witness Sea Turtles laying their eggs: Witness sea turtles laying eggs on the beach from June through November or later every year. It is an amazing process to watch, but please don’t bother the nesting Moms! You can read a blog post about the sea turtles here.
  • Sea Turtle release: Groups can make arrangements via the Aquarium to do a private release of baby sea turtles, or you may call the Aquarium to see if there is a release scheduled while you are in town. Release season is August to December. On Stone Island (at Estrella del Mar) there is a sea turtle sanctuary, and the kids (and adults) may very much enjoy visiting it.
  • Skate park: Bring your skateboard, rip stick, BMX bike or inline skates, or just your eyes and good humor to watch the festivities. One skate park is next to the outdoor gym in Playa Norte—we did a blog post about it. A second and very wonderful one is in the median on the boulevard that runs beside the City Park/Bosque de la Ciudad.
  • Snorkeling: Playa Norte has a sheltered beach, just south of the swim club and the outdoor gym, which has pretty interesting snorkeling: lots of colorful fish and sea glass. On Deer Island you can snorkel for octopus or scallops. The oyster divers are also a very friendly lot here, and they will be happy to have you pay them to dive with them—only recommended if your kids are expert swimmers, of course.
  • Spray fountain: Right across the street from the Fisherman’s Monument, this relatively new water park installation is a big hit with local and tourist kids alike!
  • Surfing: Many kids would love to learn how to surf! In Mazatlán there are a few options: Mazatlán Surf Center, Jah Surf School, Aqua Sports Center, or just do a web search or ask around on the beach.
  • Swimming: This would seem to be a no-brainer. In the pool, in the ocean, Mazatlán is a swimmers’ paradise. Something our family loves is, in the early morning, to go down to Playa Norte and watch the swim club swimmers do their ocean swims. Many are grandmas and grandpas and boy can they swim! In November each year the club does a Travesía, during which swimmers swim out to Deer Island! You are most welcome to join them in the early mornings, starting about 6:00 am.
  • Swim with Dolphins (in the wild): Go out with Oscar and crew from Onca Explorations. They will get you to a pod of dolphins, and let you jump overboard to be in the water with the wild dolphins. It is soooo cool to have them swim around you. Our blog post about this here.
  • Swim with Sharks: The aquarium offers this cool activity. Swimming with sharks sounds so cool and dangerous (yet isn’t)! This activity takes place in a glass-fronted pool with a guide.
  • Tide pools: One of the BEST activities ever, on the planet, for families with young children. Bring a book of tide pool life along with you, put on some water shoes, and take a walk when the tide is out along the beach south of Valentino’s. Starfish, crabs, tadpoles, sea urchins… Gotta love it!
  • Video arcade: Ok, I don’t like going on vacation to have the kids go to an arcade, but I do remember traveling to Prague and having my kid beg for laser tag, so it happens. The best video arcade that I know of is in the Gran Plaza shopping mall at Recorcholis. There is also a small, “cooler” one for teenagers just north of Valentino’s, on the second level.
  • Water park: If the kids want more slide action than the hotel pool or the spray fountain can provide, take them up to Mazagua, on the north end of town on the way to the Hotel Riu or Emerald Bay.
  • Whale watching: I definitely suggest you go out with Oscar and crew from Onca. Nothing like having a marine biologist, who knows these whales intimately, cataloging and tracking their movements, teach you about them. You can almost touch these gorgeous creatures, and the sound of their breathing will blow you away! Our blog post about this, one of our absolute favorite things to do here.
  • Zip lineHuana Coa is located in La Noria, close to the Los Osuna mezcal distillery. It is a whole lot of fun! They use double-cables for added safety, and state-of-the-art equipment. Veraneando has twelve zip lines, including one where two people can ride/race in parallel. They also offer a river tour. If you haven’t zip lined, we HIGHLY recommend it.
In addition to the above year-round activities, there are also terrific seasonal events that you should try not to miss. These include:
  • Carnaval/Mardis Gras (a very family-oriented five days before Ash Wednesday, usually February or March)
  • Easter Week processions
  • MotoWeek, a huge gathering of motorcycles from around the continent. Includes concerts, an expo and a huge parade (early April each year)
  • La Frasca/Shrimping in the estuary A once-in-a-lifetime experience for families, occurs only during shrimping season. You will need a car or driver and to speak Spanish or have an interpreter or guide (when shrimp season opens, usually in September)
  • Independence Day, especially “El Grito” the night before in the main Plaza downtown (September 15)
  • Day of the Dead, altars and callejoneada parade (November 1 and 2)
  • AeroFest, held in November along the malecón for a few years. This event was not held in 2013, but we trust it will be back!
  • Revolution Day (November 20)
  • ExpoCar, usually held in December, this is a car show and, I guess, drag racing event. Exhibitions, concerts, and lots of burning rubber.
  • Look for signs for special events such as Monster Truck shows, Lucha Libre, circuses (one going on somewhere in town at least once/month), carnavals/fairs (5-7 every year), NBA exhibition games, etc….
  • There are also “cultural” events such as bullfighting (held occasionally) and cock fighting (held all the time at various venues). Look for signs or ask around when you are in town if you are interested.
Kids love Mazatlán! I’ve only included things right here in town. There are also loads of things to do outside the city—small pueblos to visit, the petroglyphs at Las Labradas… Please let us know what adventures you and your kids or grandkids enjoy, and we’ll add them in!

Visiting Mazatlán with Kids

Kids love Mazatlán! The list below should help whether you are traveling here on holiday or whether you live here and are wondering about something new and different to do with your kids during school break. The to-dos are organized alphabetically.

  • Aquarium and bird show: The aquarium in Mazatlán is a lot of fun. The most exciting thing at the aquarium is you can swim with the sharks! In addition to the indoor marine exhibits there are entertaining bird shows held on an outdoor covered stage. Aquarium staff do most of the rescue of marine animals and birds here in town, so we all very much appreciate you supporting this venue.
  • Batting cages: On Avenida del Mar, right next to the double yellow towers (Las Gavias), is a batting cage called, “Wild Pitch.” There is now also a second one up on Avenida de la Marina in the new Mazatlán Golf Center.
  • Beach day: Pick a beach, any beach. You can get chair side service and lots of vendors at a hotel beach. You can dine on fresh, affordable seafood in a palapa/thatched hut on Playa Pinos. Make sand castles, pick up sea shells and sea glass, play soccer or football, volleyball or catch … You name it, you can’t go wrong with kids and a beach.
  • Bicycling: Biking along the malecón/oceanside promenade is gorgeous, easy and fun! From Valentino’s to the Pedro Infante Monument is about 4 miles one-way, it’s of course a very level ride, and safely out of the traffic. It’s easiest to borrow a bike from friends or your hotel if you can. Kelly’s Bike Rental used to be near the malecón, but now he’s moved up towards the marina so is a bit harder for the tourist to reach. Kelly (Güero) has a terrific mountain bike trail/course where he will gladly take older teenagers. He has bikes to loan out as well.
  • Bird watching, hiking and picnicking: The lush Estero del Yugo nature preserve on the north end of town makes for a day of hiking and bird watching. Bring a picnic lunch, binoculars, and your camera.
  • Boogie board: Bring your own, or buy one at one of the many shops along Avenida del Mar or Av. Camarón Sábalo. It’s a whole lot of fun!
  • El Bosque/City Park: Located one block off the malecón, this park has a large pond with waterfowl, swing sets and climbing gyms, a small zoo, and a walking trail. There are play areas in small parks throughout the city, though I recommend you check their safety beforE letting your kids climb up and slide down.
  • Bowling: Space Bowling, up on the north end of town near Marina El Cid, has fun laser-light bowling at night, and makes for good refuge if you happen to be here during rainy season.
  • Boxing: Older teenagers and young adults may enjoy a night of boxing. Our boys love it, as you get up close and personal to the boxers. I imagine the ring card girls don’t hurt their eyes either 🙂 Held on Friday nights about once every month, downtown in the Cancha German Evers.
  • Catamaran: You can have one of the playeros take you and your family out for a cruise around the bay for very little cash. Watch the sea lions (Mazatlán is their southernmost point), cruise past Bird and Deer Islands, see the city from the sea. A boat ride is always fun. We also have sailboats, or you can go out on a party boat and enjoy music, dinner or sunset.
  • Climb the lighthouse: One of our very favorite family activities, we do this once a week. The climb only takes about 20 minutes, and the view from the top is gorgeous!
  • Dolphin, whale and sea lion watching Also one of our favorite activities! DEFINITELY do this if you are traveling here! You can read our blog post about this trip.
  • Fishermen: Sitting near the pangas/boats at Playa Norte beach in the morning, watching the fishermen bring in their boats, unload and sell their fish, can make for a very enjoyable morning for a family.
  • Fly a kite: Buy one anywhere, and spend a few hours flying it on the beach. Enjoy some ceviche, fresh fruit or turnovers/empanadas from a strolling vendor, and maybe some live music from a passing band.
  • Horseback riding: There is nothing like a family horseback ride on the beach, or through a forest of palm trees. Rent horses on the north end of town at Playa Bruja, or out on Stone Island.
  • Inline skating: That 4-mile malecón is calling your name! You and the family can of course walk it, or you can rent skates in Olas Altas at the Looney Bean coffee shop.
  • Island day: Spending a day at either Deer Island (one of the three islands in the bay) or Stone Island (it’s actually a peninsula) feels like going back in time to a simpler, more charming era. Pretend you’re shipwrecked, or that you own your own private piece of paradise. On Stone Island there are plenty of restaurants with lots of adult beverages; the beach is great for kids as the ocean is pretty calm. On Deer Island you can get a few things to eat or drink. You can get tours to either island that include banana boating, snorkeling or jet skiing; Stone Island tours often include horseback riding. Stone Island has an affordable water ferry (about US$3 round trip per person).
  • Kayaking: Rent a couple of kayaks on the beach in front of one of the hotels, and enjoy some terrific family time paddling in the bay.
  • Movies: Movie theaters in Mazatlán are MUCH more affordable ventures than they are north of the border. If you don’t speak Spanish, be sure to see a subtitled movie rather than one that’s dubbed. Cinepolis is in the Gran Plaza; Gaviotas is an older theater near Valentino’s in the Golden Zone; and the two Cinemexes are in the main part of town on Insurgentes Street.
  1. Cinépolis 
  2. Cinemas Gaviotas
  3. CinemexMaz
  4. CinemexToreo
  • Paint ball: For some weird reason, paint ball is called “Gotcha” in Mazatlecan Spanish. The nearest location is Master Gotcha located behind Casa Country in the Golden Zone. Closed on Tuesdays, check their Facebook page for specials.
  • Parasailing: Before I parasailed I never imagined I’d enjoy it as much as I did! It is amazingly fun and exciting! Book a trip on the beach in front of your hotel.
  • Port: Watch the workings of the port from the Mirador or the Old Observatory. Drive, walk or bike up Paseo del Centenario to either of these places, and you will be rewarded with incredible views of the city of Mazatlán and the workings of its port. See the loading and unloading at the docks, the boats of the largest shrimping fleet in the Americas, as well as the tuna fleet.
  • Sea turtles: Release baby sea turtles, or see their mothers lay eggs. Sea turtles come in to the beach to lay their eggs starting in late August or September every year. It is an amazing process to watch, but please don’t bother the nesting Moms! You can read a blog post about the sea turtles here. If you call the aquarium you and your kids may be able to participate in a release of baby sea turtles, which the kids also really love.
  • Skate park: Bring your skateboard, rip stick, BMX bike or inline skates, or just your eyes and good humor to watch the festivities. The Skate Park is next to the outdoor gym in Playa Norte. We did a blog post about it.
  • Snorkeling: Playa Norte has a sheltered beach, just south of the swim club and the outdoor gym, which has pretty interesting snorkeling: lots of colorful fish and sea glass. On Deer Island you can snorkel for octopus or scallops.
  • Surfing: Many kids would love to learn how to surf! In Mazatlán there are a few options: Mazatlán Surf Center, Jah Surf School, Puras Olas, or just do a web search.
  • Swimming: This would seem to be a no-brainer. In the pool, in the ocean, Mazatlán is a swimmers’ paradise. Something our family loves is, in the early morning, to go down to Playa Norte and watch the swim club swimmers do their ocean swims. Many are grandmas and grandpas and boy can they swim! In November each year the club does a Travesía, during which swimmers swim out to Deer Island!
  • Swim with the sharks: The aquarium offers this cool activity. There are plans to swim with dolphins, but as of this blog post that’s not yet an option. But swimming with sharks sounds so cool and dangerous (yet isn’t)!
  • Tide pools: One of the BEST activities ever, on the planet, for families with young children. Bring a book of tide pool life along with you, put on some water shoes, and take a walk when the tide is out along the beach south of Valentino’s. Starfish, crabs, tadpoles, sea urchins… Gotta love it!
  • Video arcade: Ok, I don’t like going on vacation to have the kids go to an arcade, but I do remember traveling to Prague and having my kid beg for laser tag, so it happens. The best video arcade that I know of is in the Gran Plaza shopping mall. There is also a small, “cooler” one for teenagers just north of Valentino’s, on the second level.
  • Water park: If the kids want more slide action than the hotel pool can provide, take them up to Mazagua, on the north end of town on the way to the Hotel Riu or Emerald Bay.
  • Zip line: Huana Coa gets incredibly high reviews on TripAdvisor. While we haven’t gone on this one, if your kids are into this, it sure sounds like fun.
In addition to the above year-round activities, there are also terrific seasonal events that you should try not to miss. These include:
  • Carnaval/Mardis Gras (a very family-oriented five days)
  • MotoWeek, a huge gathering of motorcycles from around the continent. Includes concerts, an expo and a huge parade.
  • ExpoCar, usually held in December, this is a car show and, I guess, drag racing event. Exhibitions, concerts, and lots of burning rubber.
  • La Frasca/Shrimping in the estuary A once-in-a-lifetime experience for families, occurs only during shrimping season. You will need a car or driver and to speak Spanish or have an interpreter or guide.
  • Day of the Dead, altars and callejoneada parade
  • Easter Week processions
  • AeroFest, usually held in November along the malecón
  • Revolution Day
  • Independence Day, especially “El Grito” the night before in the main Plaza downtown
  • Look for signs for special events such as Monster Truck shows, Lucha Libre, circuses (one going on somewhere in town at least once/month), carnavals/fairs (5-7 every year), NBA exposition games, etc….
  • There are also “cultural” events such as bullfighting (held occasionally) and cock fighting (held all the time at various venues). Look for signs or ask around when you are in town if you are interested.
I’ve only included things right here in town. If you have something I should add, please let me know. There are also loads of things to do outside the city—small pueblos to visit, the petroglyphs at Las Labradas… Those will have to be for another summary post. 🙂
Enjoy your holiday! Or, rest assured that the kids will go back to school, eventually, ja ja.

 

Tortugas Marinas/Sea Turtles

One of the many fortunate aspects about living on the beach in Mazatlán is that often, whether we’re walking the beach or the malecón, or sitting on the beach eating lunch or dinner, a marine turtle may suddenly crawl up to shore to lay her eggs. It is always cause for joy. It is such a gorgeous miracle to witness, and one we can easily take for granted.

The season starts in September each year, and yesterday I saw my third sea turtle so far this year. The turtle is usually fairly strong as she crawls up onto the beach. She is obviously made for the water, and struggles in the sand, but she crawls up to well above the high-tide line. She settles on a nesting spot, and then begins to dig a hole in the sand.



The turtle then buries her backside in the sand, above the hole, and lays her eggs. They lay a LOT of eggs at once. After she lays her eggs, the turtle usually rests for a few moments, but she is also usually very eager to get herself back into the ocean, where she is more mobile and less at risk of harm. It is so very heart wrenching to watch the mother sea turtle make her way back over the sand and into the ocean. She has no energy left, she is so very tired, and she just struggles something awful. Most people who watch tend to start cheering her on from a distance. It’s a nice community-building event.

Here is a photo taken from our terrace of a turtle’s tracks, in and out, to lay her eggs. You can see the spot in the sand where she laid her eggs. This photo was taken after the Aquarium official had already removed the eggs for safe-keeping.

Sea turtle eggs unfortunately fetch a high price on the black market. I think people eat them as an aphrodisiac. Some people also kill the endangered turtles; “caguama” is a beloved, though black market, dish for many Mazatlecos, sadly. People use turtle hide to make things, and they use the oils in skin lotions and creams. Years ago I remember seeing a lot of turtle lotions and items for sale in the beach areas of Mexico. Fortunately these days we see a lot less.

I am no naturalist, but in doing some research on the internet, it seems we have three primary species that nest here on the east coast of the Sea of Cortés, Green Sea Turtles, Hawksbills, and Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles: http://www.greenpacks.org/2008/08/25/sea-turtles-endangered-marine-life

The sea turtles are endangered:
http://www.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/marine_turtles/
There are signs everywhere on the beach that if you see a turtle, please call the police or the aquarium immediately, as they will come to keep the people away (so that the turtle can lay her eggs in peace), and they will make sure no one steals the eggs.

Despite the best efforts of most people, who keep a respectful distance away, there seem to be plenty of idiots who try to “help” the turtle by getting in her face and crowding her. Just what any birthing mother wants, right? Watch this YouTube for an example of some people’s heartbreaking behavior:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXka-FQJvsQ&feature=related

The turtle eggs are taken to one of three local spots that I know of for hatching, the Mazatlan Aquarium (click on Mazatlan on the map): http://www.grupotortuguero.org/imap.php?l=1

Down south to Estrella del Mar (a golf resort that has a sea turtle hatching facility), and up north in Marmol. They regularly hold baby sea turtle “release” events, where the babies are released into the ocean. Danny’s been fortunate enough to release baby turtles several times, including with the Scouts. Each year his troop hikes north on the beach for 6-7 hours or so, releases baby turtles, then camps overnight and celebrates with a huge bonfire on the beach. Below are some photos:

And there is a YouTube video of a baby turtle’s quest for the open waters:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xthy69jHKOQ