Room with a View

DSC_0066EditedI just had to get to know the guy who’d put the two easy chairs on the beach by the fishing pangas in Playa Norte; talk about a room with a view! Turns out his name is Guillermo, and he’s the same guy you may have seen raking the beach and picking up trash, as he regularly does. He is thirty years old, lives with his parents about a block away, and comes to the beach every day to, in his words, “do God’s work, clean the beach, be in nature and enjoy life.” Sounds good to me!

Guillermo has a stand with several different rakes and brooms in it, ready for beach cleaning. He’s fashioned himself a Mexican flag, he has a cross in the sand “because he loves God,” and he’s made a sofa out of a heavy log he dragged into place. While I was there with him he got up several times to kick around an old soccer ball. He invited me to sit in the recliner and enjoy the view. He also has a second easy chair, located a bit of a distance away, that he pulls closer when he wants to visit with someone. Originally he had the extra chair right next to his, but “then you get guests you don’t enjoy visiting you,” he told me. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Guillermo says many of the fishermen don’t like him, because he urges them to keep the beach clean and to pick up their trash. Some of them clean their work areas, he says, but some don’t. “The ocean is their livelihood; you’d think they’d want to take care of it,” he tells me.

After my visit with Memo, I took a little stroll around the fishing pangas. The fishermen were scaling and fileting fish to take home with them for lunch, as most of them had already sold most of the day’s catch. I watched a couple of last boats come into shore, and the tourists enjoying feeding the birds. As usual, the pelicans were hanging around enjoying the fishermen’s scraps.

Just as I finished, Greg and Danny came with Danny’s new ADULT residente permanente card for the young man, a ballena for them and a New Mix for me. We sat on the edge of the seawall in the shade of a tree celebrating for an hour or so. The view, people watching and birding are so pleasant. If you’re looking for something to do late morning, I highly recommend pulling up a chair in Playa Norte.

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!

Update on Bicycling in Mazatlán

In June I wrote a post updating everyone in English about the planning for ciclovías/bike paths in town and the CicloNoches/night bike tours in this gorgeous port of ours.

I’m very happy to report that since that post, the city has joined so many other cities in Mexico and abroad, and has begun closing the southbound lanes of Avenida del Mar on Sunday mornings. Today was the second such Sunday.

Last week, opening week, we were joined by Governor Malova and Mayor Higuera, as can be seen in the video above.

The road is closed from Insurgentes to Monos Bichis, the Fishermen’s Monument. It gets closed about 8 am (though they’ve announced it’s from 6 am), and stays closed until about 10:30 or 11 am (though, again, it’s announced to stay closed till noon). Southbound traffic is routed to one lane, as is northbound traffic, both using the inland side of the Avenue. Thus, drivers are able to continue using the Avenida, and the bikers, skaters and skateboarders are safe in the oceanside lanes.

This is a wonderful chance to get out with the whole family, or with your friends and neighbors. Please take advantage of it! We definitely want to show the city how important this privilege is to us by having a good turnout. Hopefully this practice will continue long enough for citizens to learn about it and develop the habit of Sunday morning cycling, though we weren’t that lucky last time.

Something wonderful this morning was that police were loaning out, free of charge, 80 beautiful bicycles for people to use! Those wanting to borrow a bicycle were asked to leave their credenciál or identification card, in order to ensure they’d return the bike.

Regarding CicloNoches, they are now scheduled for the first Thursday of every month. September 6 will be the third such event. Meet in front of the Aquarium at 7:30 pm, for an 8:00 pm start. The plan this time is to ride down to the Escudo/the shield down in Olas Altas and back. It is a wonderful feeling pedaling the Avenida del Mar in the dark, looking out at the lights around the bay.

As in prior events, the road will not be closed for this event, but we should have a police escort and a wonderful turnout. We will be guided by a leader, and will be asked to stay only in the rightmost lane of the Avenida. You can see the rules here in the photo at the left. This is a group event, so participants are asked not to pass each other and not to go out into the left-hand lane, in order to protect everyone’s safety and enjoyment, and ensure that drivers can get by smoothly.


Primera CicloNoche Mazatlán/First Mazatlán Bicycle Night

180 bicyclists showed up this evening at 8:00 pm for the very first CicloNoche Mazatlán!

We pedaled only about seven kilometers, but oh was it gorgeous!

The event was organized by SEMARNAT—Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Brenda Garcia) and CiclosUrbanos, who have been coordinating Cycle Nights in Culiacán since 2009.

Starting at the Aquarium, we pedaled south on Avenida del Mar to Belisario Dominguez, then turned up the road, around the block, and back down to Avenida del Mar. We were escorted by Mazatlán’s finest tránsitos, and we were instructed to stay in the right lane so that traffic could pass us easily.

Our route started with the sunset, and ended with the starlight. Along the way we were cheered on and joined by ever-more cyclists.

You’ll remember that a couple of years ago a group of active citizens organized a couple of months’ worth of Sunday morning closures of Avenida del Mar for bicycle riding.

The “United for Health” group was led by the very kind and energetic Dr. Angel Eduardo Olivera Sandoval, a local homeopath. Sunday morning street closures to traffic, so that families can walk and ride bikes, are common throughout Mexico and most of Latin America.

Here in Mazatlán we had good crowds turn out, but unfortunately the municipal government didn’t seem to support continuation of the activity.

Nor have we thus far seen positive outcomes from citizen-led efforts to build bike lanes here in our port, despite having extensive ciclovías planning for some time now.

The event this evening was held in conjunction with the International and National Congresses of Environmental Science, which has had events at the Mazatlán International Center and the Aquarium.

We were told that the first CicloNoche Culiacán only had 90 bicyclists show up (compared to the 180 who showed up here tonight), so there is obviously a passion for it here in Mazatlán. These days in Culiacán about 1600 people show up for the once-a-month CicloNoches.

It is our sincere hope that this terrific activity can take hold and gain a place in the hearts of Mazatlecos.

Bicycling promotes a cleaner environment, healthier bodies, enjoyment of the outdoors, time together with friends and family. It’s good for locals and out-of-town visitors.

Thank you to CiclosUrbanos, SEMARNAT, and all the organizers of bicycling events and programs in Mazatlán past, present and future!

Lets all turn out and show our support for bicycling! For our health and the health of our city!


Another Beautiful Mazatlan Sunday Bike Ride

I ride my bike a lot in Mazatlan. It is a great town for bike riding, at least as far as I’m concerned. Some people are put off by the traffic (pedestrian and vehicular), but I think it adds to the excitement and challenge.

Most people do what I used to do and go up and down the malecon (or boardwalk) along the ocean. It is relatively flat, very scenic and overall very safe. However, it is not very challenging and if you are trying to get in some good cardio or burn a few extra calories, you either tow a bag of bricks behind you or seek a tougher ride.

I started seeking tougher rides nearly two years ago. I started going north to the far end of town, but that involved too much street time and too many crazy drivers. It was all flat other than the two bridges that are more of a workout due to the speeding traffic then the incline or distance. I also have experimented with riding downtown and do still enjoy it from time to time. It is best to go really early and realize that for a great workout, you will be going up and down the same small  hills over and over.

Mazatlan has two big hills – both in the southern part of town, called Olas Altas. Mazatlan also has the second tallest natural lighthouse in the world. So, about six months ago, I decided to combine the challenge of an up and over a good sized hill with a climb to the top of the lighthouse for a good cardio workout.

If you do not know Mazatlan, you can’t imagine what a wonderful ride this is. So today I packed along my camera and took a few pictures in an attempt to show at least some of what I like about this ride. As for the hill, well, I admit it doesn’t look like much in these pictures, but it is a moderate challenge for me and of course is getting easier the more times I go. Try it and see.

Here is the malecon looking south from in front of our house:

Here you can see the curve of the bay and how flat most of the malecon is:


The curve and flatness continue as we go past the Fisherman’s Monument:

Once we get past the fishing boats, there is a small incline, but not much of a challenge:

Are you digging the view as much as I am? Can you see why so many people choose to just stay on the malecon? At this point we are directly across from where we live and have gone around the bay. Our building is circled:

Now, there is another incline in the road to make for a little challenge:

After we round the corner and go past some vendors and the huge flagpole, we begin to see the hill to the right of the statue in the picture below and the lighthouse on the far right:

As we get a little closer, we can zoom in on the first part of the hill that we will need to climb. Today, Sunday, is the easiest day. During the week the school (blue and white building) at the elbow in the road is very busy. The turn is extremely tight and there are cars and kids everywhere. The hill is essentially three little hills in one. We will go straight up towards the school, turn left away from the ocean and then turn right and rise up above and behind the school, before eventually turning right and enjoying the downhill ride to the road to the lighthouse.

Here we are ascending the hill towards the school and a shot looking back from the school:

Next we turn left and parallel the school (hill 2):

From the next corner we pause to look behind us:

And in front of us (hill 3):

It’s at this time that my heart is usually working the hardest. With an allowed maximum heart rate of 170, I am happy to see that I have not overdone myself today:

If you look closely, you can see that we have only been at this for 28 minutes. It’s taking longer to type this than to ride it!

Looking back down hill 3:

And ahead to the downhill ride the awaiting lighthouse:

The approaching lighthouse and a look back at the fun downhill ride we just had:

The road to the lighthouse – water on both sides. The lighthouse used to be an island, but a road was built over the rocks to accommodate traffic.

We have written about the lighthouse. You can read that entry here. Some people actually ride their bike up the switch back dirt path and then carry the bike up the stairs (or turn around). What I like to do is tie up my bike at the bottom. Fast walk up the path and 300+ steps, spend two minutes at the top, hurry down the stairs and then run down the path and jump back on my bike. It keeps my heart pounding and takes about 30 minutes depending on how many people I have to get around on the stairs. It is a great workout. My final picture is my bike tied up to a telephone pole waiting for me as I complete my trek down the hill. To get home, I go back the way I came. Total time is usually around 90 minutes, give or take as the wind and stopping to talk to friends often makes a difference.

A note about the picture. If you look to the right, you see three people sitting in the middle of the roundabout–one with a guitar. These three guys were sitting there when I got there and when I left just playing music and singing old Mexican ballads (quite well too). Just one of those little treats here in Mazatlan that helps me remember why we moved here.

If you ride a bike here, please be safe. It takes a little getting used to. Most of all be careful and have fun. Enjoy your ride!