Carpa Olivera Ocean-fed Pool Positions Mazatlán Among World’s Elite


Carpa Olivera Pool, Mazatlán, México • May 1, 2015

The renovation to Mazatlán’s historic Carpa Olivera—the ocean-fed public swimming pool in Olas Altas—positions the destination among a very elite group of cities worldwide with scenic ocean-fed swimming pools. Most such pools are steeped in history, as is ours, built in 1914 by Chilean chef Antonio Olivera, but most of them are NOT free of charge and open to the public, as ours is.

The Bondi Baths in Australia, for example, have been around for over 100 years. Costing $6.50/person or $18/family to enter, Bondi hosts swim clubs, oceanside yoga, a gym and restaurant. Its facilities are also a gorgeous location for weddings and events. From where I sit, Bondi looks better than Carpa Olivera. But, Australia is quite a ways away!

Bondi Beach, Australia

Bondi Beach, Australia

Ocean water pools are quite popular down under. In addition to the Bondi Baths, Sydney has quite a few ocean water swimming pools, and Balmain harbor is home to Australia’s oldest tidal-fed swimming pool, the Dawn Fraser Baths, built in the 1880s. Dawn Fraser offers a snack shop and hot showers. I’m confident Carpa Olivera’s showers won’t have hot water. But, then, we don’t really need it, either—especially not in the summer.


Dawn Fraser Baths, Australia

It’s said that New South Wales has over 100 ocean-fed pools. A humpback whale was even found dead in one of the pools in Sydney; see the video below. Outside of Australia, however, ocean water pools are few and far between. That’s what makes Carpa Olivera so unique—a touristic feature we should tout loudly! The Carpa Olivera restoration, in my opinion, puts Mazatlán ahead of leading tourist destinations such as San Francisco—where I’ve long wondered why someone doesn’t restore the historic Sutro baths, and Honolulu—where the Waikiki Natatorium remains a ruin. Especially a shame, since the natatorium was built as a war memorial in 1927! Click on a photo below to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

England has a long tradition of sea-fed swimming pools; my guess is they probably gave the idea to the Aussies who then ran, er, swam with it. The community-supported Shoalstone Pool near Devon, England, built in 1896, remains a gorgeous place—and entry is free! Just like Carpa Olivera, its water is refreshed every time there’s a high tide. There’s also the Sea Pool at Bude, built under the cliffs on the north Cornwall coast in the 1930s.

The tidal pool outside the fortress city of Saint-Malo, France, is home to the largest tides in Europe—26 feet between high and low tides! At high tide, only the dive platform of the pool is visible, but at low tide, the entire swimming pool emerges. It was built in 1937, and is covered with algae much like Carpa Olivera was before the new remodel.

They say that Chef Olivera got the idea for building Carpa Olivera here in Mazatlán after seeing similar pools in Portugal. Perhaps he had visited the natural lava pools in the Azores, on Bizcoitos, Terceira Island? Or maybe he fell in love with Doca do Cavacas in Madeira?

Capetown, South Africa, also has an ocean water pool with a killer view, though the water is pumped in rather than tidal fed. It’s called Sea Point Swimming Pool., and they bill it as “the most breathtaking public swimming pool in the world.” I beg to differ, as I much prefer Mazatlán’s Carpa Olivera view and more natural, rustic nature.

My favorite seawater pool is perhaps the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavík, with its thermal waters and killer views. It is, however, more of a spa than a swimming pool, and costs minimum 35 Euros to get in. Of course, you can pay extra to get a massage, facial, sauna, etc.

Copenhagen has the Kastrup Sea Bath,  which looks more like diving boards and interesting architecture in the ocean, rather than a swimming pool.


Kastrup Pool, Copenhagen

Canada has a couple of ocean water swimming pools, including Kitsilano Pool in Vancouver and another in New Brunswick’s Fundy National Park. Both are filled with ocean water, but rather than being fed naturally by the tide, the water is pumped in.

Coral Gables, Florida has the very cool public pool, the Venetian, built in a coral rock quarry. It’s been around since 1923, but it is filled from an aquifer rather than from the ocean.

Venetian Pool in Coral Gables

Venetian Pool in Coral Gables

Have you visited a cool ocean-fed pool? Share with us your favorite!

How did I end up researching ocean-fed pools this May Day? Well, back in December we told you about several exciting, high-profile development plans for Mazatlán. We’ve recently heard from several sources that the renovation of the historic (built in 1916) balneario/ocean water swimming pool in Olas Altas—called Carpa Olivera—is scheduled to open in May. That is in plenty of time for the summer enjoyment of local and national tourist families! Ahead of schedule, really. Could it be true?

Having photographed Carpa Olivera just four short months ago when it was completely torn apart (see photos below), and knowing how many projects in town are so often chronically behind schedule and over budget (are we EVER going to see a new shark tank?), I wondered whether such good news could really be factual. The construction is hidden behind large tarps/lonas, and we don’t often walk along that portion of the malecón, so we didn’t know.

Today after we hiked the lighthouse we decided to check out progress, and the workers kindly gave us a tour. Progress is incredible! And, I’m very pleased to report that reality closely parallels, for a change, architectural renderings!

The view from the top level over the pool and out to the bay is incredible. That top terrace is lined with benches, so it’s sure to become a popular resting spot for families enjoying the views from our oceanside promenade. A second level down towards the ocean includes another large terrace and a snack shop, while the ocean level houses the bathrooms, water fountains for playing, the water slide, and the pools. The wood on the walkways and ramp as pictured in the renderings appears to have been changed to decorative/3-dimensional concrete, which seems much smarter to me.

Today, workers were chipping away at hardened concrete to give walkways traction/make them less slippery, as well as to give them more visual appeal. The ramps make the pool area completely wheelchair accessible, though of course if I were physically challenged I wouldn’t want to get into the pool itself. It’ll be nice for accompanying one’s family and friends, however. The cool-looking spiral water slide is in place, as it has been for some time. It is still missing the fountain that goes on top.

With the high waves coming in this morning, the pool looked very exciting, indeed! It has been refaced, so is much cleaner and more appealing than it used to be. The ocean splashes most of the lower level terrace at high tide or in rough waters, so bathers will still need to be attentive. But, that’s part of the attraction of an ocean-fed public pool! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slide show.

Bathrooms are fully plumbed, tiled, and nearly ready to go. The modern, molded concrete sinks are in place; toilets and faucets have yet to be installed. One worry: there is only one toilet stall and one shower nozzle in each of the bathrooms, men’s and women’s—woefully inadequate for the amount of use the place will surely get.

The walls that are finished have a much lighter rock face than in the architectural drawings (see the photo above of the snack bar). I don’t like it nearly as much. The walls along the ramp and terraces have not been finished, so it wasn’t clear to us if they will have a darker/richer rock facing of the type we’ve been expecting; we sure hope so, as it would add so much visual appeal to the facility. My guess is the facing will be identical to what’s already been installed.

Improvements like the new and improved Carpa Olivera make me proud of our city and the current administration. The renovations are coming in on time and on budget, as far as I know. We asked the workers if entrance to the pools would be free or if there would be a fee, but they didn’t know the answer, and I have yet to ask someone who’d know. Whether there’s a fee, or whether it’s free, Carpa Olivera puts Mazatlán front and center as home to one of the world’s most scenic and exciting ocean-fed swimming pools!

Link to the history of Carpa Olivera pool.

Link to a Noroeste article on the inauguration of the renovation on June 29, 2015.

— This post is part of the #MyGlobalLife linkup.

Loads of Pics of Carnavál Parades 2015

DSC_0711 - Version 2We absolutely LOVE the Carnavál parades every year. There is nothing better than a bunch of Mazatlecos in good humor, with their dancing shoes on and ready to party! Everyone from toddlers to grandparents get in on the fun. Mazatlán’s first Carnavál was 117 years ago (1898), and 2015’s parades had 31 floats. Dance troupes from studios and schools all over town participate in our parades. I love all the youthful exuberance and excitement as these kids, who’ve rehearsed for months and raised money for costumes, get their big day in the limelight. It is a city tradition, involving at some point in time nearly every family in town, it seems. I enjoy watching them in the parades, and also as they put on their makeup, chat, eat and warm up prior to the parades. I especially love the young couples in love. Here are just a few of my favorite Carnavál faces of 2015’s parades. Click on any photo to see it larger or view a slideshow (highly recommended).

The parade on Sunday had 300,000 spectators, not to mention those on Tuesday! The city supplied free bleachers with 15,000 seats this year, making Carnavál fun accessible to more people.


Most of the people in our condo building prefer to watch the parade from the pool deck. From there they can take photos of whole floats, with the bay and the sunset in the background. We prefer our annual street-side party, where we can cheer on the dancers and join with them when they invite us to do so. It’s great fun! Click on any photo to see it larger or view a slideshow.

This year the pre-parade came round and we all caught beads, hats, t-shirts and other gadgets. The main parade, however, was well over an hour late. It started fairly on time; we saw the fireworks. But then it stopped. We waited. We drank and danced. We talked with our neighbors and friends. We enjoyed the clowns and vendors passing by, and the families and kids playing in the street. And we wondered what had happened to the parade.

It seems a generator failed on one of the floats, and it took quite a while to get it functioning. Also, a huge group of people were blocking the parade route, and the police had to restore order to the scene. Finally, about 8:00 pm, the first parade reached us.

The theme this year, “Dreams of Momo,” the god of merriment, was interpreted as one of fantasy and mystery, including a variety of entries such as Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, dragons, fairies, Indian goddesses, unicorns, a Medusa-like octopus, China, Japan, Egypt, and Native American chieftains.

As you know, Maestro Rigo Lewis, who designed our royal floats for over 50 years, passed away last year. This year of course was a transition year. I’m afraid it was a rather disappointing one. The royal floats were not nearly as regal, intricate, realistic or impressive as we have grown used to—no one gasped or said “wow” like they usually do. We have been told by some of the designers that CULTURA was afraid of losing Rigo’s legacy, so they wouldn’t let them create freely, but rather had them attempt to honor his baroque style. On the other hand, we’ve heard and read that CULTURA is eager to forge a more modern, minimalist style of floats.

All I can say is, I hope the outcome is better next year. The regular floats were uneven; some were really quite cool, and some looked like they were put together by high schoolers. For the first time ever, some of the commercial pre-parade floats were better than those in the main parade! We saw plain, undecorated iron rods and scaffolding; generators right in the middle of floats, blocking the view of key elements; floats that were very obviously made for third-story rather than street viewing, which ruins the whole tradition in Mazatlán of a street party and caters to the privileged; floats such as that of Momo that were so plain as to be embarrassing; people showing through sheer fabric on the floats when we weren’t supposed to see them; lights that were too direct and overbearing; and floats that had so many elements to them that there was no viewing angle from which you could see the main points clearly. All in all, the floats were not up to the standard that CULTURA has set for us. But, it is a transition year, and we can hope that 2016 will be better than ever.

There were quite a few LED floats, which we saw the first time a few years ago in the children’s parade on Monday night. This year, there was no children’s parade, nor were there fireworks on the malecón on Monday night. We really missed this, as did tens of thousands of Mazatlecos and tourists. The Espinoza Paz concert in Olas Altas was great, but not a replacement for a family-friendly, easily accessible and free-of-charge activity like the parade and fireworks.

Want to know one of the best parts of the pre-parade on the second day? A bunch of girls in one of the comparsas spotted Espinoza Paz dining in a sushi shop just down the street from us. Check out the hysteria that ensued:

In the end, it was a TERRIFIC couple of parades, with everyone feeling joyful and happy. Beautiful community-building was had by all. Complaining that some of the floats weren’t up to the incredibly high standards set in previous years doesn’t diminish the unbelievable wonder of the event. Thank you, Mazatlán, CULTURA, dancers, and everyone involved!

How to Climb a Palm Tree

5.IMG_0161I love how people worldwide do the same things in so many different ways. For example, climbing palm trees. How many ways do YOU know to climb a palm tree?

Where I was born, the mainland USA, people who climb palm trees tend to use the proper equipment: gloves, spiked/spurred boots, and, always safety conscious, a harness and a rope or “flip line.”

In many places that I’ve witnessed worldwide, palm tree climbers do the job au naturale, using no equipment—not even shoes. They use only their bare hands and feet. One technique is to actually walk up the palmera, using the scars from dropped fronds for leverage:

The most popular equipment-less way that I’ve seen worldwide to climb a palm tree, however, is using one’s thighs as vices:

This gentleman uses natural “rope” that he puts around his feet to aid his climb, a technique somewhere between using and not using equipment, I’d say:

Here’s a guy who climbed a palmera with a GoPro, so we get a climbers’-eye view:

This morning, on a lazy, warm, post-Christmas/pre-New Year’s day, we spent some time during our morning walk to watch as the CFE workers climbed the new palm trees on the malecón to install the beautiful new lighting, now that the electric cabling is in place.

We are excited to have lighting on the new palm trees along the malecón in front of our house—they say the lights should get turned on Monday or Tuesday in front of where we live. Of course, they’ve been on for a while now from Valentino’s southward to Insurgentes.

3.IMG_0159The CFE workers are using a combination of the above methods. They have ropes that they have braided into a loop on each end: one larger and one smaller loop. The rope is passed around the tree trunk and through the large loop, to act as a harness. The other, smaller loop goes on the guy’s foot or thigh, like a stirrup. Each worker had two double-looped ropes: one for each leg (see photo above). Each worker moves one of the foot ropes that’s wound around the tree up with his hands, as he steps up. Then, he rolls the other rope up along the truck, and steps up with the other foot. Some workers kept the loop on their feet and walked up, others, less nimble I suppose, put the second harness around their thigh to walk up.

Either way, the leg/foot harnesses appeared to make it much easier to climb the tree than just bare feet. Plus, if they lost their footing, their foot braces would act as a harness. No spurred boots, no gloves, but they did also use a safety harness. Sorry about the quality of the photos; we only had a cell phone with us.

How does the whole process work? A truck drops off a bunch of the light fixtures in one central location for that day’s work. To us, this looked dangerous: easy pickings for someone in a pickup truck to steal. One of the CFE workers has a bicycle, and bikes back to the fixture stockpile, bringing one light at a time to the workers who do the installation.

Two workers climb each tree to install the lights, one light on each side. The malecón, as you well know, has already been jackhammered a couple of times, and conduit and cabling installed. Conduit (metal pipe) has also been fastened along the ocean side of each of the palmeras/palm trees. Each piece of conduit has a guide wire placed through it. (Click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.)

The workers climb the tree, the electrician going first. He has a rope hanging from his waist. Once the two workers are in position at the top of the tree, a third worker down below ties a light fixture to the rope, and the electrician pulls it up. The two workers use temporary wire to fasten the fixture to the tree, and the electrician then connects the wiring. They put in the second fixture the same way, then install the metal bands that will hold the fixtures up permanently. The electrician throws the two electrical cables, one from each fixture, to the third worker on the malecón (he holds onto the top end of the cables). The guy below braids these two cables together, fastening the ends with electrical tape. The electrician pulls the braid back up, and fastens it to the guide wire. Finally, he feeds it into the conduit, and the guy on the bottom pulls it down through the tube.

There is plenty of extra cabling, so that the palm tree can grow without rewiring the lights. This extra cabling is buried at the base of the tree.

Nothing earth shattering, but a fun show to watch on a Saturday morning. And, several steps closer to having lights on the palmeras in front of our house!

City Improvements are Rockin’ It!

Mazatlán has a bumper crop of city renovation and development projects underway, and I have been remiss, posting to VidaMaz’s Facebook page about several of them, but failing to actually upload them here to the blog for you who don’t follow us on social media.

Parque Central/Central Park

The first project is championed by Pueblo Bonito’s Neto Coppel. He announced his plans to build a new state-of-the-art museum several months ago, and we shared those press releases. The new museum will be built on the site of the current Teodoro Mariscal baseball stadium, (if) and when a new stadium is built up north in the marina. The overall project, called Parque Central or Central Park, is planned for the current site of the Bosque de la Ciudad, City Park, just behind the malecón between the Aquarium and Avenida Insurgentes.

I love how the estuaries are actually expanded rather than contracted in the plans, and I also adore that we will have another frontage road to Avenida del Mar—permitting access during street closures such as Carnavál parades and marathon. The plans include pedestrian and bicycle access to the park from the malecón, which will be terrific for locals and tourists. The plans, I’m sure you’ll agree, look marvelous! This will be a huge addition to our gorgeous city! Click on any photo to view it larger or see a slideshow.

Carpa Olivera/Outdoor Pool in Olas Altas

The second project I want to be sure you know about is already under construction. It is the renovation of the historic outdoor pool in Olas Altas. For the past several weeks the area has had a plywood wall blocking access, and work is proceeding to upgrade and update the pool. Below are the architects’ renderings of that project, as well as a couple of photos of the site from the Mayor’s office.

Again, I’m sure you’ll agree this project is a huge improvement. It will be wonderful to have a public swimming pool with such an incredible view. This is a project that will be a terrific asset to families in our community, and it will showcase Mazatlán on the world stage—seaside pools gain a lot of attention.

Palm Trees on the Malecón

I’ve posted photos of workers cutting the cement of the malecón in order to plant the palm trees, which it seems were gifted to the city by Stone Island. I then posted photos of them installing lighting. There has been a lot of pushback by residents who don’t like the new palm trees. Some complain they provide no shade, others that they ruin the open view of the ocean. Personally, I absolutely love them! I believe they add a sophistication and cared-for look to our beloved oceanside promenade, which I believe is the longest in the world. As I write workers are installing lighting in front of our condo building, but the first stretch of lighting, from Valentino’s to Las Gavias, has been completed. Photos from the Tourism Office are below.

New Athletic Facilities in the Bosque/City Park

By now you know we have new soccer fields and basketball courts in the grassy center of the boulevard along city park. Just recently they have finished two new, gorgeous tennis courts, and I am told the city will be offering tennis lessons to the public. Thus far they go very under-used, so get out there and play!

Between the new courts and the Kilometer Zero art installation are new weight and exercise machines that have been installed. These are obviously built for outdoor use, but my guess is they won’t last long in this salty air unless they are scrupulously maintained. Get to them and work out while you can! At 6:30 am yesterday when I went by, a young man, a trainer, was there instructing people how to use it.

Zona Dorada/Golden Zone Renovations

Finally, I reported on our social media several months ago when the Mayor announced rehabilitation of the Golden Zone. Improvements include new sidewalks, which are gorgeous, by the way! They installed the new undulating wave/resin and concrete sidewalk in front of the Hotel Playa a week or two ago. I failed to get a photo of it when I saw it, and now it has been all torn up as city workers install new cable for lighting. Poor planning, sadly. The Golden Zone should be finished by February, they say, and in addition to curbs, sidewalks, lighting and landscaping, we pray they’ll be working on drainage. Flooding in that area is horrible when it rains, primarily due to the fact that most of it is reclaimed land.

Some residents complain that all these monies could better be spent on drainage, sewage, road repair, etc., but nearly every day on the Mayor’s page on Facebook he shares with us yet another paving or water project in one of the city’s many colonias. He does, indeed, seem to be doing what he promised our municipality when he ran for office! I, for one, am very excited.

LOVING our city!


Festival de la Luz 2014

DSC_0120 - Version 2©Last night’s Gran Maratón del Pacífico fireworks, called the Festival de la Luz, were spectacular! As usual we watched them from our pool deck with a few friends who happened by.

I love being in the middle of the 15 launch locations here, but I’m always pulled and torn which way to look: left, right or forward. There is no way to capture the magnitude of the event all in one glance or photo from the middle of things. On the other hand, being in the center of things does rock… One year I do want to go to one end or the other to watch them, as the perspective would be so different. It’s just so comfy sitting at home with a glass of vino!

I got out the tripod and did my best to capture some of the glory of the evening’s main event. It’s fun to finally be learning and practicing how to use all the manual settings on my camera. I’ll eventually get there. Thank you for your encouragement during my learning journey! Click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

This year this terrific annual event included four flyboard performances. The flyboarders performed at different locations around the bay. One was very close to us; it started with one performer and ended with two. I spliced footage from the fireworks and the flyboard together in the movie below. Enjoy!