I've gone to Mazatlan 10 out of the past 12 Februarys. Discovered this forum about six months ago and thanks to all the postings I enjoyed the following first time experiences: Dinners at Arre Lulu's, Fat Fish, Olas Altos Steak House, Te Amo Lucy's, and Dunias. Sunset at the Hotel Freeman. More to follow.
Flew out of Phoenix Friday morning on US Airways. Flight was at less than 33% capacity. Flight back was about 70% full. The overwhelming observation on this trip was that tourism is way down! Also, it seemed Canadiens outnumbered Americans by 2:1. Met many nice Canadiens (and Americans) while down there.
Did something major different this year. Rented a 3BR house in Centro, in the Ice Box Hill area. Check in and out was Sunday. Fri and Sat stayed at El Cid Castilla. I was concered about not having easy beach access so also booked a room at Las Flores for Tues-Thurs nights after finding a great rate through Orbitz. About $40 per night.
LODGING: El Cid Castilla was great. Nice room on 12th floor overlooking the ocean. Quite a bit of activity at the pool despite tourism being down. TV had a lot of channels in English. Las Flores was not very busy. The room was small and the beds looked and felt uncomfortable. Couldn't find any English language channels (not that I really cared, just wanted to check the news). The jacuzzi was not hot, just luke warm. Cruisers were on the hotel beach Wednesday. We actually enjoyed seeing them because the place really livened up. The house in Centro was located on Canizales street as you ascended Ice Box Hill. Found it in VRBO.com and got it for $700 for the week. Two large bedrooms plus a smaller one. Each had a full bathroom. Tall ceilings, air conditioners and ceiling fans throughout. Living room, auxillary room, dining room and full kitchen with a good sized refrigerator. Laundry room with washer and dryer. There was an interior courtyard with multiple levels and a large outdoor table w 4 chairs were we would drink our morning coffee and read the newspaper. Also from the outdoor patio was a spiral staircase that went to the roof. From there you could see cruise ships, centro, the Cathedral, Hotel Freeman, Stone Island etc. By the way, the house was only a few blocks away from the Cathedral, Mercado, Plaza Machado and Olas Altos. Each morning it was about a 5 minute walk to the Malecon and Olas Altos. Once there, I would jog for about 20 minutes which took me past the Cliff Divers. There were actually diving one morning, so I got to see that for the first time. I have to say, we really enjoyed being able to just take a short walk to all of the places I mentioned above. Also, taxis and buses were plentiful just 3 short blocks away. Aroma Spa was also just a few minutes away.
RESTAURANTS - Did the PANCHO'S thing my 2nd night and it was good as usual. The place that stood out however was ARRE LULI'S. I had been there before, but not for dinner. Ate there twice this trip. The seafood platter was on special one night for $120 pesos. Rock lobster, 4 grilled shrimp, mahi-mahi fingers, tortillas and rice. By the way, they have very cold cerveza and it was on special for 10 pesos one night. Also, their margaritas were among the best I had on the trip. Dined on the 2nd floor one night with a great view of the street below. Unfortunately, very few people walking by and that was on a Friday night around 7pm. FFAT FISH was interesting. Not a great atmospher, but BBQ Ribs for 2 for $160 pesos. Mostly beer and margarita drinkers, but we felt like having wine. I walked up to the bar and they put several bottles of wine in front of me to choose. They were mostly Argentine and Chilean. The one I selected was a Cab Sav and less than $12 (for the bottle). Some Canadien guys came in and noticed us drinking wine and they had the same after having a taste of ours. OLAS ALTOS STEAK HOUSE - pricey, but well worth it. Must be the best steak in Mazatlan, We each had a medium size filet, about $25 each. Couldn't eat it all, so a stray pregnant dog we found wandering by our house was the big winner that night! TE AMO LUCY'S - dined there twice. Nice atmosphere w live music and reasonable prices. Food was good. TOPOLO'S across the street from Te Amo Lucy's is a really nice restaurant. A bit pricey, but what the heck, you're on vacation, plus a great dining experience. Probably the best wine selection in town. We enjoyed a 2007 60/40 Reserva Santa Ema Cab Sav/Merlot from Chile. I think it was 320 pesos. It was soooo good, we had two bottles. Breakfast - I still like JUNGLE JUICE. Great food at a good price, delicious bloody marys and free internet access on their computer.
OFF THE WALL DINING - tried the buffet across the street from the Mercado. LA FONDITA- located on the 2nd floor. If you look up from the Mercado, you will be able to find it. $50 pesos got you everything including beverage. We did lunch there. They are also open for breakfast. This place is really clean! DUNIAS - around the corner from the Shrimp Ladies. What a fun thing to do! We bought our shrimp and brought it over to Dunias which is a large bar with a kitchen and two levels for dining/drinking. For $40 pesos they prepare your shrimp one of 3 ways: Garlic, breaded or Mexican spicey. Mostly locals there, but we felt welcome. Very little English spoken except for the Manager who had actually lived iin California before. This will be a "must do" for me every trip back to Mzt.
FREEMAN HOTEL at Sunset. Another "must do". Thanks fellow posters for turning me on to this place. Bring your camera.
FISHING - went deep sea fishing on Monday. It was windy and the waves were close to six feet high at times. Needless to say, we bounced around a lot, but still enjoyed being out there. Only two strikes, no fish. I think we paid about $210 for 6 hours after negotiating down the price. Just the two of us went out. On the way in as the lines were being reeled in, a large bird flew in to grab the bait. The mate had to reel him in to remove the hook from his beak. I helped him and the hook was swiftly removed and the bird flew away. I think he is ok.
ROCKSLIDE NEAR CLIFF DIVERS AREA - as we took a Pulmonia from El Cid to the house in Centro on Sunday we came across a huge rock slide across the road from the Cliff Divers. A truck parked there had it's rear window smashed as well as the side. Traffic was reduced to one lane with rock debris all over the road.
CRUISE SHIP AREA-LA PUNTILLA-STONE ISLAND - this made for a nice outing. You can take Sabalo Centro bus to the end of the line to access these places. In our case, just a 50 pesos Pulmonia ride from Centro. The shopping and people watching is pretty awesome at the Cruise Ship entrance. Lots going on. Then I lit up a Cuban Cigar and we walked to La Puntilla Restaurant. I still love this place despite a fellow poster's disparaging remarks about it. We just had drinks, but the people around us seemed to be enjoying their food and it looked really good. Don't know about just catering to cruisers, because I always see a lot of locals there and can't tell cruisers from regular vacationers. Anyway, what a beautiful setting. Outdoor restaurant under a huge canopy. Attentive service, clean throughout including the restrooms and a beautiful view of ships passing by. From there we took the $20 peso water taxi to Stone Island. It was remarkably deserted for a Wed or Thur afternoon around 2pm. There were people, but nothing like we used to see. Had a cold beer at Victor's and just soaked up the sunshine and beautiful day. There were about 10 of us at Victor's and maybe 15 next door at Lety's.
MASSAGE - enjoyed 3 at Mayan Massage - 150 pesos for about an hour. Aroma Spa has a 170 pesos special on Saturdays, otherwise 250. It's well worth it!
INTERNET ACCESS IN CENTRO - several places. One was right across the street from the Cathedral. I think it was a copier place, but they had about 15 PC stations set up with a printer. Very inexpensive.
MEGA-SAM'S CLUB-THE MALL - all within walking distance of each other and close to the Golden Zone hotels. Plenty of transportation available including buses. My first trip to MEGA and found it very interesting and well stocked.
THE RUNS - beware of the restaurant to the south, next door to El Cid Castilla, same side of the street. The day I checked out, we had breakfast there. I had orange juice and eggs machaca. As soon as I walked out of there, I headed back to my room. Thank goodness we hadn't checked out yet! My buddy Greg didn't have any problems, maybe because of the booze he drank with his breakfast instead of OJ. :)
PLAZA MACHADO - because of our close proximity, several evenings were spent there. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the best with live music. Plenty of restaurants and Te Amo Lucy and Topolos only about a block away. Highly recommend.
WORST MARGARITA - Gus Gus. This is a very popular spot for live music and was very busy the Friday night I went there, but I got to say, they served me the worst Margarita I had on the trip and believe me, there were many!
CERRITOS - we stayed at Torres several trips to Mzt and I have great memories of the beautiful grounds, the pool, jacuzzi, sleeping with the sliding door open listening to the waves and just some great times. For a day trip we headed out to the Cerritos area to see all the changes and new construction. Got as far as Giner's bi-lingual horses. On the way back, stopped at Torres to hang out at the pool. Was surprised to see they had fenced off the onice beautiful lawn area to the North of the pool that used to be full of lawn chairs and people sun bathing. Other than that, it is still a terrific place and I highly recommend it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - I'm from Minneapolis, but have lived in Tucson since 1985. My buddy Greg is a teacher in St Cloud, Mn and we have been friends since grade school and went to college together at St Cloud State. We are both married, but our wives let us get away for this trip each year. His wife doesn't like to fly and is afraid of Mexico. My wife is a flight attendent and is happy to skip a trip and stay home with our two bulldogs. Growing up in Minnesota, I was exposed to and always liked Canadians. Now that I live 60 miles from Mexico, I am fortunate to have befriended many Hispanic people. In fact, I am a minority on my seniors softball team which is comprised of almost all Hispanics. In five years, I'm looking forward to retiring from my career in radio broadcasting (business office).