We arrived in Mazatlan for our honeymoon Sunday October 17. Two other newly wedded couples on the plane were staying at resorts but we chose the bed and breakfast Casa de Leyendas, and we were very glad we did (specific review to come). We paid extra to get the shuttle straight from the airport and it was convenient to have that ready to go. We rode through the city and settled into our cozy room.
ACTIVITIES. This was our first time in Mazatlan, thanks to google and TA. We spent a lot of time on the Malecon and beach and around Plaza Machado and the historic district (the construction was in full swing but it was still full of visitors, especially on the weekend). We took the 20-peso ferry to Stone Island and enjoyed wading in the waves so much we came back the next day. Sharon at the Casa helped book us the zip line at Vereando(?) which was a lot of fun.
TRANSPORTATION. There were so many quality establishments near where we were staying that we walked almost everywhere and only visited one restaurant twice. We spent 40 pesos on pulmonias the whole week (once coming back from Stone Island on a hot afternoon). Glenn and Sharon lent us bikes to ride up the Malecon on Saturday morning to visit the Golden Zone. We enjoyed the ride, although the Zona didn't seem that exciting to us, especially after the beach gave way to tall buildings on both sides of the street. Maybe it's more fun at night, or maybe we were just spoiled by the Olas Altas atmosphere all week. Like others on this forum, we recommend not renting a car. Traffic and parking are not worth it with so many places in walking distance (and there's always a pulmonia honking by).
FOOD. Sometimes it seemed like all we did in Mazatlan was eat. We experienced everything from the upscale Topolo's to the hot dog stand on the street. We enjoyed the variety, and it hadn't occurred to me that seafood would be integrated into Mexican cuisine. I'd had shrimp pasta back home, of course, but who had ever thought of shrimp fajitas? Shrimp quesadellias?! Garlic shrimp! And JUMBO SHRIMP wrapped in BACON stuffed with CHEESE!!! (thanks Jeepman for that Pedro y Lola's review) Favorite margarita was mango at Topolo's, but maybe that's cuz I'm not much of a straight alcohol drinker. The new Macaw's at Casa de Leyendas also had a good bar, good atmosphere, and good prices. My favorite drink was the apple smoothie at the Tà Café. Favorite desserts were tres leches from Panama and banana pie from Pedro y Lola's.
STREET VENDORS. Thanks to TA I was prepared to defend against a full onslaught of time share sharks, but we didn't get accosted at all, either in the airport or in the southern streets and beaches. We didn't see any vendors until we went to Stone Island, where there seemed an unsustainably high number of locals all peddling the same dresses and sombreros. It was a little annoying when they would approach us during meals, but a simple "no gracias" would suffice. We did buy a couple of things, and I'm patient enough to let them talk themselves down but too nice to work it further. (They gotta make a living somehow. We did "walk away" once to save 20 pesos on a dress.) Later we got a wood carved pelican on the Malecon.
LANGUAGE was never a barrier, as most everybody spoke English well, or well enough. My wife knew almost no Spanish but I was proud of how much she picked up by the week's end. I used my minor schooling to enhance some interactions (and have a fun broken conversation with a surfer). Most of the menus are printed in both languages, which helps with ordering and learning vocabulary. (We quickly learned phrases like "la cuenta" and "tomas el cambio.") I was surprised by how often the waiters used "tu" verbs instead of "usted" but I suppose it's similar to the vendors calling every stranger "amigo"
SAFETY. We generally felt safe everywhere we went in Mazatlan, although we never strayed far from the historic district or stayed out very late. There were lots of cars, lights, tourists, and locals and it was easy to forget that gang members might be killing each other somewhere in the city. At the same time, many of the streets had rundown buildings, graffiti, and bars over first-floor windows, and it was easy to imagine the calm scene flipping to dangerous in the absence of lights and people. But from what we learned and experienced the district is safe and even still improving.
All in all we had a great, relaxing time. We'd love to come back someday and experience even more - although there's a whole lot of world to see out there and not a whole lot of money. Thanks again to TripAdvisor and everyone here who posted reviews and advice. I'll be supporting more specific restaurants and activities on the review pages later. EL FIN.