Magical Mázatlan

Magical Mázatlan

Is it a Señor Frog’s tourist trap or a cultural paradise?

Yes and yes.

If you have one week to build sandcastles with the kids, squeeze limes into beer, and sunburn your butt, Mazatlán has you covered. 

Since Colin and I lead a uniquely sun-filled life, we opted to explore the other Mazatlán, the refurbished 19th century town that grew up to support the nearby mining industry with trade and transport. Also to supply the miners themselves with both Saturday night entertainment and Sunday morning salvation.

What’s left today is an old town of tropical neoclassical architecture: colorful buildings ornamented with ironwork that wouldn’t be out of place in Charleston or New Orleans. Wandering brass bands, outdoor cafes, and lush palms add to the sultry atmosphere.

Mazatlan church outside

Mazatlan church inside

Mazatlan plaza

Restaurant wall

It’s a place that cries out for hedonistic indulgence. Out of respect for the local culture, Colin and I indulged.

We partook of luscious shrimp molcajetes, aguachiles and to-die-for grilled arrachera, then we kept going with artisan pizzas, sticky toffee pudding and the stunningly beautiful music that kept us out till 2am, entranced. In fact, Colin went a little Facebook food photo crazy, but who can blame him? After weeks of a menu consisting of rice with ‘stuff,’ they served him an explosion of culinary delights and reliable cell coverage all at the same time.

We also did our part to work off our excesses with a surf & swim session and a steep hike up to the El Faro lighthouse, but the scales remained decidedly tipped in the bacchanalian direction.

Restaurant 1

Restaurant 2

Mazatlan piano sculpture

Ocean view


Throughout our joyous romp through Mazatlán, though, we could never quite forget we were there as sailors. Sitting in the Plaza Machado, Colin got a text from the U.S. Coast Guard who was trying to track down a friend’s boat after being contacted by a concerned family member. It turned out the boat was just out of cell range and popped up again safe and sound a couple days later, but it forced us to think through the ‘What if’ scenarios. It was also comforting to know the coasties have a keen interest in the safety of U.S.-flagged vessels, whatever waters they may travel.

Colin in the plaza

Then there was the fact that our visit started and ended not with an airport, but a harrowing channel transit into a tiny marina. Even a carefully tide-timed entry provided just over a foot of water below the keel, and our just-as-carefully planned exit involved a slightly terrifying punch through three-foot breaking waves at the mouth. 

One minor error in the narrow space, or just a touch of bad luck, could have had serious consequences for our lovely Pristine. Not ten minutes after our exit, we heard another sailboat radio the marina office for help because they’d run aground on a dropping tide. With a dozen pangas and water taxis around, we hope they got the help they needed to make it only a dramatic story, not a finale.

El Cid Entrance

On the way to Marina El Cid. On the way out, we were far too occupied to take photos.


This is the dredge that you don’t want to encounter in the narrow channel. And see that current ripping through?

As far as our own journey went, though, we got off safe and sound, bellies full and spirits soaring, and sailed away to a remarkably different adventure at Isla Isabel.

Fair winds and following seas, dear friends.

Chey and Colin

Where Are We Now?

After an amazing time at Isla Isabel that we’ll tell you all about shortly, we’re back on the mainland coast of Mexico, exploring little coves in the state of Nayarit, on the hunt for surf. At the moment, we’re in a little bay called Chacala that’s about as picturesque as it gets.

Shout Outs

We owe the vast majority of our Mazatlán foodie delights to Debbie, the irrepressible Canadian who took pity on two hungry, lost strangers on a street corner and let us tag along with her to lunch at Via Condotti, then gave us a wealth of great insider tips to the city, even chaperoning us to the exceptional nut and seed market. Thank you, Debbie!

Thanks also to Chris of SV Dérive for offloading the extra crew beer and to Dan, Dana and Diane of SV Quest for the awesome night out. We’re still toasting you all from Chacala. :)

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