Mazatlan Days & Nights

The cruise ships are arriving on a daily basis now. Having never set foot on a big-name cruise ship, it’s surreal to watch them sail into port in the morning, then turn around and leave mere hours later—just before sunset.

This is more or less the view from our dinette window. These massive ships appear on the horizon, lumber on by around 9am and turn around and leave just after 5pm.

This particular ship (I think a Carnival Cruise based on an online schedule we found) sailed for three-ish days from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta—hung around for 8 hours—sailed up here to Maz—pulled into port for 8 hours—then headed on to its final port of call—Cabo—before returning to San Diego.

That’s a lot of time on a massive ship at sea with 5,000 other passengers and comparably little time on shore in Mexico.

Seems particularly unfortunate to spend all that time and money in exchange for so little time in Mazatlan—one of the most historic, interesting, picturesque, and dynamic coastal cities in Mexico. These trips seem to be in high demand, nonetheless. On the flip side, more Mazatlan for the rest of us!

I’ll take my 150-square-foot home and $25/night beachside perch over a Carnival cruise any day. To each their own.

We’ve been talking for a while about Lori getting laser eye surgery here in Mexico.

In Nayarit, all the places were a couple hours drive away in Puerto Vallarta, so it never happened.

When we lived in La Paz, there weren’t any inspiring options in the area or even Cabo for that matter. Tijuana seemed like the place to go for that, but a thousand miles away.

Since we knew we’d be in Mazatlan a few weeks at this point, Lori found a good option here, so I convinced her to finally give it a try—do the consult and see what they say.

Of course, the office was in the most inconvenient location possible to us—set back in the hills in the north of town. So, we decided to make an afternoon out of it.

The main activity this afternoon is the Mazatlan Innovation Cultural Center in Old Town. I had my doubts about this place beforehand, but Lori assured me it would be worth it. And, surprise! She was right.

It’s a very unique place that defies explanation. In a nutshell, it tells the story of area technological advances from prehistoric times to the present.

All of the exhibits were interesting, but the virtual reality room was our favorite.

We had a choice of programs and the boys chose diving. Not a replacement for the real deal by any stretch, but still very cool.

Afterwards, we grabbed a ride north. We bid adieu to Lori for what we all thought would be a 30-minute consult and the three of us made our way over to the Golden Zone to see what we could see before dinnertime.

The boys came across a near-replica of our old Mitsubishi Montero which literally stopped them in their tracks. For a moment, they thought it was ours.

Baseball’s huge in Mazatlan. The local team is the Venados (Deer).

After meandering for a while, it became clear from her text messages that Lori’s 30 minute appointment was going to be a much longer affair. It took an hour before they even called her name, then she had to wait while her eyes dilated.

Most of the shops were starting to shut down, so there wasn’t a lot to entertain the boys. So, we headed to the beach to catch the sunset. Between 6pm when the shops close down and 9pm when the clubs start opening up, there isn’t much else to do in this part of town.

The Golden Zone is by far my least favorite section of Mazatlan. Two years ago, I vowed never to set foot here again.

It’s the most popular area to visit among tourists, especially Americans and Canadians. For the life of me, I can’t see why. It’s just a bunch of chain restaurants, kitschy Senior Frogs stores, and high-rise all-inclusive hotels. There’s nothing that says, “You’re in Mazatlan”.

Its one redeeming quality, however, might just be the sunsets. This one tonight was muy buena.

Over two hours after we dropped off Lori, she shuffled into the restaurant we were meeting up at—half blind from the eye drops. We were all happy to see mommy after her sojourn, and the food was delicious.

Unfortunately, the verdict is that Lori isn’t an ideal candidate due to her age. Bummer, but at least they were honest. We’ve heard that a lot of these places in Mexico will green light the surgery regardless, even if the results are bound to be short-lived.

Another “late” night returning to the island.

The next couple of days were pretty chill ones on Stone Island—just the way we like it. Some school, some beach time, some projects, some meandering. And the weather was just about perfect shorts and t-shirt weather. The water’s still a bit chilly for our tastes at this point, but there’s plenty else to do.

One morning, the fog even rolled in. Over three years of living in beach towns in Mexico and we’ve never seen fog at sea level. Mazatlan’s a special place in that respect.

Since arriving in Mazatlan, the boys haven’t gotten to spend much time with other kids. Lori found a Saturday kids club on the north side of town. It was only for two hours, but we thought we’d give it a try. The boys would have some kid time and we could have a morning to ourselves in the city—the first time apart from the boys in about six weeks.

Of course, the kids club had to be near the Golden Zone (see above for my feelings on that), and we spent most of the time walking south away from the Golden Zone to the malecon, but it was still nice to have a couple of hours with just the two of us in Maz during daylight hours.

After collecting the kids, we looked at a map and saw that the marina looked close. Nothing is exactly close together in Mazatlan (the scale can be very deceiving). It was a hot, long walk with two tired and hungry kiddos and the marina, itself, was disappointing.

We grabbed a snack and caught a taxi for the long ride back.

Iguanas don’t surprise the boys anymore. But this mysterious accessory in the taxi elicited a dozen questions:

I love driving the full length of the Malecon. Scratch that. I love being driven the full length of the Malecon in Mazatlan, especially on a sunny Saturday. Unlike La Paz, the Malecon rarely seems to be completely stopped up. Not to mention the city offers one of the more picturesque backdrops of the big tourist towns in Mexico.

The water taxis between Centro and Stone Island are of the large covered lancha variety and leave every 10-15 or so.

Aurigas (pickup taxis with benches in the back) ply the island and are the primary (and cheapest) public transport option.

Independent school time. Noe loves this workbook lately. He’s been waking early to work on it. He’s funny like that sometimes.

On Sunday, Noe was having a bit of an off morning, so I took him on a long walk around the island. We ended up sharing breakfast here and bringing back a fresh loaf of artisan bread.

We spend so much time with the four of us that it’s easy to forget to carve out one-on-one time with each boy. It was closer to the forefront of our minds when Lori and I didn’t see these guys for seven hours most days.

Just down the street from Cafe Avoda is a string of places selling cocadas—delicious coconut cakes made in a variety of colors. Stone Island is known for their signature cocadas and this is one of the best places to grab one for take away.

When we returned, things were heating up, so the four of us went down to the beach for a walk. We later agreed this was probably a mistake.

Last Sunday was pretty low key, but today was crazy. Mid afternoon and the beach was crammed with parked cars and swarming with four wheelers. And everyone seemed like they had been drinking since sunrise. No holiday that we’re aware of. No rhyme or reason. Just how some Sundays are on the beach in Mexico.

We attempted to find a quiet section far down the beach, but the riffraff followed. On one end, a group of hopelessly wasted individuals spent the entire time stumbling around their beached pickup half-heartedly working to free it from the sand. I may have lent a hand if they seemed serious about the task at hand, but they certainly did not.

On the other, a family stumbled around hooting, hollering, and drinking heavily as their day encampment slowly got washed away by the rising tide.

All the while, convoys and four-wheelers plowed through our small slice beach coming within inches of the boys in some cases. Young men here think this is hilarious. I do not.

We planned on a full afternoon of beach time today, but could only stomach about twenty minutes before we packed it up. Fortunately, our humble abode is only steps away but feels like miles from the chaos.

We’ll try again Monday when things return to normal.

A bit of prep for tomorrow’s big outing.

My outlook improved 110% once I fired up the charcoal grill. An ideal night to barbecue—Michelada, wings, tunes, and a beautiful sunset.

And roasted marshmallows, of course.

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