We left Puerto Vallarta right after sunset, and set sail to Mazatlan. Our ship docked at 700 am, and according to the ship’s Princess Patter, it was going to be another lovely, sunny day.
This popular port is known primarily for their seafood, especially shrimp. The tour company for this port was Vista Tours, and the instructions was to find our guide at the “umbrellas”. Unfortunately for us, there’s numerous “umbrellas” at the port. Fortunately, all the competitors were gracious and kind enough to direct us to the right tour company. There must be honor among the tour companies here, it seems.
Our tour guide was Juan, but he said we can call him “Chilly Willy”, a nickname his friends call him. This 6’5″ giant was a delightful tour guide. Very articulate, humorous, and a local to Mazatlan. There seemed to be too many tour busses roaming around this little town, so Chilly had to improvise part of the tour. Originally, we were supposed to stop first at the Cathedral, but had to make a stop at the shrimp market. It wasn’t a market you’d find inside a building at a ports of call. It was rows of independent vendors selling their catch under a tent in the streets of Mazatlan. Unfortunately, my seat on the bus was in the back, and we couldn’t see the street vendor. Chilly had the driver go outside to bring back 2 samples of the shrimps from Mazatlan: regular size and their jumbo ones.
Following the quick “show and tell”, Chilly had the driver take us to another market, similar to a Grand Bazaar. If you’re in Seattle, its like Pikes Place. In Los Angeles, its like Grand Central Market. You can find everything from clothes, souvenirs, to fresh food ranging from seafood to produce. Chilly tried to give us a quick overview of the market, and moved rather quickly as we were pressed for time. I didn’t want to get separated from the group, and was only able to capture the seafood and meat section.
We hopped back on the bus and made our way back to the original stop: the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, located in the heart of the city center. We were given a brief summary of the church, and then allowed some time to roam the grounds, grab a snack, or use the bathroom at the Panama bakery.
I had to use the bathroom, so we ducked inside the Panama Bakery and restaurant. The place was full of great looking pastries but Chilly recommended the corn muffin. As he said “they’re off the chain”. So we picked up 3 muffins, which cost less than $2 (USD).
Across the street from the bakery and the Cathedral was an ice cream cart… supposedly the “best” ice cream in Mazatlan. You can get 2 scoops for $1.00. When we got back on the bus, Stephen’s dad wanted ice cream, but claimed they would not take his money. We found out from Chilly that Stephen’s dad tried paying with a large bill, and they didn’t have change. So we went to the cart and picked up 2 scoops for him: mango and strawberry.
We left el Centro (the center of town) and Chilly had the driver take us to the Nuevo (new) Mazatlan with the fancy hotels and condos. Almost every hotel was built along the waterfront, making it nearly impossible to see the ocean from the street. Even though the property is on private land, the beach is open to the public. So even if you are not a guest of the fancy hotel, they cannot kick you off the beach.
Our next stop on the tour was at a micro distillery called Onilikan. What’s interesting about this micro distillery is the company was founded by Canadians!
A story to tell about Onilikan
Ten Canadian friends with varied business backgrounds came together to create a new venture based on a unique, fresh idea and sound investment principles, which could provide them with a rewarding semi-retirement project in Mexico. The founders were eager to experience and enjoy what Sinaloan agriculture has to offer, to add value to locally grown agricultural products, and contribute to their future retirement community in Mexico. Thus, ONILIKAN was born.
Like our other tequila stop in Puerto Vallarta, this place gave samples of their spirits. Stephen didn’t care for their tequila, but did enjoy their liqueurs and purchased 2 bottles. What was surprising was Stephen’s dad really enjoyed a liqueur, he even purchased a bottle!
This tour is far from over as we piled back on the bus and made our way along the coast for the highlight of the trip… to watch the cliff divers (or cliff jumpers). Acapulco is more famous for their cliff divers, but Mazatlan has been jumping since 1961.
Less known than in Acapulco, but by far more dangerous, three generations of cliff divers showcase their traditional sport only a few miles away from the golden zone. Every day, tourists from all over the world witness breathtaking stunts performed from a 45 foot high platform into 5 feet of water, or less. This is the main difference between Mazatlán and Acapulco and requires extreme focus and knowledge in order to make a safe entrance into a diving area that is smaller than 15 square feet. Wind and ocean conditions need to be considered before every dive. In addition these divers strongly rely on the guidance of their teammates who are watching conditions from a lower level, closer to the point of entrance.
The divers work in a team, and they do hound you for tips. They wait until they get the signal that enough tourists have “paid” them but its worth the few bucks I put in their “propina” (tip) cup.
Our tour continued back to the historic part of town, stopped at the Casa de Haas (as in Haas avocados) and we walked to the Angela Peralta Theater Opera House, before heading back to the ship.
Angela Peralta was Mexico’s first opera diva. In 1883 the famous opera singer, also known as “The Nightingale of Mexico” arrived in Mazatlan to perform the premier of “Lucia”. Traveling by ship, Ms. Peralta contracted yellow fever, and died before she ever perform at the theater. After this tragic incident, the theater was renamed after the diva.
This was the end of our tour. The bus was heading back to the ship, but Stephen and I asked Chilly to recommend a place for lunch, and he dropped us off at El Shrimp Bucket.