Mazatlan, Sinaloa

Population: 750,000

Time Zone: Mountain Standard

Airport: Mazatlán International Airport

Elevation: Sea Level

Long known as the “Pearl of the Pacific,” Mazatlán is perhaps the least pretentious of the coastal resort cities. With a commercial base centered around manufacturing and a large fishing fleet, this very friendly city maintains the feel of a real Mexican town that just happens to have a 15-mile stretch of some of the country’s best beaches. It is also one of the cheapest to visit, with a large array of hotels, many which specialize in “travel packages” aimed at the younger crowd. When not dodging the often large surf, or eating plates of fresh shrimp provided by the huge shrimp fleet, there is much to see in this stately, old port town.

In recent years “Old Mazatlán”, in the city center, has been the focus of a large restoration effort. Although not as old as many of the Colonial Cities in Central Mexico, it is nonetheless an historic beach town, where pirate ships would hide out in the hill-protected harbor waiting for passing ships to plunder. Today’s visitors arrive on cruise ships and planes to enjoy the ocean and sun while deep-sea fishing, sailing, scuba-diving, surfing, and loading up on the local cerveza, Pacifico. And although well-known as a party town, there is also a large, older expat community, attracted by the cheap cost of living and its easy-to-drive-to location from the U.S. Up until the mid-1970’s, before Puerto Vallarta, Cabo and Cancun were on the mainstream tourism radar, this was probably the second most popular beach town after Acapulco. Although not in the 5-star, empty-your-wallet category, she has aged well, and is certainly worth a visit.