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Why I Love Living in Mazatlán

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Overlooking Mazatlan, Mexico
Credit: Vivid Pixels | Shutterstock

Someone asked me the other day why I love living in Mazatlán.  It has been 15 years since I moved to Mexico, and 12 of those have been spent in Mazatlán, the “Pearl of the Pacific.”

I had to think for only a minute, and then realized it was the same things that first attracted me to come here on vacation: a beautiful, swimmable ocean; a charming Centro Historico; an exciting and diverse year-round calendar of cultural events; an affordable cost of living; an active expat community; a short flight time to the U.S.; and, some of the friendliest people in Mexico.

beach
Credits: cameraman | Adobe Stock images

I also wanted to be warm (I love the sun!), and while the Mazatlán summers can be over-the-top hot and humid, it works for me. Many year-rounders use summer as the time to go north to visit family or to travel to other, cooler parts of Mexico.

All of those things still add up to a wonderful place to live (or visit)—and all of those things are what makes my life in Mazatlán so enjoyable.

But why Mazatlán, you may still be wondering? Most of those things I have just named can be found in many areas of coastal Mexico. Locals will tell you, though, that Mazatlán, known as the Pearl of the Pacific, has a special charm that touches your heart (toca tu corazón), which I and many others who know the city well have found to be true.

Centro in Mazatlán, Mexico
Credit: Janet Blaser

I have always lived in the Centro Historico. This is where you find the gorgeous turn-of-the-century homes and plazas, complete with cobblestone streets and abandoned buildings begging for a remodel. We expats love these: the charming interior courtyards, original tiled floors, 18 ft. ceilings crossed by weathered wood vigas, or beams. Lately, locals have been turning old family homes into restaurants and bars, so visitors can bask in their beauty without having to deal with the constant maintenance required in the hot and humid summers.

Plaza Machado in Mazatlán, Mexico
Credit: Janet Blaser

The Plazuela Machado is the big main plaza, home to the Angela Peralta Theater and surrounded by restaurants, bars and shops. The theater houses a ballet and modern dance school, symphony, and music, art and opera schools. It is a bustling hub of activity, as is the theater itself, with a full calendar of events and festivals for about eight months of the year.

Another advantage to living in Centro Historico is the walkability of it. Everything, it seems, is just a few blocks away. Besides restaurants, museums, shops and the theater, the big central mercado is here, across the street from the cathedral, which while a tourist destination, is also fully operational with masses, weddings and other events. In another plaza, every Saturday from November to May, there’s an organic farmers market.

And of course, there is Olas Altas, Centro’s beachfront neighborhood, bookended by two small hills, Cerro del Vigia and Cerro de la Neveria. The malecón runs through here, continuing about five miles north to the Golden Zone, and is a favorite of runners, cyclists, dog-walkers, families, et al, who enjoy the beautiful views and refreshing ocean breeze.

Several internationally known races take place along the malecón each year, including the Gran Pacifico Marathon. It attracts professional runners from around the world competing for big cash prizes. Those of us who do not participate like to get a seat at any number of cafés along the route to cheer on the always-front-running Kenyans as well as the stragglers at the end.

This is not to say other parts of Mazatlán don’t have their charm, too. The Golden Zone is also popular with expats. Just a block in from the bustling hotels and souvenir shops are neighborhoods with wide, tree-shaded streets and lovely homes and condos with yards and gardens. Here, you are close to a different list of “everything:” all the big-box stores, a gorgeous long stretch of flat beach and tons of restaurants and bars, many of which have live music several nights a week. Mazatlán’s three islands—Deer, Goat and Wolf—are so close it seems you can reach out and touch them, and the sunsets are particularly spectacular because of them.

Continuing north you come to the Marina, and the landscape changes. Gone are the strip malls and clusters of tourists, replaced instead by dignified gated entrances to housing and condo developments on both sides of Camarón Sabalo, the main road. Here it widens to four lanes, divided in the center by a roomy greenspace with a big, new bike lane. Beautiful old-growth trees provide shade along the way. While some may think this area has no charm, once you are inside any of the oceanfront condos the views are breathtaking and the conveniences and easy camaraderie of your neighbors make for a relaxed and comfortable life. Most places have their own restaurants, some open to the public, and there is a lively community of folks with whom you can socialize. I always tell people not to knock it until they have tried it! It is not colonial Mexico, but rather just another way of living in this beautiful country.

The marina itself has its own special vibe, and restaurants, bars and convenience stores surround hundreds of boat slips that back up to the El Cid Golf Course. It is centrally located, affordable, protected and a favorite with boaters making their way up and down the coast.

Two young girls playing and making sandcastles on the beach in Mazatlan
Credit: Mariah Hernansen| Shutterstock

Resuming our journey north, we find ourselves in Cerritos, or “little hills,” a continuation of the same type of development as the Marina. At the end of the road and the long coastal stretch of beach is Playa Bruja, with a small selection of restaurants and shops. On the point past the strip is a sweet beach that is often overlooked as its entrance is often blocked from view by parked cars and coco vendors. It is a favorite with families, especially at low tide, when the rocks make tide pools big enough—and safe enough—to play in.

From here you can look north to an almost unobstructed view of the coast, broken by a handful of luxury developments and one destination restaurant that sits directly on the beach. The city has announced plans for the construction of a huge commercial port an hour or so out of town, moving it from the main port that now hosts cruise ships, as well as many fleets of commercial fishing boats. The cruise ship port will then be remodeled to provide services for the thousands of passengers that come through Mazatlán each year.

Nice square in the center of the city in Mazatlan, Mexico
Credit: FJZEA | Shutterstock

Things have changed in the last few years, with lots of new restaurants and other more upscale businesses, and an almost constant presence of national tourists taking advantage of the Durango bridge and highway, which cut a 16-hour drive to just over two. Along with this growth has come a wave of condo and hotel towers that to us “long-timers” can be shocking, but such is the way of the world, especially when it comes to beautiful coastal locations.

Rents and home prices have also risen, but remain low compared to the U.S. I pay $8,500 pesos (about US$425) for an 1,100 sq. ft. two-bedroom apartment half a block from the beach. Long-term rentals are usually completely unfurnished, which means renters must buy their own appliances (stove, refrigerator, air-conditioners, ceiling fans, washing machine) and of course furniture, which adds to the initial cost. Snowbirds and those looking for a few months’ stay will find a smorgasbord of turn-key, short-term rentals with everything needed to be comfortable. These rentals can be double the cost of a property with a year’s lease. Many regular snowbirds rent year-round even though they may only be in Mazatlán for six months. Snowbirds are almost all Canadians, and they never stay longer than six months.

If you want to buy a home, you should know that demand is driving prices up. You will find new condos listed for a wide range of prices, from about US$50,000 to half a million, depending on amenities and location. It is the same with homes in Centro Historico. Completely renovated colonial homes range from US$180,000 to $500,000. Smaller, more run-down row houses in need of extensive renovations might be US$60,000 or even less. And, of course, the closer you are to the ocean the higher prices will be. If you go 10-to-15 blocks inland, everything changes. Using a reliable, reputable real estate company is always recommended in Mexico.

I am happy to say that writing this “tour” of Mazatlán has rekindled my affection for my adopted home. There are so many reasons why I love living here, and although they may seem like simple things, they add up to a comfortable, happy, affordable lifestyle that I would not trade for anything.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Janet. I enjoy reading and appreciate your articles. I’ve yet to come to Mazatlan but would like to visit soon. Can you recommend a local hotel in or near the Historic District or preferable for first timers. I’m experienced in travelling MX, as I lived in Puerto Vallarta for ten years, years ago.
    Thank you,
    Beverly Davis

  2. Hola Beverly, thanks for writing! Accommodations are such a personal thing, but off the top of my head I can suggest The Melville Boutique Hotel and Casa de Leyendas, both set in renovated colonial buildings, or the Posada Freeman a “modern” hotel in front of the ocean. I’m sure if you Google Centro Historico Mazatlan you’ll find more. And there are tons of AirBnBs. Good luck and have fun!

    • Hola, Janet,
      I’m Ron Buice and my wife, Linda, and I are wanting to moved from Houston to Mazatlan for several reasons,mainly to be close enought to the US if necessary to avail ourselves of medical care of Medicare and VA. It appears to be within a day trip to Tucson or Laredo and looks like a great place to live. I would like to speak with someone from Texas there to get some basic first-hand info and hopefully establish a friendship before moving there. Can you help me locate an “ambassador” there. Thanks so much, Janet.

  3. Cool…once my port of entry when there were passenger trains in mexico. Fly to Mazatlan, free beer on the flight, then climatize for a few🤔🤣days, then by train inland. Seems I remember some classic small villages north and south of Maz. But a direct conne tion to Durango?! Wow that is a total game changer. Now I yhink Imknow my route when I drive down this winter. Can I take you to lunch when I get there?

  4. Hi Janet, Thanks for this new article. My first, much anticipated visit is in October and I will be in the Centro. My interest is piqued further by your comments about renovating in the Centro. If you have knowledge of or have worked with architects and builders there, I would be interested to learn more. Thanks again! Lisa

    • Hi Lisa, thanks for writing! renovating here is fraught with difficulties – be forewarned! My suggestion is to really do your due diligence before you “jump!” Good luck!

  5. Hi Janet – Thanks for providing an inside look into your joyful life in Mazatlan. I’m a fellow Californian who has been thinking of following in your footsteps (not sure exactly where) for many years. I would love to learn from your experience and insight. I would welcome the opportunity to connect via email and have provided my address. I promise to be respectful of your time. Thank you – Scott

  6. Saw you on CNBC and now I am very intrigued about maybe retiring there someday. I love your article and also how you explain life there.

  7. Your article just may have been heaven-sent. I am a high school English teacher and former software trainer for Microsoft currently living in Sonoma in Northern California. I have not been in the classroom for a year and a half. I am thinking I do not want to return to the classrooms here but am very interested in moving to Mexico. Is there a way we can connect and explore the possibilities of my becoming a Mazatlan ex-pat? Perhaps I can even complete my book of (incredibly witty) poems. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide! Christie

  8. Thank you for the information. I’m going to be visiting places in the next 6 months with hopes of picking one to call my new home. I’m by myself but the more reason to move to this culturally diverse area where people are warm and engaging!
    Mary Jo

  9. Hi Janet, I have just come across this article. I am currently in Australia and we care considering moving for 12 months to Mexico. We have 2 kids and are looking for a better life. Can I ask you what you day looks like? Do you have to wear masks? Do you have to be vaccinated?
    We would like to live some more freedom than our country is offering.
    Thanks, Gina

    • the president of Mexico has issued no mandates. Some people wear masks and some are VXD but a personal choice. The city had a VXPP for a week but that was a mayor mandate and overturned by a judge. The CV19 map has Maz at Green.. My heart is bleeding for OZ

  10. Hello Janet I enjoyed the YouTube video about Mexico and I’m very interested in residing there full time. I have traveled to both Colombia and Aruba looking for a place to live . However, I have not found a place that makes me feel at home.

    Safety and cost of living’s are two of my main concerns as I seek to live a better quality of life. The US has become a dangerous and hostile place to live especially for a man of mixed Heritage like myself (West Indian / Cuban / black. And the cost of living is beyond outrageous as you know. I’m a published finance author, Entrepreneur & youth advocate. Also, as a real estate agent I see people burdening themselves with excessive debt for enormous homes that they don’t really need. Something about the ego in the US makes people do foolish things but I don’t buy into it at all. Any information you have on available long-term Apartments,. Would be greatly appreciated as my searches online have not been able to find anything even remotely close to the cost you quoted in your article and videos. Keep up the great work and God bless you for chasing your dream! I lost my Mom 2.5 years ago and I didn’t know if I would make it another day. I was her caregiver, bathing, dressing her and doing her hair everyday was is my joy. . I’m single with no children and truly miss caring for her and Sacrificed so much over the years. Oh, your videos and blogs really inspired me and gave me hope. I feel like it’s my turn to really enjoy my life!
    JK

  11. Hi Jay, thanks for writing! I’ve found the easiest way to find a rental is to be here – anything listed by realtors will be pricey. You can also look on some of the buy & sell Facebook pages or expat FB pages…many of which are in Spanish. Good luck with everything! Maybe come for a visit first?

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