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A favourite holiday place for American snowbirds in the glamorous 1950s, Mazatlán is now a sparkling resort-style city on Mexico's Pacific coastline. Its 21km stretch of sandy shoreline makes it a prime spot for beach breaks, but it's the city's historic centre that draws the most attention. The Old Town has recently seen a revival of quirky cafés and trendy bars in colourful neoclassical and French Baroque buildings just steps from the sea. There are museums and galleries to wander around, parks to relax in and an ocean rich with marine life to explore.
Mazatlán hostels typically have an easy vibe. You'll find them in traditional houses, some with original features like wooden beams and terracotta tiles. Meet other travellers on the rooftop terrace at one Mazatlán hostel, where you can swing in hammocks or cool off in the pool. At another, wake up to the smell of rich Mexican coffee brewing and sit down to a free breakfast of homemade banana bread. Many places also have free Wi-Fi and air con, which you'll appreciate in the sun-soaked summer.
For a taste of authentic Mazatlán, get away from crowded Zona Dorada and into Centro Histórico where 19th-century buildings have a 1950s spirit. Head to the beachfront promenade, the malecón, for restaurants and bars. Playa Bruja to the north is a popular spot to surf and swim, or you can venture to nearby Isla de la Piedra for quieter shores. Fancy a day trip? Cosalá is one of Mexico's Pueblos Mágicos (magical towns) thanks to its vibrant colonial houses and misty green hills.
Activity options range from savouring the region's colours and flavours at the Art Nouveau Pino Suarez Municipal Market to strolling the palm-lined malecón by the beach. Look for street murals, eat at local food carts and spend the night hopping between the area's bars and clubs. The city is filled with quirky and traditional architecture too, like the striking facade of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. For something with a modern edge, stop by the contemporary Mazatlán Art Museum.
The city is around a 30-minute drive from General Rafael Buelna International Airport when you grab a taxi or hop in a colectivo (shared taxi or shuttle). There are local buses for getting around town, as well as Mazatlán's own golf buggy-style pulmonía taxis for open-air rides. It's also fun to travel by bike, and you'll find plenty of rental places along the coast. An easy cycling route runs along the malecón from the town centre to Zona Dorada.