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Irene's Adventures

Mexico - Mazatlan

MEXICO | Thursday, 27 March 2014 | Views [227]

Irene & Sara

My daughter, Sara and I had been talking about taking a Mom/daughter holiday for years. We finally decided to do it!

Whereas I am retired, Sara had a fixed set of days off from her hair styling job, so she entrusted me with the booking details. This was really hard for my independent and solo traveling daughter. She wanted a relaxing resort, no trekking or long excursions. We agreed that we would take advantage of a sell-off-vacation site and take the cheapest deal for those days. Since she only had 7 days off, I didn't want her losing a day on either end in traveling to and from a destination. That limited us to Cuba or Mexico. We wanted a flight that would get us to the resort earlier in the day; again so we would get maximum sun time. I decided that since we waited so long to take this holiday I would look for something nice – even though we have both stayed in cockroach accommodations in the past and are not that fussy. I booked us into the Riu Emerald Bay in Mazatlan, Mexico, a beautiful 5 star resort at a 3 star price! Perfect! I didn't tell her where until a few days before departure. She was excited but frustrated.

Our plane departed Calgary in the early morning. When we landed we were quickly boarded onto a shuttle bus to take the 45 minute ride to the resort. We were on the beach by 14:00! The only thing of note was the jeep of armed soldiers that were traveling along the same road. This seemed to scare several people on the bus. 'OMG! Men with machine guns!' They pulled off the road to what appeared to be a military exercise.

 Military Presence

The hotel lobby was very large and sparkling clean. A group of cleaning ladies were continually washing the floor the entire time we were there; back and forth, get to the end and start over. The hotel was massive, 28 stories. We were on the 7th floor. All rooms faced the ocean. Our room was massive as well. We had a large foyer with a long closet, 2 queen beds in a separate room , a bathroom large enough to dance in and a balcony with drying racks for towels and bathing suits. It truly was “all inclusive” as there were 4 full bottles of various whiskeys mounted in a cabinet on the wall above the fully stocked fridge.

 ALL inclusive  hotel room

That first afternoon we took lounge chairs on the sandy beach area. We splashed around in the waves and had a few mojitos. The ocean was quite a ways from the hotel, we had to pass a gauntlet of beach vendors, the sand was scorching hot, it was a long way from the bar area and an even longer way to the bathroom. Because of all this we decided to scope out the pool area for a place to spend the next day. We decided on a spot between two pools that was small and ultimately perfect. The pool in front of us had very few kids and only the odd person entering to cool off. The bigger pool, directly behind us, was the activities pool, with water volleyball and the afternoon 'Crazy Games'. It was far enough back so as not to get the full volume of people playing, but the perfect spot to watch all the activities – which turned out to be really fun! We claimed the same chairs the rest of the week.

 pool area

Sara tipped one of the pool bartenders nicely the very first day which resulted in us having a never ending supply of mojitos all day. She gave him $5 every morning. We found out later that his daily wage from the hotel was $7. The entertainment staff gets $25 per day. On that note: I asked a taxi driver how much his brand new pulmonia taxi (deluxe golf cart) cost - $8,000. His house costs $40,000.

We wanted lots of pool time so we only booked two excursions. One was a night tour of the old city, the other was a catamaran tour to Deer Island.

The night tour was disappointing. The guide was pointing things out to us, but they were hard to see in the bad light. For example, we were taken to the cliff divers. A young fellow climbed to the top of a rock platform and lit some torches. Apparently, the diver has to wait for just the right wave to come in, as it is very shallow where he is to dive. After waiting for several minutes he dove in. In reality, all we saw was the torches go down to be quickly extinguished in the water. A few seconds later we saw the fellow climb out of the water. As someone pointed out, he could have thrown the torches in and had a buddy climb out of the water, we would have been none the wiser as it was so dark.

There was a beautiful statue called the Fisherman Monument. It is the city's oldest monument and pays homage to the roots of the city as a small fishing village. The monument includes a replica of a tall lighthouse. It was beautiful, but alas with the fountain spraying water all flash photos only reflected the water drops and obscured the statue.

We also went to the Basilica de la Immaculada Conception. This was one stop that was actually nice to see in the night, with flood lights giving it a proper religious majestic feel. There was a mass in progress so we were not allowed to wander through the interior. One very unique architectural feature of this Basilica is that each of its 28 stained glass windows incorporates a Star of David! This is in gratitude for construction funds by Mazatlan Jews.

 Star of David in Catholic Church

We were taken to Machado Square for a dinner of Camarones Imperiales. In Mazatlan “Jumbo Shrimp” take on a whole new meaning. We were given 3 shrimp each and could not finish them, they were so huge. They stuff them with cheese, wrap them in bacon and roast them. OMG! What flavor!

The plaza was built in the 1800's and has been perfectly restored. There is a theater, museum and lots of restaurants. There were street vendors selling their wares, but not pushy, as well as a blues band and a jazz band. Does it get any more perfect than that??

We walked along a street in the old town that had the most beautiful graffiti. Located somewhere in the maze of streets we were shown inside a very unique restaurant. We walked through a doorway into an empty lot between two buildings. There were trees growing in the empty lot and rickety stairs leading up the side of the standing buildings. But they had added a fish pond, patio lanterns and tables and chairs. It was strangely beautiful. I wish I had taken a picture of the restaurant name.

 empty lot restaurant  graffiti

I was curious to see the area during the day. I hired a taxi the next morning and returned to the old city. He was actually better than our guide and a lot more fun. He drove me along the 21 km Malecon and stopped at the Fisherman Monument to take my picture in front of it. He then drove me to the Continuity of Life monument, which we only saw driving past the previous night, and not even pointed out. It is a beautiful sculpture of a school of leaping dolphins overlooked by a nude man and woman standing atop a huge snail shell. The man holds a protective arm around the woman and points to the horizon. The snail shell is of significance because many cultures have adopted this creature to represent the eternal cycle of life in the universes.

 Fisherman Monument  Continuity of Life

We then stopped at the cliff divers, as there was a tour bus parked and we knew the divers would be performing. It is quite a site to see! Maybe they did dive into the night.....

Cliff Diver 

He then drove me to the Basilica and dropped me off. The Cathedral did not look as majestic as the night before, but I did get a better look at the park with its wrought iron bandstand across the street. It also afforded me a better view of the exterior of the Cathedral. There was a mass in progress again, so once again I could not look around the interior.

 Basilica de La Inmaculada Concepcion

I carried on up the street to the Mercado Pino Suarez (central Market). It is your typical market selling your typical tourist trinkets and clothes. I did buy some fresh mango from a street vendor, however.

I tried to find the plaza where we had dinner as well as the empty lot restaurant. Alas, I could not find them. When I did happen upon a map of the old city, I realized I was only 2 blocks away when I thought I must be going in the wrong direction and turned back. Oh well....

I carried on back toward the Malecon where I came upon The Little Deer (El Venadito) monument. “Mazatl” is the local Nahuatl Indian word that means deer. Mazatlan means the land of the deer.

Deer Monument Queen of the Sea

I carried on along the Malecon, looking at the many statues and monuments along the way. I finally came upon the cliff divers again. It was mid-day and hot. No tour buses. They were hiding in the shade and did not seem too interested in coming out. I tended to feel like they did and began looking for a taxi to take me back to the hotel.


Sara was in the same spot, enjoying the sun and mojitos. She participated in a lot of the water volleyball games that week. I participated in the water aerobics, more to cool off than for the exercise.

Sara   water volleyball  Sara doing kids' hair at the pool  

We took a catamaran trip to Deer Island. You can never go wrong with a catamaran trip! Looking back, we should have signed up for two of these trips and skipped the night tour. We toured the shoreline for a while then headed for Deer Island. They had a banana boat waiting and ready for those wanting to have a ride. There were kayaks. There was snorkeling gear. After I went on the banana boat ride, Sara and I went snorkeling. There were lots of people snorkeling and they were stirring up sediment. I swam a bit further than most and saw some incredible sea life. Apparently, there is more sea life here than in Cancun; but because of the rougher water, less visible. Back on the beach, the resort staff was busy preparing the barbecue lunch. There was a red tropical raccoon that came out of the bushes for some scraps from the cooks. It was obvious he knew the routine. After lunch we boarded the catamaran and returned to the resort.

 tropical racoon

Sara had talked to some people who said they got up very early in the morning and helped rescue baby turtles on the beach near our hotel. I asked one of the locals and he said there were lots of turtles in that area. We went out twice looking for turtles and only saw lots of turtle tracks, but no turtles.

The Crazy Games were so much fun to watch. We had perfect seating as well. It was mostly the pre-teens and younger participating, but once in a while they also appealed to the macho men. There was one game where they had to dive into the pool, swim under water along a rope until they reached the knot, come out of the water, chug back a beer (soda for the kids), kiss the beautiful female attendant, jump back in the water, pick up 3 balls that were dropped in on the other side of the pool, come out of the water, do three macho man poses, run back to the start and sit on a balloon to pop it (not so easy in a wet bathing suit). Another game had the kids place a water balloon into a beach towel where 2 attendants flung it into the air. The kids had to catch it without breaking it. Another game was to do a belly flop into the water with a water balloon on the belly and try to burst it. Another game was who could hula hoop the longest. Although it was all young kids who entered this one, Sara got up and put on a hell of a show for everyone. 3 seconds before she was to beat the winner, she flipped the hoop off and handed it back to the attendant. She didn't want to take the prize from a little kid. She got a huge round of cheers and applause for the show and her sportsmanship.

The evening entertainment was really good. As usual, they had the kids disco prior to the show. The clowns would have the youngsters playing games such as musical papers (instead of chairs). There was one little girl, 2 years old with bright red sparkly shoes who was playing but was really too young to grasp the concept completely. She ended up as one of the last three, probably because she was so small she could land on a piece of paper by going under everyone's arms. The other 2 girls were older. When they stopped the music one more time, the little girl (Isabella) was out. As the clown was taking her by the hand to remove her from the game, everyone in the audience booed. She was incredibly adorable. The clowns didn't quite know what to do. The bigger girls came over and said something to the clown to which he announced “New rules! It is the last TWO who are out. Not the last ONE.” Everyone cheered. This was not the last we were to see of little Isabella. Every night she participated in the games. Every night she would remain on stage dancing after the games were over. Every night she entertained the audience waiting for the main attraction. Every night people were commenting how they came early to see the little girl in the bright red shoes and pretty party dress dance – she had really good timing and was so much fun to watch. I spoke to the mother later and she said she had no idea where this showmanship came from, she was not this way at home.


The last night in Mazatlan we went to a restaurant down the beach. It came highly recommended by some fellow tourists. It was indeed a lovely little restaurant complete with a live mariachi band.


I am so glad Sara and I finally did the Mom / daughter trip. I regret we did not do this sooner, as I know now just how much fun we missed all these years. She is joining us in Croatia this summer......

Riu Emerald Bay


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