January 16, 2014

by Stephen Jan in Mazatlan, Mexico

Mazatlan is one of those dots on a map right up against the coast. Coastal dots are tricky because they could either be pleasant like San Francisco or miserable like Baltimore. Luckily for us, it turned out to be pretty nice. Mazatlan was the perfect place for Mike to rest after his 3 day battle against the flu.

We spent the first night far away from the beach at the Hotel California, across the street from a noisy school. While it did have spacious parking, the wifi was crappy and a room for six offered only one electrical outlet for our ten devices. The following day, we moved over to Hotel Belmar, rated as Lonely Planet’s top hotel pick.

Apparently, the Belmar was once a magnificent establishment frequented by the likes of John Wayne. 50 years after the Mazatlan-Tourism-Mecca days, Belmar has fallen into disrepair. The building was more than 80 years old and its age showed. The walls needed a fresh coat of paint, the dim lighting needed an upgrade, and the once a day toilet plunging speaks for itself.

Most places we’ve traveled up until now haven’t exactly been tourist destinations: Nogales, Guaymas, and Los Mochis. We hadn’t come across many non-mexicans. I had expected the first community of gringos that we would encounter to be European backpackers. Instead, the first group I encountered were white haired retirees from North America. Take a walk through the historic center of Mazatlan and you’ll find half the pedestrians leaning on canes. Take a seat at the Looney Bean Coffee Shop neighboring the Belmar, and you’ll stand out if you’re not over the age of 50.

It turns out that Mazatlan isn’t only a haven for drug lords, it also attracts a large community of retirees eager to escape the harsh North American cold. Gone are the days where everyone retires to Miami, Florida. With cheap flights and fast internet, retirees can fan out to Mazatlan where the dollar goes pretty far. With pleasant weather every day and pristine beach, it’s hard to imagine why not.