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I had never been to Mazatlan before this trip, and was so incredibly surprised by how much I ended up loving the area. Most clients of mine tend to book in the more popular places such as Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, Dominican and Cuba but as of late Mazatlan's popularity is coming back. I can absolutely see why.

First, it's a much quicker flight so I am all over that! Four hours from Calgary and you are in one of the most historic places in Mexico. While it is still a little off the beaten path as far as a popular travel destination, you will see that reflected in the price. When we booked last minute for 8 days in a popular oceanside resort, our all inclusive accommodations, direct flight from Calgary, our public package rate came to $760, inclusive of taxes and fees.

We stayed at the El Cid Castilla Beach Resort. This is not a new resort, but it was by far the most popular. We arrived much earlier than our check in time, but our luggage was taken care of and we were given access to the beach and some fair beverages, and our vacation was on!

El Cid Castilla Beach Resort lobby

I sound surprised mainly because this was such a good deal that I was waiting to see the reason why - but it truly never came. The resort is clean, and super busy! The only bar open in the evening hours was the one off the lobby but it was a lot of fun. Karaoke, a very friendly atmosphere and great service. We made a lot of friends from across Canada as it seems most were Canadian!

Lobby Bar

The location is ideal, and this city reminded me so much of Puerto Vallarta. I had heard the stories before visiting about Mazatlan not being a safe city to visit in Mexico, but I didn't feel that sentiment at all. The people here are very friendly and happy to have tourists. The rooms are typical lead category resort rooms, but this would not be the resort to come to if you wanted luxurious stay with ultra modern features. The location is ideal being in a very popular city location with easy access to shops and attractions.

Lead Category Bedroom

The food was great and service was friendly. Hot meals were hot, the area was clean and well stocked. The variety was wide and we were happy! While on the beach, you didn't have to wait too long and it was a very popular spot! The favorite restaurant was outdoor and beachside.

Beachside Restaurant

There is a lot to do in Mazatlan as the city is full of rich history. I have a love of old churches and visit one in each new city I go to. I was excited to visit the one in Mazatlan as its been on my church-bucket list for years. The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is the only Catholic church with a religious symbol of another religion being displayed prominently everywhere in the building. The story is a beautiful one, to sum it up the Catholics ran out of money while building the Church in 1856. The local Jewish population donated the remaining funds required to finish building the church, which was completed in 1944. To honor the Jewish people for their financial support, they put in numerous stained glass windows throughout with the star of David in the glass.

Another little hidden gem we found was Isla De La Piedra, better known as Stone Island. This was a $2.00 "pulmonia" ride to a boat dock then a quick boat ride for $1.00 each to the island, which is actually a peninsula however to drive there from out hotel would have take well over an hour since the peninsula is very long! Once on the island I felt like it was a whole other world. Palapa restaurants line the beach that will lead you all the way to Nuevo Vallarta. You can rent horses, quads, snorkelling gear and spend the entire day there. There were no vendors trying to sell you things here and it was quiet. We ate at a popular place called Lety's and it had an incredible family feel.

Isla De La Piedra (Stone Island)

As we walked along the beach, there were dolphins and whales swimming and playing beside us, it was breath taking. The beach was clean and everywhere we turned there were sand dollars. There was a grove of trees we walked through and wild hibiscus grew in abundance. It felt isolated and deserted and was very special.

A view of the beach from inside the grove of trees, Stone Island

I would highly suggest Mazatlan to those seeking something off the beaten path, as being budget friendly and very comparable to Puerto Vallarta. The city boasts a rich history and culture like no other I've experienced. Being a nature lover and taking a liking for exploration, Stone Island was a definite highlight for me personally. I will absolutely return to this city.

Thank you to the El Cid Resort for our stay, and to the people of Mazatlan for your kindness and hospitality!

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