Kicking back at Estrella del Mar in Mazatlan, Mexico could be the perfect antidote for the traveler seeking a breather from the hectic pace and hassles of everyday life.
With three miles of largely unpopulated Pacific beachfront as well as multiple dining options, a salon and spa and—for the more athletically inclined, tennis courts, soccer fields, and acres of golf greens—Estrella del Mar proves to be the perfect destination for an actual vacation, the sort where the hardest decision of the day is deciding whether to head first to the pool or the beach.
You will, indeed, be tempted to slip into one or the other and sigh, “Mexico, take me away!”
Comfort, convenience, and miles of beach
What else makes the Estrella del Mar so good?
Located just four miles from the Mazatlán International Airport, the resort makes for a convenient retreat. Guests get to enjoy their own 900-acre gated community and that spectacular—and amazingly secluded— beachfront.
The relaxed vibe of life in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, the highly attentive and friendly service at Estrella del Mar (and the exceptional skills of the masseuses at the spa), and the hotel’s 47 rooms with balconies or patios make this place, translated into English as the “star of the sea,” an escapist sanctuary. (For travelers with larger groups, onsite condominiums with one to three bedrooms are also available for rent or for purchase.)
Indoor/outdoor living merge with sun and surf
This is a place where outdoor living is a way of life. Built in colonial style, Estrella del Mar features a large, open hacienda on the first floor. My room, with its own shaded patio perfect for morning coffee, opens onto an internal courtyard with a fountain. I have a broad, sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean while taking breakfast at Los Delfines, one of the onsite restaurants. (This traveler is very partial to the covered patio, the water view, and the ceviche at another onsite restaurant, La Paloma.)
As if anyone needed an excuse to spend more time on those three miles of pristine beachfront, Estrella del Mar also houses a turtle sanctuary, and around sunset, visitors can help release newly hatched baby turtles into the ocean. Nothing is cuter.
Something for everyone: Things to do in Mazatlán
For those motivated to do more than partake of sun and surf, the nearby and very colorful city of Mazatlán offers shopping, dining and nightlife options. My favorite way to get there from Estrella del Mar was via a very small ferry (seating maybe 20 people), boarded at Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra) and then by ‘pulmonia’. The Spanish word means pneumonia but it refers to the golf-cart-like taxis that transport tourists on the short trip to the Centro Historico.
Two good restaurant options are El Presidio (I appreciated the trees in the interior of the restaurant and the rooftop dining) and Pedro & Lola, located at Plaza Machado. After dinner, take a walk around the square, dance if a band happens to be playing in the gazebo, and bargain with textile vendors for souvenirs and jewelry. Being in Mazatlán, which was founded in 1531, makes a visitor feel like she is experiencing the real Mexico, not a version created to draw tourists.
Indeed, for a bit, Mazatlán managed to deter visitors. For a period, the region tended to show up in national newspapers for all the wrong reasons, mostly due to drug violence and the antics of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, who was captured in an apartment complex in Mazatlán in 2014 after escaping from prison. A U.S. State Department warning suggests that tourists not travel to the state of Sinaloa although U.S. government employees may travel to Mazatlán’s historic town center.
Now, Mazatlán, with a population around 500,000, sports a refurbished 13-mile-long seaside walkway called the Malecón along with colorful galleries and street art that entrances visitors.
Back at Estrella del Mar, the president of Mexico, I am told, sometimes golfs Here. On my visit, I find the resort full of American tourists as well as Mexicans on vacation. I find no reason to stay away.
Beyond the resort and Mazatlán
Those interested in small-town Mexico might enjoy visiting the colonial town of El Quelite and, in particular, the colorful, open-air restaurant El Meson de Los Laureanos (you will want to have reservations) known for its flavorful orange coffee and traditional breakfasts (and for the free-range chickens that just might hop on a chair an join you!). Work off the calories afterward by taking a stroll around town and checking out the church just across the street from Los Laureanos.
For travelers seeking a different sort of spirit, head to La Vinata de Los Osuna in El Noria for a historic lesson on how the innocent agave plant is transformed into something a bit magical at a distillery that has been around since 1876. Don’t forget to stop for a tasting! What is Los Osuna?
It looks like tequila, tastes like tequila, and is made like tequila—but it cannot be called tequila because it is not made in certain designated areas of Mexico.
Another good stop for a little history, a bit of a walking tour, some shopping, and food is the town of Concordia, which was founded in 1565 and today is known for furniture hand-made by artisans who have shops around town. From the center square, tour San Sebastián church before taking in the history of the town at the police station to the left of the church. Afterward, stop in for a quick bite at La Chara Enamorada, on the right side of the town square if you are facing the church.
IF YOU GO
TIPS FOR VISITING ESTRELLA DEL MAR IN MAZATLAN
- Don’t worry about the water at Estrella del Mar, which uses an onsite water filtration system. This visitor was not particularly cautious with water at offsite locations, which seemed perfectly fine.
- Even if travelers do not speak Spanish, they should be fine at the Mazatlán, Mexico resort and its vicinity. Not everyone speaks perfect English, but people are friendly and helpful.
- Guests of the resort can arrange for Estrella del Mar’s shuttle to transport them to the airport or to the Centro Historico in Mazatlán.
- If you are the marrying kind, consider Estrella del Mar for a beachfront destination wedding. A Mexican couple got married there during my visit, and I was able to observe the preparations and the actual event. The staff handled the event efficiently while still providing good service to other visitors. The sunset festivities charmed everyone.