When the sun goes down it’s time for a wander through Mazatlan’s Centro Historico (Historic Downtown). Restored shops and houses take you back to the 1940s, and if you listen carefully, you might hear the whisper of a melancholic song. That'll be the ghost of Pedro Infante, Mexico’s legendary singer who spent his childhood in these very streets.
An urban hike will show you how immigrants left their footprints on Mazatlan’s downtown façade. In the 1840s, hordes of hopeful prospectors passed through Mazatlan on their way to the gold fields of California. By the end of the 19th century, Mazatlan was a thriving international seaport that attracted people from various parts of the world. To this day there remain strong German, Spanish, French, North American and Asian influences.
The city’s original main square, the Plazuela Machado has metamorphosed into a vibrant district of restaurants, cafes, serenading musicians, buskers and dance performances. Nearby, pay a visit to Mazatlan’s stunning Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, a city landmark on the Plazuela Republica. Built in 1890, the church has a gilded triple altar with murals of angels floating overhead. Afterwards, buy a handmade ice cream from the vendors across the street and find a shady bench where you can treat yourself to an inexpensive shoe shine.
You might also opt for a sunset stroll along the 19-kilometre (12-mile) beachside Malecon Olas Altas where whimsical sculptures portray bits of Mazatlan’s fascinating history. Mazatlan-born movie star Pedro Infante, heartthrob of the 1940s, is immortalized straddling his motorcycle. A magnificent sculpture incorporating a leaping marlin, fisherman and a curvy nude woman symbolizes the importance of the fishing industry here.
When it’s time to hit the sack and your feet are too tired to walk back to your hotel, don’t miss the chance to catch a Pulmonia (Pneumonia). Mazatlan’s iconic open-air taxis, basically golf carts powered by Volkswagen engines, first rolled out on the streets in 1965 as an alternative to the traditional taxi. The story goes that the rival cab drivers, jealous of the popularity of the new-fangled competition, warned passengers that they would catch pneumonia. And the name stuck.