Child’s Play

[Maaike Hoekstra is a hands-on mom who loves to bike, hike, swim, zipline, skate, bowl, you name the sport and she’s there participating with her two children; a 12 year-old girl and a ten year-old boy. When you read about an activity in Child’s Play you know that “it’s mom inspected” – Maaike’s been there and done that. Maaike is originally from Holland where she obtained a degree in agriculture from Wageningen University. During her university years she met and fell in love with her Mexican husband, Pablo, where he was earning his PhD. Pablo was already employed in Mazatlan with the CIAD Research Institute so the young couple made Mazatlan their home 12 years ago.maaikes-pix Maaike is full of energy [she may have caught your attention in her previous job at Salsa and Salsa] and not only is she a busy mom but she has sung in local Angela Peralta opera choir since 2005. She’s a voracious reader and belongs to a Spanish book club. [One of her secret dreams is to take all children out of the FB digital bubble and show them more.] She and Pablo introduce “more” to their children through extensive travel in Mexico and they share their passion for Mexican food, culture and arts. Their home is trilingual – Dutch, Spanish and English. You can reach this enthusiastic mother, wife, singer, dancer, traveller, cook and daredevil at: maaikemazatlanlife@gmail.com]

Maaike still has more to share with you … in the meantime, please scroll down to read her 25 options on: Jumping Time; Venados baseball; Kilometro Cero, skate park; Go Kartz; Pacific Golf Center; ziplines; activities to do out of the sun – cooking classes, an arcade, ice skating, bowling, movies-; what to see and do at the aquarium; beach days and surfing; hiking to El Faro; walking,hiking,birdwatching at Estero del Yugo; biking along the Malecon; mountain biking;Splashin’ fun – Mazagua, Carpa Olivera sea pool, Interactive Oasis; [sm December 2016].

“Why walk when you can jump!” – Jumping Time trampoline park

Who doesn’t remember the joy of jumping up and down on the bed? This moment of ultimate (and secret) fun that would last until your mother came around the corner and caught you red-handed. No need to hide anymore, because bouncing or rebounding is the newest health craze. Time to put this to practice at Jumping Time trampoline park at Galerias mall. The bright blue and green interior with over 40 interconnected trampolines is your invitation into the venue. There is almost no walking space and as a big quote on the wall says walked-cropped“Don’t make me walk when I can jump”. Kids over three years can join in, although you have to be careful that heavier kids don’t accidentally knock them off their feet.

Jumping Time is a franchise from Spain, but the concept is widely known in the US and Canada. It’s mainly geared toward children and teenagers, but you can feel free to jump into the mix (pun intended!). The manager mentioned that adults (without kids) usually come earlier in the day to exercise. Wear comfortable cloths and rent the neon yellow anti-slip socks for $35. You can bring your own socks, but you’ll notice that you have less control.

At first jumping up and down is a sensation that catapults you back into your childhood. The kids got the hang of it, way before we the adults felt free enough to jump from one trampoline onto the other. It isn’t as easy as kids make it seem, but it is sure fun! The venue also has a foam pit that’s perfect to practice your somersaults and flips. jump-cropped“Look mom, did you see my Superman move?” Spectators can take photos through the glass windows around the trampoline area and there are seats available too. You can’t buy beverages or snacks there, but the food court is around the corner. Try to avoid the afternoons in the weekend. It gets really packed, there’s less space per person and it’s much noisier! Ask for the birthday party packages for 10 people or more, which include snacks, fresh drinks and three hours of jumping time!

[Jumping Time is located in the Galerias mall on the second floor. Opening hours: daily from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. No reservations required. Prices: 30 minutes, $80; one hour, $130; two hours, $200; 30 minutes extra, $60. Monday and Tuesdays are two for one. Anti-slip socks $35 per pair.]

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Vamos con los Venados! – Baseball in Mazatlan

Do you like to watch a baseball match on television? Or are you ready for real baseball game in Mazatlan? Mazatlan is home to the Venados ( deer) baseball team founded in the 1940s. They’re the proud winners of the Mexican Pacific League Championship 2016, as well as champions of the Caribbean Series 2016. The Venados play in the Teodoro Mariscal Stadium which holds over 10,000 fans.

Sports bring people together and at a Venados game you experience a sense of unity whether you were born in Mazatlan or north of the border.baseball-field A wonderful mix of fans attend the game, from families with grandparents and newborns, to love birds on their afternoon date, to die-hard fans with a rattle and Pacifico beer in hand. And you’ll find yourself quickly at home.

The ticket prices vary from the more expensive numbered seats in the central area, to the inexpensive bleacher seats on the side (‘lateral’). I must say there’s more flavor to the game if you sit with the regular folks. Kids love to devour any and every snack that’s available, from the grilled Mexican sausages with lime juice and hot sauce, to ‘corn-in-a-cup’ esquites, to popcorn and Tostitos chips. Fresh drinks and beer vendors walk around to get you anything you want. Don’t miss out and try the local Pacifico beer!

Noisy and boisterous are the perfect words to sum up a baseball game in Mexico. It’s more about the fiesta than it is about the match. There’s a live banda music group playing, while the speaker is talking, whilst you watch the screen zooming in on the audience. There’s definitely never a dull moment. It’s fun to cheer with Venny, the team’s mascot. vennyYou’ll be laughing at his crazy tricks. During the innings, goodies are thrown into the audience which always gets the younger fans excited. Surprisingly, most people seem to arrive late to the game, but hey – it’s about supporting the team and who’s cares what time it is? Vamos Venados!!!

[Venados de Mazatlan: http://en.venadosdemazatlan.com/, Cost: $260 pesos numbered seats, $200 pesos general central seats, $60 pesos bleachers (‘lateral’), easiest to buy tickets at the entrance to the stadium. Game schedules are available here. It’s located between Avenida Insurgentes and Reforma near Bosque de la Ciudad and the Acuario.]

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“Buckle up and fly” – ziplines in Mazatlan

Isn’t it every child dream to be able to fly? Soaring over tree-tops, feeling the wind blowing through your hair? Free as a bird with a splash of adrenaline. Does this sound like your kind of fun, then keep reading! Close to Mazatlan where the Sierra Madre Occidental and coastal Pacific plains meet, you can find slopes and hills covered with tropical deciduous forest intertwined with rivers. It is the perfect setting for outdoor activities like zip-lining. There are two zipline tours around Mazatlan: Huana Coa close to La Noria and Veraneando in Veranos, close to El Recodo.

The excitement starts from the moment you arrive to the location. There is plenty of space for kids to run around and explore the property. Once the whole group is complete, the staff takes plenty of time to explain the rules of the game. This is especially important for those boisterous boys and girls who get distracted easily. No kiddie talking here: if you misbehave or act dangerously you’ll be walking back instead of take the aerial route! Then it’s time to buckle up and get into gear with a harness (no touching of any buckles!), helmet and gloves. At the first launch pad you get another briefing on how to glide safely and then it’s time to fly. A few butterflies in everybody’s stomach, which quickly dissipate…. Woohoo what a view!!! The smiles on everybody’s faces become bigger and bigger as you glide through the beautiful landscape. When back at ground level, you left with a healthy appetite and taste for another ride! [recommend closed-toed shoes, long pants, or long shorts, sunscreen, mosquito repellent…]

Huana Coa zipline tour:
The Huanacoa zipline tour is tons of fun for daredevils of all ages and nationalities. Guides speak good English and give instructions in Spanish as well as English. The cost of the Huana Coa tour is $750 pesos for 9 years and up and half price ($375 pesos) for smaller kids. The cost of the tour is only $600 pesos per person if you drive to the venue yourself. The tour includes bottled water, a light snack and a visit to the Los Osuna tequila distillery. The minimum age is 4 years. Young kids can be accompanied by guides on each line to make them feel more comfortable, but they can ride on their own too. You will glide down 9 lines with some serious excitement at the end. They save the best for last (won’t spoil the surprise ending!.)

The pick-up is at 9 a.m. at Hotel Don Pelayo on the Malecon. They can pick you from your hotel too. To book seats you have to call at least 24 hours ahead. Usually they don’t fill up, unless there’s a cruise ship in port. So make sure to contact them a few days earlier. Don’t worry about deposits: you can pay in full upon arrival to the venue. They accept cash (pesos) or credit card (VISA/MasterCard). They also offer ATV tours for guests over 16 years.

To drive to Huanacoa, take the free-way to Culiacan and turn right at El Habal towards La Noria. After about 30 minutes you will see the Huanacoa sign on your right hand.

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Veraneando Adventure zipline tour:
At Veraneando Adventure zipline tour you’ll splash into the excitement. This tour is close to El Recodo, hometown of the famous music group Banda El Recodo. The cost of the tour is $70USD for 10 years and up and $45USD for kids from 3-9 years, or the equivalent in pesos depending on the exchange rate. If you have your own transportation, the cost is $600 pesos per adult and $500 pesos per child. There are 12 lines on this tour and it also includes transportation, three drinks, lunch and a visit to the local tequila factory.

When making a reservation, let the staff know where you want to be picked up. They usually pass by a local bakery to pick up tasty empanadas (stuffed bread rolls). You don’t have to pay a deposit when making a booking and you can pay in full upon arrival with US dollars, pesos or credit card (VISA/Mastercard). They also offer a river-ride tour and Mexican steam lodge (temazcal) tour.

It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to drive to Veraneando. You take the highway towards airport and Villa Union and turn left towards El Recodo. Follow this scenic route, pass El Recodo and you will see Veraneando Adventure signaled.

General information
Huana Coa: www.huanacoa.com
Email: administracion@huanacoa.com
Land line: (669) 990 110 001
Cell phone: 669 147 0604

Veraneando Adventure: www.veraneandoadventure.com/
Email: veraneandoadventure@hotmail.com
Land line (669) 988 0425 or 988 1414

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Out of the sun

Believe it or not, snowbirds or winter visitors – for a full-time resident of Mazatlan like myself there is such a thing as too much sun. When the sun is too sunny and the beach is too sandy and you just want to chill (literally) indoors. When the thermometer is sky-high and the humidity is making your glasses fog, it’s good to have fun indoor options.

Cooking classes
If you would like to learn about Mexican culture in a hands-on way, trying new flavors is the best way to savor everything that this wonderful country has to offer. Mazatlan doesn’t have any official cooking schools as in other cities, but these two options are great fun.

Water’s Edge Bistro
This charming restaurant located in the historic downtown district, is run by Chef Alastair Porteous. He has been a chef for over 25 years in Canada. Chef Alastair works with regionally produced ingredients to create dishes with an out-of-this-world flavor. He offers cooking classes for families with children or groups of older children (12 years and older).The maximum group size is 8 people. Chef Alastair explains everything thoroughly and he’s surprisingly patient (no Hell’s Kitchen scenes here). cooking-classHe allows the kids to do everything, including using real chef knives, grill, and sauté and plate a dish like a real chef. It’s amazing how picky eaters (we all know them!) become less picky after seeing how you make pasta from scratch, how you dress a great salad, etc. And the best thing: you eat your own creations! I would definitely recommend this for older children or teenagers. The whole class takes about 3 hours.

Water’s Edge Bistro: 136 0895, www.thewatersedgemazatlan.com, reservations – alastair@thewatersedgemaz.com. Opening hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 4 p.m-11pm. Water’s Edge is usually closed during summer months, July, August and September. The cost of the class is $200 pesos per child, for adults [$60 USD] it’s more if you want to drink alcohol.

Salsa and Salsa
The Salsa and Salsa show is an interactive cooking and dancing class, suitable for chefs of all ages (five-years and up). The class takes place at the Royal Villas Resort in the Golden Zone. Salsa and Salsa is mainly geared towards cruise passengers, but non-cruise guests are allowed to join the party. Arriving to the venue you put on your chef attire, which is the perfect moment to take fun photos. Then the Dancing Chef hostesses guide you through a variety of drinks and salsas. You work in pairs to make your own salsa creations and sample them with snacks. Afterwards you hit the dance floor to learn the salsa in four easy steps. The class includes unlimited margaritas (for the adults), flavored water, snacks and access to the pool afterwards. The Salsa and Salsa tour goes for three hours and includes a free recipe sheet. [If you would like a taste of Salsa and Salsa go here for a short review and an interesting video.]

Salsa and Salsa reservations: 669 173 4989, www.salsaandsalsa.com, reservations: salsamazatlan@gmail.com, Facebook: www.facebook.com/salsaandsalsa, the cost of the tour is $48USD per person or the equivalent in pesos.

Recorcholis arcade hall
Good old fun for all at the Recorcholis arcade. The word ‘recorcholis’ is used to express surprise. Recorcholis is in the Gran Plaza mall, about five minutes from the Golden Zone. You can find an ice skating ring, the traditional arcade games and the bowling lanes. The way it works is that you buy a ‘credit’ card for $15 pesos and you can charge it with $10 pesos up to $500 pesos. On Wednesday they have a 2×1 promotion: if you buy $100 pesos credit you get $100 pesos extra for free. Each time you want to play a game, you swipe your card and the cost is automatically subtracted from your credit. Kids tend to finish their credit quickly in the slot games but at the jungle gym and video games they get more fun for their buck. At the slot games you can win tickets to buy toys in the little store. That’s the fun part: the more you play the more tickets you win to get free toys. If you’re hungry or thirsty, you can get tasty snack food at the bar.

The ice skating ring is available for kids older than eight years. The cost is $99 pesos per person, which includes the skates. You can slide and glide for one hour for this price. [recommend socks to wear under the skates, shorts and t shirt are fine.]

There are also six bowling lanes available. You can rent a lane for $84 pesos per person, which includes the shoes. The smallest size is for four-year olds. You can play with up to five people per lane.

Recorcholis – 983 2127, www.recorcholis.com.mx. Opening hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday from 11a.m.-9.p.m. and Wednesday, Friday, Saturday Sunday from 11a.m.-10 p.m.

Alboa Bowling
The Alboa Entertainment hall is in the Galerias Mall on the north side of Mazatlan. It’s the glossy place to be for teenagers and families, especially in weekends. It’s a ten-minute drive from the Golden Zone. The Alboa is on the second floor close to the Sears.

The Alboa is mainly geared towards bowling, although they also have pool and foosball tables available. There are no bells and whistles going off, like at Recorcholis and it’s more suitable if you just want to bowl. You can order drinks and food while you play. Kids love to play on their own lane and have fun whilst being active. It’s easier to keep an eye on your kids here, because the venue is smaller. Alboa opens Monday through Sunday from 1p.m. through 11p.m. (until 2 a.m. in weekends). You can use one lane for one to six players. The staff doesn’t speak English but the hostess Daniela Solis can assist you in English with reservations or any other questions.

Alboa Boliche – 669 988 0005 or 988 0804, Mazatlan@alboa.com.mx, Monday to Friday from 1-3 p.m. $79 pesos per hour, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, after 3pm $320 pesos per hour (October promotion: $160 pesos per hour), Thursday and Friday after 3 p.m. $480 pesos per hour and Saturday and Sunday all day, $480 pesos per hour. Bowling shoes are obligatory and cost $35 pesos per person. The smallest shoe size is for four-year olds. The pool and foosball tables cost $150 pesos per hour.

Movie theaters
Going to the movies is a big social happening in Mexico. Most movie theaters are inside a mall, so it’s a great (and fresh) way to spend your afternoon and meet up with friends. It’s really inexpensive to go the movies too, with prices ranging from 40 pesos at early functions (before 4 p.m.) to $70 pesos for 3D functions. A combo with popcorn and two fresh drinks costs about $150 pesos but you can also find nachos, candies, coffee and crepes. Make sure to check if the movie you’re booking is in English (it will say: SUB = subtitled or Ingles = English) or in Spanish (it will say: ESP = español). You can check movie schedules on their websites: select the city and movie theater you want visit.

There are two big cinemas close to the Golden Zone. The Cinepolis movie theater is in the Gran Plaza mall, close to the Recorcholis arcade. The Cinemex movie theater is in the Galerias mall, across from the Alboa bowling alley. So you could make it a day-trip going both to the bowling and then to the movies (or vice versa).

Cinepolis – www.cinepolis.com, Cinemex: www.cinemex.com.

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Wonders under water – Mazatlan’s aquarium

[Update February 12, 2017: due to a major leak in the shark tank, the sharks/tiburones have been moved to Guadalajara. Government officials are trying to resolve who is responsible for what, but count on the tank being closed for a “very long time.” The rest of the acuario is open!] The sea plays a very important role in Mazatlan’s economy and culture. Many people enjoy the beaches and activities in and on the water, but how much do you really know about what’s swimming in the sea around Mazatlan? This specific stretch of Pacific Ocean is also known as the Gulf of California or Mar de Cortéz in Spanish. It’s the breeding ground for several whale species and wide range of endemic creatures. Mazatlan’s aquarium is geared towards protecting and creating awareness for this specific ecosystem. It boasts the largest saltwater tank in Latin America.

Visiting the Acuario Mazatlan is a half-day trip for the whole family. There are small aquariums at the entrance (“Look mom, I saw a Nemo fish!”) and a complete whale skeleton. There are demonstrations in several parts of the park at certain hours. Make sure to arrive five minutes before scheduled show times so the kids can have a front row seat and a good view. Favorites are the sea lion shows and the birds of prey. The audience is encouraged to interact, so you can get a kiss from a sea lion or have a falcon pose on your arm. The Sea of Cortez tank is at the far end of the park and allows you to see what’s under the sea.

Diving with sharks
Acuario Mazatlan offers an activity for daredevils that you shouldn’t miss. You can swim with nurse sharks in the central tank. These toothless unaggressive sharks are resting most of the day and feed on crustaceans and mollusks.

Diving with the sharks is the experience your kids will long talk about. It’s the anticipation and excitement before entering the tank, the nerves when your feet touch the cold water and when you’re face to face with the shark (“It was really ginormous!”). It’s a strange experience to touch the skin of a shark for the first time (believe me: they’re not as smooth as you might think). Two people at a time are allowed to enter the tank with the instructor. sharkYou receive a visor and after a short explanation you submerge into the depth. The fun part is that the rest of the group can watch your moves from every angle and take great photos. The activity is available three times a day at 10.30 a.m., 12.30 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. after the dive demonstrations. You can book one day ahead and depending on the mood of the shark (yes, sharks also get cranky sometimes!) the staff will confirm whether the activity will be available. The cost of diving with the sharks is separate of the entrance fee. If you just want to do the activity let the staff know, so they won’t charge you. [recommend bringing bathing sit and towel.]

Acuario Mazatlan: 981 7816, www.acuariomazatlan.com. The entrance fee is $115 pesos per adult and $85 pesos per child (three-11 years). The diving with the shark activity costs $300 pesos and the minimum age is seven years. Children should be able to swim in order to do this activity.

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A day at the beach – but which one?

Going to the beach never gets boring. Building sandcastles is fun for smaller kids but any self-respecting kid won’t brag about that on the playground. You have to come home from your holidays in Mazatlan with bold, brave and daring stories. Hello surfing, bodyboarding and SUP-ing to meet all the above requisites. Mazatlan is a huge surfing hub. Any given day you will see youngsters and young-at-heart in the ocean trying to catch the best waves. From Olas Altas beach in downtown Mazatlan to Cerritos beach in the north, there are tons of great spots to catch a wave and soak up some sun.

Find your favorite beach in Mazatlan
Along Mazatlan’s 13 mile-long coast line you can find different beaches, each with respective name and regulars. From south to north, here are the highlights. Across the harbor canal you can find Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra). Contrary to its name, it is not an island but rather a peninsula. Many hotels offer a tour to Isla de la Piedra but I would rather suggest you save the money and go there on your own. Take the green ‘Sabalo-Centro’ bus (only $10 pesos per person) that drives from Riu Emerald Bay all the way through the Golden Zone to downtown harbor. Get down in the harbor and ask the driver to point you to the ‘embarcadero’ or pier for Isla de la Piedra. Tickets cost only $30 pesos for round-trip. The beach at Isla de la Piedra is calm and perfect for smaller children.

At the beginning of the Mazatlan boardwalk (a.k.a. Malécon) you can find Olas Altas beach. This crescent-shaped cove beach ‘moves’ due to seasonal currents. In winter time you can enjoy the sand in front of Hotel Freeman and in summer time you’ll soak up the sun in front of Hotel La Siesta. It’s an intimate beach, but you have to be careful with the currents.

Further north you can find Playa Pinitos, which is visited by local families during weekends or surfers whenever the waves are high. This small beach is shallow but has a rocky underground which makes swimming unpleasant; but you can find great coconuts and coconut water for sale at either side of this beach.

The stretch of beach from the fishermen boats until the Fisherman Monument is called Playa Norte. This particular area is used daily for recreational swimming (6 a.m. -9 a.m). The local swimming club is called Natacion Playa Norte (https://www.facebook.com/Natacion-Playa-Norte-311587828764/) that has showers, swimming classes and competitions for members. The beach along the boardwalk further north has treacherous currents and you must take precautions.

Another famous beach is Pueblo Bonito beach, which is next to the hotel Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan. This beach is particularly shallow and used mostly by fledgling surfers. The most northern beach of Mazatlan, Cerritos beach, is perfect for skilled surfers but should best be avoided for swimming due to its dangerous currents. However, this wide stretch of beach is perfect for walking, flying kites or a fun game of volleyball or soccer.

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Surf
Isn’t it secretly anyone’s dream to dominate the waves and be one with the ocean? However, if you weren’t born by the sea and don’t have a clue about surfing, taking a few classes isn’t a bad idea. You can find several surf schools in Mazatlán, but not all teachers work with smaller kids or beginners.

Quicksilver surf school
The Quicksilver surf school is a sure bet for many locals who want their kids to safely learn how to surf. The owner Javier Diaz is 100% dedicated to giving surf classes. You can find him daily at the beach next to Pueblo Bonito Mazatlán where he has his ‘office’ (wouldn’t we all want to have such a view!). Classes are available at 8 a.m., 10.30 a.m. 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. You have to book beforehand and pay a deposit. The class includes the surfboard, wax, water, surf shirt, sunscreen and instructions.

Javier always starts the class with some theory about the board and waves so you understand the surf terms. You learn how to stand up on a board, on dry land just to practice. There’s some stretching and warming up too. Javier is very thorough about safety in the sea. Then it’s time to dive in. Javier teaches you how to paddle on the board with your hands and how to dive under waves. Since there are only one or two people per class you get lots of attention. Catching a wave is the most difficult, but Javier makes sure that you’re on the wave at the right time. Time flies by as you become more confident and eventually…. you’re standing on the board like a pro (well, almost!).

Quicksilver Surf school: 6691209073, Facebook: Escuela de Surf QuickSilver Owm. Cost per class $550 pesos, pre-paid package three classes for one person costs $1200 pesos. Shared classes with three or more kids cost $200 pesos per child, Minimum age five years. Deposit required.

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Aqua Sport Center
Aqua Sport Center is a tradition when it comes to water sports. This family-owned business has been around since 1985 and continues to offer different aquatic activities like jet ski, snorkeling, diving, surf, water ski, sport fishing and sail boat rentals. Isaac Salazar and the rest of his team make sure that you have the best time at the beautiful beach in front of El Cid Castilla where they have their office. To access their venue you enter through the parking lot of Alawa restaurant on the left of El Cid Castilla.

Surf classes are available for children over six years, which include instructions and the surfboard. You have to bring your own rash guard and sun screen to avoid a sunburn. Classes are available daily at 8 a.m. and take two to three hours. Make sure you book beforehand. Sometimes surf classes have to be suspended because of the weather conditions (high waves, strong tides). You can also rent body boards for kids over six years. It’s important to note that they have to know how to swim.

Another fun activity for smaller kids is spending a day at Deer Island. Aqua Sport Center brings you across with a small boat and you can bring your own snacks and drinks. The waters in front of Deer Island are really calm, so it’s perfect to float around in these shallow waters. You can rent snorkel gear or paddle boards as well.[there are bathrooms on the island.] Paddle boarding is suitable for teenagers or adults, because of the size of the equipment. But smaller kids can sit at the front of the board while the adult paddles.

Aqua Sport Center: 913 0451, cellphone 669 1010462, http://www.aquasportscenter.com. Cost per surf class: $900 pesos or $400 pesos for locals, paddle board rental $500 pesos for two hours, body board rental $50 pesos for two hours. You can pay in cash or with credit card (VISA/MasterCard).

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Hit the trails – biking and hiking in Mazatlan

Think biking and hiking, think trails with lush vegetation…. Think Mazatlan?!? It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about this beach-oriented destination. However, there are many routes that are fun to walk or cycle and they’re right around the corner.

Hiking
Mazatlan’s lighthouse

Where in Mazatlan do you have a 360° view and can you see 12 miles north and south? It’s not the newest condo building in town, but a natural reserve that few know about. The lighthouse or ‘Faro’ is home to many animal and plant species and is located on the far south point of Mazatlan. Named the world’s second highest natural lighthouse, its altitude is 154 meters or 490 feet.

The Mazatlan lighthouse is located on an impressive rock formation called the Creston Hill. From far away you can appreciate its steep cliffs and triangular shape. The Creston hill boasts several deep caves, which are nearly impossible to approach because of the treacherous currents. There are several interesting legends about the lighthouse caves. Some tall tales indicate invaluable treasures have been hidden by famous pirates like the British Thomas Cavendish and the blond Dutch Spilbergen inside. They roamed the Pacific to plunder the loaded ‘Naos’ from the Philippines. kids-el-faro

Climbing or ‘conquering’ the lighthouse is a great adventure for all ages. I’ve been taking my children since there they were five years old. You will have an easy start with a slightly sloped sand path. You will meet both exercising Mazatlecans and tourists along the way. About halfway, the sand path leads into stairs. You will see lizards, many birds, butterflies as well as cactus and tropical trees. Even two stray cats roam the lighthouse stairs, where they are fed daily by locals. Once you’ve reached the top of the hill, you will be amazed by the view. It makes the effort worthwhile! el-faro-2

Are you excited to give it a try? Here is how to get there. You can take the ‘Sabalo-Centro’ air-conditioned bus that drives from the Golden Zone all the way to the foot of the lighthouse. You can also take a taxi and ask the driver for ‘El Faro’. I would advise to arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat. Make sure to bring a camera, closed shoes, a hat, sunscreen and lots of water. You will have the best family time and the most amazing photos!

Estero del Yugo

At the far northern point of Mazatlan you can find another hidden ecological gem: Estero del Yugo. It’s behind the Mazagua water park and across the street from hotel Riu Emerald Bay. This small wetland reserve (27 acres/11 hectares) is perfect to watch lagoon and forest birds and offers a great walking route for the whole family.

The entrance to Estero del Yugo is through the CIAD research institute. The trails are marked and lead you along the rim of the estuary until reaching the cliffs with an amazing view on the northern beach. This dry tropical deciduous forest changes its colors depending on the season. In rainy season (May through October) the trees are lush and green, but in dry season (November through April) the leaves gradually fall. Estero del Yugo also offers ecological education to thousands of school children every year, as well as a bird-watching events. The maintenance of this area is done by local volunteers and the CIAD research institute. estero

It’s great fun to walk at Estero del Yugo. Kids love it, because it’s a quest ‘into the wild’. They’ll certainly spot the herons, humming birds and noisy chachalacas: “Mom I think I even saw an eagle!” The trails are narrow; there is a bird-watching hut and a view tower. At certain points you have to walk over wooden boardwalks with little creeks beneath, which makes it even more exciting. Make sure to bring closed shoes, a hat and water. There are mosquitos so bring some repellent along too, as well as sunscreen.

The entrance to Estero del Yugo is just north of the intersection Avenida Sabalo-Cerritos and Carretera Habal-Cerritos. You can take the ‘Sabalo-Centro’ bus and get out at Riu, which is the last stop. You can access Estero del Yugo daily through the gates of CIAD. The cost is $50 pesos which is used for maintenance of the trails. You receive a free map of the area. If you want a guided tour, you can contact Eunice Murua at CIAD. She is available on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4p.m. The guided tours cost $150 pesos per adult and take around two hours. Children won’t be charged for guided tours.

Estero del Yugo: contact person Eunice Murua – 989 8700 ext 260 or emurua@ciad.mx.

Biking

A Mazatlecan at heart I am a self-declared inhabitant of the city’s boardwalk or ‘Malecon’. There are many ways you can enjoy the Malecon: walking, skating, running, cycling or bring your chair to catch the perfect sunset. This seafront walkway is perfect for biking [new rules, bikes are on the street side] and gives you 13 miles of unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean. If you want to enjoy the Malecon and downtown Mazatlan with your family it’s great to rent bikes for half-day or whole day. I recommend Baikas Rental that has two locations: one at Hotel Belmar at Olas Altas in downtown Centro and the other at Hotel Don Pelayo at the other end of the Malecon. baikasYou can enjoy cold coconut water at the stands along the way or venture into the historical center and discover the alleys with amazing architecture.

Baikas Bicycle Rental: 669 910 1999 (Belmar) or 669 164 6434 (Don Pelayo), www.baikas.mx or on Facebook www.facebook.com/baikasmazatlan, Opening hours: 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Half-day rental $200 pesos, whole-day rental $300 pesos.

If you’re looking for serious excitement on wheels, you can book a mountain bike tour with local expert Fernando Kelly, owner of Kelly’s Bicycle Shop. He offers tours for experienced riders as well as newbies, along Mazatlan’s many one-trail tracks. He is famous for single-handedly carving his way through the forest, creating new trails. Fernando speaks fluent English. The minimum age for the mountain bike tours is 12 years and it includes the bike, a helmet, water or Gatorade and energy bars. The tour takes about 1 ½ hours depending of the fitness of the participants. It’s advisable to do the tour early in the morning to avoid the heat and humidity. Wear cycling shorts, a tight fitting shirt and tennis shoes, as well as sunscreen and mosquito repellent.

Kelly’s Bicycle Tours: 914 1187, kellysbikeshop@hotmail.com or on Facebook www.facebook.com/kellysbikeshop. Mountain bike tours: $35USD per adult and $30USD per child (12-17 years) or the equivalent in pesos.

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Splashin’ fun – water parks in Mazatlan

The best way to keep your kids happy is in the water, no matter if it’s 35°C or 20°C. For mermaids and tritons there is no such thing as too much beach or pool time: “Can’t we stay another five minutes, PLEASE!!!!” Mazatlan has plenty of beaches to get your share of splashing fun, but only few are appropriate for kids to swim safely. Going to a water park is an appealing alternative for young and old.

Mazagua
This is Mazatlan’s only official water park and it’s a must-go if you have kids. There are plenty of pools for smaller and bigger kids, super-exciting slides and picnic areas with tables and umbrellas. The entrée fee is the same for adults and kids and gives you unlimited access to the whole park. Compared to water parks in other Mexican destinations it’s almost ten times cheaper, so it’s a real bargain!

Let out your inner child at Mazagua. The toddler pool has tons of hideaways and small slides with knee high water level. For the older kids and adults there is a wave pool, water zip line and six different slides with exciting names like Mamut and Grand Prix. The Grand Prix slide has several lines so you can have a speed race. Insider information: the heavier you are, the more likely you are to win! “Hey dad you won again, that not fair… Let’s try again (and again and again)!”

slide

You have to rent a floaty ring in order to use some slides. These are available next to the entrance: you pay 70 pesos for a single or double floaty ring and you also need to leave an ID. The park opens at 10 a.m. but most slides aren’t functioning until noon. There is staff available at every slide to guide you. Don’t feel like you should stay on dry land because you’re an adult. These slides are just as much fun for 8-year olds as well as 38-years old (or 58-year old!). If you rent a two-person floaty ring it’s easier to keep an eye on your smaller (under 10 years) child. You’ll do the slides together, shouting and laughing, making great memories: “Mom you were screaming louder than me!”

Mazagua waterpark is on the northern side of Mazatlan, on the intersection of Avenida Sabalo-Cerritos going towards Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay. It’s easily recognizable: you will see the huge slides from far away. Bring your bathing suit, hat, sunscreen, slippers, surf shirt to avoid sun burn and towel. There are changing rooms, showers and toilets, as well as lockers. Snack food is for sale at the park, but you are allowed to bring your own food.

Mazagua: 988 0041 or www.mazagua.com. Opening hours 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. The park is open from March through December. The park is closed in January and February for maintenance.[Nationals do find this time of the year very cold for water sports.] Entrance fee 150 pesos per person.

Carpa Olivera sea pool
The Carpa Olivera was originally built in 1915. It was inspired by sea pools in Europe, and previously there was a restaurant above the pool which was popular for social gatherings. In 1954 it was devastated by a hurricane, leaving it in abandonment. In 2014 the local municipality proposed to clean and return this pool, fed by tidal water, to its former splendor. They added a new playful element: a spiral slide. It might not look like much, but its jet propulsion gives you serious speed making it fun for everybody. The slide’s pump isn’t always turned on, so you’ll have to ask the lifeguard to switch it on.

sea-pool

The Carpa Olivera continues to be a meeting point for locals and visitors. Especially during weekends you’ll see whole families spending the day. Kids love to get splashed by the waves rolling into the pool, while adults can soak up the sun on the rim. Locals come to swim laps every day. I would advise an adult to accompany children under 10 years in the pool. There is a small restaurant that sells coconuts, drinks and light snacks. There are toilets and a shower to rinse off the salt water. You can enjoy this wonderful sea pool free of charge every day. There is a lifeguard on duty from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. Occasionally when the tides are very high, you might not be allowed to enter for your own safety. Just spend some time at the nearby Olas Altas beach and come back when the tide has gone down.

Interactive Oasis – water play park
This small water play park is an excellent option for children that are too small to swim. It’s located across the street from the Fisherman’s Monument on the Malecon, close to Playa Norte. Created in 2012 by the local municipality it has different water fountains and colored lights in the night. It’s amazing how easily new friendships are made here: everybody huddles together under the tipping bucket to get splashed, no matter if you speak English or Español.

kids-water-park

Fun fact: only kids from three to thirteen are allowed to enter, while the parents have stay on the side. There is a guard on call from Monday through Sunday from noon until 7 p.m. On Tuesdays the park opens later, because of weekly maintenance. There is also a regular park on the side as well as a snack store. The entrance is free!

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The great outdoors – time to think outside the electronic box!

Hit it, kick it, roll it, steer it: the best remedy for couch potatoes and electronic addicts. It might seem that kids nowadays can’t think of anything else, but hey: let’s think outside, no box required!

Kilometro Cero – skate park
This realm for the reckless is located between the city park (Bosque de la Ciudad) and the baseball stadium. Kilométro Cero Skate Park was created by Mazatlan’s municipality in 2012 and it has a bowl and street plaza elements. The bowl is peanut-shaped and perfect for more experienced skaters. You don’t get off your board and it allows you to skate back and forth as well as across. The street plaza has obstacles, as you would find anywhere: stairs, railing and benches. There are even two half-pipes of three meters and two meters.skate-board Now, don’t feel like you have to be a pro to attend this park. There are beginner slopes as well and plenty of space to just skate around. This park is free of charge and open all day, but most skaters arrive between 5.30 p.m. – 8 p.m. If you don’t have a skateboard, you can borrow one. Ask for Juan or Sergio who speak some English. The area is well lit and there are toilets as well as a soccer field as well as two tennis courts.

Kilómetro Cero: address Av. Reforma and Justo Sierra, Mazatlan Skate fan page: https://www.facebook.com/revolucionmazatlan2016/.

Go Kartz – Plaza Sendero
Intrepid speedsters will find their fun at Go Kartz Mazatlan. This track is located on the parking lot of Plaza Sendero mall. The velodrome has seven karts available and is open for kids older than seven years or taller than 1.35 meters as well as adults. You pay the ticket at the entrance, which allows you to run five laps. bumper-carThere are several tight curves and long stretches where you can go a full speed. It really gets fun when you try to take over your opponents. Formula-1 here we come! The karts are low to the ground so you feel that you’re at top speed. Don’t worry though because they’re said to go only 35 km/h. Wear comfortable cloths and a cap because there isn’t any shade. You can buy drinks and snacks inside the Plaza Sendero mall.

Go Kartz – Plaza Sendero mall, cell phone: 669 162 6902. Opening hours: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Cost 50 pesos per person (five laps). No reservations required

Pacific Golf Center – Golf academy
The Pacific Golf Center is great for those who want to keep the golf swing in shape while in Mexico. It is a nice facility that’s fun for everyone. You can rent a bucket of 100 golf balls for only 100 pesos, golf equipment included. They also offer classes for adults and kids older than 6 years. The classes go for four hours and include techniques and physical training. mini-golfYou’re encouraged to get involved or instead you can stay in the lounge area. There is a discount if you book more classes. They have a Frequent-Customer card: for $500 pesos you receive 20 buckets with 100 balls. There’s an indoor playground for smaller kids from two to seven years. This will be opened at the beginning of December 2016.

Pacific Golf Center – Av. Carlos Canseco 5991. Reservations through contact person Lorena: 669 114 4556. The opening hours are from noon until 10 p.m. Golf classes cost $250 pesos per person for four hours.

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