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Getting There & Departing

By Plane -- A number of airlines operate direct or nonstop flights to Mazatlán, though charters predominate. From the United States, Aeroméxico flies from Los Angeles, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Tucson, via Mexico City. Alaska Airlines flies nonstop from Los Angeles and Seattle. Continental Airlines flies nonstop from Houston. Check with a travel agent for the latest charter flights.

By Bus -- First-class and deluxe buses connect Mazatlán to Guadalajara (7 hr.; 430 pesos one-way), Mexico City (16 hr.; 1,000 pesos), Puerto Vallarta (8 hr.; 380 pesos), and other points within Mexico. The main first-class bus company is TAP (tel. 01-800/001-1827 toll-free in Mexico; www.tap.com.mx). The bus terminal is located on Hwy. 200 N. Km 1203 (tel. 669/982-1949).

By Car -- To reach Mazatlán from the United States, take International Hwy. 15 from Nogales, Arizona, to Culiacán. At Culiacán, change to the four-lane tollway -- it costs about 200 pesos from here to Mazatlán and is the only road considered safe and in drivable condition. On the tollway, total trip time from the United States to Mazatlán is about 12 hours. Consider an overnight stop, because driving at night in Mexico can be dangerous. From Puerto Vallarta, the 560km (347-mile) drive is not easy -- the road winds through the mountains and takes about 8 hours, but is in generally good condition. Take Hwy. 200 north to Las Varas. There it becomes four-lane Hwy. 68; follow that until you see a detour for Hwy. 15. Take 15 north to Mazatlán.

Orientation

Arriving -- The Rafael Buelna International Airport (airport code: MZT) is 27km (17 miles) southeast of the hotel-and-resort area of town. The following rental car companies have counters in the airport, open during flight arrivals and departures: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz, and National. Daily rates run $35 and up. A car is desirable for exploring the coast and nearby villages, but it is not essential in Mazatlán.

Taxis and colectivo minivans run from the airport to hotels; the airport-chartered taxis cost about 300 pesos, which is significantly more than the colectivos, which cost 120 pesos but take up to 12 passengers and, therefore, make multiple stops. Only taxis make the return trip to the airport, which costs 200 to 300 pesos. The Central de Autobuses (main bus terminal) is at Jose Angel Ferrusquilla, between the Zona Dorada and downtown.

Visitor Information -- The extremely helpful and professional State Tourism Office (tel. 669/981-8883, -8887; www.vivesinaloa.com), is at Olas Altas Sur 501, near Hotel La Siesta in the historic center. The office is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm; the staff speaks English. To preview what's going on in Mazatlán before you arrive, check the website of the local English-language newspaper Pacific Pearl (www.pacificpearl.com), or pick up a copy of the simple publication at various hotels and locations around town. For additional information to help orient you, check Mazatlán Interactivo (www.mazatlaninteractivo.com.mx).

City Layout -- Mazatlán extends north from the peninsula port area along Avenida Gabriel Leyva and Avenida Barragan, where the cruise ships, sportfishing boats, and ferries dock. Downtown begins with the historic area of Viejo Mazatlán (Old Mazatlán) and Playa Olas Altas to the south. A curving seaside boulevard, or malecón, extends 27km (17 miles) along the waterfront, all the way from Playa Olas Altas to Playa Norte, changing names often along the way. Traveling north, it begins as Paseo Olas Altas and becomes Paseo Claussen parallel to the commercial downtown area. The name changes to Avenida del Mar at the beginning of the Playa Norte area.

About 6km (3 3/4 miles) north of downtown lies the Sábalo traffic circle in the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), near the Punta Camarón, a rocky outcropping over the water. The Zona Dorada begins where Avenida del Mar intersects Avenida Rafael Buelna and becomes Avenida Camarón Sábalo, which leads north through the abundant hotels and fast-food restaurants of the tourist zone. From here, the resort hotels, including the huge El Cid Resort complex, spread northward along and beyond Playa Sábalo. The Marina Mazatlán (www.marina-mazatlan.com) development has changed the landscape north of the Zona Dorada considerably; hotels, condo complexes, and private residences rise around the marina. Although completion of the extensive project -- to comprise the marina, condominiums, and commercial centers -- is still years away, the new marina will be the largest on the western seaboard between Los Angeles and Panama, and one of the largest in all of Latin America. This area north of the Marina El Cid is increasingly known as Nuevo Mazatlán. North of here is Los Cerritos (Little Hills).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.