Salty Hair & Sun-Kissed Skin in Mazatlán

Whenever I think of Mazatlán, thoughts of happiness, carelessness, and warmth engulf my mind and my heart dances around in my chest. I don’t know if it’s possible for me to express just how much I love this charming paradise. For me, Mazatlán is to Mexico as Shanghai is to China. I traveled to Shanghai five different weekends throughout my semester in China because I loved it so much, and if Mazatlán wasn’t a 12-hour bus ride and $120 USD round trip ticket to get there, I would be spending most of my weekends there also.

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Day 1:

The four of us arrived in Mazatlan around 9 a.m. after a 12 hour bus ride. Lucky for me, I took a sleeping pill and was knocked tf out for about 10 of those hours. We checked into our hostel called “Funky Monkey”, then got a short tour of the place, changed into our swimsuits, ate an early lunch, and walked over to the beach!

Before I move on, let me give you a glimpse into how cute this place is:

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Alright, back to the beach– naturally, we were all distracted by the cute gift shops and souvenirs that lined the road near the beach so it took us a little while to actually get there. When we finally dropped our bags, laid out our towels and slathered some sunscreen on, it began to really feel like vacation. There were people selling fruit on the beach and I’d decided I would just have to get some when my stomach wasn’t so full from whoppers and french fries. Oceans are so beautiful, zen, and calming but they scare me when it comes to actually swimming in them. I tried my best to push out the possibilities of my stepping on a sting ray or fish nibbling at my feet and put on my big girl swim bottoms and walked in the cool (did I say cool? I meant freezing) salt water. My girls and I splashed around like little kids and let the small waves move us around. When I finally got tired of shivering, I ran back to my towel to retrieve some pesos and got my chili covered, flower cut mango. MMMM.

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Then it was time to lay out and let the sun’s rays penetrate my paler than normal skin. When the other girls came back, we blasted our American music on one of their little speakers and completely relaxed. It was so nice to not have an agenda, not have anywhere else to be or have anything else to do and just completely and totally enjoy just being. After consuming a more-than-sufficient dose of vitamin D, I walked along the beach to ask a couple men working with the parasails how much they charged. I ran the answer of “$40 USD” back to the girls. Not even 10 minutes later, another man from a different parasail comes up to me and offers me “the best price”. $500 pesos = $25 USD to fly above the sea… SOLD! They strapped me in, provided me with quick instructions and I was off! The view was crazy, the rush was fantastic, and the experience was all around phenomenal. I felt so blissful and giddy up in the sky that I even found myself squealing and laughing to no one else but myself up there– which obviously made me laugh even more.

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Hunger, as it always does, got in the way of our beach basking so we packed up and went hunting for a yummy shrimp restaurant that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Success! Delicious coconut shrimp soaked in lime juice sat happily in my tummy.

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After the early dinner, we weaved in and out of some more shops until the sun started to set and that’s when we returned to the beach to watch the sun go down. Mazatlan’s sunsets are an absolute treat.

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Finally we returned to our hostel, washed all the sand and salt off our bodies, and sleepily climbed into bed for the night because exhaustion won over us this day.

Day 2:

The next day, we went downstairs for breakfast in the morning. We helped ourselves to some fruit and coffee while we chatted at the table with an older man from Chihuahua about his motorcycle trip around Mexico. Just as we were washing our dishes and getting ready to hit the beach, the most adorable puppy came trotting across the kitchen to the back door. I died. Little bambino is the smallest, most playful pup I’ve ever come across and my heart absolutely melted in his tiny little paws.

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I talked with Bambino’s parents for a little (a woman from Monterrey, Mexico and a man from Switzerland) and found out they have a YouTube channel! They’re a married couple traveling from Alaska to Patagonia by bicycle– it’s in Spanish, but if you’re ever interested in checking out their sweet channel, Vagaboom, you can see it HERE! Anyway, after obsessing over their precious puppy, my girls and I headed out to Starbucks and then to the beach. Because I was the only one that parasailed on Day 1, the rest of the girls decided to parasail right when we back to the beach! Ugh, it was such an amazing experience I could’ve done it a hundred more times.

By this time, my skin was suffering. I had gotten so sunburnt on the first day from just cooking under the sun on my towel that I had basically turned into a lobster. Note to self: Just because you’re brown doesn’t mean you can’t get super sunburnt. In my attempt to avoid skin cancer and baking more, I slathered on more sunscreen and even kept my shirt on when I wasn’t in the water. It hardly helped. 🙂

It was just another day of relaxing in the sand and water and involuntarily drinking in the very strong vitamin D. In the afternoon, we made a yummy fro-yo stop before heading to the malecón because we were told that there would be Mexican cliff jumpers! While people waited at the tops of the cliffs, no one jumped. Why? Because no one gave them money to. Despite the cliff diver disappointment, we got some pretty incredible pictures of the ocean in that area.

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The four of us walked down the malecón to find a place for dinner and as we were doing so, Mexican music started blasting from a parked car on the side of the street and Mexican families on vacation ran past us and took their touristy pictures together. This was the moment I described in my A Gringa’s Guide to Living In Mexico post, where I felt an incredible and deep appreciation for the people and this country and this was the point that I finally reached the home stage of culture shock.

We had the intentions to try ceviche at the sea side restaurant that we chose for dinner, but none of us could bring ourselves to order it at the thought of wasting a whole $120 pesos on something we didn’t like. Wimps, yeah I know. So wings, burgers and burritos it was. We came here at just the right time because the sun had just started tucking itself under the water for the night and the deep orange sun rays were streaming through the palm trees in a way that made my eyes twinkle in awe at the sight.

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After dinner, we decided to grab a Pulmonia to take us back to our hostel from the malecón. Pulmonia’s are basically golf carts that serve as taxis here. What makes them better than taxis? They drive super fast, blast loud music, and allow the strong salty wind to flow through your hair! I definitely wouldn’t have minded spending hours riding all over Mazatlan in that. The night ended with us playing board games downstairs in the common room and nearly crying because we were supposed to leave the next day. None of us were ready to live the ocean, sand, sunsets and tan (*cough* red, burnt, soon-to-be peeling) skin behind. We had to stay for one more day.

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Day 3:

We woke up on a warm Sunday morning, went down to cook our eggs and veggies in the communal kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, and sat at the table and talked to the mama of little Bambino (the puppy that melted my heart on Day 2). She was telling us about her honeymoon in Cuba and the way she described it had me completely sold. I’m there. I don’t know when yet, but I’ll be there. After getting our fix of puppy cuddles, the four of us headed to the Primera Plus bus station to exchange our tickets to leave one day later. Yay!

The day was basically the same as the others up until night time when we returned to our hostel for the rooftop BBQ happening later that night. There was a great turn out and we got to know some of the volunteers working there and other travelers more– people like a bold and spunky girl from Scotland, the hostel owner who had been traveling all his life, a man from Silicon Valley who was traveling by motorcycle, and good handful of others. The hostel owner had a guest from Australia cook all of our food at the BBQ, because his excuse was that “they know how to work the ‘barbies‘”; carne asada, chicken wings, veggies, chips and salsa… all. so. delicious! We stayed up on the rooftop eating, chatting, and listening to music with people from all over the world for about 4-5 hours. I’ve mentioned how much I love hostels right?!

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Day 4:

Resisting the urge to sob, I accepted that it was check out day. We ate our breakfast and gulped down our coffee cups one last time at the best hostel ever and then packed up. Fortunately, they allowed us to keep most of our belongings at the hostel until it was time for us to catch our bus later in the afternoon. Instead of heading straight to the beach like the past 3 days, we took another Pulmonia to El Faro Lighthouse, down all the way at the end of the malecón. It took about a 30 minutes of drowning in my own sweat to get to the top where the teeny lighthouse sat. However, once I was able to catch my breath and be sure that my lungs wouldn’t collapse, the view was quite nice. You had the city on one side and the vast ocean on the other– what an outlook! We stayed up there for a good while… mostly because we were all still too tired and hot to even think about going back down any time soon.

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When we finally gathered up the strength to get back down the hill, we ran our way to the bottom and caught another Pulmonia. Angie played Chainsmokers and Ed Sheeran on her portable speaker as we raced around the Malecon to get back to the beach. This was one of those special moments in life where you’re just completely enjoying the sweet moment of the present and it feels like life couldn’t get any better.

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By the time we got to the beach, we only had about and hour and a half to get tossed around by the waves and drink in the last bit of the strong rays of the Mazatlán sun before we had to leave to get ready to catch our bus back to Celaya. It was a perfect last bit of time enjoying our favorite place in Mexico thus far. When we were running out of the water, I saw a kid holding a soccer ball at his feet and waved at him to pass it over. He stared at me… then looked back to see if i was waving past him… Nooo.. YOU! I asked “Puedo jugar contigo?” and he finally passed! The flat ball hurt on my bare feet, but I finally got the chance to play some soccer (or at least pass the ball around) with some Mexican locals!

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The four of us left the beach we had spent so much time at in the past four days and made our way to Burger King to pick up food before heading back to the hostel. I couldn’t wait to scarf down a whopper and most especially a Hershey sundae pie! Unfortunately, right as we got there, the power went out and we couldn’t even order. With our tummies still grumbling, we trudged back to the hostel. We all went into hyper-speed mode to get showered, ready, and organized before splitting from Funky Monkey. Most of the guests had checked out already so all of the bathrooms were open but when a woman who worked there reminded us that there was a shower on the rooftop we could use, I booked it!

It sounds like something simple and insignificant, but showering on the rooftop, with the sun peeking through the wooden boards above, the breeze of the wind coming in through the window, and seeing the sky and neighborhood from where I was standing made me completely overjoyed! I’ve recently been learning that it’s the things that seem so simple and insignificant that have the most power to bring gratitude and delight– whether it’s showering in an outside rooftop shower or having an incredible belly laugh session with some fantastic people.

Angie had been wanting to eat Carl’s Jr since we got to Mexico so we decided we’d pick up some dinner there before heading to the bus station since Burger King didn’t work out and all. Our Uber dropped us off with all our bags in hand, and we got to CJ’s only to find out it was closed. We settled and got another Uber to take us to a McDonald’s closest to the bus station. 3rd time’s the charm right?

At 5 pm, the bus pulled out from the Primera Plus bus terminal and our 12-hour drive back to Celaya commenced. I’ll be back, Mazatlán!

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