My husband and I went to Mazatlan for the 1st time this XMas. Mazatlan is like the Puerto Vallarta of the future. It's being built up but it isn't quite there yet. It has restaurants, clubs on one strip of the city and then the old historic part of town in another area.
We stayed at the Hotel Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay, one of the nicest resorts in Mazatlan. Most people stayed there as timeshare owners but we did not. The best part abt. the hotel is the grounds. It's very grand and beautiful with 3 gorgeous pools. One of them is an infinity pool that looks out on the ocean. The rooms are large...all of them are condos looking out on the ocean. It's a good family place but we don't have kids and still enjoyed it. The big pool has music and resort activities. There's a smaller pool without the activities called the "Quiet Pool".
What we didn't like were: 1. The restaurant was not very good for dinner 2. The bar is pretty boring and tacky 3. It was too secluded from downtown---although some people may like this seclusion, we didn't b/c you have to take a 15 min. shuttle + a 10 min. cab ride to get to the restaurants and stores. Another option...you could stay at the Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan downtown, a less luxurious hotel in Mazatlan but more affordable, and shuttle over to Emerald Bay to enjoy their amenities.
Another thing, we did the 2 hr timeshare tour which was worth it. They weren't pushy and we got a $100 voucher each at the hotel and a free breakfast (although we had to eat w/the timeshare promoter)
My suggestion abt all inclusives: Wherever you stay, don't do all inclusive. Usually the hotel restaurants are not good and you end up being stuck eating there every day.
Other hotels we saw that looked nice were: Playa Mazatlan, Los Sábalos Hotel and El Cid Marina
Pancho's-Excellent, authentic Mexican food on the ocean. Small, tastesfully decorated, located right on the beach. Friendly staff. Definately not a cheesy Americanized place. Try the special coffee that they light on fire!
Carlos and Lucia's-Quiet, small, located in a pretty square in the middle of historic Mazatlan. There was really good jazzy live music while we ate. Very good food.
Senor Frog's-Crazy and yes, geared towards tourists, but somewhere you should go w/friends or as a couple. They blast cheesy dance music and shower you with drinks while you eat. They also have a dance floor. Not good food but fun atmosphere (if you're into that kind of party atmosphere...we're usually not hard core partygoers but it was fun for an evening)
Casa Loma- (AKA Crappa Loma) We never understood why the tourbooks recommended this place. First of all it looks scary...dark red walls and dark wood. Second of all, the food was the worst we've ever had ANYWHERE! My husband's food looked and tasted like dog food. Mine wasn't much better. Major stomach upset afterwards!
Vista Tours. Tour of Copala- It was too cold to swim or scuba dive in the ocean when we visited. So we took a tour instead of the Mountain villages surrounding Mazatlan. We really enjoyed it but keep in mind that the tour takes longer than they say it does. They're on "Mexican Time"
Recomended Bars/Clubs: Oyster Bar and Bora Bora (you must check out Bora Bora if you like to go to clubs...it's so beautiful, on the beach and FUN)
Advice: If you see a crowd of locals flocking to somewhere, follow them!
We were there at XMas time so it was colder than we wanted it to be. Some days were cloudy. On sunny days it ranged from mid 70's to low 80's with a breeze. I often wore a t-shirt with a long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt (layers). Nighttime was cold and windy.
I hear that Spring is warmer but filled w/Spring Breakers (you'll find less of them though at the Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay) and summer is hot.