Guest Author - Kara Williams
Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, is home to a number of waterfront hotels, from mega-resorts with hundreds of tower rooms to smaller, colonial-style villas. Stay at the El Cid Marina Beach Hotel and you can enjoy the best of both worlds--an intimate property for rest and relaxation, with privileges at other El Cid resorts for spa treatments, a late-night disco, more varied dining options and easier beach access.
Eleven buildings at the El Cid Marina are laid out in a crescent shape around a pretty marina. Sandy beach access is by a one-minute water taxi across a narrow canal. This means you canít take early morning or late-night walks on the beach, since the taxi generally operates from 8 a.m. to about 8 p.m. But at the same time, because this marina area of Mazatlan is less populated than the busier "Golden Zone" of hotels, shops and restaurants, you wonít be bothered by vendors selling their wares on the beach. A full-service snack bar, palapas, lounge chairs and towels are also found at the private beach area.
Accommodations at this low-rise, Mediterranean-style resort hotel are all suites, with either marina or ocean views and decorated in bright white and tropical blue colors. Junior suites have kitchenettes (stovetop, refrigerator and microwave) with two doubles or one king-sized bed and separate sitting area. One-bedroom suites have a separate bedroom (with door), living room, dining table and kitchenette and two sinks in the bathroom. These two room configurations can connect, forming a two-bedroom suite with tons of space. Ask for accommodations on the top floor of a building for vaulted ceilings.
Amenities at the El Cid Marina include two pools: one that's heated with a swim-up bar and the other that's not heated (and was quite chilly in February), but adjacent to a spacious hot tub (the biggest in Mazatlan, says the sales material). The non-heated pool has some nifty cave features and water slides, and the laid-back lifeguard doesnít mind if you jump off the cliff into the nine-foot-deep pool (making for some fun honeymoon photos).
As an El Cid guest, you can enjoy the pools (larger, with more water slides) at the other El Cid properties, the El Cid Moro and El Cid Castilla, that are a short five-minute, free shuttle ride away. These hotels are right on the beach in the middle of the populated "Golden Zone" of hotels, which means it's difficult to avoid the many vendors hawking silver jewelry, sundresses, hats and other souvenirs (even after a polite "No, gracias," sometimes they remain persistent).
Dining options at the El Cid Marina include La Marina Restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating. Some evenings a dinner buffet is offered, but you can always order off of the extensive menu, which includes plenty of seafood options, as well as vegetarian meals and more hearty steak entrees. (All-inclusive guests can only order off the a la carte menu certain evenings without paying extra. Note, too, that for included a la carte evenings, some items--like lobster or shrimp--may cost extra anyway.)
Breakfast is delicious at La Marina Restaurant--a smoothie bar, omelets to order, French toast or pancakes, fruit, granola, sausage and more traditional Mexican foods ensure there's something for every palate. Sunday brunch is special, with live music, Bloody Marys and mimosas.
For lunch, eat at a poolside restaurant for delicious ceviche, burgers, sandwiches and salads. Similar food can be found at another poolís swim-up snack bar. At either pool, friendly waitstaff will serve you in your lounge chair if you like!
If you choose, you can purchase an all-inclusive plan, which covers meals at Marina restaurants and house-brand drinks, for about $50 per person per day. The all-inclusive plan also allows you to eat at certain other El Cid Castilla restaurants and bars, including one next to a stage for nightly shows.
With the all-inclusive plan, however, you canít order drinks from the roving waitstaff at the El Moro pool. Youíll need to make your way to a bar in the corner of the pool area thatís clearly labeled "All Inclusive Bar." (I didn't realize this, and ended up paying about $12 for my two pina coladas.) House-brand drinks are available at the El Caracol Disco Club, open until the wee hours at the Castilla property.
Also, if youíre interested in dining at the a la carte international or gourmet Mexican restaurants (in the Castilla complex) that are included on the all-inclusive plan, remember to make your reservation at least 24 hours beforehand. (I kept forgetting to call, and missed the opportunity to dine at one of these "special" restaurants on my short stay at the El Cid Marina.)
If pampering is on the honeymoon agenda, you can indulge in spa treatments at the club house at the El Cid Granada Country Club, which also features a fitness center, tennis courts and 27 holes of championship golf. (Again, the Granada, El Moro and Castilla El Cid properties are all about a mile and a half from the El Cid Marina Hotel.)
Finally, after you check into the El Cid Marina, you will be asked to attend a 90-minute El Cid Vacation Club presentation the following morning. This is entirely optional, but if you'd like to be rewarded with a free snorkeling trip (that conveniently leaves right from the on-site marina) and/or a free tour of Old Town Mazatlan, sit through the presentation, say "No, gracias," take your tour vouchers and carry on with your relaxing Mazatlan honeymoon.