Crickets, Sunsets, and Surprises: My Mother-in-Law’s Unforgettable Mazatlán Adventure

MIL in front of Mazatlán letters

Oh, man! You know I love it when people come to visit me! I’m super lucky because my apartment in Mazatlán, México, surprisingly came with a sofa-bed and an extra bathroom, so I can host guests. My mother-in-law and one of her friends decided it was the perfect opportunity to get some tropical sunshine. Leave the “we don’t like to travel” husbands at home in the snow to watch the pets!

All the planning!

If you know me, you know I like a good plan. I have a lovely time planning things to do in an area because it helps me understand the culture a lot better. There is so much to see in this massive city of Mazatlán. However, my mum-in-law has mobility issues, so I can’t walk her until she passes out like I tried to do the last time I took her to Cozumel. I’m a walker, but it’s not for everyone. I can’t make her trek up to the lighthouse or anything that would give her a heat-induced heart attack. No dying on vacation!

The Schedule
I like to sneak in a secret activity to see if my guests read the schedule. These are, of course, just fun suggestions and not required.

Lucky for us, there are tons of inexpensive tours that we can partake in. It just takes a bit of planning. Plus, when coming to the tropics from the deep dark wintery north, all you really want to do is get some sunshine. I got plenty of that! Sit on a beach and drink some tequila. Yes, please! Enjoy some amazing Mexican cooking. You got it!

To the Shrimp Ladies

My MIL and her friend arrived no problem from the airport and I promptly fed them some delicious chili made with really fresh ingredients, including homemade tomato-paste. Tomatoes here are so good and crazy cheap. There is no reason to buy expensive paste imported from Italy. After an early dinner, I took those ladies on a three kilometer walk along The Malecón to watch an amazing sunset over the Pacific Ocean. I promised sunsets!

The next day I woke the ladies up super early (7:30am!) with an amazing chicken taco breakfast. If you stay at my house, you are likely getting tacos, arepas, or chilaquiles in the morning! Nothing better than having real food, with a good amount of protein, first thing to fuel your day. I have access to delicious fresh corn tortillas down the street, so tacos are where it’s at. Now it’s time for a workout. Off to Olas Altas to see The Malecón in the sunshine. That Pacific Ocean is gorgeous.

Olas Altas sunset
I promised the ladies gorgeous sunsets.

I walked them into the historic center of Mazatlán to check out the parks, architecture, and the amazing Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepción Cathedral. Then it’s on to the Mercado for fresh vegetables (my mum-in-law got to practice her Spanish!), some tamales, and finally to the Shrimp Ladies for the freshest shrimp you have ever seen. This is shrimp territory, after all.

Cooking all the things

What do you make with all those fresh ingredients? Well, we are in México… but I really like Shrimp Pad Thai… so… that’s what we made. So I could actually be social, and not just stuck in the kitchen, I already finished up a lot of the prep before they got here. I already had pickled radishes in the freezer. Tamarind paste was impossible to find, so I had to make my own from a block of tamarind pulp containing seeds. Internet tutorials are the best! It worked out really well with the resulting paste, which also tastes real good in drinks.

We ate the warm tamales before even starting the cooking process so that nobody got hangry. Smart! That was a four kilometer walk I took them on this morning. I had them help peel the cooked shrimp while I finished up the other tasks in the kitchen. It ended up being a late lunch with cards and drinks while waiting for the amazing ocean sunset I promised the ladies. Glad I could deliver!

Ladies in front of water slide
Walking down to watch the sunset at Olas Altas is a must. This cool spiral staircase water-slide is now in disrepair because of a previous tropical storm.

The next day I had something exciting planned. We would all hike down to the docks and catch a ferry to Playa Isla de La Piedra for a day at the beach. This would end up being the highlight of their visit, as we found a lovely restaurant right in the sand with loungers. All for the price of consumption. We even brought some cut fruit from the market that the servers were fine with us eating. At that point, the ladies discovered the art of putting chili-lime-salt (Tajin!) onto everything. You can even rim your glass with that stuff. Noms.

Playing in the surf

The surf at this ridiculously massive beach on Stone Island was pretty rough that day, but well worth the pummeling to cool off. As an added bonus, the restaurant had a shower. It was sketchy, with the “suicide” hot water heater mounted to the shower head. Live wires extruding. Plus, you had to plug a hole in the side with your finger to get enough pressure for water to come out. But I got to wash off the sticky salt water, and that’s all that matters!

We, of course, all got sunburned because that is what happens in the tropics. No worries. Surprisingly, the lunch was delicious. Beach restaurants can be hit or miss. My MIL’s friend offered to pay as a thanks since they were staying with me, which is a super nice thing to do! Unfortunately, we found out when we went to pay that their card reader was down. We 100% checked to make sure they accepted cards before we even sat down. No amount of insisting that this was the case seemed to matter to our server as the card reader was, in fact, still down.

Street art of spray-paint cap
Found some fun street art while hiking to the ferry terminal. People are so talented.

Luckily, as we were heading out that morning, I decided to grab a bit more money than I usually carry “just in case”. It happened to be just enough to cover our bill. Fhew! We returned to the dock to wait for the ferry back. The ferry was lovely and only cost a couple of dollars. We even had enough energy left over to walk the two kilometers back to my place. At home, I whipped up some Kimchi Pancakes with my homemade kimchi. Slept real good that night!

So! So! So… the entire reason I invited my mum-in-law and her friend for a visit was so that I had an excuse to go on a food tour. I need the motivation of visitors to get me to do the touristy things. Plus, my mother-in-law’s friend paid for the tour, so that makes it even better. She’s so nice. And she wired me money for the beach day. Free food for the win!

Food tour!

This particular tour is really nice because it doesn’t require a lot of walking. You get to ride around in the back of one of the popular covered aurigas red-truck taxis to a variety of restaurants and Mercados. I picked the Taste of México tour because I was already taking the ladies all over Mazatlán for food, but this tour would include foods from other states outside of Sinaloa including Sonora, Jalisco, Oaxaca, and Michoacán.

Oaxaca fried crickets
Our food tour took us to a wonderful Mercado where we got to try Oaxacan fried crickets (chapulines) and three different kinds of mole. Delightful! Technically, they’re grasshoppers, but they told us they were crickets.

We got to try tacos de cabeza, birria, Oaxaca mole, carnitas, beef stew (originally made with turtle… nope, now with beef (or manta ray… also nope)), and finished off with Mazatlán coconut marshmallows. We got to tour the marshmallow factory!!! The food was so good and we learned a ton about this area and the regions each food item came from. We even got to try Oaxacan fried crickets! Tasty! My mum-in-law wanted to bring some home with her, but you can’t knowingly bring insects into the States. Especially unlabeled ones in a plastic baggie.

Tequila tasting!

The ladies came to México with the expectation of a tequila tasting. Tequila! Unfortunately, this particular town was heavily German influenced and got into beer (land of Pacifico Brewery!) instead of tequila. In fact, it’s illegal to call anything “tequila” that is distilled in the state of Sinaloa. You need to be down the road in the state of Jalisco at least. Lucky for me, a local distillery makes a liquor using the same agave plant and using the exact same process as tequila. They just can’t call it tequila. Rules.

So with all my fancy knowledge from the last tequila tasting I did in the town of… Tequila!, I set up a lovely tasting accompanied by little bites of jicama, orange, and fresh-made Mazatlán marshmallows to cleanse the palate. We did the whole thing where you put a bit of tequila on your fingers to smell it and make sure it is not sticky once dried. Sticky fingers mean they made the liquor using sugar cane along with agave plant, which is a no-no. The ladies bought souvenir shot glasses just for the occasion. It was really fun!

Tequila tasting!
Check out those fancy shot glasses for this very special tequila (plus mezcal and agave liquor) tasting!

The next day we spent relaxing, with a brief excursion to swim at a local beach. Not as nice as the Stone Island beach, but still an adventure. My Mazatlán friend had given me the name of a Pulmonia driver (mix between a tuk-tuk and a golf cart), so I scheduled a tour for the following morning. That guy was a hoot! He drove us all over Mazatlán with wonderful history lessons along the route. I’m not sure I believe everything that came out of his mouth, a real-time fact-checker would not have been bored, but you shouldn’t believe everything I say either!

What’s a Pulmonia?

We got some great pictures in front of the Mazatlán letters. The views were incredible. He mentioned that all the cats around the area get fed really well during the winter months, but have to fend for themselves once the Canadians go back home for the summer. That tracks. I’m not a fan of outdoor cats because of all the birds, lizards, and other critters they kill sometimes just for the fun of it. Miniature ecological disasters.

I was hoping the Pulmonia driver would give us a bit of history about the Pulmonia itself, but we ran out of time. My mum-in-law paid for two hours at around $60 (Thanks, MIL!). Not bad for all of us. The Pulmonia got its name because Mazatlán taxi drivers tried to scare people from using them by spreading a rumor that you would get pneumonia (la pulmonía) if you rode in the open-air vehicles. Somehow, the name stuck. They are exclusively found here.

Pulmonia tour
My MIL had a great time learning about the history of Mazatlán while riding around in this Pulmonia. Our tour guide was a hoot!

Our Pulmonia driver took us all the way up into Zona Dorada to see how the fancy people vacation. That’s a strange section of the city. It’s filled with giant malls, all-inclusive skyscraper hotels, and weird dune-buggy rentals. I had grand plans of taking the ladies up to the Golden Zone for a beach day, but actually seeing the area ruined it for them. Mazatlán used to have the longest Malecón in the world until someone built a massive hotel on the beach in front of it. Once one hotel got away with it, the trend continued, cutting the beach-front walkway from 21 kilometers to a measly seven. Jerks.

See all the things

Lots of planning went into the date of the tour as I did not want us to get stuck in a bunch of cruise-ship traffic. However, I did not anticipate the president of México coming to town! And President AMLO would be giving a presentation two blocks from my apartment! Needless to say, we got stuck several times behind a sea of vehicles, but it was fun to see all the preparation and military activity. They fired off cannons! You’re welcome, Ladies!

We all got a ton of pictures. The rest of the week was spent relaxing with one more trip to Isla de la Piedra. It really is a fun beach. Some ridiculous humans were paying some guy to take pictures with a baby monkey on a leash. Don’t do that! Animals should never be bred into captivity (or taken from the wild) just for human enjoyment. That poor baby monkey and that poor monkey’s parents. It’s just wrong. Be better, humans!

MIL inside tree roots
The root system on this tree is all that is holding up the wall! So cool!

We met these Canadians at the beach club and exchanged numbers as they were staying in a rental literally across the street from my apartment. How random is that!?! The plan for the next day was to go to the oldest hotel in Mazatlán. They have a pool on the roof, with absolutely amazing views, that you can use if you buy something from the bar. I’m in… but the pool was temp closed for renovation. Sigh.

The Canadians invited us up to their pool instead. Canadians are so nice! We actually spent the entire time just chatting and checking out the stunning Pacific Ocean and didn’t even use the pool. I enjoy hearing other peoples’ stories. Company was fantastic. Views were fantastic. What more could you want in life?

The Universe provided

Well, remember how I had planned on taking the ladies to the Golden Zone for a beach day, but they decided against it? So… they got to the airport to travel back to Seattle when… the flight was canceled for mechanical reasons. The airline put them all on a bus and drove them to one of those fancy sky-rise hotels in Zona Dorada. You’re welcome?

Mexican flag
They are setting up for the President of México’s visit to Mazatlán! This is the closest I have ever been to a president!

Apparently, it was the same hotel that the president of México had previously stayed in. All-inclusive, with a gorgeous deck overlooking the ocean. I was going to bus up there to check out their pool, but those places charge $40 just to enter the grounds. Not on my budget. Sounds like they had a great time without me.

The airline finally fixed the plane late the next day, and the ladies made it home safely. I’m so glad they came to visit. They said that they had a great time, in spite of the bathroom light turning off or strobing randomly (It’s a party bathroom! sometimes… other times it’s just dark), and I certainly did as well. We saw so many birds and bats and iguanas and garden-rats. I’m sure I would not have seen as much without them. To future Adventures!

Recommended Posts


  1. too cool, you’re the best tour guide.

  2. […] I beat the boat people! The massive beach in the distance on the right is Playa Isla de La Piedra. […]

Comments are closed.