The easiest and fastest way to get into downtown Mazatlan from the Isla de la Piedra is to take the 10-minute panga boat taxi and then the pulmonia open-air golf cart taxis. But, if you want to go to the northern part of the city, want to buy more stuff than is easily carried by hand, or want to venture out on a day-trip beyond the city limits, there are only 2 options-- rock and roll your way back down the long, pot-hole covered dirt road you came in on, or drive down the beach!
My poor, neglected little yellow Tracker had not been off-roading since our Arizona trip in 2012, so of course, I opted for the 4WD-only beach route! But where does one exit the long, never-ending beach to get back over to the main Isla road? One of the Canadian RVers here told me “It’s easy! Just zero out your trip odometer, and turn on the access road once you hit 9.2 kilometers”. Ah, thanks, but that’s little help to this metric-challenged US-driver!
Fortunately, another couple planned to drive the beach one morning and offered to show me the way. Now that I’ve learned all the “landmarks”, this route has been loads of fun to drive and I’m now able to do it on my own quite easily!
The beach is best to drive when the tide is low (much firmer sand!) Here we’re zipping along at 40 mph on the long, wide, empty beach.
Just turn in right after the abandoned green concrete bath house!
Navigate your way through a coconut plantation, and pretty soon you’ll be back on the main dirt road, dodging the free-range cattle, and heading off the Isla!
My Nexus 7 LTE tablet (with it’s Telcel Mexican cellular SIM card, default Google Maps app, and magnetic car mount) has now become my GPS of choice here in Mexico. It easily routes me through Mazatlan’s main highway, confusing city streets, and all the twists and turns in between!
On my first trip, I drove through “the Golden Zone” (aka “the Gringo Zone” for all it’s foreign tourists and US-style chain restaurants and big box stores).
North of there is the Marina area, which has a brand new American-style shopping mall, as well as a brand new Wal-Mart. Sure to make any Gringo feel right at home!
Even the wide residential streets with fancy homes behind the new Wal-Mart look and feel a bit more like the U.S. than Mexico.
Until you get back on the main highway and see the federal police driving around with machine guns—nope, we’re still in Mexico!
I’ll do a post soon with more details, but for now, suffice to say that Mexico’s big box stores (such as Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club) and some of it’s super-large grocery stores (such as Mega and Soriana) are similar to their U.S. counterparts, but not at all the same. You’ll find toothpaste here, but not 30 different brands and varieties of it! (As long as you like Colgate or Crest, you’ll do just fine!)
While some US brands can be found, there are far less of them in a Mexican Wal-Mart than you’d find at a U.S. Wal-Mart. So, my first shopping trip to the big-box stores here was quite a let-down in hoping that I’d restock my pantry with all the same foods and brands I was used to buying in the U.S.!
But, then again, I guess that’s what travel to a foreign country is really all about! Stretching your comfort zone, trying new things, and adapting to a new way of life. So, with that in mind, I filled my shopping cart with rice, beans, tortillas, and a variety of new, unusual things to try out, and headed the 45 minute drive back to the Isla.
Back down the main dirt road past the welcome sign…
to the first empty water bottle on the left..
Down the first plantation road (being careful to dodge the fallen coconuts in the road!)..
to the 2nd plantation road…
Out to the farm road on the other side of the beach dunes…
and finally back onto the beach for the 5 mile drive back home!
Just love this super highway!