Here come the Beatles…
I’m walking toward the most famous band in the world…
The group is led by John Lennon, followed by Ringo, then Paul McCartney, with George Harrison in full denim at the rear.
I wasn’t expecting them here in Mazatlán, a beach town on Mexico’s Pacific.
I recently took a scouting trip to Mazatlan and spent the weekend hanging out in the Centro Historico, the old town, and Olas Altos.
This is where you’ll find the Beatles here, the centerpieces of Liverpool Alley, a corner of Mazatlán’s Olas Altos dedicated to the popular English band. Along with the statues, it features a classic Mini Cooper with a Union jack on the roof, an iconic red British phone booth, and a bar called the Cavern Club, named after the venue in Liverpool where the band made their debut. All the while, the song “Let it Be” plays over a speaker.
It’s all part of an attempt to transform Mazatlán’s Centro Historico into a cultural tourist corridor.
It’s a fun display to encounter and reflects my wider experience of Mazatlán’s historic core. It’s lively, artistic, musical, and all around pleasant.
Sunday I had brunch here to the melodious sounds of an unaccompanied female singer. Far from the all-inclusives at the other end of the Malecon, this is an area attracting expats and some digital nomads. You have a nice curve of beach…perfect for swimming or for beginner surf lessons…backed by cafés, bars, and restaurants. Keep following the road and you reach highpoints with views in all directions…the Pacific, along the Malecon, and down to old Mazatlán and the charming Centro Historico.
The Centro Historico, sometimes called Viejo Mazatlán (Old Mazatlán), is located south of the Zona Dorada and easily accessible via the city’s 13-mile malecon.
Once run down and drab, the area is currently benefitting from a big revitalization effort. The colorful neo-classical buildings have been restored and peopled by the creative class, and stylish cafés, boutiques, and hotels are opening on seemingly every corner. You’ll find a few hip restaurants, art galleries, shops and live music. It’s a totally different scene from the touristy Zona Dorada, with its big all-inclusives.
When I arrived in Centro it was busy with cars out for a Saturday evening cruise. There were lots of local tourists. Friends and families out for a stroll. A very pleasant and charming atmosphere.
You can check out a quick video I shot here:
Centro is where a lot of gringos are buying. It feels very livable. The walkability of the place is appealing. You can get taxis for nothing, great food, everything is very inexpensive and accessible. And you have the Malecon and the beach on your doorstep.
Naturally, I’ve been on the lookout for real estate deals…
One historic home I came across sits right in the middle of Centro, just a 12-minute walk from the beach. It’s a two-bed, one-story home of about 1,700 square feet, with a central courtyard, high ceilings, and cedar wood finishes. The listing price is $159,900.
(I’ve not visited in person so, as always, it’s important to do your due diligence.)
Close by I found another historic home listed for $179,900. It’s a 2,239-square-foot, three bedroom house near Plazuela Machado, restaurants, shops and other amenities.
Mazatlan is known as the “Pearl of the Pacific.” For decades this was one of Mexico’s most inviting beach destinations. In the 1950s and ‘60s, it attracted Hollywood celebrities such as John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum. But following a period of rapid growth in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it lost some of its low-key allure.
I first visited in 2006 and the market was in full swing. Then the bubble popped.
Even before the market collapsed I had major concern over the lack of airlift. There weren’t many direct flights to Mazatlán from the U.S. There still aren’t.
And yet construction is on an absolute tear right along the Malecon. I counted more than 26 new projects—some of huge scale—while pounding the pavement on Saturday. Where will all the renters come from? Who will the resales market be?
The market for these shiny new towers is mostly the domestic market. They typically don’t rent…they use their condo, share it with friends and family, and use it as a store of wealth rather than an income generator. That said, I’m still seeing a huge amount of supply for a market with limited international exposure and targeted primarily at regional domestic tourism.
For a market to have the potential for capital gain and rental yields that I look for, it needs to have easy international reach. Tourists flock to places that are easy to get to. Expats like to live where it is easy to get home when they want. Remote workers, the kind that are driving the current rise in medium- to long-term rentals, want to be able to come and go as their whims and businesses demand.
Airlift has been crucial to the growth of destinations like Cabo and the Riviera Maya. For instance, last year, even during the pandemic, Cancun airport saw just under 29 million visitors. Up from 25.4 million for 2019.
In Cabo, where I spend my winters, connectivity to hub cities across North America has made it one of the most popular destinations in the world right now. We are seeing more long-term renters…more remote workers…more retirees…more people waiting for homes to be delivered…more, more, more—and they all want best-in-class.
In fact, the success of Cabo is one of the reasons why I’m revisiting Mazatlán…
Not only can Mazatlán benefit from Cabo overflow, but it’s location across the Sea of Cortez also puts it in a position to benefit from Puerto Vallarta growth, too.
I have been surprised by the amount of construction going on along Mazatlán’s 13-mile long Malecon (one of the longest waterfront walkways in the world). The only place I’ve seen so much development along a Malecon before was in Panama City, where Avenida Balboa was one big construction site from between 2007 to 2015.
Mazatlán is seemingly big with Canadian snowbirds, but from what I can see there is nowhere close to the number of international visitors needed to make all this construction viable. And limited international flight access makes this a far more challenging market to grow than resort towns like Cabo or Puerto Vallarta.
I’m still digging, looking for the right opportunities. But I can tell you now that if you’re just looking for a place to live by the beach in Mexico, a pure lifestyle play, than Mazatlán is worth a thought.