201 Av. Ernesto Coppel Campana, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico
At times ridiculously ostentatious, at other times exposing its mass market core, Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay is nevertheless the best large resort in Mazatlan.
In the most popular tourist areas of coastal Mexico, a big hotel like this one would barely rate a mention, just another in a sea of beach resorts sporting the usual buffet restaurants and oversized pools for oversized guests. In Mazatlan, however, there are only a few hotels catering to high-end tourists. Pueblo Bonito leads the pack by a wide margin with its ample rooms and impeccably maintained facilities.
Situated at the north end of an ever-expanding string of hotels and condos, this is currently the northernmost resort in Mazatlan, in "New Mazatlan," within view of the massive Riu vacation factory and the nearby water park. There is little else around in this area, so most guests only leave the resort for excursions. The menu choices stay varied enough to keep this from getting too monotonous, but guests not on an all-inclusive plan may want to split their time between here and another hotel if staying for a week.
The first impression here is a good one, with stately columns, arches, and a stone fountain in the skylit rotunda lobby and a giant fish tank behind the reception desk. Skip the timeshare sales rep table (some of the guests are here through RCI) and instead venture out to the back terrace for a view of the sea, fountains, and resident pink flamingos.
The design is a bit jarring at first, with vine-covered porticos in an unfinished state meant to evoke old Mazatlan before restoration, the rest of the buildings—stately and always looking freshly painted—meant to look like old Mazatlan now, post-restoration. Throughout the property, wandering paths weave around well-maintained gardens, ponds, swimming pools and Greek statues. The land stretches for a long way along the beach, which gives every upper room a view of the water, but if you have mobility issues request a room close to the lobby, bar, and main restaurant.
Dining options are meant for the masses, with one cavernous main buffet restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating serving all three meals, plus a terrace restaurant at the opposite end of the property serving a la carte lunch. Theme nights and a piano player at the main one keep things interesting and overall the food is well-prepared, with good variety. Poolside bistro dining avoids the need for wandering at mid-day and a deli lives up to its name with interesting salads, sandwiches, pastries, and coffee drinks. Room service runs 24 hours and anyone who wants a change of scenery can catch a shuttle to Pueblo Bonita's sister property in the Golden Zone.
Cocktails flow at the beach and swimming pools during the day, but at night the bar scene gets much more sophisticated. The main bar off the lobby is a beautiful space with an African theme, filled with mementos from one of the company's owners. With dark wood, soft lighting, and vertical ceiling fans overhead, this feels like a space for privileged adventurers.
The beach here is excellent, with a long crescent stretch of sand long enough for extensive jogs and both lounge chairs and day beds for relaxing. Most guests gravitate toward the two main swimming pool complexes though, with varying levels and depths in both and two swim-up bars. Unless the resort is full, there is ample lounge chair space and it seldom gets crowded in the water. Guests have to keep track of a card for towels and get them from a kiosk, but waiters roaming the pool area to take drink or food orders add a notch of class.
All rooms are suites of some kind. The smallest are junior suites with 425 square feet, a kitchenette, and a furnished balcony. The master suites are more than twice that size, with a separate bedroom and bath, second full bath, and large area that can only be called a "great room." It has a full kitchen, full set of living room furniture (with sofa bed), dining set, and either a balcony or semi-circular alcove with three sets of windows facing the sea. Furnished in cheerful blues and yellows on white, the tropical look works well. Kitchens or kitchenettes are well-stocked with utensils and in a welcome touch, water throughout the property is purified and safe to drink. Maids create works of art on the beds to welcome guests, using items like colored beans and palm leaves, and baths (many with separate tubs and showers) are stocked with robes and ample toiletries.
Corner suites have two balconies instead of one and higher floor rooms are assured of unobstructed views.
If you are visiting with a large group or family, consider renting one of the villas here. They are further back from the beach with no view, but are like well-stocked small houses, with two luxurious bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a gourmet kitchen, a whirlpool, and more amenities than in the regular suites. Eventually a golf course will go in the area these surround.
The resort was in the midst of a Wi-Fi upgrade when I visited, with some guests having to visit the deli in order to get a signal, but this is being rectified building by building. Request a room that's finished if you need to check in regularly while on vacation.
The spa here is excellent, with a full hydrotherapy circuit and a wide range of treatments in ample facilities. Unfortunately, guests have to pay to use the large gym as there is a $10 charge every time you visit unless you are staying in one of the villas. Guests also grumble about what is probably the longest check-in/check-out gap in town: you can't check in until 4:00 pm, but check-out is at 10:00 am.
In comparison to high-end resorts in Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, or the Riviera Maya, Pueblo Bonita Emerald Bay is not all that sophisticated, a result of needing to fill its 345 rooms in a destination that is not on the radar of as many luxury travelers. Considering the reasonable rates, good facilities, and excellent rooms, however, those who don't crave individual attention regularly will find this to be an enjoyable quality resort for sun and fun.
Web Address: http://www.pueblobonitoemeraldbay.com/
Total Number of Rooms: 345
Published rates: $125 - $350, villas $950, all-inclusive supplements available.
Review and photos by Timothy Scott
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