Anyone traveling to Mexico should read the most recent U.S. State Department travel warning about the country. It can be found at www.travel.state.gov (click on the "Travel warnings" link at the left to get a list of countries, then click on "Mexico"). Travelers should also register with the department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive updated information.
The travel warning notes that millions of U.S. citizens safely travel to the country each year, the Mexican government "makes a considerable effort" to keep tourist areas safe and those areas do not see the kinds of violence evident in the border region and along major drug trafficking routes. It also says that the number of U.S. citizens slain in Mexico rose from 35 in 2007 to 120 in 2011.
According to the warning, visitors to Mazatlan should "exercise caution particularly late at night and in the early morning." Sinaloa, the state that includes Mazatlan, is home to one of Mexico's most powerful drug cartels. Violence related to the cartels has risen in the city. The State Department recommends that visitors stay within tourist areas. Mazatlan's airport is 40 minutes from the historic beach district; visitors should follow the State Department restrictions for U.S. government personnel: "Travel between the Mazatlan airport and the tourist areas only during daylight hours."
The author stayed at El Cid Marina Hotel, one of a half-dozen hotels on the coast, at the north end of the Zona Rosa (www.elcid.com/marina_beach). For other hotels and more information on visiting Mazatlan, go to www.gomazatlan.com or www.mazatlan.com.