Mexico’s booming super-resorts at Cancun, Los Cabos, Ixtapa, Huatulco and the like are about to get a little brother. He’ll be growing up along seven miles of golden beaches at Playa Espiritu, until now a little-known speck on the map – if it shows up at all – about half-way down the country’s western coast below Mazatlan.
Workers are already leveling land, building roads and putting in power lines in sections of the nearly 6,000-acre site. The first hotels are scheduled to open in early 2014.
Humberto Avilez, regional director of Fonatur, Mexico’s resort development agency, said Playa Espiritu (spirited or lively beach) is planned to sprout up in phases over a 30-year timetable. Eventually, guests of the new resort will be bedding down in a whopping 17,000 hotel rooms and 26,000 residential units.
Among distinctive features of Espiritu will be a Venice-like community on an island surrounded by winding waterways. Guests will also enjoy a golf course, shopping malls, plazas, year-round verdant parks and all the other trappings of a tropical Shangri-La.
According to a brochure, the project has been designed “to make nature our priority by accenting sustainability in everything from water recycling systems to using renewable energy sources.”
The creation of Espiritu, Avilez noted, could prompt private developments along the 25 miles of beaches between the new resort and the eco-tourism haven at Teacapan at the southern tip of the state of Sinaloa.
To be left intact in the development of Espiritu and its surrounding areas will be miles of meandering lagoons, mangroves and estuaries, home to millions of birds such as pink and blue herons, parrots, pelicans, storks, fishing eagles, ducks, hummingbirds and orioles. Besides coexisting with bird sanctuaries, Fonatur maps show development areas sharing the landscape with current farmlands, cattle ranches and shrimp beds.
Tourism planners say Espiritu could spark privately backed tourism projects on its neighboring northern beaches as well as the southward developments. Ongoing growth in the area, they predict, could some day create a 100-mile-long resort corridor anchored by Mazatlan at the northern end and running all the way to Teacapan.
Mexico historian Jaime Capulli said the Mazatlan-Espiritu-Teacapan corridor could some day enjoy the popularity of the Cancun-Playa del Carmen-Tulum resort strip of roughly the same length on the Caribbean shores of the country.
Mazatlan’s international airport, 20 miles down the coast from that city, is the closest terminal to Espiritu. It’s about an hour’s ride south of the airport to the new resort, mostly on a modern highway to the regional capital of Esquinapa and a few miles from there on secondary roads to Espiritu.
The Mazatlan airport is a jet hop of two to three hours from U.S. gateways such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston, and a little over four hours from Seattle and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The flight schedules of a half-dozen major airlines are timed to offer quick connections at the gateways for passengers flying to Mazatlan from New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston and other key eastern cities.