We are going on the RCI 7 day cruise to Pueta Villarta, Mazatlan and Cabo. Our family loves the beach. Here's my question....is it better to sign-up for the excursions through the ship or to find a place on our own? I've seen different stories about some of the hotels on the beach excursions not being very nice. Does anyone have suggestions which hotels allow cruisers a day pass?
There are beaches just adjacent to CAbo and Puerta Vallarta. You only need to use your feet. Mazatlan is a large city, so the beaches are a few miles away (where the tourist hotels are located). You can just take a cab to get there.
In P.V. there are beaches right next to the ship in front of the Krystal hotel. You can use their pools for a very small fee. It's a big typical american style resort with a touristy feel.
If you want an old world "Mexico" f eel, I'm partial to the Hoel Molina de Agua in the Los Muertos Beach area. If you are going during the hot/humid period from June until October, this is the perfect place to hang out because there are lots of tropical trees that provide a wonderful canopy of shade over the grounds and one of the two pools. The cost is 100 pesos for adults and 50 pesos for kids. That's about $9 for grown-ups and $4.50 for the kiddos. This place is not "plasticy" like most tourist resorts. It is also very close to the best of shopping and restaurants.
Burro's Bar is down the beach a few steps and a great place for that seaside drink or two. River Cafe is across the street (Vallarta) for a great lunch and Pie in the Sky has the most incredible brownies. It's just across the south facing street, Achilles Sardon.
Check out the Zapateria across the street for great hand-made sandals and the Coconut man around the corner from there if you like to eat and/or drink coconuts.
I suggest Stone Island in Mazatlan. You can take a water taxi over (it's just a few minutes away and cost is minimal---we paid $5 for 4 people, round trip in 2001!). The dock for the water taxi is within walking distance of the port. It's at this point I will not give any directions, because the dock area has changed in recent years and I don't want to send you the wrong way. Be warned, however, that some of the hotels on the "gold zone" have catamaran excursions to Stone Island. Although you will get there in luxury, compared to a 2-3 minute ride on a fishing boat, you will pay a lot for that. The cruiseline's catamaran excursion to Stone Island, including lunch, was $70 per person! As stated above, we paid $5 total, and just bought lunch/snacks at one of the restaurants. I think we spent $70 total that day, including $30 we spent on souveniers!
Once on Stone Island, there are small restaurants set up. You can use their chairs as long as you order something. Or, you can just plop out on your towel. There are some vendors renting floats and other water toys, as well as banana boat rides. There were a few roaming vendors, selling carvings/clothes/jewelry, but not too many and not too aggressive.