Mexican holidays in El Quelite are the dream of Dr. Marcos Osuna.
Dr. Marcos Osuna Tirado, visionary behind El Quelite's rural tourism.
Mexico's rural tourism.

Thirty-three kilometers [20 miles] northeast of Mazatlan, visitors leave behind the sun, sea and sand attractions of one of Mexico's most popular destinations to step into a fine example of rural or agricultural tourism. Such vacation experiences are increasingly in demand around the world by travelers who want to learn how others work and live.

Turn right off Pacific Ocean Highway 15 and discover El Quelite, a tidy little community of 2,000 - a pueblito - traditionally based on cattle raising, agriculture, fruit growing and dairy products. Its streets and town square, invitingly strollable and litter-free, are mostly cobbled and graced with subtropical trees, shrubs and colorful flowers spilling over the sidewalks. Buildings are scrubbed, painted and repaired and the entire community is ready to welcome visitors by becoming a model of rural tourism in Mexico.

Framed by the Pacific Ocean, the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains and the El Quelite River, the town has the qualities of a living museum of historic architecture and a lifestyle not so far removed from its Spanish colonial past. It is a walk through the history of the state of Sinaloa in miniature. Park your rented car or mini-bus and enjoy the rest of your stay on foot. You won't have far to go!

Map of Sinaloa State, Mexico tourism.
Coordinación General de Turismo
del Estado de Sinaloa.
Bakery in El Quelite, Mexico.
Traditional bakery oven.

A number of major hotels in Mazatlan offer pickup for guided day trips to El Quelite, or you may prefer to rent a car or go by public bus to stay for two or three days. If you stay awhile, you will be able to walk in the countryside, climb picturesque hills to admire the sunset, go horseback riding and tour some of the ranches and fruit orchards.

As in most small towns there are only one or two or a few of everything - the open door of a store-front bakery invites visitors to follow delicious smells into the tiny family-run shop. Take four giant steps to the back wall and you will enter the working area where a large dome-shaped brick oven cooks buns, breads, cakes and cookies to perfection every day.

Tortilla factory in El Quelite, Mexico.
Tortilla making.

Just down the street is one of three tortilla making shops where you may watch this staple of the Mexican diet being expertly prepared for pickup or delivery to people's homes. For 60 cents, you may buy a kilo, that's 25 to 30 tortillas fresh off the griddle. Several cafés offer delicious cuisine, including local variations of machaca, asado and chilorio.

Community cemetery in El Quelite, Mexico.
The community cemetery is a
history and culture lesson.

The church is a jewel of mid-nineteenth century architecture, and the community cemetery is a well cared for piece of history. It offers a glimpse of how a different culture remembers its loved ones. One of the traditional country-style homes, owned by a local cattle rancher, dates from 1865. Called Mesón de Doña Mercedes, it offers gracious bed and breakfast accommodation with rooms set around a flowered courtyard.

The driving force behind the town's rural tourism initiative is El Quelite's medical doctor, Marcos Osuna Tirado, whose ties to the area have been lifelong. He is a man of energy and innovative ideas who believes it is important to diversify the local economy away from relying solely on agricultural income. At this time, few people in El Quelite speak good English, but Dr. Osuna is encouraging the young people to become motivated to train as qualified guides, earn a little income, and practice the English that some are learning in the local school of 250 children.

Dr. Osuna also manages to find time to practice what he preaches. He has renovated his own family's historic Mesón de los Laureanos to include bed and breakfast accommodation and a cantina-style restaurant which serves meals, snacks and the always-welcome cool cerveza (Mexican beer) amidst the flowering shrubs of his walled-in courtyard. Each room and bathroom has been distinctively designed and colorfully furnished.

This is truly a man on a mission. To symbolize his passion for the community and his connection through several generations, Dr. Osuna proudly declares, "My umbilical cord is buried here!" The good doctor is not kidding. It doesn't get more connected than that!

Mexican holidays in El Quelite, Mexico.
El Quelite streets invite leisurely strolls.

El Quelite Tours offers five hour tours out of Mazatlan to this colonial gem, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Pickup can be arranged from major hotels, Mazatlan's Golden Zone and cruise ship docks with advance notice. Adult price US$35, reduction for children. See website for complete details,

For overnight bookings in any of El Quelite's bed and breakfasts, contact Dr. Marcos Osuna Tirado by email:

To learn more about Mazatlan-area vacations, click on For travel throughout Mexico, click on

Mazatlan and El Quelite are great vacation experiences in themselves. In addition, Mazatlan is the most popular gateway for international visitors to join another memorable adventure exploring Mexico's Copper Canyon via the legendary Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad. Begin this unique cultural and geological journey either at Los Mochis on the Sea of Cortez or inland at the deeply historical town of El Fuerte.

Mexico's Sonora State, spilling south from the American/Arizona border to the Copper Canyon western gateway at Los Mochis or El Fuerte and tracing the nature-rich Sea of Cortez shoreline, is a fascinating and oft overlooked region well worth an entire holiday in itself.

While exploring Mexico, also consider these Yucatan Peninsula options:

Nestled on a 3-mile virgin beach, HOTEL ECO PARAÍSO XIXIM offers 15 spacious, attractively-furnished bungalows, each overlooking the emerald green Gulf of Mexico. Our hotel was designed to meet strict ecological standards while providing a unique experience with nature in a relaxed yet stimulating environment.

specializes in Mexico's fabulous Yucatan state - offering in-depth cultural and archeological encounters, distinctive cuisine, Spanish language-learning, and women's-only itineraries.

Alison Gardner is a travel journalist, magazine editor, guidebook author, and consultant. She specializes in researching alternative vacations throughout the world, suitable for people over 50 and for women travelers of all ages. She is also the publisher and editor of Travel with a Challenge web magazine.

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