Located in northwestern Mexico, Mazatlán is known as the Pearl of the Pacific. It is a beach destination known worldwide. Thousands of Mexican and international tourists visit this destination to enjoy the beach, sunshine, and vibrant life that they will hardly find somewhere else. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the most visited cities in Mexico.
But what else is there to do in Mazatlán? While the beach is the first thing that comes to mind for most people, there are certainly other things you can do there. The list of things to do in Mazatlán is extensive. There are activities for all budgets and preferences. If you would like to learn more about this fantastic place, then keep on reading till the end.
Table of Contents
- Hit the Beach
- Surf that Wave
- Catch that Fish
- Visit Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra)
- Walk to the Top of El Faro
- Ride a Pulmonía
- Eat Aguachile
- Visit the Historic Center
- Walk Along the Malecón
- Watch the Cliff Divers
- Catch a Baseball Game
- Day Trip to El Quelite
- Best Time to Visit
- How to Get There
- How to Move Around
- Where to Stay
- Where to Eat
- Suggested Budgets
- Tips for Saving Money
- How to Stay Safe
- Apps to Download
- Additional Tips
Hit the Beach
Let’s start with the obvious. You will find plenty of beaches all around Mazatlán. Some beaches are good for swimming, while others are good for water sports like surfing
Some of the most famous beaches for swimming due to their calm waters are:
- Playa Norte
- Playa Camarón
- Playa El Caminero
- Playa Cerritos
- Playa Gaviotas
- Playa Venados
On most beaches, you can find umbrella rentals, restaurants/food stands, restrooms, and other services to spend a whole fun day with friends, family, or solo.
Surf That Wave
One of the most popular water sports in Mazatlán is surfing. If riding on waves is your thing, then I recommend you head over to one of the following beaches:
- Playa Olas Altas
- Playa Las Brujas
- Playa Los Pinos
Other popular water activities include jet-skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking. You won’t have time left to get bored.
Catch That Fish
Besides its beautiful sandy beaches, Mazatlán is famous for its variety of fish. You can catch species of all kinds such as Marlin, Swordfish, Tuna, Dorado (Mahi-Mahi), Wahoo, Shark, Flounder, Red Snapper, among many, many others.
One of the most popular places to go fishing is Playa Sabalo. There are many agencies all over town that offer deep sea fishing tours. You can ask at your hotel or do a quick Google search and you will find one that suits your needs.
Visit Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra)
Technically, it’s not an island, but it’s known like that by locals. To get there, you have to take a boat and then walk or take an auriga (a kind of local taxi) to get to the beach.
One of the things that I enjoyed the most about this place was that there were fewer tourists (especially foreign ones) compared to other beaches. This gave it a more authentic feel, so to speak.
Besides being a good place for swimming, Stone Island has many restaurants that serve delicious seafood. You can swim for a bit, get out to eat, and then sit under a palapa (palm roof).
Other activities include snorkeling, horseback riding, and ATV rentals.
Walk to the Top of El Faro
El Faro Lighthouse is one of the highest natural lighthouses in the world. And guess where it is? Right, in Mazatlán!
To get to the top, you need to be somewhat in good shape. The first part consists of a gravel path. You will then have to climb a total of 336 stairs. The hike is 157 m (515.09 ft) long and takes between 30 minutes and 1 hour, depending on your speed and physical condition. But if you ask me, it’s totally worth it. You will be rewarded with a 360° view of the city.
At the top, there is a glass-bottomed lookout. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you dare get on it, you will get an even more amazing view of the town below.
The best times to go are the early morning hours and the evening. The sunrises and sunsets look spectacular from here!
Many locals visit this place to work out. It’s not wheelchair accessible, so keep that in mind.
Ride a Pulmonía
The iconic pulmonías are open-air taxis that resemble golf carts. They were named like that (pneumonia) because some people said you could get pneumonia from riding these vehicles and getting hit by the cold air.
Pulmonía drivers are very creative and customize their vehicles with rims, flashy lighting, and sound systems. You will see them all over town. There’s no better way to tour Mazatlán.
Pulmonías are a little pricier than regular taxis. Think of them as tourist taxis. You can take one for a simple ride from point A to point B or you can hire one by the hour. They can take you to lesser-known places in town. In any case, make sure to negotiate the price before getting on one.
Mazatlán is famous for its variety of seafood. One of the most famous dishes is aguachile. This delicacy consists of shrimp soaked in a mixture of chili peppers, lime juice, cilantro, onion, and salt. It is then topped with cucumber and voila! People eat them with tostadas and mayonnaise. It’s delicious, but be advised: it’s spicy!
Don’t forget to pair your dish with a cold Pacifico. It’s a pilsner-style beer with a touch of grass-citrus and is the local beer par excellence.
There are many seafood restaurants in Mazatlán. One of the most popular is El Muchacho Alegre on the malecón. They also have live entertainment, so it’s a good option for eating and listening to some music.
Visit the Historic Center
The Historic Center is the heart of Mazatlán. Whether you visit by day or night, there’s always something going on. There are restaurants, bars, cafes, art galleries, and various shops of all kinds. Some points of interest include:
- Plazuela Machado, influenced by Spanish and French architecture. It’s a gathering place for locals and a great place to watch a musical performance or artists at work.
- Immaculate Conception Cathedral, a 19th-century church with two towers boasting a Baroque style.
- Angela Peralta Theater, a popular venue that hosts operas, concerts, and other artistic events.
- Mazatlán Archaeological Museum, a museum with a wide collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts.
- Pedro Infante Museum, the place where the Mexican star of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema was born.
- Angel Flores Street, a colorful street with lots of photo ops.
- Municipal Market, a place for shopping for souvenirs and fresh food.
Take some time to wander through the various streets of the Historic Center. You will be greatly surprised.
Walk Along the Malecón
No visit to Mazatlán is complete without visiting its malecón (seawall). It’s 21 km (13.05 miles) long and connects the Historic Center to the north of the city. It’s a nice place for taking a stroll, going jogging, working out, or riding a bike.
Along the malecón, you will also find several sculptures like the Mujer Mazatleca by local artists. As you continue walking, you will pass by restaurants, bars, and beaches where you can take a break.
A famous attraction along the malecón is the Carpa Olivera. It’s a saltwater swimming pool that dates back to 1914. It feels as if you were swimming in the ocean, but in reality, you’re inside a pool.
The malecón is open 24/7, but it’s recommended to visit either early in the morning or late at night. The sun in Mazatlán is strong.
Watch the Cliff Divers
You may be familiar with the divers at La Quebrada, Acapulco, but did you know Mazatlán has its own version, too? You can watch them perform at the Parque Glorieta Rodolfo Sanchez Taboada. Locals simply call this place El Clavadista (The Diver).
Divers jump off a 15-m (50 ft) cliff. It may not sound like a lot, but what makes this more challenging is the fact that the water is not that deep. It’s only 1.83 m (6 ft) deep! Divers have to wait for the waves to bring the water level up. It’s a dangerous activity indeed. Timing is everything!
There is no set schedule for the shows. They usually start around noon and continue all day through the evening. They’re free, but tips are appreciated.
Catch a Baseball Game
Although soccer is undoubtedly the most popular sport in Mexico, baseball is more popular in some northern cities, including Mazatlán. The local team is called the Venados de Mazatlán. With nine championships in Mexico and two in the Caribbean series, they are one of the most competitive teams in Mexico and Latin America.
If you have never attended a Mexican baseball game, I highly recommend you do it. The ambiance is spectacular and Mexican fans are really passionate about their team. Go Venados!
Mazatlán is famous for its nightlife. Locals like to party hard, making it a popular destination among tourists. During the day, it’s not uncommon to spot local bands touring the beaches while playing Banda music. However, if that’s not enough for you, then I recommend visiting one or more of the most popular nightclubs in town:
- Joe’s Oyster Bar
- El Rey Disco Club
- Onaki Beach Club
- Classico Mazatlán
- La Consentida
The party scene in Mazatlán is huge and varied. You can visit a different nightclub each night. Whichever you pick, you will pass an incredible time with your companions.
Day Trip to El Quelite
El Quelite is a small town about 40 minutes away from Mazatlán. It’s a picturesque town with cobblestone streets and colorful houses. It’s becoming quite popular among tourists, although it still keeps that authentic charm.
A must in El Quelite is El Mesón de los Laureanos. It’s a huge restaurant with beautifully decorated patios and a varied offer of Mexican dishes that date many years back.
If you get lucky, you can watch an Ulama match. El Quelite is one of the few villages in Mexico that still practice this pre-Colonial ball game. The roots of this game go back to the 2nd millennium B.C.
El Quelite is also famous for its cock farms, its cheese factory, its fish tanks, its hot springs, its grottoes, and its petroglyphs.
You can take a walking tour, or, if you prefer, ride a horse around town. A magical experience indeed!
The Mazatlán Carnival is one of the biggest and most popular carnivals in Mexico and Latin America. It takes place during the five days before Lent. Needless to say, it is one of the busiest seasons in town. It is estimated that about one million people visit Mazatlán during this time.
There are parades, fireworks displays, concerts, food, and other events throughout town. It is only surpassed by the one in Veracruz.
If you’re planning to visit during this season, make sure to book your hotel in advance. They fill up fast!
Best Time to Visit
Now, you may be wondering about the best time to visit, right? Well, the answer to that question depends on several factors.
Officially, the hurricane season in the Pacific runs from June through November. The most active months are June-October.
Many people like to visit during the winter, which is considered the off-season. However, you have to keep in mind the water is cold at that time of year. It becomes warmer around June, but that coincides with the beginning of the hurricane season.
If you want to save money and avoid the crowds, avoid visiting during the following dates:
- Semana Santa (the week before Easter)
- July and August (kids are on vacation)
- Long weekends
- New Year’s
How to Get There
Mazatlán is served by General Rafael Buelna International Airport. It is located 23 km (14 miles) from downtown. The drive takes around 30 minutes.
There are direct flights between Mazatlán and other major domestic destinations such as Monterrey and Mexico City. International destinations include Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Dallas.
Some bus companies that serve Mazatlán are Primera Plus, Turistar, Omnibus de México, and Estrella Blanca.
How to Move Around
The cheapest way to get downtown or the Golden Zone from the airport is by taking a TAP bus directly at the airport. It will cost you around 80 pesos ($4). Then get off at the bus station and take the Sábalos-Cocos Alemán bus or a taxi. The bus station is just a 10-minute drive.
A taxi from the airport will cost you around 450 pesos ($22.50).
There are several routes to go everywhere around Mazatlán. The Sabalo-Centro route will probably be the only one you need. You can click here to check the different routes in town. The fare is 11 pesos ($0.55).
As we mentioned earlier, another popular way of moving around is by riding pulmonías. They charge per distance or hour. The minimum fare is around 50 pesos ($2.50). On the other hand, if you want to visit different places, your best option is to pay per hour. That will cost you between 300 and 500 pesos per hour ($15-$25). In any case, you will have to negotiate with the driver beforehand.
Aurigas are modified pickup trucks with rates similar to pulmonías. The only difference is the former can carry up to 12 passengers, while the latter only 4.
Taxis (the red ones) are not metered. Instead, they charge per zone. On average, they charge between 30 and 70 pesos ($1.50-$3.50). Ask the driver first.
Uber is available in Mazatlán. Just remember they can’t pick you up at the airport.
Last but not least, you can rent a car. However, I only recommend it if you’re planning to travel out of town.
Where to Stay
I highly recommend Don Pelayo Pacific Beach. It’s a nice hotel located on the malecón close to the Golden Zone. The hotel has a swimming pool, a bar, a restaurant (delicious breakfast buffet!), free Wi-Fi, free parking, among other amenities. Some rooms offer fantastic views of the malecón and the ocean. Prices start at around $45 per night.
The best areas to stay in are Downtown/Olas Altas and the Golden Zone. There are lodging options of all kinds, and moving around is easy. Some places I recommend due to their location, price, and service are:
- Hotel Kiko
- Hotel Dorada Inn
- Hostal Perla Mazatlán
- Posada Bugambilia
- Posada del Parque
- Casa 511 Mazatlán Hotel Boutique
I recommend using Booking to find the best deals.
Where to Eat
Mazatlán is famous for its seafood. You can find lots of restaurants along the malecón and on Stone Island that offer fish, shrimp, and other kinds of seafood. If you’re not into seafood, don’t worry. There are other options for you as well. Some places we recommend checking out are:
- Mercado Pino Suárez ($). Head over to the second floor, and you will see lots of small restaurants offering chilaquiles, tacos, seafood, among other things. Address: Melchor Ocampo, Centro, 82000 Mazatlán, Sin., Mexico.
- Restaurant Panamá ($$). This restaurant chain is iconic not only in Mazatlán but in all of Sinaloa as well. They have lots of options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t forget to try their freshly made bread and pastries. I highly recommend the guava cake. Address: C. Benito Juárez S/N, Centro, 82000 Mazatlán, Sin., Mexico.
- Molokay Restaurant ($$). They have an extensive menu with fish, shrimp, and other kinds of seafood. Pair your dish with a Pacifico beer and you’re good to go! Address: Principal 2, Isla de La Piedra, 82280 Mazatlán, Sin., Mexico.
- Cenaduría El Túnel ($). Inexpensive restaurant near Plazuela Machado with traditional Mexican food like tacos and soups. Address: Carnaval No. 1207 Frente a Teatro Angela Peralta, Centro, 82000 Mazatlán, Sin., Mexico.
- Rin Rin Pizza ($$). Another restaurant near Plazuela Machado. Their pizzas are delicious and not too expensive. Address: Constitución 515, Centro, 82000 Mazatlán, Sin., Mexico.
Remember to use Foursquare, Yelp, or Tripadvisor to find more options around you.
If you’re backpacking, you’re looking at around 1,260 pesos ($63) per day. This includes accommodation at a hostel/cheap hotel, a combination of street food and home-cooked food, local transportation, and a few attractions per day (museums, parks, etc).
A mid-range budget is around 2,110 pesos ($105.50) per day. This includes accommodation at a 2-star hotel/Airbnb, cheap restaurants, a few more attractions than the backpacker budget, and a taxi if need be.
Finally, if you don’t want to limit yourself, then a luxury budget will cost you at least 5,100 pesos ($255) per day. This includes staying at a 4-star hotel, eating at nice restaurants, taking taxis/Uber everywhere, and taking tours/guided trips.
Keep in mind these figures are just estimates. Some days you will spend less, while others you will spend more. This will give you a foundation to plan your budget and adjust it as necessary.
For your convenience, I created a table comparing the budgets we mentioned above. The prices are in Mexican pesos ($1 = 20 pesos).
|Lodging||Meals||Transportation||Attractions||Average Cost Per Day|
Tips for Saving Money
I bet you’d like to visit Mazatlán, but you may be concerned about the money you need. To save some dollars, I recommend following these tips:
- Stay at a hostel or use Couchsurfing (an app that connects travelers looking for free lodging).
- Eat street food or go to the local market. Your hotel/hostel might include a simple breakfast, but that will save you one meal. Alternatively, you can buy a few groceries and cook yourself to spend less money outside.
- Walk and/or use public transportation as much as possible.
- Look for free walking tours online. You just have to tip your guide at the end of the tour.
- There is always something going on at Plazuela Machado. You can watch artists at work or musicians playing. While it’s technically free, tips are appreciated.
- Beaches are free! Just put on your swimsuit and grab a towel.
How to Stay Safe
The state of Sinaloa has been in the spotlight for years. In fact, if you check the U.S. Travel Advisory, they don’t recommend visiting. What does this mean? Do they mug or kidnap people on every corner? Certainly not.
The main problem in Mazatlán (and Sinaloa, for that matter) is violence between drug lords. Unfortunately, some people have died in a crossfire, but that’s not the norm. More often than not, the victims of these attacks are involved in criminal activities. That does not mean nothing bad will happen to you, but rest assured that most visitors to Mazatlán don’t experience any of this.
While it’s almost impossible to be 100% safe anywhere, if you’re too scared, then I recommend avoiding nightclubs. The beach, malecón, and downtown are safe for the most part.
Avoid walking alone at night on dark streets or alleys. Always stick to the touristy areas such as downtown, the malecón, and the Golden Zone.
Military checkpoints are common in Sinaloa. If you see one on the road, don’t be scared. Just cooperate with the authorities, and all will be fine.
Don’t drive out of town at night. If criminals ever stop you, don’t argue or try to fight back. Worst case scenario, you will have to give them some money, but your life is far more valuable than anything else.
If you ever find yourself in an emergency, you can dial 911.
Last but not least, don’t forget to buy travel insurance to cover any unexpected events.
Apps to Download
To make the most out of your trip to Mazatlán, I recommend downloading the following apps:
- Mazatlán App. While it’s not a tourism app per se, you can find information about events going on around you. The app also features an emergency button that you can press to receive help.
- Conoce Sinaloa. A guide to restaurants and other attractions in all of Sinaloa, including Mazatlán.
- Google Maps. Find driving directions and download maps for offline use.
- Uber. The most important rideshare service in Mexico.
- Google Translate. If you don’t speak fluent Spanish, then make sure you have this app.
- TravelSAFE. Connect to an emergency hotline by just pressing the SOS button.
- MyCurrency. Find the latest exchange rate to know how much something is costing you.
- Tripadvisor. Learn about other travelers’ experiences and recommendations for hotels, restaurants, and other places in town.
- Busbud. Find bus schedules (when traveling to other cities) and book cheaper tickets online.
- Travello. Find other travelers on the road and make new friends.
As I mentioned earlier, locals like to party. If you don’t want a band playing next to you at the beach, you will either have to go there early or stay at a resort with a private beach. Public beaches can be noisy. Alternatively, you could plan your visit during the off-season.
Beware of timeshare sellers. You will find them everywhere from the airport to hotels. They’re like the plague! They will invite you to a presentation or breakfast, but it’s all just part of a sales pitch. You might not even hear the word timeshare, but that’s what it’s all about. Just tell them you’re not interested unless you want to waste a good four hours of your time.
Don’t forget to pack a hat, sunglasses, sunblock, and comfortable shoes. Enjoy!
As you can see, Mazatlán is more than just beaches and sunshine. With varied gastronomy, an unbeatable party scene, and lots of cultural and social activities for everyone, it is unsurprisingly one of the most visited destinations in Mexico. Not just that, many Americans and Canadians call it home, making it an important ex-pat community as well.
It’s always a good time to visit Mazatlán, but of course, you have to consider several factors like the weather and cost. These will vary depending on the season you plan on visiting. You can spend as little or as much as you want. It’s just a matter of planning.
Have you visited Mazatlán? If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for? Let me know your impressions and questions in the comments section below. Bon voyage!
Book your trip now!
Book your flight
The first thing you have to do is find cheap flights. But where do you find those? There are many search engines, but the one I highly recommend is Skyscanner. Here you can compare fares from all over the world and pick the one that suits you best.
Book your accommodation
The next thing you have to do is secure your lodging. Whether you prefer a hostel, a guesthouse, a B&B, or a hotel, you can find them all on Booking. You can find lodging of all kinds ranging from cheap to expensive and somewhere in between. Many people have scored good deals using it.
Another popular option is Hostelworld. This website focuses on hostels as opposed to hotels.
Book a tour
In some places, you might want to hire a tour. Not all places are equally accessible to visit by oneself. It helps enormously when you visit with a local guide who can show you around and answer any questions you might have…all in your native language. My to-go place is Viator as they offer tours of all kinds and have a presence all over the world.
Rent a car
Public transportation is usually cheaper than renting a car, but it’s sometimes more complicated and time-consuming. That’s a reality. In some cases, it’s more convenient to rent a car. My recommendation is Rentalcars.com. Here you can compare rates and choose the one that fits you best.
Book your bus tickets
You can save money by booking bus tickets online. My favorite site to do this is Busbud.
Get travel insurance
Never travel without a travel insurance policy, especially these days! Travel insurance can save your life. My recommendations are World Nomads and Insured Nomads. Both companies cover COVID-19 related incidents, which is crucial these days.
Just click on the “Plan your trip” tab at the top of this page, and you will find more resources like getting Mexican insurance for your foreign car, buying travel accessories, and learning Spanish. And, of course, don’t forget to check back often to read more tips on Mexico travel.