Exploring ports of call during a cruise vacation is a terrific way to add to your fun. Here are ten of our favorite highly-rated things to do in Mazatlan during your next stop at this Pacific port.
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The perfect place to stretch your legs is on a stroll along the oceanside. In Mazatlan, you’ll find 13 miles of paved pathway perfect for walking, jogging or cycling.
The word Malecón is Spanish for “a stone-built embankment or esplanade along a waterfront” – the exact descriptor for this wide walkway. All along the way, you can stop for some time in the sand and a cool dip in the ocean’s dark blue waters.
Easily accessible for all abilities, Malecón is dotted with artistic statues and historic monuments. For the latter, be sure to stop for a photo opportunity at the famous Fisherman’s Monument (or The Monumento al Pescador). Celebrating the rich fishing heritage at this seaside location, it is the city’s oldest monument.
There are many opportunities all along Malecón to stop for a food and beverage break. Enjoy local fare at street vendors, restaurants and cafes; and grab a drink and listen to live music in the bars. Also, you’ll have the chance to walk beside lovely homes in some of Mazatlan’s nice neighborhoods.
Combine a bit of history with the best views in Mazatlan during a visit to El Faro – The Lighthouse. Built in the late 19th Century, this structure sits upon a high hill and is the tallest natural lighthouse in the Americas.
Put on some comfortable shoes and ride a public transit bus to the base. Grab some water and snacks at the local vendors and begin your climb to the top.
It will take about half an hour to 45 minutes to reach the summit, depending on your pace. This hike is considered strenuous, and there are currently no options for those needing mobility assistance.
Stop along the way for photos; gaze unimpeded across the Pacific; and, look out across the city. Once at the top, purchase a ticket to walk out (sock-footed) onto the glass-bottomed lookout deck. Perched over the edge of the hill, this is a neat way to get a unique view.
Fun fact: El Faro is still in use today. It’s beam of light can be seen as far as 30 nautical miles out to sea.
For an up-close experience with the diverse ecosystem of the sea, stop by the Acuario Mazatlan – the aquarium. Inside, visitors can see 34 saltwater tanks and 17 freshwater tanks with vast numbers of species.
There are many types of marine life, including everything from seal lions to seahorses – including mudskippers, an amphibious fish that walks on its fins!
Visit the botanical gardens to see 75 species of flora, an area dedicated to frogs, a crocodile lagoon and an aviary with 13 species of birds.
Then get up close and personal with stingrays; see 800 species of jellyfish; interact with the lovebirds; stop by the turtle museum; lend a hand at the doctor fish tank; and, hand feed tilapias at the aquaponics exhibit.
You can also watch live shows and see how the animals are respectfully and conscientiously cared for at this aquarium. Watch sea lions splash and dance. Be amazed at the bird shows. See divers interacting with sharks. And, learn about the skills of prey animals.
In addition to offering public access to and caring for the species in the aquarium, Acuario Mazatlán has earned respected research accomplishments. For example, they have protection programs for whistling ducks, macaws and brown pelicans.
Additionally, their sea turtle conservation efforts have protected over 6,000 nests and released over 384,000 hatchlings.
For some daring feats of athleticism, come to the small oceanside park named Parque Glorieta Rodolfo Sanchez Taboada where you will find what the locals call “El Clavadista.” Perched atop a 50’ rock is a platform just at the ocean’s edge.
On that platform, you’ll see brave souls studying the waters below. What are they looking for? Just the right moment to dive off the cliff!
El Clavadista means cliff diver, a tradition that began in Mazatlan in the middle of the last century. Legend says the first diver (safely) plunged to the waters below on a bet – and now it’s a regular event in the town.
Starting about noon and lasting until sunset, these daredevils execute stunning and well-timed dives into the sea. While a solitary endeavor, it takes all of the divers to make this a safe sport.
The reason? There are times, depending on the waves, when the water below is only six feet deep. So, all eyes are expertly trained on the ocean to give the signal when the time is right to dive.
This fun thing to do in Mazatlan is free entertainment. However, it is suggested that you have some cash on hand to show your appreciation since the divers work for tips.
Time at the Beach
One of the fun things to do in Mazatlan is to visit the beaches because they have different “personalities.” The first of these is Playa Olas Altas, which means “high wave beach.” Uniquely located near the city’s historic district called “Old Town,” this is one of the first locations that drew tourists in the mid-20th Century.
As a surfing destination, this is the spot to watch wave riding experts. You can also see local fishermen on native crafts riding into shore after securing the day’s catch. Rumor says that John Wayne kept a fishing boat at this location.
Heading north along the coast you will find what is called Zona Dorada – or, the Gold Zone. Find a variety of beaches (Playa Camaron, Playa Gaviotas and Playa Cerritos) with more fun things to do. Snorkel to watch the tropical fish; rent a kayak and explore the nearby islands; and, finish the day at one of the many restaurants and nightclubs.
Next stop, Playa Sabalo at the northern end of the Gold Zone. This is the beach for calm waters and safe swimming. There are places to water ski, parasail and even take a banana boat ride. It is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. So, it can be a bit crowded.
These unique beaches can be easily reached via a fun ride in a pulmonia – a type of open taxi.
Teatro Angela Peralta
One of the highly-rated things to do in Mazatlán is to visit the Teatro Angela Peralta. This 800-seat theatre anchors the city’s art and music scene.
Dating back to 1874, it was named in honor of a famous opera singer who tragically died at 38 years young during a malaria epidemic. Over the next 90 years, the theatre brought plays, operas, circuses and sporting events to the public.
Then, after struggling with decades of decline and neglect, this cultural icon was almost lost. By the time restorations began, the roof was gone, a hurricane had flooded the building, and a huge tree was growing in the center of the stage.
Today it’s a stunning performance space with elaborate architectural structures, décor and lighting. There is an Italianate mezzanine and three floors of balcony seating reminiscent of 19th Century theatres. Check the schedule for shows. This venue still welcomes renowned performers from around the globe.
If your time in port does not coincide with a live production, take a guided tour of Teatro Angela Peralta. Ask about the other attributes at the complex which include an art gallery, fine arts school and municipal cultural center.
Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island)
Escape the crowds with a quick ferry ride across the channel to Isla de la Piedra – Stone Island. While not technically an island (it is the tip of a peninsula), it definitely has the “hideaway” atmosphere of a quiet day in the tropics.
This destination has long sandy beaches and is described over and over with the word “tranquil.” Due in large part to its geographical orientation, the beach weather here is calm and the water is warmer than it is at other Mazatlán locations. Also, this is considered one of the best places to go snorkeling.
Another great reason to go to Stone Island is the food! Lining the beach are a number of palapa restaurants – picture those island structures with a thatched roof and open sides.
They serve exceptional seafood, chicken, soups, quesadillas and a number of other favorite dishes. Most have an outdoor seating area complete with umbrellas, hammocks and comfy chairs.
Guided tours are also a fun thing to do at this Mazatlán location. During catamaran trips on the bay, you can see the Navy fleet, boats for shrimping and tuna fishing and (with a bit of good timing) sea lions on the rocks.
Once on Isla de la Piedra, carts will take you around the island for activities such as time at the beach and horseback riding.
Fun fact: Isla de la Piedra is home to the country’s third largest coconut grove.
One of the fun things to do in Mazatlán (or at any port) is to immerse yourself in the local culture. In addition to the nature and culinary adventures, add a tour of the city’s “old town” to your list. In the town considered to be The Pearl of the Pacific, this part is “the birthplace of both its commerce and its culture.”
Cobblestone streets are lined with historic commercial buildings and private homes representing a blend of styles known now as Mazatlán Classical Tropical Style.
At every turn along the quiet roadways are vibrant colors of purple, turquoise, orange and yellow adorning the structures. In total, there are almost 500 buildings recognized with national historic landmark status.
While in the area, make a stop at the Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepcion. This double-spired church sits in the center of town. The Baroque-Revival style architecture is immaculately designed on the inside. There are “soaring rounded Renaissance domes and gilded Gothic arches” along with 28 stained glass windows.
Then, for a visual experience of culture, visit the Museo de Arte which opened in 1998. This art museum celebrates dozens of 20th and 21st Century Mexican artists with an impressive array of permanent collection items. And, temporary exhibits visit this location on a fairly regular monthly schedule.
Options to explore this area include guided tours and a well-mapped self-guided walking tour.
Mazagua Water Park
For a family day in port, bring the swimwear and a picnic for a splashy good time at Mazagua Water Park. There are 13 different aqua slides and “rides” to keep all the kids and adults entertained. They range in adrenalin rush from mild to wild! When you are up on the “high” slides, take a moment to have a look around at the scenery.
Also, on the property is a wave pool and manmade beach for relaxing. There are snacks and drinks available for purchase, as well as tube rentals. Or, join a pickup gain of volleyball on the courts. There is even a section for the littlest of children and their parents to have a great time together.
Entrance fees are very affordable for a budget-friendly family day ashore.
Reserva Ecologica Islas de Mazatlán
For nature lovers, the top fun thing to do in Mazatlán is a day trip to the Reserva Ecologica Islas de Mazatlán. This is a pristine sanctuary of protected lands that include Deer Island, Goat Island and Bird Island. Visible from the beaches of the city, these landmasses are rich with the untouched beauty of a tropical ecosystem.
Access to the reserve is regulated. So, the best way to enjoy nature is via a guided tour. These generally last 4 to 6 hours and come with a variety of activities and amenities – kayaking, snorkeling, wildlife viewing, hikes, naturalist talks, food, beverages and lunch on a secluded beach.
If your time in port is short, a terrific alternative is the Estero del Yugo Nature Preserve. Conveniently located by the popular Mazagua Water Park, the 27 acres of protected land is rich with flora and fauna of the region.
There are 1.5 miles of trails and boardwalks to explore the freshwater and saltwater lagoons amidst the tropical deciduous forests.