Mazatlan, Mexico, otherwise known as ‘pearl of the Pacific’ is a coastal city in the state of Sinaloa Mexico. It’s a popular cruise destination along the Mexican Riviera on the Pacific west coast of the country.
Surprisingly, Mazatlan wasn’t built with tourism in mind and only chanced upon the industry when Hollywood celebrities discovered it in the 1950s.
Resulting in an authentic Mexican destination, where you can step back in time and experience old Mexico. Immersing yourself into an unpretentious Mazatleco’s way of life.
With such an incredible experience you are guaranteed to enjoy this port of call but don’t take our word for it, check out these ways to enjoy Mazatlan, Mexico and judge for yourself.
1. Wander at the Malecon
The first thing you want to do when in Mazatlan is checking out the Malecon. It’s one of the longest Malecon in the world, measuring 13 miles long. Mazatlan’s Malecon connects all the city’s points of interest; it is Mazatlan’s backbone. Here is where you will get a glimpse into what Mazatlan is all about.
The palm-lined esplanade is lined with quaint restaurants and shops on one side and the Pacific sea on the other. Pop into some of the eateries and try out the delicious shrimp tacos Mazatlan is famous for. Or pop into the quaint shops with plenty of gifts, souvenirs, and crafts on sale.
Find all the Mazatlan souvenirs you’ll ever need right here.
The Malecon also features interesting, quirky monuments and sculptures. A stroll along the Malecon helps you study this thought-provoking beachside art. There are many ways to explore the Malecon, you can do it on foot, with a bicycle or with a unique golf-cart-look-alike taxis called Pulmonias. With such a start you are guaranteed a great day on the port.
2. Tour Old Mazatlan
Old Mazatlan locally known as Centro Historico is the historic district of the city. It was recently restored to its former glory. You can now enjoy walking through its lively cobblestoned streets lined with street side cafes, art studios, historical landmarks, and shopping outlets.
Wander at the fascinating old colonial buildings that display the rich architectural heritage of the town. Some buildings of interest include the canary painted cathedral whose twin spire towers can be seen from any part in town.
Other buildings of interest include the city hall, Juarez house, Lizarraga house and the charming town plaza known as Plazuela Machado. Enjoy studying the ornate decorations of the neo-classical architectural designs displayed in both the interior and exteriors of these buildings.
For exploring and touring this travel money wallet will help.
To get to Old Mazatlan take a bus from the cruise pier (11 pesos) or the Pulmonia taxis ($35pesos) into downtown Mazatlan. Though there are many bus stops, you are likely to be dropped at the Mercado (market). If exploring the Malecon, head to its southern end from the Golden Zone (Zona Dorada).
3. Explore the Cathedral
One of the most stunning landmarks in Old Mazatlan is Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Built from 1856, it took nearly 45 years to complete this cathedral. The long wait was well worth it as the resulting masterpiece is simply breathtaking.
The Cathedral is the central religious point of Mazatlan. It bears an intricate and detailed architecture of Moorish, Gothic and baroque designs. You will be fascinated by all the detail that went into creating this masterpiece.
Its two twin spire towers can be seen from anywhere in the city. Masses are offered here, and it’s an excellent chance for you to attend one while exploring the place’s beauty.
4. Angela Peralta Theatre
Visit Mazatlan’s most valued cultural treasure, the Angela Peralta theatre, located off of Plaza Machado. The theatre is another architectural masterpiece in itself and is the only one of its kind and size in the Mexican West Coast.
Built from 1869 to 1874, this theater named after a famous Mexican songstress bears an intriguing history of love, wealth, betrayal and tragedy. The majestic edifice has been through a lot, from ruin to flooding to threat of demolition and even abandonment for over two decades.
Luckily, it was restored in 1987 and plays host to cultural festivals, music concerts, and plays. This is where you want to go to immerse yourself in the rich Mazatlan’s culture. Maybe learn a thing or two about their special brand of music called the Banda sinaloense. There is a charge for 30 pesos to explore inside, and it’s worth every peso.
5. Hangout at Plazuela Machado
Plaza Machado is the heart of Mazatlan and one of the most popular attractions in Mazatlan. It’s a tree-lined open square with a beautiful iron wrought gazebo at the center.
The Plaza is surrounded by stunning colonial buildings with British and French architectural influences which hold romantic street side cafes and colorful shopping outlets. It’s named after its benefactor, a wealthy Filipino businessman and was built in the 18th century. Visit the place and enjoy people watching, eating, shopping and just immersing yourself into the ways of the Mazatlecos.
6. City Tour on the Fun Bus
Both the Malecon and Old Mazatlan are quite captivating, and you might find yourself spending hours at these places. For a quick and brief tour of Mazatlan hop on the fun bus, an open top side double-decker bus for a guided tour of the town.
This tour is geared to help the beginner have an overview of Mazatlan in a brief but fun tour. Take the bus from Mazatlan’s marina, where your cruise ship docks. It will take you to three popular stops.
The Golden Zone (Zona Dorada), Old Mazatlan (Centro Historico) and the Clavidista (divers) spot. You have the choice to stay and explore the stop that captivates you. The bus charges approximately $35 for an adult and $20 for kids.
7. Avoid Vendors at Playa Olas Atlas
If you are looking for a free beach minus the crowds or vendors of the golden zone, then head over to Playa Olas Atlas. Playa Olas Atlas means a beach of high waves. It was the genesis of tourism in Mazatlan. This crescent-shaped beach which is centrally located in Old Maz saw the first tourism action from celebrities back in the 1950s.
True to its name Playa Olas Atlas attracts lots of surfers and boogie boarders especially from April to October, which is the surf season. Unlike many beaches of the golden zone, Playa Olas seldom gets crowded, and it’s a nice place to lie on the sand, people watch and sunbathe.
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It’s also a great place to watch sunsets. Because of the high waves and strong currents, it’s not a swimmable beach.
8. Surf in Playa Bruja
Playa Bruja is the ultimate beach for total relaxation in Mazatlan. Thanks to a minimal talk about it, Playa Bruja found in the northernmost ends of Mazatlan is perfect for surfing, sunbathing and just relaxing.
The waves here get to a high of over 10 feet which is ideal for surfing. This pristine stretch of sand features a serene environment that is great for total relaxation.
9. Go on a Canopy Adventure in Huana Coa
Get your dose of adrenaline in Mazatlan, on a canopy tour of the great outdoors of Mexico. This is a fun adventure like no other, parking high adrenaline activities such as ATV, Ziplining, Horseback riding, canoeing, and tequila tasting.
Offered by the Huana Coa Adventure Company, this is an excursion you won’t want to miss. It involves taking a short 30-minute bus ride to the zip line park set amidst a blue agave farm. You’ll get on an ATV and drive through the verdant countryside enjoying scenic views and getting a real glance into everyday rural Mexican life in a community settlement in the place.
Once on site, there is a dedicated team of charming, helpful guides to take you through a series of nine well-maintained zip lines. There is a bit of hiking in between zip lines which adds to the fun.
Afterward, you are treated to an authentic meal of quesadillas and later taken to Los Osuna tequila factory. Where you can observe and learn how tequila is made with samples at the end.
Also Read: What to Do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on a Cruise Vacation
10. 1000 Ways to Eat Shrimp
Mazatlan has delightful gastronomy full of impeccable Mexican cuisines. Enjoy Mexico’s finest shrimp tacos, fish tacos and ceviche. Being the shrimp capital of the world, there are plenty of exciting shrimp menus that you are bound to enjoy.
A popular dish is Aguachiles, a shrimp cocktail marinated in green chilies and served with cucumber and red onion. Other popular things to try out include Lengua tacos (tacos made out of cow’s tongue) these are unbelievably tasty.
On the drinks side, try Horchata, Agua de Cebada and the popular Pacifico brew that is manufactured in Mazatlan. Some places to try authentic Mexican lunch include Pedro Y Lola, El Presidio and La Copita.
11. Look out from El Faro
El Faro meaning ‘the lighthouse’ is Mazatlan’s lighthouse and one of the highest in the world. El Faro stands tall at over 500 feet above sea level. The lighthouse is built on the imposing hill of Cerro del Creston, which is located on the southern ends of Mazatlan.
One of the most popular activities in Mazatlan is hiking up to the lighthouse. While it’s a moderate hike, the over 320 steps taken to reach the peak is no easy task. However, it’s well worth it with a rewarding bird’s eye view of Mazatlan and nearby islands. Enjoy the stunning views and don’t forget to capture them with your camera.
12. Visit the Aquarium
Visit one of the largest aquariums in Latin America and soon to be larger. The Aquarium at Mazatlan features 50 tanks that bear tens of thousands of gallons of seawater and fresh water. This water hosts over 250 species of fish.
Mazatlan’s aquarium is located two blocks from the Malecon at the Hotel Aquario intersection denoted by a sea lion statue. The aquarium showcases various fish species from Mazatlan’s waters and the rest of the world. It also offers three shows, a sea lion show, a dive show, and a bird’s show.
For only 115 pesos per adult and 85 pesos per child, explore this interesting place. Watch as trained sea lions perform clever tricks and get kissed by them. It’s a very captivating show that both you and the kids will love. Or swim with sharks as you feed them and watch the huge crocodiles be. You can also sample the aviary life found in the botanic gardens at the place.
13. Explore Estero Ecological Reserve
All nature lovers should head to the Estero Ecological Reserve in Mazatlan. The reserve is found in Playa Bruja opposite the Riu Hotel. Take a break from the town and explore this nature reserve where the white-tailed deer from which the name Mazatlan is derived from, is located.
Take a relaxing boat ride along the river, learning about the local flora and fauna of the place. There are over 270 species of birds in the reserve. The waters of the estuary are also home to crocodiles as well. Walk on wooden boardwalks that jut out to the water and enjoy observing the nature around you. The park charges US$5 entrance fee for a day pass.
14. Visit Stone Island (Isla de las Piedras)
A visit to Stone Island or Isla de Las Piedras in Spanish is the ultimate day trip for a cruiser. Stone Island which is a peninsula off the southern ends of old Mazatlan is a tropical beach escape with plenty of palm trees and casual palapa restaurants on the beach.
To get to this sleepy fishing town, where fishermen still sleep in hammocks, take a taxi to Playa Sur Embarcadero just north of the Baja Dock. You will get boats that will take you across the half-mile-long channel for about 30 pesos.
Once there you can enjoy ATV rides to the beach. Or a special tractor-pulled wagon ride through the sleepy town. The beach offers plenty of water sports such as banana boat rides, swimming snorkeling but you can also simply lay on the sand and sunbathe.
When hunger bites, try out the food and drinks offered at the beach. Gorge on delicious fish and shrimp tacos or ceviche offered in the numerous Palapa restaurants on the beach.
15. Step Back in Time in Copala and Concordia
For a truly memorable day trip venture deeper into the outskirts of Mazatlan to the colonial and mountain villages of Sinaloa. Two such towns are the ghost town of Copala and Concordia, which are on the highway to Durango (another state in Sinaloa)
Copala found at the foot of the Sierra Madre hills, is a small mining town that was built during the gold rush of the 1800s. It features quiet cobble-stoned streets, red tiled roofs, and a beautiful 300year old church at the center of it all.
Copala is the picture of serenity and is just the perfect escape from the tourist crowd in Mazatlan. Experience the real old Mexico town vibe that is still alive in Copala.
Some of the highlights include the charming small plaza with a wrought iron gazebo in the middle, the old church, the narrow cobblestoned streets and the delicious banana cream pie made in the place. Visit daniel’s restaurant for delicious homemade Mexican cuisines made from scratch.
Just before you get to Copala, there is a larger village settlement known as Concordia. This is another interesting town to visit, meet the friendly and charming locals who will help with anything and peruse through its artisan markets. Concordia is famous for furniture making, popular for the wooden rocking chair.
16. Sport Fishing
Just like the neighboring state of Baja California, Mazatlan enjoys a year-round fishing season. Its fertile waters from the sea of Cortez create a good environment for fishing. Some of the species you are likely to catch include Sailfish, Tuna, Striped Marlin, Wahoo, and Dorado (Mahi Mahi). Enjoy deep sea fishing with a highly skilled and experienced fishing crew.
17. Whale Watching
Mazatlan is strategically positioned between Baja California Sur and Puerto Vallarta where all the whale action on the Pacific coast of Mexico takes place. Go whale watching and catch them right on the path from Baja to Puerto Vallarta or back.
Whales migrate to the warm waters of the sea of Cortez from December to April to give birth and rear their calves before going back to the cold waters of Alaska.
Book a whale watching tour with your cruise ship or a reputable company like Once explorations to experience this memorable activity. On your sightings, you may spot a humpback whale, Orca, Fin Whale and plenty of dolphins.
18. Watch Cliff Divers of Mazatlan
One of Mazatlan’s most thrilling shows is perhaps the cliff diving show that is done at the Malecon at Parque Glorieta Rodolfo Sanchez Taboada. At this plaza, there is a 50-foot high diving platform that is only for the daredevils.
At the base of this diving platform are the raging waters of the Pacific breaking on the rugged rocky base. This is the spot that this brave Mazatlecos pick to showcase their daring diving skills.
The divers voluntarily dive into the waters with perfect timings and calculations for the incoming waves to create a deep enough spot to dive in. Most of the dives are done in only 5ft or 6ft deep waters. These divers do it voluntarily with the hope of tips but don’t charge for the entertainment.
19. Enjoy the Comforts of Zona Dorada (the Golden Zone)
The Golden Zone or Zona Dorada in Spanish is the five-mile-long Malecon strip that caters to all your touristic needs. The golden zone is found on the northern side of Mazatlan’s Malecon.
This side of the Malecon is lined with beautiful resorts with plenty of beautiful beaches fronting them. One of the most notable resorts is El CID where you can get a day pass and enjoy its stunning infinity pools or the pristine beachfront. The golden zone features a lot of shopping stores, eateries and wall mart like shopping outlets where you can get all you need.
The golf cart taxis called Pulmonias are plenty here and are the preferred means of transport. The beaches in Zona Dorada are lively and active. This is where you can take up parasailing, banana boat rides, kayaking and plenty of other water activities.
The beaches in this zone can get crowded and attract a high number of vendors, for a more peaceful beach experience, head further north to Playa Bruja.
20. Snorkel or Kayak at Deer Island
One of the best places to escape to in Mazatlan is Deer Island. A 200 pesos 10minute boat ride from the golden zone to this UNESCO world heritage marine reserve will be a truly memorable experience.
There is a small reef near the island, where you can snorkel. It’s also a good beach to escape the vendors on the golden zone and beach bum, hike, banana boat ride or snorkel in peace. The beach has a bathroom and showers and a place to grab a drink. Enjoy your day here.
Over to You
As you can see, Mazatlan offers quite a long list of fun things to do. While we tried to list as many activities as possible for a cruiser who only has a few hours in port. There are, however, plenty of other things to do in Mazatlan, Mexico.
One such thing is attending their Carnival, said to be the third largest in the world after Brazil and New Orleans. It takes place around February or March of every year. It’s an overwhelming cultural experience that you should experience at least once.
Also Read: 20 Things to Do in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico During a Cruise
The weather in Mazatlan is warm all throughout with the tourist season running from late November to late June. This is also the best season for most of the activities listed here. That’s it, that’s all for now. See you when the cruise ship calls at Mazatlan. Happy Cruising!!