If you’re looking for commanding views of Mazatlán and want to burn off those extra tacos, take the Stairmaster hike to El Faro Lighthouse. This hike fits the bill when seeking inexpensive things to do in Mazatlán. With a 500+ foot elevation gain and over 330 stairs, you’ll feel the calf burn on this picturesque, well-maintained trail.
We completed the climb during our Mexican Riviera cruise and port day in Mazatlán. The up and down hike took under an hour, so we still had plenty of time to explore the rest of the city on our port day.
Where Is El Faro Lighthouse?
Perched on the top of Cerro del Creston, at the southern end of Mazatlán city, it’s free to do the hike. However, at the top, hikers have the option to walk a glass floor, which costs 20 pesos or USD 1. From the cruise port, it’s just over a mile to the start of the trail, but we chose to get a Pulmonia (taxi) for USD 8.
The hike attracts both visitors and locals, not to see the lighthouse but enjoy the aerial views and get a good workout. Hikers can access the trail from 6:30 am to 8 pm. However, the glass floor platform doesn’t open until one hour later.
Interesting Mazatlán Lighthouse Facts
- El Faro is Spanish for “the lighthouse.”
- El Faro lighthouse has been in operation since 1879. Its original light was static. In 1905, the light was changed to a revolving one.
- The lighthouse still operates today, and its beam of light can travel up to 30 miles away.
- At the time of construction, it was thought to be the highest working lighthouse globally. Today, it’s considered the highest in the Americas, at 523 feet above sea level.
- The lighthouse initially used oil to power its light. It was later converted to a hydrogen lamp, and an electric lamp replaced that in 1933.
- The Faro Mazatlán Natural Park has a colony of homeless cats who live on the hill. Cat people come to feed the felines, which is highly discouraged since the cats reduce native species of iguanas, lizards, and birds.
Starting The Hike
The trail to the lighthouse begins at the roundabout where our Pulmonia left us. Next to the road, a large white “Faro Mazatlan” sign indicates the start of the trail.
To the left, a local sell tickets for 20 pesos to walk the plexiglass floor at the top. On the right, visitors can pay 10 pesos to use the restroom and note it’s the last opportunity for a potty stop.
Shortly into the walk, we noticed and smelled the wastewater treatment center to the right of the fencing. The hike begins with a gentle slope along a wide paved pathway.
I saw numerous indigenous cacti, plenty of fish-shaped recycling bins for drink bottles, and lots of animal dishes of cat food and water. That’s when it was evident this area had a stray cat problem.
Every 100 meters, signs gave gentle reminders to “not take shortcuts,” “stay hydrated,” and “not feed the wildlife.” I found the path extremely clean and well-maintained for a free hike.
We started our trek at 8 am to beat the intense heat of the midday sun. At this time of the morning, most of the hikers were locals who used the route for daily exercise.
As we hiked, we took many breaks to enjoy the views behind us. We could see the Majestic Princess and Holland America Koningsdam in port to our right.
In front of us, the “Pearl of the Pacific” or Mazatlán city views became more picturesque. And out in the ocean, Deer Island (Isla de Venados) and Bird Island (Isla de Pajaros) could be seen in the distance.
The Stairs To El Faro
At 745 meters, a sign reminds climbers to stay right as they start the spiraling staircase of steps. Here, the pathway narrows and becomes steeper as you make your way to the top.
Having done some Stairmaster climbs in other areas, I appreciated the fact that the stairs were not deep. Every 30 steps, a marker on the stairs encourages climbers to continue on the 336-step route.
While the trail is only 2.4 km or 1.5 miles, the extreme heat and steep climb can take away your breath. It’s important to note the stairs have no guard rails and do not have a wheelchair-accessible option. Climbing the stairs, we saw more cats but found most of them were a bit skittish to people.
Since we weren’t in a marathon to complete our climb, we stopped a lot to take pictures, look for iguanas, and drink water. If you forgot to carry water, a vendor at the top sells bottled water and Gatorade. In fact, during our accent, we watched locals carrying cases of water up the hill.
While a sign warns visitors to stay on the path to avoid scorpions, snakes, and spiders, we saw only cats, butterflies, and birds. As the temperature rose, we were thankful we started our climb early in the day since the trail offered little shade.
On the stair section, there are many wide turning curves to take a break, most of these were in the hot sunshine. Shortly after the 330 stair marker, we reached a gate that leads into the lighthouse area. Most people who do this climb don’t even look at the lighthouse.
As a small white unassuming building, it’s easy to see why. Instead, the 360 degrees views of the Pacific Ocean and Mazatlán reward those who complete the climb. At the top, we enjoyed the ocean breeze, which helped to cool us.
Miradór de Cristal
Behind the lighthouse, we joined a lineup of people waiting to walk the Miradór de Cristal or glass floor skywalk. While there were a dozen people ahead of us, we didn’t have to wait long for our turn.
The attendant allows groups of ten people to enter at a time, and solo walks to the end of the platform are limited to three minutes. To walk the skywalk, the attendant asked us to remove our shoes.
While the platform isn’t big, it is suspended almost 500 feet above the ocean and offers stunning panoramas. The venue opens from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm in summer and closes one hour earlier in winter.
After spending some time at the top immersed in the views, we started our leisurely stroll down.
On the walk down, I noticed the stairs have lights to illuminate the path in the dark. While we didn’t time ourselves going up, it took 18 minutes to make the descent.
For the average hiker, allow 30 minutes to complete the climb up, but the time really depends on your fitness level and the number of times you stop.
We met groups of cruise passengers and travelers doing the climb with a local guide on our descent. I noticed some steep sections with sheer drop-offs looking down to the ocean.
Since we took our photos going up, I appreciated the sounds of the songbirds coming down. Once we exited the park, there were many taxis or Pulmonias if visitors needed a ride.
Tips For Doing The El Faro Lighthouse Hike
Leave the flip-flops or sandals in your hotel and wear running shoes instead.
Plan to start early or after dinner, to avoid the extreme heat of the day.
Carry bottled water to stay hydrated.
Carry a snack or power bar since there is nowhere to buy food. Alternatively, bring a lunch if you plan to spend some time at the top.
Stay on the trail to avoid damaging vegetation.
Dispose of plastic bottles in the recycling bins and garbage in the waste bins.
Wear sunscreen and reapply it often.
Wear a hat and sunglasses too.
Bring a flashlight if you plan to hike after sunset. While there are lights, some areas are still dark.
Use the restroom at the start because there are no facilities at the top.
Bring a camera or cellphone to capture those selfies on the glass floor platform.
Buy your ticket for the glass floor at the entrance, before starting the hike.
Be courteous to those running the trail and allow them to pass.
If you’re staying in Mazatlán and want to avoid the crowds, pick a day when they are no cruise ships in port.
Bring cash so you can use the washroom and pay for the glass skywalk (optional).
Since it takes only an hour to do the El Faro lighthouse hike, it’s a must-do in Mazatlán, Mexico. With stunning hilltop views, it offers a different prescriptive of Mazatlán. While most sites considered the hike moderate, I thought it was relatively easy and suitable for families and those on a budget.
If you’re visiting Mazatlán by cruise ship, cruise lines offer this excursion for USD 35 to 40. We opted to do the hike ourselves, which cost us USD 8 for the taxi and an extra USD 2 to walk the glass floor, saving us USD 60. After the hike, we walked to Old Mazatlán and returned to the cruise ship on foot.
Happy travels ~ Karen
Friday 1st of April 2022
We have been going to Mazatlan for 20 years. The first time we went to the lighthouse it was a dirt path. Glad they have fixed it up it was a. Great view then.
Friday 1st of April 2022
I was pleasantly surprised by how clean and well-maintained this trail was during our visit a few weeks ago. The trail wasn't busy early in the morning, and we enjoyed fantastic views from the top. I would definitely go again.