Mazatlan, Mexico, is a relaxed west coast vacationer’s paradise with a great atmosphere, golden beaches, and a mecca for seafood lovers. Located in the state of Sinaloa, it runs parallel to
Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. Known as the “Pearl of the Pacific,” Mazatlan has thrived on its fishing industry and busy commercial port for centuries. If you visit on a cruise, the Mazatlan cruise port uses the commercial dock.
Mexico is a place that welcomes tourists, and its laid-back lifestyle is the perfect cocktail for that much-needed restful vacation. While it may not be a glamorous and bustling city like Cabo San Lucas, its rich history, art galleries, and old-world charm are equally strong points of interest.
The warm climate, delicious cuisine, and numerous outdoor activities leave no room for boredom. The best time to visit Mazatlan, Mexico, is from November to April to capitalize on the warm weather.
Are you concerned about your safety in Mazatlan? During my visit, there was a heavy Mexican police presence around and near the Mazatlan Cruise Port.
It’s important not to travel alone, stay with other tourists and don’t wear or carry valuables. It’s advised not to wander too far from the tourist areas.
Mazatlan Cruise Port
If you arrive in Mazatlan, Mexico, by plane, the taxi or shuttle bus to the city is approximately 40 minutes.
However, if you’re on an itinerary to the Mexican Riviera, your ship will dock very close to Old Mazatlan. Since cruise ships dock in a working commercial port, cruises passengers must use a trolley to exit the port for safety reasons.
Mazatlan Tourist Aide Volunteers in “blue shirts” provide information and sometimes maps to visitors outside the port. From the port, it’s a pleasant and leisurely 15- to 20-minute walk to Old Mazatlan on flat, cobblestone streets.
If you prefer not to walk, negotiate a price to ride a taxi, also known as a Pulmonia. A Pulmonia is a spruced up open-air vehicle that resembles a golf cart. Since 2017, Uber now operates in Mazatlan, and their rates are generally lower than a Pulmonia.
Pesos (MXN) is the currency of Mexico, but many vendors accept the US dollar. If paying in US dollars, merchants will most likely give change in pesos.
Ask the exchange rate as this varies from 19 to 24 to 1, making a considerable price difference.
Visit Old Mazatlan
Walk the “Mazatlan blue line” to Old Mazatlan to start your history walking tour from the cruise port. The “blue line” is a set of blue stripes on the ground. Ingenious! Why don’t all places have this?
The walk is very safe, and the route is dotted with blue shirt tourist volunteers who will answer all your questions and point you in the right direction. During our last cruise on the Majestic Princess, there was a heavy police presence along the route.
In the centre of Old Mazatlan lies the bustling square of Plaza Machado, which has long been a favourite tourist spot.
Here, an abundance of palm trees offsets the picturesque persona of French and Spanish-influenced buildings in tropical colours.
The square is a great place to enjoy an afternoon coffee or lunch on the patio. We had a fantastic lunch at El Cielo, sitting under the trees, listening to the songbirds.
The food was fresh, tasty, and extremely inexpensive. A beef and guacamole taco costs under USD 3, and a shrimp burrito around USD 6.50.
Along the tree-lined plaza, be sure to visit some of the great museums and art galleries. Some offer access to the upper levels, which have ironwork balconies overlooking the Plaza Machado.
Watch The Cliff Divers
Diving from cliffs was made famous in Acapulco, where young men dive from a 100-foot cliff into a shallow channel. In Mazatlan, Mexico, the cliff divers perform at El Clavadista or Glorieta Rodolfo Sanchez Taboada Park as it is officially known right on the Malecon.
The cliff divers perform for donations from tourists, usually from noon onwards, until dark. There are very narrow stairs to the platform and no handrails.
While the platform is not quite as high as the one in Acapulco, it’s still spectacular to watch the divers jump from the rocks nevertheless.
If you’ve never watched this sport, it’s crazy to watch as the men time their dives during the surge of the ocean waves. They also need to push far from the platform to hit the deepest part of the water and avoid the jagged rocks below. I think my heart missed a beat every time I watched a jump.
Admire The Mazatlan Cathedral
Visitors can find the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception a short walk from the Plaza Machado. Also known as the Mazatlan Cathedral, it is the main church used for prayer in the city.
Built in the 1850s in the Gothic revival style, the architecture in this Catholic church is stunning.
It’s best to visit during the day to admire the beautiful interior architecture. Because the church still operates, shorts are discouraged. While there, take time to walk around the outside of the church to appreciate its façade from every angle.
Stroll Calle Ángel Flores
The Calle Ángel Flores runs out to the Malecon, from Olas Altas to Calle Niños Héroes. This popular tourist street houses 19th-century historic homes, restored in vibrant colours. Hanging from the colourful buildings, the papery petals of bougainvillea scream Instagram.
Oddly, the street was constructed at different levels. The road runs on the lower level, and you can admire the beautiful flora here.
However, the houses run along an upper level with a narrow sidewalk. Walking the skinny pathway, we admired the unique railings and ornamental ironwork.
Shop At Pino Suarez Market
There are lots of places to shop in Mazatlán, Mexico. However, the Pino Suarez Market in Old Mazatlan offers a little of everything and has great prices. It caters to both locals and tourists. Browsing the different selections of fruit and vegetables was interesting.
I couldn’t believe the size of the papayas. They were the size of watermelons! However, I was horrified to see whole pigs’ heads and pigs’ feet available for purchase.
Visitors can buy pure vanilla, t-shirts, candy, hand-embroidered goods, and silver at bargain prices in the covered market.
See The Beatles
Being from Britain, I was shocked to walk out to the Malecon and see a monument of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road. The tribute to the Beatles is Mazatlan’s newest attraction along Liverpool Street.
The bronze statues feature the four members crossing the street, with Paul McCartney barefoot, like on the “Abbey Road” album.
Along with the monument, visitors will find several British red phone boxes, a British Mailbox, and a Morris Mini. At the other end of the Callejón Liverpool, the “yellow submarine” contrasts significantly against the white and grey buildings.
Swim At Carpa Olivera
Inspired by the sea pools in Lisbon, La Alberca de Mar allows swimmers to wade in a pool filled by the ocean tides. Visitors can enjoy the complimentary pool without fear of being swept away by the waves. The concrete pool and waterslide are ideal for children and those without strong swimming abilities.
On the Malecon and above the pool, a mermaid statue called “La Mujer Delfin” was added in 2004. It’s one of many interesting statues found along the oceanfront.
Walk The Mazatlan Malecon
Mazatlan’s Malecon stretches 21 kilometers (13 miles) along the waterfront. Like the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta, it is dotted with unique sculptures depicting local history. One of the most impressive sculptures is the “Continuity of Life,” a series of dolphins celebrating Mazatlan’s sea life.
Another favourite sculpture is Pedro Infante’s motorcycle sculpture. If you are not familiar with Pedro Infante, he was Mexico and Latin America’s biggest movie star. Along the Malecon, visitors can stop at the Pedro Infante Museum, where you can learn about Pedro Infante.
It’s best to walk small sections then wave down a taxi to move onto the next part. Once you’re ready to head back to the Mazatlan cruise port, there’s no shortage of taxis to get you there.
See The Colourful Mazatlan Sign
Grab a taxi to the Gold Coast to see the Mazatlan tourist sign. The Letras de Mazatlan is a fun place to get a selfie if you’re patient enough to wait your turn. If you’re taking a Pulmonia tour of the city, ask your taxi driver to stop for a photo.
The backdrop of the Malecon is so picturesque. Considered one of the longest oceanfront walkways in the world, the vast stretch of sandy beach and crashing waves is quite soothing.
Visitor’s Tip: If you find this Mazatlan sign too busy, there’s another one. Further south on the Malecon, across the street from the Monumento al Pescador (fisherman monument), you’ll find the other one void of people.
Escape To Stone Island
If you’re looking for the perfect beach day in Mazatlan, why not consider island hopping? For just a few dollars, you can take a water taxi to Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island) which is an island paradise close to Mazatlan.
Locals and visitors know Stone Island for its long stretches of sand, coconut trees, and calm, warm waters. Take the ½ mile boat ride from Playa Sur Embarcadero, just south of the Mazatlan cruise terminal, to reach Stone Island.
Stone Island is a great place to spend the day hanging out on a beautiful sandy beach, going horseback riding, riding ATVs on the sand, or just enjoying the amazing Mexican food and beer. Other activities offered include kayaking, banana boats, and boogie boarding.
Hike To El Faro
From your cruise ship, look far left to a mound at the tip of Mazatlan city. This mound is Cerro del Creston and the home to El Faro Lighthouse, one of the highest working lighthouses globally.
Still working today, the lighthouse attracts visitors and locals who hike the trail to enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the city and the Pacific Ocean.
The start of the hike is one mile from the cruise port and easily reached on foot or by Pulmonia. While the hike is not long, the last portion contains 336 stairs with a steep uphill climb.
Visitors can hike the trail for free but have the option to walk a glass skywalk at the top for 20 pesos or USD 1. Allow an hour to 90 minutes to enjoy this hike, and you’ll still have time to enjoy the rest of the city.
Since the temperatures in Mazatlan are extreme at midday, I’d recommend doing the El Faro hike early in the morning or just before sunset.
Tour Pacifico Brewery
If you’re a beer drinker, you’ll be happy to know Pacifico Brewing Company makes its beer in Mazatlan.
Tours are available if booked in advance, and during the visit, you will have a chance to tour the malting and fermenting rooms and learn about the history of the Pacifico brand. Of course, the best part is sampling its brews.
Do note; there is a dress code. Visitors must wear leather closed-toed shoes (no runners), long pants, and long-sleeved shirts. You must also remove jewelry for the duration of the tour.
No short-sleeved shirts, tank tops, shorts, tennis shoes, high-heels, or baseball caps are allowed for safety reasons. The minimum age is 18, but you must be 21 years of age if you want to sample beer.
If you can’t arrange this tour in advance, some cruise lines offer this 4-1/2-hour port excursion for about USD 70.
Sample Authentic Mexican Food
Strolling along the Malecon, I met some fellow Canadians who were now residing in Mazatlan, Mexico. I was looking for a great Mexican restaurant for lunch, so they recommended Panchos on the waterfront.
I was lucky enough to get a table on the patio next to the beach. It was a great place to watch people Parasailing and locals peddling their wares.
The service at Panchos was good, the food flavorful and well presented. I had the Tres Amigos Molcajete that arrived at my table sizzling in what looked to be a bowl made of lava? The coconut shrimp was equally as good.
While Panchos is a significant distance from the cruise ship port, it’s a fantastic place to eat and experience the vibe of Mexico. So, take a taxi here to enjoy a meal because this is the place to eat in Mazatlan.
Go Golfing in Mazatlan
You’ll be happy to know Mazatlan has four golf courses if you’re an avid golfer.
The Estrella Del Mar Golf Course near the Mazatlán Airport is a championship golf course right on the ocean. It is an 18-hole, par 72 course designed by renowned golf course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr.
The El Cid golf course is actually three 9-hole golf courses: Marina, Moro, and Castilla. This course was designed by PGA Tour Legend and Hall of Fame player and designer Lee Trevino. It’s a diverse course with many shots along canals and next to ponds.
In Mazatlan, visitors can take a parasailing tour from the beach in the Golden Zone district. I enjoyed the best views of the Malecon and beaches 300 feet in the air.
What an exhilarating experience that was. While Brian and I have done duo parasailing in Cabo San Lucas, the excursion there is done from the back of a boat.
The parasailing flight is inexpensive at USD 40 and requires no reservation. Tours only run if the weather conditions allow.
Visit Huana Coa Park
For the adventurer, consider a half-day trip to Huana Coa Park, 40-minutes from Mazatlan, Mexico. This mountainous paradise surrounded by jungle and arid desert offers visitors adventure sports with nine zip lines and all-terrain vehicles.
Your adventure begins with a military vehicle ride over steep inclines, which takes you to the top of the zip line starting point. You will fly down on nine zip lines that offer impressive views of the blue agave fields. To complete your journey, you will be rewarded with a shot of tequila for your activity.
Go Whale Watching
Between December and March, humpback whales gather in the Sea of Cortez to give birth. If you’re travelling during this time, I highly recommend a whale watching tour. While I’ve taken many whale watching tours in Juneau, Alaska, the excursions in Mexico are half the price.
Since the humpback whales are not feeding as they do in Alaska, they spend their days playing in the waves. It’s not unusual to see giant humpbacks breaching, performing fin slaps, and splashing in the ocean.
Take A Segway Tour
For those who prefer not to do a walking tour, consider a Segway excursion instead. Segways are easy to ride, fun to operate, and you’ll cover more ground in a short amount of time.
The small group guided tour includes the cathedral, cliff divers, Plaza Machado, and a ride along the Malecon.
Tour operators provide helmets and instructions on riding a Segway. After a couple of minutes, Brian and I were zipping around on our Segways like seasoned pros.
If you plan to visit Mazatlan, Mexico, by cruise ship, the “Pearl of the Pacific” has everything visitors can ask for. Ultimately, this is a place to add to your bucket list.
Happy travel ~ Karen