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  • sails-beach-Mazatlan-Mexico - Sailboarders and catamarans on the beach in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • south-Mazatlan-Mexico - South Mazatlan beach and islands, with morning waves, as seen from the Belmar Hotel, Sinaloa, Mexico.
  • cathedral-Mazatlan-Mexico - The majestic Cathedral in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • shrimp-Mazatlan-Mexico - A shrimp lunch in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • atv-Mazatlan-Mexico - All-terrain vehicles ready to roll on the beach at Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • building-Mazatlan-Mexico - Local architecture in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • parque-Mazatlan-Mexico - A row of outdoor restaurants alongside a park in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • blue-house-Mazatlan-Mexico - Blue house in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • sunset-Mazatlan-Mexico - A scenic sunset in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Mazatlan-Valentino - Valentino's and the Fiestaland Complex in Mazatlan.
  • Mazatlan-Immaculate-Conception-Cathedral - Inside the magnificent Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Angela-Peralta-Theatre-Mazatlan - Inside the historic Angela Peralta Theatre in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Tehuana-artwork - Artwork titled "Tehuana" inside the Angela Peralta Theatre in Old Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Mazatlan-plaza-panorama - Panorama of the main plaza in Old Mazatlan, shot with an iPhone 5.
  • Mazatlan-Malecon - A panorama of the Malecon, the main drag hugging the coastline in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • mazatlan-cathedral - Outisde the historic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, completed in 1899, in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • mazatlan-cathedral-interior - Inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • mazatlan-beachfront.jpg - A sailboat and banana boat rest on the beach of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • mazatlan-Cathedral-of-Immaculate-Conception.jpg - The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, an unmistakable fixture in the Mazatlan skyline, as seen from Ruby Princess.
  • mazatlan-cliff-diver.jpg - Watch cliff divers perform at El Clavadista on the Malecon in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • mazatlan-malecon.jpg - The southern stretch of the miles-long Malecon in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • mazatlan-parasailer.jpg - A parasailer comes in for a landing in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Mazatlan-skyline.jpg - A glimpse of the classic skyline of Mazatlan as seen from Ruby Princess.
  • Cathedral-Mazatlan.jpg - Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Historic-District-Mazatlan.jpg - Café Pacifico on the Plazuela Machado in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Cliff-Diver-Mazatlan.jpg - A clavadista, or cliff diver, in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Cosala1-Mazatlan.jpg - Cosala, north of Mazatlan, Mexico is one of the most beautiful villages in the state of Sinaloa.
  • Cosala2-Mazatlan.jpg - A historic home in Cosala, north of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Cosala4-Mazatlan.jpg - Strolling the streets of Cosala, Mexico.
  • Cosala14-Mazatlan.jpg - A canopy tour near Cosala, Mexico.
  • dancer-Mazatlan.jpg - A dance performance in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Delphos-Contemporary-Ballet-Mazatlan.jpg - Delphos Contemporary Dance in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • El-Faro-Lighthouse-Mazatlan.jpg - El Faro, the lighthouse of Mazatlan, is a top hiking location.
  • El-Quelite-Mazatlan.jpg - A resident of El Quelite, a town just north of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • bird-Mazatlan.jpg - A bird near Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • shrimp-lime-Mazatlan.jpg - Shrimp and lime in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • cliffs-Mazatlan.jpg - The cliffs of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • deep-sea-fishing-Mazatlan.jpg - Deep sea fishing off the coast of Mazatlan, Mexico. (It's a genuinely thrilling experience, even if this photo is a bit sketchy.)
  • Plaza-Machado-Mazatlan.jpg - Located in the Centro Histórico of Mazatlan, Plazuela Machado offers many dining options.
  • Deer-Island-Mazatlan.jpg - Deer Island, just off the coast of Mazatlan, offers wonderful beaches to explore.
  • Kayak-Mazatlan.jpg - Kayaking off the Golden Zone of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Marina-El-Cid-Mazatlan.jpg - Marina El Cid, part of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Mariner-of-the-Seas-in-Mazatlan.jpg - Mariner of the Seas in port in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Mazatlan-International-Center.jpg - Mazatlan International Center in Mexico.
  • colonial-houses-Mazatlan.jpg - Colonial style houses in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Playa-Olas-Altas-Mazatlan.jpg - The Playa Olas Altas area of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Teatro-Angela-Peralta-Mazatlan.jpg - Outside Teatro Angela Peralta in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • El-Centenario-Drive-Mazatlan.jpg - A scenic area of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • El-Camaron-Beach-Mazatlan.jpg - Playa El Camaron in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Playa-Norte-Mazatlan.jpg - Playa Norte in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Sabalo-Beach-Mazatlan.jpg - Playa Sabalo in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • altar-Rosario-Mazatlan.jpg - The altar in Our Lady of the Rosary in El Rosario, south of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • altar-Rosario-Mazatlan-1.jpg - El Rosario, south of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Surfing-Mazatlan.jpg - Surfing the big waves in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Teacapan-Mazatlan.jpg - Teacapan, Sinaloa, Mexico is located on the Agua Grande river and feeds one of the largest estuaries in Mexico.
  • Golden-Zone-Mazatlan.jpg - Zona Dorada, the Golden Zone, is a restored area of Mazatlan with some of its finest beaches.
  • Policia-Municipal - A black-masked municipal policeman in Old Mazatlan caught passersby's attention.
  • Golden-Zone2-Mazatlan.jpg - The Golden Zone of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Sightseers-in-Mazatlan - Sightseers from Ruby Princess during a tour of Old Mazatlan.
  • Mazatlan-Cathedral - Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Mazatlan.
  • Mazatlan-colonial-district - The colonial district of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Mazatlan-Divers-Rock - Famed Diver's Rock in Mazatlan. (Um, check your insurance coverage first.)
  • Mazatlan-Huana-Coa-canopy-tour - A local woman preps for a zipline during a canopy tour in Huana Coa, north of Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Mazatlan-Plaza-Machado - Dining in the Plaza Machado in Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Mazatlan-Rhapsody-of-the-Seas - Rhapsody of the Seas near Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Old-Mazatlan - A street corner in Old Mazatlan, Mexico.
  • Mazatlan-fishing-village - Houses along the waterfront of Mazatlan, Mexico, as seen from Ruby Princess.

Mazatlan travel guide: What to do & see

our guide

The vibe

Stretching 15 miles along a beach-studded coastline, Mazatlán is one of Mexico’s most established and alluring tourist destinations.

It’s also the country’s largest Pacific port and a popular retirement spot for Americans and Canadians.

There’s something for every day-tripper at this stop along the Mexican Riviera, from art galleries and colonial architecture to thatched-roof beach restaurants, golf and sport fishing. And, of course, beaches, beaches and more beaches.

Before or after you hit the beach, take a few minutes and stroll down Mazatlán’s impressive waterfront promenade, the Malecon, one of the longest in the world, or head to the historic district (Centro Historico) in Old Mazatlán, which dates all the way back to the 1500s.

Cruise ships that call on Mazatlan

Top reasons to go

  • Rich history, vibrant culture, modern amenities
  • Highly walkable — easy to explore on your own
  • This is a beach lover’s paradise!

Top things to do & see in Mazatlan

Beaches

There's no shortage of beaches in Mazatlan, especially in the so-called “Zona Dorada,” or Golden Zone hotel district north of downtown. Two of the prettiest strands: Playa Sábalos, notable for its silky sand, and Playa Cerritos, a quiet strand with palm trees and palapa restaurants. Also popular with day trippers is Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island), actually a peninsula reached via a short boat ride. The surf is gentle, umbrella restaurants serve excellent seafood and many diversions — boat tours, horseback riding, ATV excursions — are available on the spot to round out your day.

Valentino's and the Fiestaland Complex in Mazatlan.
Ricardo Espinosa / Courtesy of Mexico Tourism Board Valentino's and the Fiestaland Complex in Mazatlan.

Sightseeing

The historic district (Centro Historico) at the heart of Old Mazatlán dates to the 1500s and has blossomed in recent years into an engaging restaurant, shopping, arts and entertainment area. Its nucleus is the Plazuela Machado, a colorful, leafy square lined with patio restaurants and other inviting venues. Download a self-guided walking-tour map here or pick one up at the tourist office.

Matzatlán’s waterfront walkway, the Malecon, stretches an impressive 13 miles. Let serendipity be your guide as you stroll all or part of this scrupulously clean promenade, preferably in early morning or late afternoon, when the light is golden. Stunning views, authentic mom-and-pop eateries, posh resorts and great people-watching can easily consume hours of your day.

If your ship happens to be in port the first Friday of the month between November and May, don't miss the Mazatlan Artwalk, which runs from 4 to 8 pm and includes dozens of artists, galleries and studios.

Boat tours & water sports

Sailing and motor-craft tours can be booked as shore excursions or on your own. Most visit or pass by a trio of off-shore islands, Chivos, Venados and Pájaros, as well as the peninsula known as Isla de la Piedra. Each has its own set of attractions, from kayaking to surfing, scuba-diving, parasailing and banana-boat rides.

Shopping

You’ll find all manner of boutiques selling clothing, souvenirs, jewelry and more in the vicinity of Plazuela Machado and the Olas Altas tourist area. For a taste of authenticity, head to the Mercado Pino Suárez, or Central Market, to ogle mountains of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, spices and baked goods, all packed into a block-square iron building dating to 1899 and inspired by the Eiffel Tower.

Golf

Top courses in Mazatlan include the Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed Estrella del Mar; the two courses at El Cid Country Club (including the new Marina Nine designed by Lee Trevino); the David Fleming-designed Marina Mazatlan and the nine-hole Club de Golf Campestre.

South Mazatlan beach and islands, with morning waves, as seen from the Belmar Hotel, Sinaloa, Mexico.
Wonderlane / Creative Commons BYSouth Mazatlan beach and islands, with morning waves, as seen from the Belmar Hotel, Sinaloa, Mexico.

Family-friendly options

  • Acuario Mazatlán: The Mazatlan Aquarium, one of the largest in Latin America, showcases sea life from near and far, as well as colorful botanical gardens and wildlife shows guaranteed to enthrall youngsters.
  • Zip-line madness: Zip-line canopy tours have become a fixture at Mexican ports-of-call, and in Mazatlán, leading operators include Veraneado Adventures and Huana Coa Canopy Adventure. The former’s facility, 35 miles from town, features a dozen zips with heights up to 300 feet and stomach-churning distances of more than 700 feet. Huana Coa, a bit farther out, bills itself as an “eco-park” and offers similar family fun.

YOLO (You only live once!)

Sport fishing: Reserve in advance to join a sportfishing charter to prime angling areas just off the coast, where sailfish, marlin, swordfish, snapper, tripper, snook and tuna abound. Freshwater bass fishing in nearby Lago El Salto and Lago Mateos is another possibility. The billfishing season runs October to May.

Don’t miss

Scrumptious seafood: Fishing fleets go out daily and come back loaded with flopping bounty that goes directly to restaurants without ever seeing a freezer. Whether you enjoy simple fish tacos at a palapa restaurant on the beach or a gourmet meal in a white-tablecloth restaurant, don’t miss out. A specialty is zarandeado, a stuffed and grilled whole-fish preparation.

Best bets for dining

An important tip for travelers: Avoid eating street food and drinking tap water — choose bottled water instead.

Dining in the Plaza Machado in Mazatlan.
Ricardo Espinosa / Courtesy of Mexico Tourism Board Dining in the Plaza Machado in Mazatlan.

Best time to go

High season: November–April

Shoulder season: May–June

Rainy season (also hurricane season): July–September

The climate is temperate, with July through early October the most hot and humid time of year.

Fun facts

  • Mazatlán is often called the “Pearl of the Pacific.”
  • Pulmonias are a form of transportation unique to Mazatlán. Though often described as “oversized golf carts,” the open-air taxis originated in the 1960s as converted Volkswagen Things. The chassis today are locally manufactured. The vehicles are metered, as are Mazatlán’s regular taxis.

When you arrive

Docking information

Cruise ships dock at the commercial port, which is walking distance (about 20 minutes) to the Historic District. A blue line painted down the middle of the route leads straight to the Plazuela Machado, but you’ll have to elbow your way through a phalanx of taxi drivers and time-share salesmen who will try to convince you to ride, rather than walk. The Zona Dorada (Golden Zone) is about four miles away.

Getting around

Traditional taxis, “eco-taxis,” pulmonias (see above) or public buses will get you where you need to go.

Need to know

Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport.

Language: Spanish, although English is spoken and understood in establishments that cater to tourists.

Currency: Dollars are welcome almost everywhere, but it’s more polite to pay in pesos (you’ll get a better rate, too.)

Safety: The U.S. Department of State issues travel warnings for many areas of Mexico, mostly where crime and violence related to drug cartels have increased. Mazatlan itself is not typically one of those places and, like most tourist areas in Mexico, is generally considered safe. That said, it's wise to leave jewelry, most cash and most credit cards on the ship, limiting what you take with you into port. Use ATMs only during the day and when accompanied by friends or family. In restaurants, remain aware of your belongings and don't hang purses over chairs. To learn more about safety in specific areas, log onto the State Department's web page on Mexico travel warnings.

Your take

Have you been to Mazatlan or are you planning to go? I'd love to hear about your experience or see your photos!

Help improve this article! See anything wrong? What did we overlook? Be a co-creator!

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Janet Fullwood
Janet Fullwood is an editor, writer and photographer-at-large specializing in travel and hospitality topics.

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Overheard

“Besides its golden beaches, Mazatlán still boasts the inexpensive digs, fresh seafood, stellar sportfishing and Mexican day-to-day culture that has appealed to travelers since the 1940s.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“Having outgrown its image as a chintzy mid-20th-century resort town, today’s Mazatlán is one of Mexico’s most alluring and inviting beach destinations.”

Lonely Planet

“This was our favorite port of call on the Mexican Riviera itinerary, a nice sample of the ‘real Mexico.’”

Cruise Critic

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