Welcome to this guide on things to do in Mazatlán.
Did you know Mazatlán has around 21km of sandy beaches?
Mazatlán is a popular beach-side city destination located in the state of Sinaloa, up in the North of Mexico that you wouldn’t want to miss.
Famed for its long promenade, which stretches over 8 km (the longest in all of Latin America) it is also a great area for surfing as well as diving and has some of the best Pacific sunsets in the entire country.
Things to do in Mazatlan
In this guide, we’ll look at the city, safety expectations, what you can see and do as well as my tips to get the most out of a trip here.
Why Travel to Mazatlan?
Despite seeming less connected and “out of the way” compared with popular destinations like Cancún and Mexico City, Mazatlán is one of Mexico’s popular tourist destinations for both locals and foreigners.
Reliable, hot weather and beaches are a big draw for many, and as a result, the international airport receives daily flights from the USA.
If you compare Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta you’ll see there are plenty of other reasons to visit aside from the beach. For nature lovers, there are a few islands off-shore that will be of interest.
- 1. Isla de Pájaro – Islands of Birds
- 2. Isla de Venados – Islands of Deer
- 3. Isla de Lobos – Islands of Wolves
These are called, Isla de Pájaro, Isla de Venados, and Isla de Lobos which each have their own particular style and interests.
For the cultural traveler who is looking for a more authentic Mexican experience, then Mazatlan is a great choice.
Even though Mazatlan receives many travelers from abroad, and has caught the eye of many travel industries, it doesn’t end there.
There is still an absence of tour providers and hagglers in much of the town that you would find the most popular destinations.
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You can head freely into the markets, visit old churches and other attractions or simply drink some cold beers on the beach and really feel like you are taking in a piece of the ‘real’ Mexico and its culture.
Is it safe to travel to Mazatlan?
One of the first questions people ask about Mexico is the safety situation, given that there tends to be a more negative spotlight on the country.
Whilst there is the presence of drug cartels in this region, the violence is between gangs and locals that have got involved in the drug trade.
As long as you are sensible and avoid heading to less built-up areas then you will have an enjoyable, trouble-free experience.
Make sure you get acquainted with the areas of Mazatlán and indeed Sinaloa as a whole before you go to be sure, and you will see that the violence is more localized rather than spread out.
As already stated, due to Mazatlán being a popular destination-break for Americans and Europeans looking for sunnier climates.
You’ll find great infrastructures here such as hotels and restaurants in the built-up areas, and more police presence giving the city a more safe feel.
Things to do in Mazatlán
Mazatlán is full of both interesting and important attractions, which draw visitors from both the country and abroad to see.
Below we will look at some of them in detail, and provide info on how to reach some of the harder to get to ones.
There are others of course that are not included such as the Isla de Lobo and Gran Plaza (Shopping Mall), as well as museums but in this article, we’ll focus on the more popular and interesting ones.
Also known as the Old City, is where many of the neoclassical houses and historic landmark buildings can be found.
You should visit the Plaza Machado, with rows of perfectly lined palm trees and flowerbeds that turn the square into a beautiful area for a stroll.
You should also visit the Mazatlán Cathedral, a beautiful neoclassical and neo-gothic style church which features an altar carved from marble, depicting the last supper.
It is also in this area where you can catch the infamous pulmonía, a golf-cart turned taxi that will get you to wherever you need in style!
Already touched upon, the longest promenade in Latin America features tonnes of public art, food stalls, and bars along its boardwalk.
Along with popular places such as Puerto Vallarta, this is also one of the best places in the Mexican Pacific to see the sun go down, so head a bit earlier and find yourself a spot among the crowds that gather here.
If you are lucky, then you may also be able to witness a cliff-diving show where the participants test their fate by diving into the waves below.
As easy as it seems, you will soon realize that the waves are constantly coming and going, revealing a bed of rocks underneath. Timing the jump right can mean the difference between life and death for them!
The lighthouse of Mazatlán is located in the south-west portion of the city and is on top of the large Cerro Crestón rock that jets out into the sea.
With over 350 steps to surmount, the views from the top are incredible and are a great place to sip a drink and watch the sunset over the Pacific.
Beaches in Mazatlan
As the most popular attraction for travelers and people backpacking Mazatlan the beaches are amazing!
Whether you just want to relax, go surfing, snorkeling, or scuba diving you’ll have no trouble finding watersports and activities here.
The best places to visit in Mazatlan for snorkeling are said to be on the Deer and Goat island and there is no need to guess, there are enough knowledge guides to help you decide.
Let’s take a further look into some of the beaches that are worth your precious time.
Playa Olas Altas
Playa Olas Altas is one of the most popular options, which can be accessed directly from the southern side of the malecón. For a quieter, more expansive beach then take a short boat ride over to Isla de la Piedra.
There are some palapas that line the start of the beach (wooden huts that serve food and drink), and views of palm trees and blue water that seemingly fading out into the distance.
Playa Brujas is hands down the best option for the surfers out there!
Isla de Venados
Designated as a nature reserve, this island is protected by Mazatlán and in turn, has many watchtowers and tourist trails already developed.
Whilst it is the most popular island to visit, you can find lots of open quiet spaces perfect for a picnic, rocky hills for hiking, and a plethora of secluded beaches. So be sure to carry some suitable footwear with you.
Isla de Pájaros
One of the best islands for bird-watching and nature overall, you can spot flamingos, pelicans, and an array of beautiful, exotic birds.
You will also find many species of cacti, mangroves, and bromeliads, the latter a tropical plant that is native to the island!
Mazatlan, Mexico: Travel Tips
Below are some tips to help you with deciding when to visit Mazatlan and other useful information that you can use to help you make the most of your stay here in this Mexican paradise.
As with many towns and cities located on the Pacific side, there is a hurricane season that usually arrives between June and September.
So if you are thinking of heading to Mazatlán around these times, then you should be prepared for large amounts of rainfall, which sometimes makes some of the roads temporarily inaccessible.
Best Time to visit Mazatlan
I think the best time to visit would be in the following months of October and November, as there is better weather with a pleasant average of 88°F.
This period is also before the tourist seasons begin in the winter months, which results in a tonne over people visiting as well as increased prices for accommodation and travel.
If you want to whale-watch, then head between December and April where you will have a great chance of seeing Humpback Whales, Orcas, The Fin Whales, and Bryde’s Whales.
You can also spot different species of dolphins including the Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin and the Pan-Tropical Spotted Dolphin.
With lots to do in and around Mazatlán, I will give what I believe is one of the best ways to spend a day exploring this amazing city.
Firstly, wake up early and head up to El Faro to get the blood flowing and to watch the sunrise up over the sea.
After the easy yet stuffy challenge of descending the stairs, catch a taxi and head to the old historic center, where you can grab some street food and marvel at the different buildings and street art on display.
From there, you should head to the small port on the south and take a ferry over to Stone Island and chill on the beach, where there are lots of cheap beers and good eats available.
If you’re on a tight budget get acquainted with some of the local Mexican grocery stores that are on offer to find fruits and other food.
A few hours later, head back to the mainland in time for the sunset at the malecón. From then on, an array of nightclubs and bars along the promenade wait for you!
Where to Stay in Mazatlán
As the perfect beach destination, there are some great places to start right by the beach. Get as close as possible by staying at one of the many hostels or hotels in Mazatlán.
- Designed by Backpackers
- Rooftop Terrace
- Free High Speed WiFi
Located in the ‘Golden Zone’ the Funky Monkey greets all its visitors with a smile! Designer for backpackers but open to all. With just a short walk to all the beautiful beaches, you’d feel right at home here.
For more ideas, I suggest you see this list of hostels if you’re on a tight budget, but getting a place in the golden zone will be a great investment no matter what your budget.
Travel Insurance for Mazatlán
I always recommend backpackers and travelers (no matter who you are) use World Nomads Insurance for fully comprehensive cover.
If you are due to travel soon, you can get a Get A Free Quote by clicking the link or the image above and filling out your details – that way you’ll get instant cover from the exact date that you choose.
On many occasions World Nomads has provided me with reliable insurance cover for travel in Latin America and the rest of the world.
Things to do in Mazatlan
And that’s all for this guide! In this article, we have explored the beachside city of Mazatlán, located up in the region of Sinaloa.
We have looked at the different things to see and do in the city, the islands just off-shore which each offer a slightly different flavor as well as the impressive malecón and lighthouse – two of the city’s biggest attractions.
If you’re concerned about safety see these other safe places to visit in Mexico for inspiration.
I hope with this guide you will have a better idea of how to spend time there, and when is best to go. You will simply find that one trip to Mazatlán will never be enough.
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