If you’re planning a visit to Mazatlan, Mexico you’ll find plenty of variety in this resort town to keep you busy. From the colonial-style architecture, to the historic fishing industry, to the stunning beaches and lively culture, there are plenty of things to do in Mazatlan.
It may be a resort town now, but it existed well before tourism contributed to its popularity, and the richness of its history is found around every corner. The current population of the city is around 500,000 residents.
With cobblestone streets lined with local markets and street vendors selling homemade crafts and food, Mazatlan offers a unique cultural experience. During your visit you can explore the city’s vibrant history as well as its significance in the shrimp fishing industry.
The cost of visiting Mazatlan is also quite reasonable too. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation or an adventure through Mexico’s history, Mazatlan offers all this and more in one unforgettable destination.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which may provide us with a small commission if you make a purchase through them. Thank you for your support!
Where exactly is Mazatlan?
Mazatlan is part of the Mexican Riviera on the Pacific coast of Mexico. It’s about 1,300 miles south of Los Angeles, California. This coastal city is in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico and sits just across from the southern part of the Baja California Peninsula.
The Mazatlan cruise port
The cruise port in Mazatlan has an industrial feel as cargo ships will also dock here as part of the city’s thriving shipping industry. But it’s proximity to the historic part of town is ideal for cruise travelers. Free tram service into the city is provided at the cruise terminal, and you can also grab a taxi or do some shopping at the terminal itself.
The Old City or El Centro is just a mile from the cruise port but you can also hire an open-air taxi (Pulmonia) after negotiating a rate.
Typically, two or three cruise ships at the most may be in port at a time.
The 3 zones of Mazatlan
Mazatlan, Mexico is divided into three main zones: Nuevo Mazatlan in the north, Zona Dorada, and El Centro in the south.
1. Nuevo Mazatlan, also known as the Marina Zone is the newest and most modern part of the city, located in the north. This area is known for its upscale residential communities, modern shopping centers, and luxurious hotels. It offers a more tranquil and upscale environment compared to the bustling center of the city.
2. Zona Dorada, or Golden Zone, is the primary tourist district and is located along the beachfront. This area is filled with all-inclusive resorts, restaurants, and shops catering to tourists. The nightlife in this area is lively and offers plenty of entertainment options for visitors.
3. El Centro (Old Mazatlan), or the center, is the historic heart of Mazatlan and is known for its colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and historic plazas. It is a bustling area filled with local shops, markets, and restaurants offering a glimpse into traditional Mexican culture. The famous Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the Angela Peralta Theater are located in El Centro.
Each of these zones offers a unique experience for visitors and residents alike, making Mazatlan a diverse and vibrant destination.
Ways to get around
Much of Mazatlan is very walkable, but the summer months can get toasty very quickly. Some ways to get around the city include buses, taxis, and pulmonias.
The buses cost around 13 pesos and you can hop on and off as you please. These buses will run into the center of the city as well as along the Malecon (boardwalk) and are usually air-conditioned. Taxis are another way around the city and will cost more but rates are negotiable. A third option are taking one of the city’s festive pulmonias. These are open-air taxis and are a little cheaper.
How did pulmonias get their name? The taxi-drivers didn’t like when these vehicles first started showing up. So they started calling them pulmonias — from the root word we get for pneumonia — to make it sound like all that open air would give riders pneumonia. Well, the name stuck and now tourists are taking pulmonias all over the city.
The big blue line in Mazatlan
If arriving by cruise ship, you will notice a big blue line after you walk out of the terminal in Old Town. You can follow this blue line to various tourist attractions and areas of historical significance. There are volunteers with blue shirts that will answer any questions along the way as you walk the series of blue stripes on the road and walkways. The areas where the blue line travels are also known to have a greater police presence to keep tourists safe as well.
If you want a free walking tour of some of the most well-known spots in Mazatlan the “blue line walk” might be a good option for you, especially if it’s your first time in the city.
Best things to do in Mazatlan, Mexico
Visit the historic district of Old Mazatlan
Old Mazatlan (Centro Historico) is located in the heart of the city and is considered to be the cultural and historic center. It is here that you can explore cobblestone streets, old Spanish-style buildings, and ancient churches. You can also visit El Faro lighthouse, which offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
Other attractions include the Plaza Machado, a popular spot for music and entertainment; the Plazuela República; and Mercado Pino Suárez market. The district also has several museums, including Museo Arqueológico de Mazatlán, which features artifacts from pre-Hispanic cultures, as well as Museo de Arte e Historia de Mazatlán. More on these locations later.
Visit the stunning beaches of Mazatlan
Mazatlan, Mexico is known for its stunning beaches and vibrant atmosphere. Whether you’re a beach bum or an adventure seeker, Mazatlan has something for everyone.
The beaches are made up of beautiful white sand that stretches out for miles and crystal-clear waters that make swimming and other water activities incredibly enjoyable. If you want to get away from the crowds, there are plenty of secluded beaches to explore as well.
And despite what you may hear, the beaches in Mazatlan are free for everyone to enjoy.
- Playa Norte: This is a long, wide, and sandy beach that has mostly calm waters, so it’s great for swimming and relaxing. Playa Norte is about 7 miles north of El Centro.
- Playa Olas Altas: Because of the bigger waves this beach is a famous surf spot. The beach is surrounded by restaurants too, so grabbing a bite to eat while enjoying a beach day should be no problem. This beach is about 3 miles south of El Centro.
- Playa Camaron: Want a small, secluded beach that is great for snorkeling? Playa Camaron might be for you. It has limited facilities and is roughly 8 miles south of El Centro.
- Playa Brujas: This beach has a wide shore and is ideal for long walks and relaxation. It has a few restaurants not far away as well. This beach is about 10 miles south of El Centro.
- Playa Sabalo: This a busy beach for good reason. Popular for its water sports and restaurants, Playa Sabalo has a nice wide shore and is perfect for families and those who want some water sports. It’s about 4 miles south of El Centro.
- Playa Gaviotas: Located in the Golden Zone, this beach has been called one of the worst kept secrets of Mazatlan. The wide-open and clean beach has shallow waters. It’s located behind some shops and restaurants but you can find an entrance if coming from the road. Water sports and activities are offered at this beach as well.
Walk along the Malecon
The Malecon of Mazatlan, Mexico is a beautiful 13-mile stretch of boardwalk that overlooks the Pacific coast. It is the longest such boardwalk in the country and is the heart and soul of this coastal city.
As such a long waterfront walkway the Malecon offers tons of things to do and see along its palm-tree-dotted path. Intriguing sculptures can be find all along the route, along with fresh fish, live music, miles of beaches, and shops aplenty. The Malecon even has its own Wi-Fi network.
As the longest seawall in the country you will find many people walking, running, and biking in the early mornings or late at night to avoid the heat of the mid-day sun. If you want to bike the Malecon yourself there are plenty of rental places along the way.
Watch the daring cliff divers
Right along the Malecon you can find a small park called “Parque Glorieta Rodolfo Sanchez Taboada”. A mouth-full, I know. It is here you will find a special platform on top of a rock that is used by these cliff-diving daredevils. The platform is called “El Clavadista” which means “cliff diver” and the divers jump from almost 50 feet into sometimes as little as 6 feet of water. It’s quite a spectacle watching these cliff-divers as they must time their jumps with in-coming waves to ensure a little more water on their plunge.
This tradition goes back to the 1900’s when a man first took the dive on a bet. Today, there is no set schedule for when the divers will be there, but it’s an exciting thing to witness if you have the chance.
Hike up to the El Faro lighthouse
For some of the best views in the city look no further than El Faro, one of the highest lighthouses in the world which is about 500 feet above high tide. This is an iconic landmark in Mazatlan and is a popular attraction for those looking to climb its 336 steps to the top. If arriving on cruise ship you will see the lighthouse on top of a small hill right near the port. I would recommend visiting El Faro either when it first opens in the morning or closer to sunset as it can get very hot on the walk up to the top.
It is free for visitors to walk to the top, but there is also a glass-bottom walkway you can enjoy if you pay the extra 20 – 30 pesos for the thrill. The walkway goes over the side of the hill and offers even better unobstructed views. The fee can be paid either at the bottom or the top of the hill.
The lighthouse was built in the 1890s and was an important reference point for ships coming into the port.
Stop by Liverpool Alley
Mazatlan’s tribute to The Beatles, is a popular tourist attraction located in the heart of downtown Mazatlan. The alley features a series of murals celebrating the iconic British band and their music. There are also sculptures and other memorabilia dedicated to the group including a British phone booth, Mini Cooper and even a yellow submarine. Visitors can take pictures with the murals or just soak in the atmosphere of this unique spot.
Explore the market at Mercado Pino Suarez
Feel like shopping at an open-air market in Mexico? Located in Old Town Mazatlan, Mercado Pino Suarez is your ticket.
The wonderful smells of foods of all kinds fill the air near this iconic market. The market is actually divided up in different sections based on types of food. So, whether you’re in the mood for some cheese, chicken, or fruit you can find all kinds of variety.
But of course there are other items available as well, like t-shirts, souvenirs, and hand-crafted baskets. The upper level of the market has a few restaurants with balcony views which offer the perfect place for people watching. Mercado Pino Suarez has a rich history that dates back to the 1900’s, so if you want a bit of authentic culture this is a great place to visit
Visit Plaza Machado
Plaza Machado is one of the most popular and recognizable spots in Mazatlan. Smack dab in the heart of Old Town, the plaza is a great place to take a leisurely stroll, enjoy some of the local culture, or just take a break from walking the Malecon all day.
There are all kinds of handmade crafts, food and souvenirs available from street vendors in the plaza. There are also plenty of restaurants to choose from, as well as a few traditional Mexican monuments.
Tour the Basilica
The Basilica of Mazatlan (Catedral Basílica de la Inmaculada Concepción) is one of the most important religious monuments in all of Mexico. Situated in the historic center of Mazatlan, it was built in 1875. The Neo-Gothic style building has two towers at its entrance and has become an iconic building in the city. There’s also a museum inside where you can learn more about the history and culture of Mazatlan or you can even take a guided tour to explore the impressive architecture
A unique feature of the Mazatlan cathedral is the Star of David incorporated in the 28 stained-glass windows. It is believed that these symbols were put into the windows as a sign of gratitude for some of the construction funds being given by the Jewish community.
Hop over to Stone Island
Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra) is not actually an island but rather a peninsula, and it’s a very popular place to visit. For about a $2 boat ride you can get transportation to Stone Island, but there are some excursions you can buy as well if you want to enjoy some water sports activities. However, an affordable water taxi let’s you experience the island on your own to see what kind of activities you want to enjoy first.
You can also explore the island’s many hiking trails, taking in the breathtaking views of the surrounding sea and coastline. There are also several restaurants on the island.
Sure, Stone Island is full of natural beauty, but it’s also rich in history and culture. You can learn about the island’s heritage at a local museum, and appreciate some of the colonial style architecture. Overall, a visit to Stone Island is a must for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and experience the beauty and tranquility of Mexico’s stunning coast.
If you want to see both Old Town Mazatlan and Stone Island you can check out this excursion through our partner.
Go Horseback Riding on Stone Island
As you may have seen in the video above, Stone Island offers horseback riding along the beach and through the lush landscape of this area. The ride starts at the beach and goes toward a coconut plantation on the peninsula as you pass by coconut trees and mango plantations. The horses are easy to manage even for first-time riders.
Visit Deer Island
Deer Island is a small island situated off the coast of Mazatlan. Located about 4 miles from the city center, Deer Island offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience nature and the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.
The island is home to hundreds of species of birds, including pelicans and frigate birds. Its sandy beaches provide an ideal setting for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and other water activities. Deer Island also has several restaurants located onsite serving up delicious local cuisine. There are even boat tours that depart from nearby Punta Camaron that will take you around the island and its many attractions.
By the way, the name “Mazatlan” actually comes from a pre-hispanic word which means “place of the deer”. So you will find many nods to deer in and around the city.
Visit the Mazatlan Museum of Art
The Mazatlan Museum of Art is located in the heart of the city just one block from the Malecon in the Mazatlan Centro Historico building. It features a variety of art from local, national and international sources. The museum offers a wide range of temporary and permanent exhibits, as well as educational programs, lectures and workshops.
You can explore works from Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera and Tamayo. There is also an extensive collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts on display. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 2pm and also 5pm to 8pm, and admission is free, but donations are welcome.
Stop by the Mazatlan Aquarium
Mazatlan has an impressive aquarium with all kinds of sea creatures to enjoy in the facility that’s only one block from the Malecon. Besides touch tanks that allow you to interact with the fish and tanks with glowing jellyfish, there is also a sea lion show and there are even alligators on site. Outside, there is also a live show with parrots and other exotic birds that perform tricks and stunts to the delight of the crowd. With its variety of species, educational exhibits, and hands-on activities, the Aquarium of Mazatlan is a great stop for travelers who love marine life.
Take a day trip to the El Quelite village
One of the most popular day trips from Mazatlan is a trip to El Quelite. The colorful town is a quaint village of cobblestone streets and vibrant buildings and is only 25 miles from Mazatlan. Many visitors have fallen in love with this place that can easily be explored on foot, but you may even see residents using horses around town. There are lovely little shops and galleries to enjoy, and hand-made items are sold without the high-pressure of more touristy areas. And when it’s time to get a bite to eat El Quelite has some great pastry shops and street vendors to choose from.
Check out this excursion to El Quelite which includes watching dancing horses in this magical town.
Take a day trip to the Copala village near Mazatlan
Another day trip idea, a quick journey to the Copala village near Mazatlan is a great way to explore the area and get a little taste of local Mexican culture. The small mountain village provides great views of the surrounding Sierra Madre Mountains and is known for its colorful colonial buildings, cobblestone streets, and friendly locals.
You can easily spend a day exploring the village’s sights, from hiking trails along the mountainside to visiting the local shops. And why not try some of the local cuisine while you’re there? Grab some tacos with handmade tortillas or tlayudas topped with beans and cheese. You can also learn about traditional Mexican culture by visiting one of Copala’s churches or taking a cooking class.
Go on a whale watching tour
Mazatlan is one of the best places in Mexico to go whale watching. The city is located on the Pacific Coast, making it a great spot for tourists to see some of the most majestic creatures in the world. The best time to go whale watching is during January and February when it’s calving season and more whales are around. On the tour, you will likely see humpback whales, grey whales, orcas, and dolphins as they migrate past Mazatlan.
Go on a fishing trip
Mazatlan is a popular destination for sports fishermen due to its thriving fishing industry. The waters around the city are well known for all kinds of fish, including marlins, sailfish, tuna, and dorado, making it a prime location for sport fishing.
A fishing charter is the best way to take a fishing trip in Mazatlan. These charters offer a range of services and options, from half-day trips to multi-day excursions. You’ll be given all the right gear, including rods, reels, and bait, as well as experienced crew members who know the best spots to catch the biggest fish.
A fishing charter in Mazatlan can be a unique and thrilling experience. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a beginner, the clear waters and diverse marine life make it a fantastic place to fish.
If bass fishing is your thing you can check out the excursion below to Mexico’s hottest bass fishing spot at an attractive lake nearby.
See the private lake bass fishing excursion through our partner here.
Visit the Angela Peralta Theater
The Angela Peralta Theater (Teatro Angela Peralta) is an iconic landmark in Mazatlan, Mexico. Located in the heart of the city’s historic district, it was built in 1874 and served as one of the main performance venues for operas, concerts, and theatrical productions until its closure in 2008. It reopened in 2011 after extensive renovations and continues to host a variety of events year-round.
The theater is named after soprano Angela Peralta, who sang her last performance at the theater in 1883 before dying of yellow fever. Visitors can take guided tours of the theater to learn more about its history and architecture, or attend one of the many performances held there throughout the year.
Check out the Mazagua Water Park
About a 30 minute drive from Mazatlan, Mazagua Water Park offers tons of fun for those who love water parks. Cost to enter the park is only 250 pesos at the time of this writing, which equates to roughly $13. With 14 different water slides and attractions, Mazagua Water Park can definitely keep you busy, and there are some pretty serious twists and turns on some of these rides.
Book a resort for the day
Mazatlan has some very nice resorts along the beach. If you just want a relaxing beach day you can use a service like Resort for a Day and enjoy the pools, food, loungers, umbrellas, and other amenities that a resort offers.
You can also book a resort in Mazatlan through our partner here and have all-day access to a top-rated resort hassle-free.
Soak in Mexican Hot Springs
On this excursion you will visit a small village nearby that has two hot spring pools. And yes, the waters come straight from a natural hot spring source and there are no chemicals added. Many claim healing properties for these waters and they are known to help blood circulation. After you have spent time in the pools you can explore the quaint village and enjoy some lunch.
Check out this hot springs excursion here through our partner.
With so many wonderful things to do in Mazatlan, Mexico we hope you find something from this list that will help you plan your visit to this unique coastal city. If you’re visiting on a cruise it may be hard to do as much as you’d like, but even if you stay along the Malecon you can find plenty of things to do while staying close to port.
By the way, if you’re looking for one of the best views of the city, head to Best Western Posada Freeman and walk up the stairs to the top of the building. This building was the first high-rise hotel in Northern Mexico and was built in 1944. And even today it offers fantastic, unobstructed views of Mazatlan.
Let us know what you like to do when visiting Mazatlan.