Mazatlan, also sometimes called the “Pearl of the Pacific,” is one of Mexico’s major tourist destinations, known best for its beautiful beaches, fantastic landmarks and attractions, and hotel-filled coasts. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of margaritas and tacos too!
Even though it is often overshadowed by some of Mexico’s other cities, tourists who chance upon it are surprised by the many fun things to do in Mazatlan. From visiting the old Historic Center to partying with the locals during Carnaval to walking along the city has a lot to offer for your next bucket list adventure.
1. Absorb the Centro Historico/Historic District
What better way to start your Mazatlan adventure than at the beating heart of the city, Centro Historico? Standing since 1842, this historic center has been a witness to Mazatlan’s growth, as well as undergoing its own “revival” during the start of the 21st century. The neighborhood is a melting pot of cultures, best known for its historic buildings and flair.
Being the pulse of the city, you’ll get to understand and fall in love with it even more once you explore its streets. Art galleries, boutiques, restaurants (don’t miss dinner at Casa 46!), and historical attractions like the Angela Peralta Theater and Plaza Machado are just some of the many things you’ll find here.
2. Cross the Baluarte Bridge
Some sights are definitely there to take your breath away, and the Baluarte Bridge does just that. It is the highest cable-stayed bridge in Latin America, suspended at 403 meters (1322 ft) above the Baluarte River between the states of Sinaloa and Durango.
This impressive bridge is part of the Durango-Mazatlan highway, a construction project connecting Durango and Mazatlan through the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range. And while the bridge itself is a spectacular sight, especially from afar, the roads and views leading to it are just as splendid. One such road is the Tunel El Sinaloense, the highway’s longest tunnel.
3. See Basílica de la Inmaculada Concepción
Sightseeing in Mazatlan is never complete without a visit to its towering Baroque-Revival-style church, the Basílica de la Inmaculada Concepción (Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.) Located at the city’s historic center, the church was built between 1856 and 1899 and serves as its main religious building.
If you think its exterior is already beautiful, you better head inside. Different architectural styles, such as Renaissance and Gothic, give the interior an airy, spiritual feel. The city’s patron saint, the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, can be seen over the main altar.
At the front of the church is the Plaza Republica, where you can quietly sit down and take in the church’s majestic view and surrounding area.
4. Catch The Ferry To La Paz
Those looking for more things to do during their trip should check out La Paz. Much like Mazatlan, it is a vibrant port city along the coast of the Gulf of California, a couple of hundred miles across the sea from Mazatlan. It is best known for its laid-back atmosphere, world-class beaches, and islands.
Baja Ferries is currently the only ferry company offering trips to and from the cities in the area. They cross the sea three times each week (Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday), with each trip lasting for about 13 hours. While it is indeed a long trip, there are just enough things to do on the ferry to keep you occupied, like drinking/eating at their bar and restaurant, or watching the sunset in their outdoors area. They also have different cabins, but they run out fast, so it’s best to book in advance (ideally a week before).
5. Climb To The Lighthouse (El Faro)
The El Faro Lighthouse is one of the city’s classic tourist attractions. It is the highest lighthouse in the Americas, located at the top of Cerro del Creston. And climbing to the top is one of the most popular things to do in Mazatlan.
The hike uphill consists of climbing a total of 336 stairs (which can be quite exhausting,) but all those steps meant one heck of a view once you reach the top. From here, you can see the coastline, the city, and the Sierra Madre mountain range.
As a bonus (and for a small fee), you can head over to their glass-floored pier called the Mirador de Cristal (which we did!). Talk about a unique bucket list experience!
6. Visit Deer Island/Isla de Venados
Deer Island is the largest of three islands found near Mazatlan. It is also the most popular of the three, known for its different watersports, great hiking opportunities, and lovely beach. You can get here by boat or by renting one of the local ferry boats the Mazatlecos call an ‘amphibious.’
Some of the activities you can enjoy here include riding a banana boat or kayak, snorkeling within its crystal-clear waters, or just basking under the sun by the beach. If you prefer something out of the water, you can hike up the hill, where you’ll see the island’s natural beauty in all its glory.
7. Enjoy the Nightlife
Mazatlan’s nightlife is definitely alive and kicking. And when it’s time to party, the locals know how to party hard, so you should too!
Whether it be enjoying some music and grub at Joe’s Oyster Bar, drinking locally-brewed beers at Cerveceria Tres Islas, or dancing the night away at Valentino’s, you’ll find lots of bars and restaurants to hop into at their Golden Zone/Zona Dorada district (found along the coast, north of the city’s historic center.)
8. Experience Carnaval
Carnaval de Mazatlan is a centuries-old pre-Lenten carnival celebration in Mazatlan that takes place a couple of days before the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday.) It is also said to be one of the largest carnivals in the world, with over a million people joining in on the celebration each year.
With its colorful parades, brass bands, and carnival royalty coronations (and many more,) it is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated events in Mazatlan.
9. Explore Plaza Machado
Located at the heart of Centro Historico, Plaza Machado is one of Mazatlan’s main squares. It is best known for the many antique buildings and restaurants surrounding it, as well as its local musicians.
Of course, the plaza itself is a scenic one. Different trees and benches dot the place, perfect for a stroll or sitting down while sightseeing/people-watching. Serving as its centerpiece is its beautiful iron gazebo, which is often used by local performers.
PS: Some of Mazatlan’s historical attractions, like the Angela Peralta Theater and the Cathedral, are also just a stone’s throw away from there.
10. Go On A Huana Coa Canopy Adventure
Flying over a lush, tropical jungle in a zipline? Adrenaline-filled ATV ride through roads best taken? Yes, please! The folks over at Huana Coa Canopy Adventure will take you on a unique and exciting journey that will make your Mazatlan adventure an unforgettable one.
The adventure park offers different tours, depending on what you’re in the mood for. The Canopy Tour will zip you through the tree lines with its series of (12) platforms, (9) zip lines, a flexible walking bridge, as well as a nature trek. The ATV tour takes you up close with the wild, jungly outdoors on an ATV, traversing through trails, ranches, the village of La Noria, and a leather factory.
Can’t decide between the two? Why not try them both on their ATV+Canopy Tour? You can also take to the seas aboard a traditional panga or kayak on a Kayak Island Tour. And last but not least, discover and taste Sinaloa-made tequilas on a Viewers Tour at the only blue agave distillery in the state (also included in the Canopy and ATV tours).
11. Go SCUBA Diving
Those who want to go for some fantastic underwater adventures will find Mazatlan just the perfect place to be, especially when it comes to scuba diving. With a diverse marine life, which include puffer fish, lobsters, whales, dolphins, and turtles, it will certainly be a treat for the eyes.
Some of the best places for scuba diving include the islands of Bird (Pajaros), Deer (Venados), and Wolf (Lobos). You can also book one of the tour operators in the city, like Aqua Sports Center and Mazatlan Tours, who can take you to Mazatlan’s hidden underwater gems and diving spots.
12. Pose at the Mazatlan Sign
There’s no better way to commemorate your trip to Mazatlan than striking a pose at the city’s colorful monumental letters. With the beautiful sea as the backdrop, it certainly is an Instagrammable spot for travelers.
You can find the sign at the Malecon (a 13ish-mile esplanade, one of the longest in the world!) near the Golden Zone and Valentinos building. Happy snapping!
13. Spot a Whale
While the sea has its fair share of beautiful creatures and sights to see, one mammal that has surely taken people’s breath away time and again are its gentle giants: the whale.
During the months of December to April, massive whale pods make their way to the Gulf of California to breed. Lucky for us, Mazatlan just happens to be along the path of this annual whale migration, so there’s a good chance to spot these massive underwater mammals during that time.
Tour operators like Onca Explorations are a fantastic way to watch these whales while also learning some fun facts about them at the same time.
14. Hit the Beach
Spend a day at one of Mazatlan’s beaches, and you’ll see why it is one of the city’s main selling points. Although they are not that well-known, their relatively unspoiled sandy beaches and azure waters are a welcome surprise to visitors.
Being in the Pacific, the beaches can range from family-friendly to adrenaline-rushing (some are a no-no, though,) so you’ll definitely find one that suits you. One of the best places includes Playa Brujas (Witches Beach), a surfer’s paradise with great waves (warning: strong undertow,) delicious seafood, and rich local lore.
Another favorite is Playa las Gaviotas (Seagulls Beach), which is a lively spot with plenty of beach-related activities: watersports, beach parties, beach-combing, name it! It’s also near hotels and restaurants, making it a perfect place to stay or catch some grub.
15. Visit the Mazatlan Aquarium/Acuario Mazatlan
The Mazatlan Aquarium (Acuario Mazatlan) is one of the largest aquariums in Latin America. Sitting a couple of minutes away from the coastline, it showcases what the world’s waters has to offer, featuring 52 tanks with over 250 saltwater and freshwater species like clownfish, octopus, sea turtles, seahorses, stingrays, and more.
If that is not amazing enough, the aquarium also hosts bird, sea lion, and diving/feeding shows (perfect for people of all ages!) There’s even a lovely botanical garden and aviary where you can see and hear the birds as you take a breath from your sightseeing.
The Mazatlan Aquarium is also well on its way to completing a larger and grander aquarium dedicated to the Gulf of Mexico (Sea of Cortez) called Acuario Mar de Cortes. It is expected to be completed some time in 2023.
Just to tease you to some of what this new aquarium has to offer: a viewing semi-tunnel and feeding cage for guests, a large 18-feet high window showcasing a recreation of the seafloor called “The Aquarium of the World,” and an interactive space where you’ll use your five senses as the animals do.
16. Play Golf At Estrella del Mar
Care for a round or two of golf? Estrella del Mar has got you covered. Located 6.6 miles (10.7 km) from Mazatlan Airport, the resort features a stunning 18-hole championship world-class golf course that golfers of all levels will enjoy. Six of the holes are located right off the beach, adding a touch of the ocean as you play. You can check out their rates and book some ‘tee’ time on their website.
17. Get Marshmallows at Suave’s
Suaves are coconut-covered marshmallows that have made a name for themselves as the Sweet Pride of Mazatlan. Unlike regular marshmallows, suaves are softer and are not as sticky, with a special coconut flavor that is to die for. You can find these at almost any shop in the city, so you’ll get your hands on one in no time. But that would be too easy, right? If it’s your first time tasting one, let’s make it a bit more special by visiting the place where it all began.
The Suave Marshmallow Factory (which is actually a house) is a family-owned business located in Centro Historico. It is run by the Garcia family, who have been making these sweet treats for more than 50 years.
Inside, you’ll see how they turn simple, all-natural ingredients into the yummy marshmallow loved by the Mazatlecos and tourists. What’s more, you can buy yourself a freshly-made pack of suaves to take with you on the road (or back home, IF you managed to save some!).
18. Ride in a Pulmonia
First-time visitors to Mazatlan will definitely see something eye-catching running on the city’s roads. They are called pulmonias, open-air taxis which are similar to golf carts. They come in all shapes and designs and are one of the stylish ways to get around the city while cruising with some classic tunes.
As for the fare, it tends to vary from driver to driver. Short rides cost around 100 pesos or lower, while an hour’s worth of driving costs at least 300+ pesos. A good rule of thumb is to negotiate the price with the driver first before riding.
“P.S. It is also possible to hire some pulmonias for half/full day trips, with some offering their own itineraries and tours of the city.
19. See A Show At Teatro Angela Peralta
One of Mazatlan’s most important cultural landmarks, the Teatro Angela Peralta (Angela Peralta Theater) is one of the go-to premier venues in Mexico for watching different shows and musical performances from both local and internationally known artists. It is named after Angela Peralta, a renowned 19th century Mexican opera singer known as the “Mexican Nightingale.” You can find the theater near Plaza Machado at the Centro Historico.
The theater boasts a 21,000-square-foot, 1,366 seating capacity and very good acoustics, so you are surely in for a good show. If you happen to catch a show during your visit, be sure to watch one. It’s totally worth it! You can also check out their FB page (albeit in Spanish) for any upcoming shows so you can plan ahead.
20. Surf At Playa Olas Altas
Playa Olas Altas is one of the best surf spots to go to in Mazatlan. If its English name has not given it away (which is High Waves Beach, by the way,) it is known for its rolling waves that go up to 6+ feet, especially during the months of April to October (highly likely in August.) It is located at the Malecon’s southern end, just a couple of blocks from the city’s historic center.
21. Have Fun at Mazagua Water Park
Mazagua is a water park located in the city’s Cerritos area, near the Hotel Riu Emerald Bay. It features 13 different pools and slides that kids of all ages will surely enjoy, from twisting loops to a wave pool to a lazy river to even a zip line.
There are several shops in the water park where you can grab quick bites like tacos, if in case you haven’t brought any food with you. Rental inflatable tubes are also available.
22. Day Trip to El Quelite
Situated 21 miles (33.7 km) northwest of Mazatlan is the small, picturesque farming town of El Quelite. I always make it a point to discover and explore hidden gems like these whenever I visit someplace new, and I was lucky enough to learn about this one.
Colorful houses and streets, as well as boutique arts and crafts galleries, are just some of the things that will draw you to El Quelite. The food is also something you should not miss out on, from fresh tortillas right off the press to authentic Mexican cuisine (we ate at Los Laureanos.) There are even chickens running around at your feet!
Overall, it was a GREAT experience, and definitely worth the day trip during your Mazatlan adventure.
23. Visit Stone Island/Isla de la Piedra
Stone Island (which is actually an 8.6-mile peninsula) is a short boat trip from Mazatlan’s Centro Historico. It is a favorite among the locals, who love to relax on the island with its laid-back atmosphere, coconut trees, beaches, and open-air restaurants.
You can spend a day at the beach enjoying a drink at hand or dipping into the gentle waves. For something more adventurous, there’s kayaking, horseback riding, and even riding an ATV. There are also lots of palapa restaurants to choose from where you can taste traditional dishes like aguachile or fresh seafood.
24. Visit the El Verde Camacho Turtle Sanctuary
Sea turtles are one of the most beloved sea creatures in the world, and there’s a place a couple of miles northwest from Mazatlan where you can see these beautiful turtles in their natural habitat.
El Verde Camacho Turtle Sanctuary aims to protect the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles and preserve their nesting grounds on Mazatlan’s northern beaches. They offer tours to visitors, where you can learn about these sea turtles, as well as the chance to see a baby turtle release.
There are also other activities like hiking, boat riding, and hiking if you want to add a little something to your trip.
25. Walk along the Malecon
Mazatlan is known for many things, and that includes its (approximately) 13-mile esplanade called the Malecon. It runs the length of Mazatlan’s main bay, and is also one of the longest seafront walkways in the world.
The Malecon is always buzzing with activity, from people strolling the walkway to vendors and restaurants selling delicious food to tourists visiting some of its sights like the Mazatlan Sign and the Monument to the Family. And the sunsets? Simply breathtaking!
26. See a Baseball Game
Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Mazatlan, and the locals have no problems showing their love and support for the local baseball team, the Venados of Mazatlan (Mazatlan Deer.)
You can catch a game of this professional baseball team at the Estadio Teodoro Mariscal during the Mexican Pacific League season (October to December.) The stadium is located a few blocks from the Malecon and Golden Zone.
27. Watch The Cliff Divers
What started out as a bet in the mid-1900s is now a long-standing tradition in Mazatlan. Several times a day, brave cliff divers jump off a 50-foot high platform at the El Clavadista (officially known as Parque Glorieta Rodolfo Sanchez Taboada.)
The waters around the spot can sometimes go as low as six feet deep, so the divers have to time their jumps with the waves. Even though watching it is free, they do accept donations, so don’t forget to leave a tip!
28. Explore Zona Dorada/Golden Zone
Mazatlan’s Zona Dorada (or Golden Zone) is famous for its many hotels and resorts, beaches, and bars/restaurants/nightclubs, located a couple of miles north of Centro Historico. A big slice of the city’s nightlife can also be found here, so it is the prime destination for people who want to have fun and party.
Pancho’s, Cerveceria Tres Islas, and Sea Shell City are just some of the many restaurants, bars, and shops you’ll come across here. Go on a little bit of exploring, and you’ll surely find something you will love.
29. Take the Funicular to Observatorio 1873
Observatorio 1873 was once a military observation post located at the top of Cerro del Vigia. It now serves as Mazatlan’s tourist attraction, where you’ll get an inside look of the observatory’s history, as well as experience a whole list of exciting activities.
Right from the get-go, you’ll get the chance to board a funicular, Sinaloa’s first incline elevator. On the way up, you’ll have a taste of the fantastic views of the landscape.
At the top, you’ll find the observatory, as well as a bird sanctuary, museum, Skybar, and many more. Of course, the views from up high simply cannot be beat!
30. Shop at Central Market
Mazatlan’s Central Market (also known as Mercado Pino Suarez) is the oldest and largest market in the city, located north of the Cathedral in Centro Historico. The market is home to over 250 vendors and is the best place to experience the atmosphere of a true Mexican market with how busy and lively it can get.
Since the 1900s, it has catered to the needs of the people with its wide selection of items ranging from food (especially upstairs) to souvenir items and more. Once you visit here, you’ll be carrying more bags on your way back home.
31. Pose in Liverpool Alley
The Liverpool Alley at the west/southwest part of Centro Historico is not just any other alley. In an effort to draw in European visitors (and more tourists) to its shores, they’ve transformed the place into a British-inspired tourist spot.
First off, you’ll see a recreation of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover, complete with life-size statues of the quartet and the marked crosswalk. You’ll also find a red telephone booth, a yellow submarine, and a classic red British-style car.
Where to Stay in Mazatlan
Mazatlan has tons of options when it comes to a relaxing and enjoyable stay in the city, so there is certainly one that will suit your needs (and your budget!) Here are two that I recommend:
Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan
Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan is an all-inclusive resort located along Mazatlan’s Zona Dorada (and where I stayed!). Although smaller compared to its luxury sister resort, the place is uniquely fun and relaxing, where the resort brand’s signature classic charm meets a refreshingly modern take that will make your holiday getaway an unforgettable experience.
There are nine different types of rooms in the resort, seven of which offer scenic views of the Pacific Ocean. Getting an ocean view room is worth it because the sunsets are absolutely breathtaking!
Outside, they have two outdoor pools you can plunge into and enjoy a drink at the bars. You’ll also have direct access to the beach, where you can go for water activities like surfing and sailing.
Foodwise, you can indulge in different culinary styles at one of their five restaurants or pick your poison at two of their bars. For an elegant evening of artisanal dining, you can make a dinner reservation and dress up for their Casa 46 which is located in the historic district.
Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay
If you want to make your Mazatlan stay a luxurious and exciting one, then Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay won’t disappoint. This 20-acre resort sits on a private beach, located a couple of miles northwest in the Cerritos neighborhood of Mazatlan.
They only have two types of rooms (junior and master suites!), but they are pretty spacious and comfortable, with their own private balcony overlooking the beach and ocean. As for the other amenities, they take the ones from their sister resort at Zona Dorada and bring it up a notch: two extra bars, a state-of-the-art spa/fitness center/salon (I had the BEST facial there!), areas in pools for children, a lighted tennis court, and so much more.
The grounds are simply beautiful and perfect for a morning stroll. Walking through them you may be lucky enough to stumble upon some pretty flamingos or their coy pond.
. . .
One of Mexico’s top tourist destinations, the things to do in Mazatlan are plentiful. From stunning beaches, historical landmarks, and hotel-lined coastlines just proves that the city deserves being called the “Pearl of the Pacific.”
Who knows what other surprises are in store for us here? There’s only one way to go about it: let your adventure to Mazatlan, Mexico help you find out!
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