Mazatlan is a coastal city, facing the Pacific Ocean. It’s known for its spectacular beachfront boardwalk, Historic District and ample resorts. Many Mexican resort towns have one or two of those, but not all three. For this reason, there are many interesting things to do in Mazatlan and it should be high on your list of destinations.
Mazatlan is a popular spot for a wide range of travelers. Those seeking to relax can venture to one of the many golden sand beaches, some with barreling waves and others as calm as the sky above. Running between the beaches, resorts, and colonial architecture is the famed Malecon which connects the entire city, bringing culture and excitement wherever you go. History and cultural buffs will also have their work cut out exploring the many attractions in Mazatlan along the cobblestone streets that run throughout the Historic District.
In this post, we'll cover:
15. Isla de Venados
From various viewpoints around Mazatlan, you’ll be able to see a lone speck of land in the Pacific Ocean. This is Isla de Venados, Deer Island. The island is an ecological reserve, providing a delightful contrast to the happening beachfront of downtown Mazatlan.
There are two ways to visit Deer Island, on tour or by renting a private boat. The former will come with a range of activities, including kayaking, snorkeling, and banana boat rides. While the latter will give you all the freedom to roam at your own pace. Keep in mind that food and drink are limited, so come with all your need for a day in paradise.
14. Teatro Angela Peralta
One of Mazatlan’s cultural treasures, the Teatro Angela Peralta, is an 800-seat theater that was built in 1874. Appropriately, the theater is just outside of Plaza Machado in the heart of the Historic District.
The opulent theater has an interior likened to Rome’s Coliseum, with golden accents, red rose seating and archways complemented by wonderful acoustics. Teatro Angela Peralta remains the center of Mazatlan art and music, attracting artists from around the world.
Outside of its busy calendar, the theater complex also features art galleries, a fine arts school and a cultural center, aimed at preserving and developing artistry in Mazatlan.
13. Baluarte Bridge
85 minutes northeast of Mazatlan, the Baluarte Bridge runs for almost 3,700 feet across the Baluarte River. At its highest point, the bridge is 1,322 feet above the water, making it the seventh highest bridge on earth and the tallest on the American continent.
A great way to admire the historic bridge is by venturing along the super highway that connects Mazatlan to Durango. The mesmerizing drive takes you from the coast, through the countryside, and deep into the Sierra Madre Mountains.
You’ll cross the thrilling bridge before venturing through the El Sinaloense, one of nine smart tunnels along the route. Finish by exploring the village of Mesillas.
12. Mazagua Water Park
From families to solo travelers, everyone needs to let off some steam from time to time. When in Mazatlan, the perfect way to do just that is at Mazagua Water Park. Far from expensive, the park is a great alternative to another beach day. Cool off and get the heart pumping on the many exhilarating water attractions.
The water park has several fun slides that you can enjoy over and over. There is also a wave pool complemented by an artificial beach for a quick rest. For some friendly competition hit the volleyball courts. There is also a section just for the little ones to enjoy.
11. Cliff Divers
Towards the southern end of the Malecon is a unique attraction called the Diver. Here, you’ll find a soaring rock tower with a platform on top. Every day, daredevil divers jump off the platform nearly fifty feet into the ocean. Depending on the waves, sometimes the water is only six feet deep.
The tradition started in the mid-19th century. According to legend, Mario Gonzalez Agilar was the first to jump to complete a bet. It’s a dazzling display of cliff diving, with the brave but talented divers putting on a show for all comers. For those watching, divers work for tips, so have some cash handy as you admire the show.
10. Zona Dorada
With all the qualities vacationers could want, it’s easy to see why Zona Dorada is the place to stay in town. Beginning at the northern end of the Malecon, the Golden Zone has rows of beachfront resorts, exceptional access to white sand beaches, and a brilliant mix of waterfront cuisine and nightlife.
The modern part of town contrasts with other neighborhoods in Mazatlan, especially the Historic District. But those seeking modern comforts, short walk to amenities, fun, and sand can’t beat Zona Dorada. Spend your days on Playa Sabalo, wander a few steps back for a golden hour cocktail, before exploring the nearby streets in the balmy evening hours.
9. Acuario Mazatlan
Featuring more than 50 exhibits, the Acuario Mazatlan (Mazatlan Aquarium) is one of the top aquariums in the country. This is a popular rainy-day activity and always a hit with families. Visitors can enjoy a closeup experience with a range of marine life such as sea lions, macaws, and sea horses.
But gone are the days of admiring the creatures and moving on. The aquarium will appeal to a wide range of age groups thanks to its interactive experiences that include the Acuario’s exciting stingray pool, and the opportunity to swim with sharks and sea lions. Other highlights include the turtle museum and the Lovebird Aviary.
8. Isla de la Piedra
To the south of downtown Mazatlan, there is a channel that runs out to the Pacific Ocean. On its lower side, you’ll find Isla de la Piedra, or Stone Island. Despite its name, it’s connected to the peninsula, however it purveys a remote feel.
You’ll feel a world away from the action in the heart of Mazatlan, with the cobblestone streets replaced by dark sand, groves of palm trees and rows of palapas.
To reach the island, you can take a ferry or local tour across the channel. There is a sweeping beach that paints the coast where you’ll have waterfront restaurants and beach shacks serving cheap eats.
7. Playa Olas Altas
Literally meaning High Waves Beach, Playa Olas Altas offers some burly surf. Surfers, boogie-boarders, and brave body surfers come from all parts of town to try and catch the perfect wave. For us mere mortals, the entertainment from the beach often proves to be enough.
Olas Altas is the engine that drove Mazatlan’s place on the tourist map in the 1950s and 1960s. But far from being overwhelmed by visitors, it remains a popular local spot. In the early hours, you’ll spot fishermen come in on their traditional crafts, taking their wares straight to the local restaurants.
Its connection to the Historic District also means it’s one of the few Mexican beaches to enjoy both natural beauty while being a part of the city’s “Old Town”.
6. Historic District
If you’re a fan of Europe’s “Old Cities”, you’ll love everything about Mazatlan’s Historic District. Otherwise known as Centro Historico, this part of town is painted with cobblestone streets, prismatic colonial buildings, and harbors secrets that date back 500 years.
Wake up early to explore the district before it gets too busy. Wander along the quieter streets, enjoying the details of each historic building. The neighborhood remains a big part of local culture and quickly develops an atmosphere as cafes, shops, galleries, and museums fill rapidly with patrons.
It’s the color of the neighborhood that is perhaps most captivating. The oranges, purples, and teal have lost none of their grandiosity and showcase the true, vibrant nature of Mazatlan.
5. El Faro
For a slice of history that comes with the best views in town, hike to the summit of El Faro. Since the early 19th century, the hill, which stands at 515 feet above sea level, has been used to aid navigation. An official lighthouse was built in 1879 and still stands today.
The lighthouse may be a beautiful site, but the real highlight of the trek is the panoramic views. After climbing up over 350 steps to the summit, you’ll have vast vistas of Mazatlan and the peninsula as far as the eye can see.
To avoid the heat of day and see the incredible sunset, make the journey at dusk. Sit on the summit and watch the sun dip below the western horizon with nothing to block the view.
4. Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
It took over four decades to complete the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. A fact that will make more sense once you see her impeccable facade for the first time.
The cathedral has a mixed of prominent architectural styles, from neo-Gothic, and Baroque to Neoclassical. Its wide variety can make it seem like an illusion as you set your eyes upon the opulent yellow frontage which hangs over the zig-zagging black and white entrance.
The black-and-white tiles are set in a diagonal pattern, seemingly shifting as you walk closer. Here, you’ll find iconography of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. The inside is just as captivating with the country’s largest chandelier, an opulent dome, and an altar made from Carrara marble.
3. Cerritos and Brujas Beach
Days on the beach lazing under the sun, makes for the perfect relaxing vacation. But if you’re up for more than just beach bumming, make your way to Cerritos’ exciting beach. Brujas Beach has some of the liveliest swell around Mazatlan. Here, you can ditch the beach towel and break out the surfboard.
North of Mazatlan, past the Golden Zone, Playa Brujas is a wide expanse of sand that is hounded by the surging waves. The swell is known to reach 7 feet and will provide plenty of stoke for intermediate and experienced riders.
Compared to the water, life on land is much more laid back. There are several beachfront bars and restaurants to enjoy the action, along with fresh seafood.
Many waterfront Mexican cities have a beautiful strand to walk along. Mazatlan’s Malecon is the longest of them all, stretching for 13 miles along the deep blue coast. It functions as both a fantastic trail and also a thoroughfare that brings each part of the city together.
The Malecon begins at Playa Olas Altas at the end of the History District. From there, it begins a long journey north, crossing through the edge of several of Mazatlan’s best neighborhoods. As such, each section is bursting with action, whether that be those exercising, enjoying the restaurants, or taking a break to admire the views and live music.
Walking the whole thing would be a bit much for most travelers. But, however far you go, you’ll be met with plenty of street food to enjoy and public art to admire. Finish with a refreshing dive into the Pacific Ocean.
1. Plaza Machado
In the center of Mazatlan’s Historic District, Plaza Machado is the beating heart of the city. The stunning square is a mix of vibrant colors and 19th century architecture on what was once a veritable swamp.
The buildings are accented by gilded carvings and secondary colors, with the plaza encased in leafy trees creating a prismatic array of light and shadow. The gorgeous aesthetics are due to a concentrated effort to revitalize the area to its original brilliance.
Travelers should set aside ample time to enjoy the culture in this part of town. There are several cafes with street-side patios, perfect for people watching and taking in the atmosphere. It’s here that locals gather and make their way around town. Don’t be surprised if your experience is complemented by live music and traditional dance.
Best Time to Visit Mazatlan
The most popular time to visit Mazatlan is during the dry season when the skies are bright blue, the weather is warm and you can enjoy the fun watersports. Most holidaymakers head here between November and April when temperatures average a lovely 24 to 28°C (75 to 82°F).
While October already sees an increase in tourist numbers due to the dry weather and lively Mazatlan Cultural Festival, November and December are amongst the busiest months of the year. Prices are of course higher around Christmas and New Year’s Eve with processions also taking place for Dia de los Muertos.
The crowds remain high until the end of April with the much hotter and humid May and June finally seeing a fall in numbers. During this period, thousands flock here for spring break or the Easter holidays with the colourful Mazatlan Carnival and Semana Santa celebrations also going on. Prices rise around these events with its beaches, bars and restaurants all packed.
After this is the short rainy season that runs from July to September. While the strong heat and torrential downpours mean you can suddenly get soaked, the sun usually appears again quite quickly. Many families visit on their summer holidays to enjoy its scenic beaches or jet ski, surf and parasail along the coast.