Located along Mexico’s stunning Pacific coast, Mazatlán really is a charming city.
Easily one of my favourites in Mexico, and I think it's done well to keep its authenticity despite increasing popularity.
There are a TONNE of awesome things to see and do in Mazatlán, which makes it a must-stop along any Northern Mexico itinerary.
From walking along its famous promenade at sunset to exploring its various islands, it’s the perfect place to wind down and enjoy yourself.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about Mazatlán!
Not just what to do, but also top tips on where to stay, how to book tours, and more insider tips & tricks.
Let's get started ...
Known as “the Pearl of the Pacific”, I couldn’t find a more fitting name myself.
Home to one of the longest malecóns in the world, you’ll be able to walk a good 21km along its stretch of coastline!
It also has some truly stunning red sunsets, which are best viewed either on its beaches or up at El Faro (the lighthouse).
Despite having become a popular place for tourists, Mazatlán still retains its authentic vibe. This makes it a perfect cultural destination, where you can explore its markets as well as the colonial plazas between beach visits.
It’s not just about the city though! The islands that lie just off the coast are also a must-visit, and are home to stunning beaches as well as awesome hiking trails for a day of peace and relaxation.
Mazatlán is situated within the Sinaloa region in Northern Mexico (fear not though! As this city does well to avoid cartel crime which is common in other areas of the region).
Mazatlán is roughly 1,030 km north of Mexico City.
The easiest (and most popular) way of getting to Mazatlán is by flying.
Whilst Mexico City and Cancún are the best connected airports, Mazatlán also has direct flights in, mostly from major cities in the USA such as Los Angeles, Houston and Minneapolis.
There are also some direct flights from Canada too. A one-way flight from either of these countries into Mazatlán costs roughly $120-220.
You can easily compare flights to find the best deals using SkyScanner.
If you’re already in Mexico and are fancying some Pacific bliss, then you’ll be glad to know that you can fly directly here without having to transit in the big cities!
For those looking to keep costs down, or for some real adventure, then the bus will be the best option.
The most popular route into Mazatlán is from the state of Jalisco in the south.
From Guadalajara the bus takes around 9 hours, whilst it’s 8 hours from Puerto Vallarta.
The buses are usually of good quality in Sinaloa, with the air-con helpful during the heat of the day.
Be sure to bring a blanket though, since they don’t turn it off at night!
I recommend using Busbud to compare all routes online, where you can book your ticket in advance and save yourself any potential hassle at the bus station.
Once in Mazatlán, your best bet of getting around is either by taxi or in the authentic Pulmonías.
A taxi is the most comfortable, however it will also be the most expensive.
Make sure to only ride with registered drivers, and as such I recommend using Uber to book your trips around the city.
The Pulmonía is like a large-size golf cart, and turns your usual taxi ride into an adventure in itself.
Given the weather can get pretty hot in Mazatlán, the rush of wind whilst on these is pretty advantageous.
They’re also much cheaper too, perfect for those looking to save a few bucks!
Finally I have the destinations off-shore.
The closest island is the Isla de Piedra, which can be reached using a small motor-powered boat from the harbour in the Playa Sur neighbourhood (next to the large port that serves the route from Mazatlán to La Paz).
You can also get here with an organised tour (like this one here), which is recommended for those short on time.
When it comes to the other Pacific islands (Isla de los Pájaros, Venados and Chivos), then you have two options. The first is by jumping in a Panga (a small boat which departs on Playa Norte), which is the safest option.
For those looking for a more memorable experience, you can also hire a kayak and make your way over!
Mazatlán is a big city, which tends to surprise many who think it’s a small Pacific town.
As a result there are many different neighbourhoods to choose from.
The Centro Histórico is both a popular and safe place for a stay, ideal for those looking to keep costs low with a cheaper hotel.
Alternatively, Playa Norte and The Golden Zone are the best areas for those who want to be right next to the Pacific.
Kicking off our list, I have arguably the best thing there is to do in Mazatlán.
The malecón here stretches for a good 21km, making it the longest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere (and one of the longest on earth).
You’ll also see lots of street vendors selling corn and tacos, as well as many bars along the way to grab a cold one!
It’s an ideal place to watch the sunset too, as you’ll easily be able to find your own quiet place among the crowds.
Those feeling adventurous can try to walk the entire length of it, although be sure to bring lots of sunscreen and water given you’ll be out there for a while!
Here's some more information on things to do on the Mazatlán Malecón...
Mazatlán is one of the best Mexican gateways into the vast Pacific Ocean, which has its advantages.
One of these is the fact that during certain months of the year, you can spot humpback whales migrating close to coastal waters.
Measuring up to 17m in length, these beautiful creatures really are a must-see when in Mexico.
The best months of the year to see Humpback Whales in Mazatlán are between December until April, although there’s still a small chance you can see them outside of this timeframe too.
Given you’ll be heading deep into the Pacific, you’ll need to go with a tour. I recommend this whale watching tour, where you’ll also be taken to key spots to see dolphins, turtles as well as sea lions!
This is one of the best activities on offer if you're wondering what to do in Mazatlán, Mexico.
As usual with many Mexican cities, you’ll find lots of gorgeous colonial buildings and monuments dotted around Mazatlán.
And when it comes to this city in particular, the Centro Histórico is where you’ll find the very best.
Firstly you’ll want to head to Plaza Machado, which was built in 1837. It’s home to both Spanish and French styled buildings, and is also lined with palm trees along its streets.
Adding to its vibrant air, within Plaza Machado you’ll find many artists selling paintings in its centre, as well as many bustling cafes and restaurants open until late into the night.
It’s a good place to rest up and get some food after visiting other popular attractions close-by, such as the Angela Peralta Theatre as well as the Pino Suárez Municipal Market.
Let’s face it - trying local Mexican food when in the country is one of the absolute must-do’s on any Mexico bucket list!
And Mazatlán is a great place to do just this, where you’ll find both classic staples as well as its infamous mariscos (seafood dishes).
Known as the shrimp capital of the world, you’ll be able to try these freshly prepared delights on the beach, as well as in the markets.
For those looking for a more safe option, then you’ll want to head to La Mazatleca for the best seafood in town.
El Presidio is another nice restaurant which has many other Mexican classics to feast on too, including tacos as well as mole.
Be sure to read this comprehensive guide on the best places to eat seafood in Mazatlán!
When it comes to seeing something truly unique in Mazatlán, it'll be hard to beat this one.
Sometime around the late afternoon, a few brave locals head up to the top of a steep cliff along the malecón.
Whilst they may look like they’re performing yoga or trying to get that perfect insta shot, they’re actually timing their death-defying jumps into the Pacific waters below.
Now whilst jumping into the sea isn’t all that new, here's where it gets really interesting.
The waters below recede every 10 seconds or so, revealing layers of sharp rocks beneath!
In other words, this means the cliff divers have to perfectly time their jumps, since a wrong move could be their last.
Now if this doesn’t deserve a donation (or a free beer for them), then I don’t know what else will!
The cliffs are located in the Glorieta Rodolfo Sanchez Taboada plaza, between the beaches of Los Pinos and Olas Altas.
Mazatlán truly is a city of superlatives, as it’s also home to the highest lighthouse in the Americas!
El Faro (as it’s known in Spanish) is located on top of the Cerro del Creston, roughly 523 ft above the surrounding coast.
It’s the perfect place to come for views over the city, and also a good contender for watching those crazy red sunsets found in Mazatlán.
As well as this, it’s home to the lighthouse, which since its latest retrofit in 1933, can now be seen as far as 30 nautical miles away.
It takes around half an hour to walk up to the top of El Faro, so be sure to take your time given it can get pretty hot here.
Visiting this amazing place is one of the best things to do in Mazatlán for free, so what are you waiting for?
When it comes to beaches in Mazatlán, there’s no better place than those on the Isla de la Piedra.
Stone Island (as it’s translated as) is only a quarter-mile south of Mazatlán’s mainland, and isn’t actually an island at all since it also runs along the coast.
It’s home to one of the best Pacific beaches in the country, with white sands and swaying palm trees stretching as far as the eye can see.
There’s also many low-key beachside bars and restaurants along the beach too, and you can even rent a 4x4 to go off and explore the coast as you wish.
To get here you’ll need to head to the neighbourhood of Playa Sur in the south of Mazatlán, where the boats are located.
They depart hourly, with the short trip taking around 10 minutes.
You can also head on this awesome day tour which includes lunch and all drinks!
Mazatlán is a great destination to visit for many reasons, and one of these is the fact that it’s full of charm and authenticity.
One of these gems are the Pulmonía’s that race around town, which are an experience in and of themselves!
These open-air cars resemble something like that of a golf cart, and are a popular taxi choice for locals looking to get around in good fashion.
They’re mostly found around the Historic Centre, and are worth the ride since they’re usually much cheaper than a traditional taxi. This Pulmonia tour is a great idea as you’ll be shown all of the very best sights in town whilst getting the authentic local experience!
The other advantage of using a Pulmonía to get around is that it’s open (and shaded). Given how hot Mazatlán can get, you’ll very much need as many cool breezes as you can get!
If you're looking for things to do in Mazatlán at night then I've got you covered!
Once you’ve spent the day lounging on beaches and exploring the historic centre, now is where the fun begins.
Mazatlán has quite the party scene, which is full of pretty much everything you could ask for.
Kicking off the evening, most usually head to a beach bar to watch the incredible sunsets (I recommend Joe’s Oyster Bar), or alternatively grab some beers and head out onto the malecón or beaches.
The Hotel Plaza Mazatlán is also known for its parties, where you’ll see a firework show most Saturdays, as well as its Fiesta Mexicana, where there’s traditional dancing, live music and an open bar.
If you’ve already been travelling a while through the mainland in Mexico, you may be pretty glad to have finally reached the coast.
As well as having its fair share of beautiful beaches, Mazatlán also has lots of awesome marine wildlife to be experienced, and swimming with Dolphins has to be one of the very best.
Here you can spot various species such as the Bottlenose, Spinner and Spotted Dolphins, regardless of the time of year!
As well as the variety of dolphin species to be seen, you’ll also be happy since Mazatlán has warm waters year-round.
The best way to see them is to go with an experienced local tour who knows where best to find them. This tour also includes lunch, refreshments and snorkel gear. You can buy tickets here.
It's important to note that this is one of the most popular activities in Mazatlán so you'll want to book in advance if you can!
Isla Mujeres is another great spot for swimming with dolphins in Mexico.
Translated as “Deer Island” in English, Isla de los Venados is one of the many islands that can be spotted from the malecón in Mazatlán.
It’s the largest of the three that are most easily seen, which is in-between Isla de Pájaros and the Isla de Chivos.
This island is home to some of the clearest waters you can find in Sinaloa, making it a perfect place to go snorkelling or diving into the darker blues below.
The beach here is arguably the most beautiful in Mazatlán, and much less crowded than the ones found along the malecón on the mainland.
You can also hike around the island, which is home to everything from deer and iguanas to exotic birds and snakes.
For those who want everything organised for them, then you’ll want to head on a tour, where you can snorkel here as well as visit many other popular Sinaloan islands. Find more details and book your tour here.
Mazatlán is known as one of the world’s best fishing destinations, with as many as 7 of the 9 main sport fishing species found here.
The most popular has to be the Blue Marlin, which is often found on most Mazatlán logo t-shirts, hats and other merchandise.
Of course the season you head here will affect the chances of what you’ll be able to catch, so keep in mind the following;
Along the harbour and malecón you’ll find many local companies who’ll take you out for the day (you’ll be leaving pretty early in the morning), which is best since they’ll know where to find each different kind of fish.
This awesome fishing guide will give you a better idea of the variety of available catches in Mazatlán.
Every year in late Autumn, the Pacific plays home to thousands of hatching turtles who make their first steps towards the big ocean.
Whilst there’s no turtle centres within Mazatlán itself, there’s a couple just outside where you can help your very own turtle make it to the waters.
El Verde Camacho Sea Turtle Sanctuary is the best one to head to, which is around a 45 minute drive north from the Mazatlán’s city centre.
Here you’ll also have a beautiful, expansive beach to relax on, so it’s worth spending the day here.
Turtles hatch anywhere from September until December, so you’ll want to plan your visit around then if this is a must for you!
The only opera house found on Mexico’s west coast, The Angel Peralta Theater is very much worth the visit when in Mazatlán.
First built in 1874, this beautiful teatro was named after the famous opera singer Angela Peralta.
It’s since been restored as recently as 1992, with some much needed infrastructure upgrades. Honestly, the interior is breathtaking so you don't want to miss out on this place!
The Angela Peralta Theater (or Teatro Angela Peralta) is located right next to the Plaza Machado, within the Historic Centre of the city.
It’s open Monday to Friday from 9:00am-7:00pm, and also on Saturday from 9:00am until 2:00pm.
Over 120 years old, this popular, bustling market is one of the best places to come and browse a range of authentic Mexican goods.
Here you’ll find everything from handmade souvenirs and garments, to local produce and meats. This makes Pino Suárez Market the very best place in Mazatlán to come for souvenir shopping.
It’s also pretty busy most days of the week, so I recommend coming early in the morning before it starts to heave.
As with any market in Mexico, be sure to leave valuables at home, since there’s always a risk of petty theft occurring!
It’s roughly five blocks north of the Plaza Machado, and getting here is pretty easy as all public buses head here (it’s also a major stop for taxis and pulmonías).
The Pino Suárez market is usually open from 6:00am until 6:00pm all days of the week.
Given Mazatlán has such a long Pacific coast, you may begin to wonder what it’s like beneath the big waves.
Isla de los Venados is one of the best snorkelling destinations you can visit in Sinaloa, so you’ll want to take advantage of its clear waters here.
Isla de los Pájaros is also another good option since there’s less people!
Unfortunately there’s no perfect season for snorkelling given the conditions can change unpredictably. For this reason, it’s worth asking any dive shop when you arrive what the current situation is like (or just going for it yourself!).
You can browse a range of these snorkel centres on this map to find the best deals!
In the waters near Mazatlán, you can spot sea turtles and a whole range of brightly coloured and exotic fish.
Whether you’re up for a day of water fun, or just looking to chill somewhere different, then consider heading to Mazagua Water Park.
With over 12 different rides such as the Boomerango and Aqua Loop, it’s definitely a different kind of attraction that may just be what you need!
As well as providing lockers and rentals for inflatable tubes, they also have a taco menu available too (in true Mexican style).
Visiting this place is one of the top things to do in Mazatlán for families so don't leave it off your list.
Mazagua Water Park is located in the north of Mazatlán, just a few blocks in from the popular Playa Brujas.
It’s open from Tuesday until Sunday, from 10:00am until 6:00pm.
I’ve mentioned it time and again already in this article, however the sunsets truly add something special when along the Pacific Coast of Mexico.
Mazatlán is one of my favourites, given the extensive boardwalk you can walk along during these crimson red, almost “apocalyptic-like” sunsets.
If you’re looking for somewhere specific, then head to Playa Brujas with a few beers or cocktails in hand.
Whilst there’s a few big resorts here, it’s usually more low-key than other beaches in Mazatlán, so you won’t be swamped with crowds come the late afternoon.
This live website is helpful as it will let you know the exact times of any sunset on any particular day.
I recommend getting set up just before the Nautical Twilight, which is one of the best phases of a sunset.
If you're looking for romantic things to do in Mazatlán then head down to the beach and relax with your significant other!
When it comes to architectural spotting, you’ll have already seen that this gem was left out of the previous section.
This is because it deserves its very own spot!
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is an imposing, yellow-stained church that is one of the city highlights of a visit to Mazatlán.
It’s a classic example of Baroque-style architecture in Western Mexico, which was built in 1899.
The inside is just as beautiful, with a picturesque altar adorned with a colourful mural above, as well as having several giant stone pillars found throughout the church.
This stunning cathedral is located just three blocks north of the Plaza Machado within the Historic Centre.
Due to its unique architecture, this church is undeniably one of the best places to visit in Mazatlán, Mexico.
The most northern of the three islands that jut out in front of Mazatlán, Isla de los Pájaros (Bird Island in Spanish) is another worthy day trip to take from the coastal city.
As you may expect (given its name), it’s a sanctuary for wild and exotic birds, with as many as 400 different species alone living on this island!
As well as the Brown Heron, you can spot other beauties like the Red-billed Rabijunco and the White-winged Pijije, whilst you wander around its peaceful terrains.
Once you’ve finished bird-spotting for the day, you can also enjoy its secluded beaches and go snorkelling.
Whilst you can get here by boat, it’s also a popular place to kayak to from Mazatlán.
I recommend jumping on this fun kayaking tour around Isla de los Pájaros, where an expert guide will teach you all about the protected species and ecology native to the island.
Many don’t know, however Mazatlán’s most important carnival is actually one of the largest on earth!
Every Spring, from Mardi Gras Day to Shrove Tuesday, the city descends into massive festivities, lasting 6 days in total.
Those already in Mazatlán before will be able to spot the Monigotes in random parts of the city (which are giant carnival-related figures).
Throughout the carnival there will be many performances, parades and festivities.
The overall best has to be the street party near the beach of Olas Altas, where Pacífico beer will be running like tap water!
One of the other highlights is the incredible Naval Combat Fireworks display, which takes place on the Saturday.
There are plenty of fun things to do here but if you can time your visit with this carnival then you're in for a real treat!
Here's some extra information about the Mazatlán Carnival if you're wanting to learn more...
Another popular activity to do in Mazatlan is to go surfing, given the city is home to both great waves and a long Pacific coast.
Playa Brujas and the infamous Rucas are best for those with experience, whilst beginners will want to first get their practice on the waves of Los Pinos.
You’ll need to be careful though, since the currents here can be really strong (best to talk to surfers or a surf shop before going all in).
Some of the best instructors and surf lessons can be found within the district of El Dorado.
The other reason Mazatlán is so popular for surfing is that the waves are good year-round, unlike other areas which are mostly seasonal.
This awesome surfing guide will give you a better idea of where is best to go surfing in Mazatlán!
This Seashell museum is a really cute destination to visit, and one that isn’t really known or frequented much by tourists.
I really recommend heading here though, as it can be a nice way to change up repetitive days (as well as seeing the impressive collection that they have).
First opened a little over 35 years ago, the Museo de Conchas is a two-story museum that's full of a variety of shells and ancient fossils, with its collection continuing to grow as new additions are found!
Given Mazatlán’s position along the coast, this means there are many rare findings that are native to this area of the world.
Although this may not be one of the most popular Mazatlán tourist attractions, it's definitely a place you don't want to miss.
The Museo de Conchas is located close to the Hotel Playa Mazatlán, within the El Dorado neighbourhood.
It’s open from 10:00am until 7:00pm every day of the week.
One of Mexico’s famed “Pueblo Mágicos”, El Quelite is a seriously underrated destination to visit when in the state of Sinaloa.
This is as good as it gets for a classic Mexican town, where the colonial architecture, cobblestone streets and relaxed pace of life will be a really nice change from the bustle of Mazatlán.
With this in mind, one of the best things to do here is to simply walk around aimlessly, where there’s cute gardens and beautiful churches to spot along the way.
For those feeling lazy, you can also take a horse ride around town for the ultra gringo experience.
During your visit, you should head up to the mirador around the evening for some stunning town views.
Just 23 miles from Mazatlán, you can easily drive or take the bus to Quelite within an hour, making it a great day trip (and one that I recommend the most).
However, you can skip all the transport hassle and head there with this organized tour, where you’ll visit a Tequila distillery along the way.
For those into history, or others who simply want to learn more about the ways of Mazatlán, then this is a must during your time in the city.
Museo Arqueológico de Mazatlán is one of the best of its kind in Sinaloa, highlighting the various pre-Hispanic cultures that once roamed this region.
It has 4 different rooms, which contain various artefacts such as arrows and stone axes (essential hunting items for tribes during these times), as well as detailed events of how they were finally conquered by the Spanish.
This museum also highlights the infamous Ulama, which was a pre-colonial ball game.
The Museo Arqueológico is located within the Centro Histórico, 4 blocks west of the Plaza Machado.
It’s closed on Mondays, but re-opens the whole week and weekend from 10:00am until 5:00pm.
Given that Mazatlán is located in Northern Mexico, the climate here is more arid and desert-like than it is further south.
It also has a district dry and wet season, which we’ll now look at below.
As always, be sure to check the latest weather updates here on WeatherSpark.
The dry season begins in November, and lasts through until May.
It’s the most popular time to visit, given rain is much more scarce, as well as temperatures being more bearable.
Average daily temperatures range from 66-73°F, with afternoon highs of up to 86°F. Nighttime lows hover between 56-64°F (January and February are the coolest months for a visit).
Rainfall is very low this time of year, making it perfect for beach days and exploring the nearby islands.
You can expect anywhere from 0.1-1 inches falling throughout each month.
The wet season on the other hand, which runs from June until October, is both much wetter and hotter.
Whilst it’s less popular, it’s a great time to go for cheaper prices, as well as for a good roasting on the beach!
Daily average temperatures hover around 80-83°F, with highs of up to 90°F and lows of down to 72°F (June is the overall hottest month).
Rainfall picks up in the summer, with between 2-6 inches falling within each month.
This time of year also has an increased risk of hurricanes forming, which is most likely between July and September (although they’re not too frequent).
If you're unsure of what to pack, then check out Mexico packing list!
As we've already seen earlier in this article, Mazatlán is full of awesome things to see and do.
For this reason, I recommend a minimum of 5 days here.
This gives you enough time to explore the historic centre, as well as live it up on the beaches.
You’d also be able to visit a couple of the different islands here too without feeling overly rushed.
Most important of all, though, is that you’ll get a more authentic feel here walking around the streets than you would if you were rushing it (like you would if say, spending just 2 or 3 days).
This really depends on you and what kind of experience you want to have when in Mazatlán!
Keep in mind that these budgets don’t include extra costs such as those for tours or activities, nor for catching buses to other destinations.
Booking a tour is a great way to see the city’s highlights, and is especially useful for those who don’t have so much time.
This half-day tour is perfect as you’ll see the best parts of the historic centre, as well as including a visit to Cerro Viglia and some mezcal tasting.
Once you’ve decided it’s time to move on from Mazatlán, you’ll probably be scratching your head as to where is best to go next!
I recommend catching the overnight bus north to the town of Los Mochis.
It’s the jumping-off point into the stunning Copper Canyon region, which is full of awesome scenic views and activities for those looking for an adrenaline fix.
Once you’ve made it to Creel, you can head on this awesome day tour to see the very best sights in this rugged, mountainous region.
You can also head to Cabo San Lucas from Los Mochis if you've not had enough of the beaches yet (let's be honest, how could you). You'll just need to take a ferry over to La Paz first.
If you're planning a trip around Mexico then here are some other guides that you might find useful: