Travel guide: Mazatlan

Mazatlán is a city in Sinaloa state, Mexico, known for its fine beaches. It enjoys a tropical climate, with moderate humidity and year-round warmth. Mazatlán is a socially and economically diverse city, with more than 350,000 welcoming people of all races. It is a popular vacation and retirement destination for Europeans, Canadians and Americans, and also provides opportunities for working immigrants. It has several distinct inner city districts, as well as outlying suburbs that are mainly inhabited by poor and middle-class Mexicans, but there are two primary areas of interest to visitors: the Zona Dorada where the tourists go and the Centro Historico with several lovely plazas and many recently renovated 18th century commercial buildings and private residences.


How to get in:

Mazatlán has an international airport, General Rafael Buelna International Airport, also known as Mazatlán International Airport. It receives international travelers from: Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Houston, South Shore Harbor, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto-Pearson, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.

You can also reach Mazatlán from many other international origins via Mexico City.

Mazatlán is an approximately 21-hour drive from Downey, but there are many considerations when bringing a car into Mexico.

Baja Ferries runs a ferry between Mazatlan and La Paz in Baja California. The trip takes 16 hours or more and leaves Mazatlan almost daily (check for weekend departures).

Also, Mazatlán has a busy port which accommodates a number of international cruise ships that sail up and down the western coast of the Americas. From the port, it’s a five-minute taxi ride to the southern most hotels or 15 minutes to the more modern (and more expensive) places to the north.


How to get around:

Besides normal taxis, the tourist areas (Zona Dorada and Centro Historico) always have many small white open-topped taxis called pulmonías that look like bumper cars. These are unique to Mazatlan.

Although you’ll never have to wait long for one (they’re always whizzing back and forth) ask the price before you get in and then bargain. The correct price will usually be about 30% less than the original quote. Don’t overdo the haggling, though. It’ll cost you less than $4 US to go between downtown and the tourist district. You may want to give the driver a little tip as appreciation for a safe and enjoyable journey.

There are two different types of public transport buses that run in Mazatlán. The larger green ones run along the main tourist strip right along the water and either turn off at Rafael Buelna Anvenue or continue on along the Malecon to downtown.

These are the equivalent of coach buses, they are very well air-conditioned and in great shape. They cost around $.70 US (9 pesos) per trip.

The city is also served by regular local buses which are cheaper and only cost around US $.45 per trip (5 or 6 pesos). Be sure to check the windshield of the bus as the bus route is typically written on it.

These buses serve the entire city well but can be confusing without a thorough knowledge of the system.


What to do:

The miles of beach have plenty to keep most people occupied. Jet skiing, waterskiing, and parascending are all available, but always haggle on price.

Mazatlán has several prime locations where you can try out your surfing skills. The most popular spot is a beach called Playa Bruja to the North of the city. The waves easily reach heights of 8-10 feet and there is almost always a vendor from whom you can rent surfboards. This is a remote beach that is usually fairly empty.

Enjoy the nightlife. Mazatlán is known as a party city and has an exceptionally good night life. Some popular destinations include Sumbawa, Joe’s Oyster, Valentino’s, and Señor Frogs.

The city gets crazy around American spring break when all city is flooded with American students looking for fun. Mazatlán also has a five-day festival (which is purported to be one of the largest in the world) near the end of February. During this festival, a large portion of the street in Old Mazatlán is closed down and live bands and vendors fill the streets.

During the week of Semana Santa (Easter week), Mazatlán is flooded with Mexican tourists from all around the country who are escaping the heat to come to the beach. The miles of beach are literally jam-packed for the entire week. The atmosphere is wild, and you can have a lot of fun, but be very careful.

At Centro Histórico, most of the shops and vendors are trying to make a living selling their wares. You can get fantastic product, at far cheaper prices than if you go to the “Golden District” or to the mall. It’s also a great district to walk through, giving you more to do than just spend money all day.

Golden Zone’s name says it all. High class, high prices. Valentino’s Disco is famous for its parties, no matter what time of the year.


What to eat:

Try coconut with lime, salt, chili powder, various hot sauces.

There’s a restaurant to suit everyone’s taste and budget. They’re keen on seafood, especially prawns (camarones) and steaks. Below are a few restaurants to consider:

La Bahia - Amazing seafood.

Chili’s Pepper - Good atmosphere and often busy (always a good sign).

Chon, at Carnival and Flores. Crab, shrimp and marlin tacos, etc. 4 for a little over 50 pesos.

Costanzas, Old Maz., at Serdan and 21 de Marzo. Comida corrida (daily special), prices vary, always good.

La Mona, Centro Histórico. A great pizza place. Always filled with locals (a good sign), and they have salads that tourists can safely eat.

La Tromoya - Also on Plaza Machado and the best option next to Pedro y Lola’s. Indifferent service, but good food (especially the tortilla soup).

Topolos - A really fancy restaurant-outside in a beautiful courtyard with red walls and oil paintings from local artists. The food is amazing, the service is amazing, but the atmosphere beats all. Be prepared for a 5-star meal for 300-400 pesos per person with appetizer, wine, and a main course. Try the cubos tementapec, or the shrimp.

Lucila’s Restaurant - A quaint bistro that probably has the best view in town of the ocean. Located inside Casa Lucila Hotel Boutique, the bistro serves up delicious meals for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Drink specials and wine are always available.

Hector’s Bistro - A bistro serving modern european food if you need a break from the tacos. Pricing is $135 - $250 pesos per person. Reservations recommended if your coming for dinner but there is always seating at the bar. Serves breakfast next door at Krema.

Pedro y Lola - On the Plaza Machado square in Centro. Only open for dinner.

There’s also a restaurant in the middle of the Square located at Zaragoza and Nelson. Ham and eggs with tortillas, toast, and beans—30 pesos. The iguanas in the square are fun to watch, too (but terrible to eat).

Just like the restaurants, there are plenty of bars to choose from, depending upon taste, budget and comfort. Tourists occupy the seafront bars whereas locals head inland where the atmosphere can be excellent.

You must try Pacífico, a beautiful locally brewed beer. Sold everywhere for 15 to 20 pesos (about $1.50 or £0.75).

Where to sleep:

Mazatlán is well known for offering the best value of any of Mexico’s major resorts. Both affordably priced lodging as well as food can be easily secured. Outside of January (when the city can be a little cold) it is one of the most attractive seaside destinations in Mexico.


Stay safe:

Mazatlán has the problems that all large Mexican cities do. It’s wise to walk in groups or with someone else in any city after dark.

Some places in the Centro Histórico and Golden Zone are well lit and occasionally busy at night. Don’t let this deceive you into believing it is safe to walk around after dark.

Don’t be afraid to walk around the Cathedral, Malecon or Plaza Machado during the day. In most areas of the city there’s almost no activity at night, and it would be unsafe to be anywhere after dark.

Incidents of chain-snatching and robbery at knife point have been reported as occurring directly in front of Valentinos Disco in the Golden Zone even when it is very busy and several hundred people are standing outside. Avoid having any jewelry whatsoever, or wearing nice clothes so you are not targeted by the thugs in this large city.

Lifeguard stands are on all main beaches, however, lifeguards are rarely present. You’ll usually know if jellyfish are in the water by looking at the flags (white) on the beach but stings are still possible, so you may want to bring a small container of vinegar to ease the sting.

Lifeguard stands will also warn you of other dangerous conditions (red flags), so be sure to look for them and heed their warnings.


Text courtesy WikiTravel, Creative Commons License



Published: May 14, 2015 - Volume 14 - Issue 05