Mazatlan Travel Guide

Mexico  #14 in Best Cheap Winter Vacations
Credit

Courtesy of Holly Kuchera/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Best Things To Do in Mazatlan

If you only have one day in Mazatlán you should take a taxi to Centro Histórico (Old Mazatlán) for some delicious fish tacos, to snap a few photos of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and to stroll by the beautiful statues of the Malecón. But this city truly reveals itself over the course of a few days; then you'll have time for a morning sunset atop El Faro Lighthouse and an evening performance at the Angela Peralta Theatre. One thing to skip: the Museo Arqueológico de Mazatlán; included in many travel guides' top 10 but noticeably absent from the must-do lists of real-life travelers.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated October 2, 2017

  • #1
    Things to do in Mazatlan
    View all Photos
    #1 in Mazatlan
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Some of Mazatlán's most beloved sites are centered in the Centro Histórico, or Old Mazatlán (sites like the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception). So you won't need to make a special effort to enjoy this part of town, but you can rest assured that you'll spend plenty of time there. And if you only have one day in the area, this is where travelers suggest you come. 

    And you should come hungry. Recent TripAdvisor travelers litter their endorsements with food recommendations; you'll have the option for taco de cabeza (tacos prepared from the head of a cow) or papas locos (giant baked potatoes) from a street side vendor, or delicious shrimp tacos at a Plaza Machado café. Walk off your meal with a tour of the Teatro Angela Peralta opera house or a stroll along the Malecón.

  • #2
    Malecón
    View all Photos
    #2 in Mazatlan
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Mazatlán's gorgeous four-mile boardwalk could give Puerto Vallarta's a run for its money, especially as this Malecón is also decorated with several unusual yet beautiful statues and monuments. This is also where you'll find the most daytime activity, starting around the Zona Dorada (hotel zone), snaking along the Paseo Claussen and through Old Mazatlán before ending at Playa Olas Altas. Residents and vacationers favor this stretch for jogging, cycling or just strolling. What you can't do here, however, is sunbathe: Most of the Malecón's "beach" is too short for lounging. Head north to the Playa las Gaviotas or south to Olas Altas if you want to lie about.

  • #3
    Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
    View all Photos
    #3 in Mazatlan
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Offset by canary-colored spires and Italian marble, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is quite the sight to behold. Previous travelers say you most certainly have to stop by this church in Old Mazatlán, if not to tour the insides, then to at least snap a picture or two of the exterior. Be respectful if you do decide to go inside: The basilica holds services several times each day. But since there's no official website for this Sinaloan beauty, it'll be hard to determine the mass schedule. Our advice? Go at night when there are fewer masses. That's also when you'll see the more than a century-old church's new evening lighting.

  • #4
    Playa Olas Altas
    View all Photos
    #4 in Mazatlan
    Beaches, Cafes, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Cafes, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Mazatlán's residents don't bother with the tourist gridlock on Playa las Gaviotas; when they want a little beach time they head to Playa Olas Altas. Visit for yourself and you'll soon see why: This lovely pocket of golden sand and aquamarine waves is decidedly more tranquil. And the few cafés that corral the area aren't as overpriced. You will see the occasional beach vendor, but if you're not interested, just say a polite but firm, "No gracias." And be warned: Playa Olas Altas means "High Waves Beach" and its Pacific waters are sometimes better for surfing than leisurely swims.

  • #5
    El Faro Lighthouse
    View all Photos
    #5 in Mazatlan
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Here's a little trivia: El faro means "the lighthouse" in Spanish, so tourists are calling this Mazatlán site "the lighthouse lighthouse." Redundancy aside, this is one of the town's best-known attractions, and a jaw-dropping view awaits the brave soul that hikes the 30 to 45 strenuous minutes up roughly drawn trails to see it up close. 

    Just make sure to pick the right time on a sunny day. Several TripAdvisor travelers say cloud cover could seriously dampen your experience. For the best views, make an early-morning trek or a late-afternoon journey that's just in time for the sunset. You'll need shoes with good treads and long pants (to ward off bug bites), and bringing a bottle of water is also a good idea. Nothing says "no fun" quite like a muggy, dehydrated hike uphill.

  • #6
    Mazatlán Aquarium
    View all Photos
    #6 in Mazatlan
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Mazatlán Aquarium is one of the best of its kind in Mexico. It boasts more than 200 species of fish spread across more than 50 tanks. Taking a look-see at this site's sea horses, sea lions, macaws and eels makes for a great activity, whether you're only in Mazatlán for a port of call afternoon or for several days. 

    Another bonus: Recent visitors say this aquarium should appeal to several age groups. "It is a very simple, very old, very small aquarium/zoo," writes one TripAdvisor user. "But we really enjoyed it -- they have a small tank with sharks and a shark meets diver show which thrilled my 6 year old." An IgoUgo.com traveler recalls that "my mother-in-law and I went to the acuario while my husband went fishing for the day. We were pleasantly surprised to find that there was more than fish to be found here. … My favorite was the sea lion show."

  • #7
    Isla de la Piedra
    View all Photos
    #7 in Mazatlan
    Beaches, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Ditch the somewhat commercialized sands of Playa las Gaviotas and experience some true R&R on this skinny peninsula just a five-minute ferry east of southern Mazatlán. The Isla de la Piedra is  rustic, but according to a Virtual Tourist, "It ends up being very inexpensive and is a very relaxing day away from the downtown crowds." 

    Several tour companies run excursions to and from Isla de la Piedra (for fares starting around $35 USD per person), but previous vacationers say they aren't worth the money. "Don't take the tour!" says an IgoUgo.com user. "We grabbed a brand new city bus for 70 cents that took us all the way to the end of the line. We got off and walked down a dirt path and paid $1.50 to get on these little green ferry boats that took us on the 5 minute ride across the channel." Once on the "island," you could try horseback riding, fishing, or just sunning yourself on the expansive beach. 

  • #8 in Mazatlan
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    According to many, Mazatlán isn't just about delicious food and scenic seaside vistas, but surprisingly, a little culture, too. Case in point: the Angela Peralta Theatre, located in Old Mazatlán's Plaza Machado. City residents are very proud of their 19th century opera house, which was restored in the 1980s to host live performances. Visit now and it'll be hard to believe that this grand building was just a parking garage before its renovation. It was named after a Mexican opera singer who died in a yellow fever epidemic that swept through the city in 1883. 

    One TripAdvisor reviewer says it "was nice and cool in the theatre, a break from the midday heat. It was beautiful wood and detailed balconies. There's a gallery attached upstairs that has art and pictures of what the spot looked like before restoration, quite the accomplishment."

  • #9
    Playa las Gaviotas
    View all Photos
    #9 in Mazatlan
    Beaches, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    You'll probably hear this popular beach before you see it: At any time of the day the sounds of Top-40 tunes are practically vibrating off its sands. Or the sound of vendors strolling along, hawking everything from jewelry to CDs. Welcome to Playa las Gaviotas -- the worst-kept secret of Mazatlán.

    As you can imagine, Playa las Gaviotas' constant activity is either loved or hated by recent visitors. Beachcombers who love activity gushed to Virtual Tourist about the variety of watersports available to try. But more reserved vacationers recall: "There wasn't more than 2 minutes when someone was peddling us something … It was horrible, couldn't read a single page in my book because they would not move until you acknowledged them." It's true that peace and quiet is nonexistent here (especially as this beach flanks the hotels of Zona Dorada). For a little more seclusion try Playa Olas Altas, just off Old Mazatlán at the end of the Malecón.

Explore More of Mazatlan

Recommended

The World's 30 Best Places to Visit in 2019-20

Using reader input and expert analysis, U.S. News identified the latest can't-miss vacations.

Tilly PeckerJune 25, 2019

The 16 Best San Diego Tours

Take advantage of the adventures this coastal city has to offer with a guided trip.

Lyn MettlerJune 24, 2019

12 Top Napa Valley Wineries to Visit

Set your sights on these can't-miss wineries during your next visit to California's wine country.

Lyn MettlerJune 24, 2019

The 6 Best Denver Brewery Tours

Discover the buzz about Denver's craft beer scene with these tours.

Holly JohnsonJune 21, 2019

The 10 Best Charleston Walking Tours

Experience true southern hospitality as you explore Charleston on one of these strolls.

Claire LawtonJune 20, 2019

The 15 Best Charleston Tours

See everything this historic South Carolina city has to offer on one of these guided excursions.

John RodwanJune 19, 2019

The 5 Best Kauai Helicopter Tours

See the Garden Island's far-reaching beauty from the air.

Holly JohnsonJune 14, 2019

The 6 Best Las Vegas Helicopter Tours

Get a thrilling look at the lights and sights of Sin City and its surroundings with one of these tours.

Holly JohnsonJune 13, 2019

20 Road Trip Essentials for Your Vacation

These road trip must-haves can help you save money, travel more comfortably and ensure you stay safe on the open road.

Holly JohnsonJune 13, 2019

13 Top Charlottesville Wineries to Visit

Sip a glass of Virginia's signature viognier as the sun sets over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Gwen PratesiJune 12, 2019