Mazatlan (known as the Pearl of the Pacific for it’s beauty of the beach and the richness of the marine life) is a city in the Sinaloa state, Mexico which sits on the Pacific Ocean, known for its fine beaches and diverse environment brings tourists from all around the world and is becoming a popular retirement location for foreigners. There is so much to see and discover here, Mazatlan has rich cultural history with streets lined with churches, and colorful colonial style buildings and amazing cuisines to try that are unlike anywhere else in Mexico.
Regardless of when you visit you will experience a year round tropical climate with moderate humidity which means regardless of when you visit you will be able to take advantage of what Mazatlan and surrounding towns has to offer. The mountainous coastal town and desert backdrop gives you endless tours and adventures to try from ocean to the jungles to the extreme in the desert.
Mazatlan and Surrounding Towns
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.
El Quelite is located 30 minutes out from Mazatlan and dates back to the 19th Century and has been the center of commerce dating back before the Mexican Revolution. The people of El Quelite still keep ancient customs, and have managed to preserve the original architecture of old rural Mexico. The town is becoming one of the most popular places for tourist to visit to get the feel for what Mexico was like long ago.
El Rosario is located 64 kms from Mazatlan, founded in 1655 and for 250 years was the most richest mining towns in Sinaloa. Mining ended in the town in 1945 but as a result today you can see the extravagant houses, buildings and streets. One of main tourist attractions is the stunning El Rosario colonia church, Nuestra Señora del Rosario. For shopping day trips El Rosario is regarded as the place to visit for local handicrafts, leather goods, high quality pottery and furniture.
Copala was founded in 1565 and is another mining town with a mix of beautiful colonial and post colonial architecture, cobblestone lined streets and a real feel of tranquility as you look out over the mountain views. Copala is a 40 minute drive from Southeast of Mazatlan, in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental, with less than 400 residents the town is a vital part of the Sinaloa tourism economy.
There are three islands off the coast from the city of Mazatlan, the Isla de Chivos, or “Island of Goats”; the Isla de Pajaros, or “Island of Birds”; and Isla de Venados, or “Deer Island.” Boat trips regularly bring visitors to the islands for hiking, swimming, kayaking or, as is popular around the Island of Goats, snorkeling. These islands are regarded as Eco Reserves and have restricted number of visitor each year to help preserve the ecosystem.
Getting to Mazatlan
By Plane: Mazatlán has an international airport – General Rafael Buelna International Airport also known as the Mazatlan International Airport. You can catch direct flights from many US and Canadian locations; 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 reach Mazatlán from many other international origins via Mexico City.
By Bus: Mexico has an extremely well developed bus route system and one can easily find a bus to wherever one needs to go. Mazatlán is about 12 hours away from Mexico City ($90 one way), 6 hours from Guadalajara ($40 one way), 15 hours from Nogales ($50 one way), and only about 2 hours from Culiacán. Note: for whatever reason, the bus companies crank up the A/C, so bring a jacket!
By Boat: 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 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 southernmost hotels or fifteen minutes to the more modern (and more expensive) places to the north.
Mazatlan Local Transportation
Buses and taxis are readily available throughout Mazatlan, in the tourist areas you will find small white open-topped taxis called pulmonías that look like dodgem cars. Always ask for the price before getting in one. With buses make sure you check the windscreen for the rout and expect to pay around 9 pesos and for local buses that operate downtown around $6 pesos.
Mazatlan Health and Safety
Mazatlán has the problems that all large 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.
Don’t drink the tap water as it will make your trip unpleasant and when at the beach observe the safety signs regarding jellyfish and surf conditions. If you are unsure as the lifeguards on the beach or your tour guide..
The local currency is Mexican Pesos but USD is widely accepted everywhere in small denominations, if you use USD you will get pesos in return. You can either exchange your currency before you arrive or at one of the many exchange centers when you arrive. Paying in pesos generally will get you a better deal.
If you are not sure what to do when you get to Mazatlán check out our next blog The Best of Mazatlán: What To See And Do!