Mazatlan

Hotel reviews summary
5.0

Our guest rating from 3 reviews

Overview

Mazatlan is a favourite destination for Canadian snowbirds. Blessed with a shoreline sprinkled with beckoning islands, a lovely seaside promenade, miles of golden beaches and blue lagoons, it lives up to its moniker: "Pearl of the Pacific."

Long before Mazatlan became a tourist destination, it was a thriving fishing village and agricultural centre. In fact, Mazatlan boasts Mexico's largest Pacific port and shrimp fleet.

The surrounding fertile countryside of the state of Sinaloa produces tomatoes, mangos, melons, cantaloupes and more, destined for the U.S. and Canada. It's also why you’ll see a tomato on Sinaloa's licence plates.

Trophy fishing for marlin, sailfish and swordfish originally lured anglers and celebrities back in the 1940s and 1950s. John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway and Walt Disney were among the Hollywood set that reeled in a few whoppers. Today, Mazatlan is still an angler's Mecca, where a record 448-kilogram marlin and 92-kilogram sailfish have been pulled from what's been called the world's great natural fish trap.

In the newer Golden Zone (Zona Dorada) of Mazatlan, you'll find excellent modern amenities. Developed in the 1960s, most of the major hotels, shops, bars and restaurants scattered along the idyllic beaches are found here. New Mazatlan (Nuevo Mazatlan), north of the Golden Zone, is the newest area of development, where restaurants, hotels and posh condominium towers are opening around the Marina.

Meanwhile, in Old Mazatlan (Centro Historico), life carries on in pre-tourist style in the churches, markets and shady plazas throughout the traditional neighbourhoods. 

The city's original main square, the Plazuela Machado, has been transformed into a vibrant district of restaurants, cafes, serenading musicians, buskers and dance performances. At the centre of it all is the lovingly restored Teatro Angela Peralta, a jewel box of an opera house.

The official word for the locals is Mazatlecos, and they are some of the warmest people you'll meet. Head to Mazatlan and experience first hand why the Mazatlecos are so proud to call it home.

Mazatlan is a fantastic destination for:

  • beaches
  • culture and history
  • golf

Airport served by: MZT

Destination basics

Situated south of the Tropic of Cancer, Mazatlan enjoys temperate, semi-tropical weather year round.

January, February and March are the coolest months, when the balmy, sunny days cool down during the evenings. If you do plan to visit during these months, be sure to bring a sweater and a pair of pants so you can enjoy the sea breezes when the sun goes down.

If you like to sleep with the windows open, this is the ideal time of year to go. You'll still need a bathing suit or two, flip-flops, hat and sunscreen during the day.

July through to September is the hottest time of the year, with temperatures reaching an average high of 32 C. That's when savvy locals take an afternoon siesta, jump into the pool or head for an air-conditioned bar or cafe.

This is also the rainy season, but it only rains sporadically for short periods. Visitors may experience some exciting thunder-and-lightning shows at night. By late October, the temperature starts to drop again.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Mazatlan

For thousands of years prior to the first Spanish arrival, the Native American Nahua tribes migrated through Mazatlan, which they called "land of the deer," after the herds that once roamed along the countryside.

Spaniards founded the port in the early 16th century and it thrived due to the nearby gold and silver mines of El Rosario, Copala and Panuco. However, frequent pirate attacks stifled early development.

The pirates disappeared by 1800, but legends of buried treasures in the caves along the coast still circulate today.

In the 1840s, American settlers passed through Mazatlan on their way to the gold fields of California. By the end of the 19th century, Mazatlan was a thriving international seaport, attracting people from various parts of the world. To this day, there are strong German, Spanish, French, North American and Asian influences.

In the 1940s, Hollywood discovered Mazatlan and, soon after, tourists came knocking. Most of the development in what's called the Golden Zone around the beaches happened shortly after, in the 1960s.

Today Mazatlan continues to attract visitors from all over the world who love all this city has to offer – an authentic Mexican retreat, plus all the seduction of a beach destination.

Approximately 120,000 Canadians visit Mazatlan each year, many of them returning over and over again. In fact, more than 2,500 Canadians make Mazatlan their winter home and become actively involved in community events and charities. The locals, known as Mazatlecos, are fun, friendly, helpful and justifiably proud of their hometown.

The Mexican peso is the official currency in Mazatlan. Canadian currency and travellers cheques are not widely accepted, and most stores in Mexico do not accept debit cards, so using pesos for purchases is usually simplest.

To exchange your Canadian cash or travellers cheques, stop by one of the many banks, exchange kiosks or your hotel front desk. Just don't forget your passport – it's required to cash your travellers cheques. You can also withdraw cash from ATMs found in banks, grocery stores and hotels.

Although American money is widely accepted, regulations are now in place to limit the amount of U.S. cash both residents and visitors can exchange in Mexico.

By regulation, the maximum visitors can exchange per month is US$1,500. Many financial institutions have imposed additional rules, limiting this amount further to US$300 per transaction.

As for using American money for purchases, local businesses will only accept a maximum of US$100 per transaction; however, there is no limit on the maximum number of transactions per customer. You should also keep in mind that many businesses in Mexico have chosen to forgo accepting U.S. money altogether. The best way to pay is therefore with Mexican pesos or credit card.

Mazatlan is located on Mexico's Pacific coast at the foot of the Sierra Madre Mountains in the state of Sinaloa.

For centuries, the port's strategic location at the juncture of the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez attracted foreigners from Spain, France, Germany, America and Asia. Its location provided important access to Mexico's natural bounty, but it also meant the city was frequently besieged by invaders and pirates at different points in its history.

For travellers looking to explore Mexico from a home base, Mazatlan is the ideal gateway to the country. The Baja California peninsula is a short flight or overnight ferry ride away. Magnificent cities such as Guadalajara are approximately 45 minutes away by air, or five hours by coach.

Mazatlan has a great deal of natural beauty as well. Lagoons, estuaries and rivers running through the state are lifelines to rich ecosystems and agricultural fields. Mazatlan's unspoiled nature also attracts avid bird-watchers from all over the globe.

As Mexico's second-largest coastal city, Mazatlan has nearly 600,000 inhabitants. The city is divided into three main areas: Old Mazatlan (Centro Historico), the Golden Zone (Zona Dorada) and New Mazatlan (Nuevo Mazatlan). An 11-km coastal road runs between Old Mazatlan and the Golden Zone.

There are a variety of transportation methods available in Mazatlan that come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Whether it's oversized golf carts (pulmonias), red or green striped "Eco-Taxis" or public buses, there is no shortage of ways to get around this beautiful city.

Open air pulmonias are unique to this area, with hundreds roaming the streets. Popular among locals and tourists, these small carts will take you wherever you want to go in the city. Just be sure to ask for the rate before hopping in since the rates may vary.

Since there is no real pricing grid for pulmonias or Eco-Taxis, you do have an opportunity to bargain your way to a good deal for transportation. However, as the night grows later, the cost for transportation will increase.

Buses usually run from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. To get from the Golden Zone to downtown (Centro Historico), the bus is often your best option. The fare is only around four pesos but make sure you hang on to the ticket the driver hands you – proof of purchase is checked frequently here.

Arrival

During your flight into Mazatlan Airport, you’ll receive two forms to fill out. One is your Customs Declaration Form. The other is your Multiple Migratory Form for Foreigners or FMM for short. One Customs Declaration Form needs to be filled out per family, while each guest must complete an FMM.

In Mexico, there is a tourism tax of US$20 per person. For your convenience, when you fly WestJet, this tax is included in the price of your airfare

Upon arrival in Mazatlan, a Mexican immigration officer will ask you for your passport and photo ID and for your FMM. The immigration officer may ask you a few questions as to the purpose of your trip, how long you will be staying and if this is your first time in Mexico. The officer will then stamp the card and return a portion of it to you.

Keep your FMM in a safe place – you will be asked for this document when you depart Mexico.

After passing through immigration, you will collect your bags and proceed to customs. A customs agent will ask you for your Customs Declaration Form and ask you to press a button on a device that looks like a traffic light. A green light means "pass through without inspection" and a red light means "your baggage will be inspected." If you get the red light, you will have to open your bags for a quick inspection.

If you've booked hotel transfers with WestJet Vacations, look for a friendly Pronatours representative holding a WestJet Vacations sign once you depart customs. Be sure to identify yourself as a WestJet Vacations guest. As you make your way outside to your hotel transfer shuttle, you will find several representatives from other transfer companies, tour operators and timeshare sellers in the corridor soliciting business. Please ensure you make your way promptly to the Pronatours transportation to avoid delays.

Departure

When departing Mazatlan, you'll need to provide officials with your signed FMM card. Lost FMMs can be replaced at the airport or at the immigration office before you check in for your return flight. However, there is a fee to obtain a replacement card.

Vaccinations

Be sure your routine vaccinations are up to date. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Malaria, typhoid and tetanus are commonly recommended. The Public Health Agency of Canada also recommends that all travellers to Mexico get vaccinated for the H1N1 flu virus before leaving Canada.

Mexico uses the North American standard plug, however some properties have only two-pronged receptacles in the room rather than three-pronged receptacles.

In Mazatlan, there are plenty of activities to keep the entire family happy. Check out Latin America's largest aquarium, where you can swim with sea creatures, or why not root for the home team at the baseball stadium?

For sand and surf, Mazatlan has several beaches – Playa Camaron, Playa Las Gaviotas, Playa Sabalo, Playa Brujas and Playa Cerritos, among others. Try surfing on Playa Brujas beach, named for the female witch doctors that used to perform their rituals here.

Sports fans, name your game and you can probably play or watch it here. Want to take a swing? Mazatlan is emerging as a hot destination for golfers. There are currently 72 fairways – and more are always in the works.

Meanwhile, serious snorkellers and divers will find underwater paradise off the shores of Deer Island (Isla de Venados) and Goat Island (Isla Chivos) nearby. And as the billfish capital of the world, Mazatlan seldom disappoints those in search of a trophy angling experience.

If you enjoy getting a sense of local culture, there is a vibrant art, music and theatre scene in Old Mazatlan. You might find yourself dancing to banda, a form of music that injects Latin energy into traditional German polka music. Unique to Sinaloa state, banda was created when Bavarian immigrants arrived around the turn of the 20th century.

Food lovers will enjoy the variety of restaurants here, from funky beach shacks to romantic candlelit courtyards. Shrimp doesn't come any fresher, and the talented chefs all over town have mastered fantastic recipes. Try the shrimp breaded in coconut, marinated ceviche-style in lime juice, smothered in garlic and butter, flambéed in tequila, spiked with a Diablo sauce or just plain steamed.

And when the sun goes down, Mazatlan's night clubs and bars offer everything from discos and karaoke bars to salsa on the beach.

Now, here's the best part – since it doesn't rely solely on tourism, Mazatlan gives visitors a taste of authentic Mexico at prices considerably less than other destinations on the Pacific coast. So live it up in Mazatlan, where your pesos really do go further.

Departing from:

ˆTotal price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions. *Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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