Mazatlan

Destination Location

Mazatlan
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Our guest rating from 2 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: Mazatlan, Mexico (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 full of small, quiet residential neighborhoods along with a few bustling and prominent areas. Whether you are looking for an all-inclusive luxury experience, or a more quiet and secluded experience, or a little bit of both, Mazatlan has you covered.

Viejo Mazatlan/Centro

Viejo Mazatlan, or “Old Mazatlan” in English, is located to the south of the main tourist area, the Zona Dorada, and is also known as the center or downtown. The centerpiece of the old town is the Cathedral, completed in the 19th Century, and the Mercado, located one block from the Cathedral. The center is also home to several parks and plazas such as Plaza Machado, which is lined with lively restaurants and cafes. Also located on the Plaza Machado is the restored historic Teatro Angela Peralta (formerly the Teatro Rubio). This section of town is also where you will find the Playa Olas Altas, Mazatlan’s original tourist beach. With a large portion of this part of the city beautifully restored to its original 19th-century splendor, the old town is where to come to get a glimpse of the real, original Mazatlan.

Zona Dorada

Mazatlan’s Zona Dorada, or “Golden Zone” in English, is located north of the old town of Mazatlan. It is the main tourist zone where you will find many of the the large resorts as well as many popular restaurants and nightclubs, like the Fiesta Land complex. Located along the Avenida Camaron Sabalo, this area is home to many of Mazatlan’s most popular beaches, such as Playa Sabalo and Playa Las Gaviotas. These beaches are popular for water sports, including kayaking and banana-boats. Many other attractions are located in Zona Dorada, including the aquarium and Plaza de Toros, home to the only bullfighting ring in the city.

Marina

The Marina area of Mazatlan actually consists of two different marinas, Marina Maztlan and Marina El Cid. This area is the newest in Mazatlan. Initial major construction was completed in 2005, but it is still constantly evolving and developing. Because the Marina is just north of the Zona Dorada, there are several hotels and more popular beaches, most notably Playa Bruja and Playa Los Cerritos, both great for surfing.

Isla de la Piedra

Located to the south of Viejo Mazatlan, Isla de la Piedra, meaning “Stone Island” in English, is another popular destination for its more laid-back beach feel. One of its best features is its 24 kilometers (15 miles) of beach, complete with coconut grove borders. Another popular feature of the area are the palapa restaurants - restaurants with thatched roofs. Some would argue that these restaurants serve up the best food in all of Mazatlan. As the beach is such an important part of Isla de la Piedra, it makes sense that water sports and activities are incredibly popular here; visitors can engage in everything from snorkeling and jet-skiing to surfing and fishing. Horseback riding is especially popular.

Although what undoubtedly comes to mind first when you think of Mazatlan is the beach, this city certainly has much more to offer than just water sports. Mazatlan has plenty of activities for all kinds of visitors, from families to those who want to party.

Nightlife
One of the things Mazatlan does best is party. This lively beach town is home to numerous nightclubs and bars featuring everything from DJs to live music acts to theme nights and everything you can imagine in between. One of the most popular nightlife spots in the city is Fiesta Land, located in the Zona Dorada. Fiesta Land is a large complex that consists of seven restaurants and bars, including Bora Bora and Valentino’s, both classic nightclubs, among others. Try Pepe Toro, Joe’s Oyster Bar.

Family Friendly
Although Mazatlan is known for its active nightlife, it also has a whole host of options for children and families. Another of Mazatlan's claims to fame is its aquarium, which is the largest in Mexico. It features seal shows, a botanical garden and aviary, and other fun and interesting exhibits. Another activity the kids will especially love is the Mazagua water park. Located in the north of the city in the Cerritos area, the water park has tons of features, including a wave pool, inner tubes, a lazy river and an area for small children. There are also volleyball courts, palapas, a store, barbeque grills and a snack bar on site.

Another fun place for kids to swim is the saltwater pool, located on the Paseo Olas Altas, by the Carpe Olivera statue. This shallow and mellow natural pool is perfect for anyone who wants the feeling of swimming in the ocean without dealing with the waves. The pool has a bathroom and changing room facilities.

Outdoor Activities & Entertainment
Being a town on the Central Pacific Coast of Mexico, Mazatlan is a great place for anything oudoors. Up and down the coast of the city are popular beaches, like Playa Olas AltasPlaya Sabalo, and Playa Cerritos. Another beautiful beach, one much less crowded than those in Mazatlan proper, is Isla de la Piedra. With fishing, horseback riding and jet skiing, this is a great place for anything outdoors. Many people find it best to visit the island with one of the many tour guides who offer day trips to and around the island, but it can also be reached easily by the local ferry. Another favorite activity with visitors in Mazatlan is golf, and the city, especially Zona Dorada, is home to several excellent golf courses. Some of these include the El Cid Golf Course, and the Estrella del Mar Golf Course located on Isla de la Piedra. For a slightly less tiring activity, try a visit to Old Mazatlan’s Plaza Machado. This charming outdoor square is lined with trees, restaurants, galleries and stores, and makes for a pleasant stroll while taking in some of Old Mazatlan’s sights and culture.

Arts & History
Mazatlan is a vibrant city full of art, history and culture. A beautiful example of all three of these is one of the city's most famous buildings, the 19th-century Teatro Ángela Peralta, formerly known as the Teatro Rubio. The neo-classical theater hosts all kinds of cultural events in spaces that include a concert hall, art school, galleries and a music and dance conservatory.  

In the center of the old town stands the 19th-century Cathedral. Situated on the Plaza Principal, the cathedral, with its impressive yellow towers, and even more impressive interior, is a must-see attraction. Another 19th-century structure worth a visit is the lighthouse - El Faro. Located on the south end of the peninsula, El Faro's original lamp was handcrafted in Paris, but has since been replaced. Near the lighthouse you will find the clavadistas, cliff divers who plunge into the ocean for tips.

Mazatlan also has a small Archeological Museum with artifacts from the pre-Hispanic period as well as contemporary art exhibitions. The Museum of Art hosts exhibitions of contemporary Mexican art. 

Because it is a popular destination for international travelers, Mazatlan benefits from a huge culinary variety. Here, you will find everything from the obligatory taco stands and tourist-trap restaurants, to fine dining that's on par with the major cities in the world.

Zona Dorada
The "Golden Zone" is home to a large number of the city's restaurants and the cuisine is pleasantly varied. You won't find just the "same old tacos" here. For ridiculously fresh, authentic seafood dishes, try La Costa Marinera. If hearty meat dishes are more your style, La Casa Country is ideal. One of the best barbecue restaurants in the city, La Casa Country has American- and Mexican-style steaks, as well as traditional Mexican food and classic, Texas-style BBQ.

For Spanish tapas, visit El Parador Español. It's an elegant restaurant that has been serving Mazatlan for over 25 years. Be sure to try its famous paella. 

Viejo Mazatlan/Centro
Mazatlan's Centro neighborhood is full of delicious and unique eateries in charming surroundings. One of the most popular restaurants in Viejo Mazatlan is Pedro y Lola, located right across the street from Plaza Machado. The restaurant is named after Pedro Infante and Lola Beltran, two famed and beloved Mexican singers. This sidewalk restaurant serves up all kinds of Mexican classics in an authentic atmosphere. Mariscos La Puntilla offers some of the best seafood in the city; its menu features all types of seafood dishes, as well as a breakfast buffet. A traditional, delicious and cheap meal can be found at the Cenaduria El Túnel; make sure you try the pozole.

One of the newer options Mazatlan's Centro has to offer is the romantic Domitila, which features gourmet food and specialty cocktails amidst the ambiance of the Plaza Machado. On the opposite end of the spectrum, La Copa de Leche is one of the older restaurants in the city. This restaurant shows that some things really do get better with age. It features a very affordable comida corrida (set price, three-course meal). A favorite among ex-patriots living in Mazatlan, Puerto Viejo also features an excellent comida corrida and is a wonderful place to have a drink while you watch the sunset.

Mazatlan

State: Sinaloa

Country:Mexico

Mazatlan by the Numbers
Population: 403,888 (city); 658,354 (metro area)
Elevation: 10 meters / 32 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 80 centimeters / 31.5 inches
Average January Temperature: 20.1°C / 68.2°F
Average July Temperature: 29.1°C / 84.4°F

Quick Facts
Electricity: 110-120 volts AC, 60Hz; standard North American two-pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT -7; Mexican Standard Time (MST)

Country Dialing Code: +52

Area Code: 669

Did You Know?
The famous Mexican actor and singer Pedro Infante was born in Mazatlan on November 18, 1917.

Mazatlan is home to the Pacifico Clara brewery, which was founded by German immigrants in the year 1900.

Orientation
Mazatlan is located on Mexico’s Pacific coast, across from the southern tip of Baja California. The city is about 313 kilometers (195 miles) north of Puerto Vallarta.

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.

The area that is now Mazatlan was originally inhabited by the Totorame people, who were mainly fishermen, hunters (the name Mazatlan comes from the Nahuatl for “place of the deer”) and farmers. Although the first Europeans to come and settle in the area were the company of Nuno de Guzman, which consisted of 25 people, in 1531, no real permanent European settlement was established in this area until the 19th Century. Prior to this permanent settlement, the area of Mazatlan was popular with French and English pirates who would hide in the shielded harbor and attack the Spanish Galleons on routes up and down the west coast of Mexico and the United States.

The first permanent colony in Mazatlan was founded in the 1820s. German immigrants to the area played a big role in the development of the settlement as well as Mazatlan’s port, which got lots of action during Gold Rush, when large numbers of travelers passed through on a long route from the East Coast of the United States to San Francisco.

In 1847, during the Mexican-American War, Mazatlan was taken and the port blockaded by the United States Army. Several years later, the French fired on the city and Mazatlan became integrated into the Mexican Empire, headed by the Emperor Maximilian. Two years later, the Mexican General Ramon Corona succeeded in expelling the imperialists from Mazatlan. Later, Mazatlan was once again occupied by Americans during the American Civil War when Confederate soldiers took over the city. In 1871, the city was taken by the British Navy. 

The presidency of Porfirio Diaz, also known as the Porfiriato, resulted in much development and modernization of Mazatlan. This period saw the arrival of the railroad, the completion of the cathedral and the modernization of the port and lighthouse. The Teatro Rubio was also completed during this time and soon became the premier Opera house of the central Pacific coast. The famous opera singer Angela Peralta performed here before dying of Yellow Fever. The theater has since changed its name to honor this famous “Mexican Nightingale.”

A less fortunate distinction for Mazatlan came during the Mexican Revolution when the city became the second to suffer aerial bombardment, ordered by the General Venustiano Carranza.

The 1960s saw the next modernization of Mazatlan when the beach town started to become popular with tourists from all over, and the city started expanding up and down the beach line. Many of the historic buildings in the old town have been beautifully restored. Today Mazatlan thrives, not only as a tourist center but also in other industries as well.

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.

During your flight into Mazatlan Airport, you'll receive two forms to fill out.

The Mexican peso is the official currency in Mazatlan.

There are a variety of transportation methods available in Mazatlan that come in all shapes, sizes and colours.

Departing from:

^Total 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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