The nickname which has been given to Mazatlán… “Pearl of the Pacific”, has nothing to do with pearls, it is a gracious compliment to this very friendly Pacific resort city.
Mazatlán is a very interesting city that embraces tourism, but Mazatlán is more than just a resort. Mazatlán could survive just fine without tourism because the tourism industry in Mazatlán is not the most important item on this city’s agenda.
This translates to a more kicked back attitude toward tourism and this can be a big plus to tourists. Much of the hype and constant pressure from hotels, timeshare companies and the tourist sector in general for the tourism dollar is more sedate here. This equates to a more relaxed vacation to the average tourist.
But you will still find great accommodations in Mazatlan – everything from resorts with all inclusive plans like Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort & Spa to local hotels like the Las Villas Hotel and Spa.
Mazatlán is home to the Pacifico brewery, which makes one of Mexico’s most popular beers. The local shrimp fleet is the largest in Mexico, there is a large commercial fishing fleet as well and Mazatlán is also home to numerous other industries. If you stay where most tourists stay, Zona Dorada, you would never know Mazatlán was such an industrious city. So Mazatlán is a little different than most resorts. Mazatlán is also a city with an incredible history.
When you visit Mazatlán, you should prepare yourself for an active vacation. Mazatlán has great beaches, many attractions, a variety of interesting historical sites and many interesting monuments spread out all over the city. Just visiting the monuments and statues could take up an entire day. Of course, if all you want to do is enjoy the surf and sun, this is OK too.
The beach and the water activities associated with resort vacations is what vacations are all about for many travelers. Mazatlán offers you many different choices for your vacation, kicked back – full relaxation, active – adventurous, ecological – exploratory. You may come to Mazatlán to relax but the lure of exploration is a constant possibility if you happen to venture very far away from your hotel.
Mazatlán has been known for years to big game fisherman worldwide for the excellent sport fishing here, as evidenced by the number of sportfishing fleets. Mazatlán is also a base for nearby freshwater bass fishing tours. Excellent Dove, Duck and Quail hunting is readily available in the outlying areas.
Mazatlán is home to one of the worlds greatest parties, Carnival. Mazatlán during Carnival is an unforgettable experience. Carnival, usually the last week in February or the first part of March, is a 100 year old Mazatlán tradition. The expertise that goes into the planning of this event is evident everywhere during Carnival. This is truly one of the great celebrations in the world. If you wish to visit Mazatlán during Carnival you should make your reservations well in advance as this giant party is no secret among the Mexicans and savvy travelers.
Mazatlán is a city with an interesting past and a very bright future.
Zona Dorada – The Golden Zone
The golden zone is the location of most of the tourist hotels, a lot of the finer restaurants and most of the local nightlife. For our purposes the golden zone is anywhere north of Punta Sábalo, where one of the cities most recognizable city attractions is situated, Fiesta Land. Fiesta Land is PARTY headquarters in Mazatlán, a great place to start or end your search for the local hot spot. Most of the Mazatlan nightlife, hotels and attractions in the golden zone are within walking distance of each other. If walking is not you thing, Mazatlán offers a unique form of transportation, the Pulmonía. These handy, open air cabs, are unique to this area and are seemingly everywhere. They will take you wherever you want to go in the city very reasonably. As a general rule the taxis in Mazatlán are reasonable for a resort area.
Old Mazatlán – The Historic Zone
Old Mazatlán, the area around the center of town is a great area to do some exploring. Many of the oldest buildings have been restored, or are in the process. There are walking tours and city tours that will point out the highlights of The Historic Zone. Take a tour if you are so inclined but a casual exploratory walk is the really best way to discover the real charm and history of old Mazatlán. Enjoy the sidewalk cafes and mingle with the friendly locals that are so proud of their lovely city.
Mazatlán for Kids
There are plenty of activities in Mazatlán to keep the kids happy. There are baseball batting cages and Mazatlán has it’s own Triple A baseball team. There is a miniature golf course and a water park, complete with giant slides and all of the usual entertainment. Mazatlan’s aquarium is the largest in Mexico and has many interesting exhibits and displays as well as seal shows and a tropical botanical park. Also, as in most Mexican cities the mall has an electronic game arcades, which are great for the children.
Mazatlán has over 15 miles of pleasant beaches to enjoy. The most popular tourist beaches are located in golden zone, which is located north of Fiesta Land, the Moorish style complex that houses a great deal of Mazatlan’s hearty nightlife. In the golden zone you will find many varieties of water sports, great beachfront restaurants, and many of Mazatláns most popular hotels. To find your favorite spot on the beach, I suggest that you just start walking. One of the most popular areas seems to be the area around and between the Hotel Playa Mazatlán and Joe’s Oyster Bar.
Much of the beach action is really not in the sand or surf, but along the Malecón, which fronts the beaches. Each evening when the sun starts to set the Malecón springs to life. The Malecón in Mazatlán is one of the longest in Latin America and is a great place for some old fashion people watching. Many of the locals come to the Malecón each evening to watch the sunset and perhaps have an evening swim.
For surfers, finding the waves is a pretty easy task in Mazatlán, just drive the length of the Malecón and you should be able to find some decent waves. Mazatlán has quite a few surf breaks within the city and also on the beaches to the south.
One of the longest and best shaped waves in Mexico is located at Matanchén Bay, just outside the village of San Blas. San Blas is a delightful fishing village, nestled between the jungle and the beach. San Blas is also home to a jungle cruise that you will not soon forget. San Blas is located about 150 miles south of Mazatlán, an easy three and a half hour drive. There are more than adequate accommodations in San Blas, for those who do not want to make the trip in one day.
Things to Do…
Water sports are an all day – every day attraction in Mazatlán. The beaches are teeming with Waverunners, parasailing, banana rides, Hobie Cats, sea kayaks and a water park. If you are staying in the golden zone your favorite water sport is probably just a few steps away, almost everything is offered directly from the beaches. The beaches of the golden zone are always bustling with activity, and on weekends some of the beaches can even get a little frenzied.
Out of the Water
If you do get tired of the sea and sun there is still plenty to do, for everyone, in Mazatlán. Everything from bull fights to Triple A baseball and much, much more. The aquarium in Mazatlán is Mexico’s largest and offers a variety of sea life including a shark tank. Seal shows and many exhibits also are highlighted. The aquarium also has an interesting tropical botanical park. Horseback riding is notably missing in the golden zone but available on Stone Island and on an irregular basis at Playa Bruja, north of the golden zone.
There are tours to the nearby foothills that highlight some interesting old mining towns (see Side Trips) and some very interesting churches.
Golf and Tennis
Mazatlán is home to two championship golf courses and an aging 9 hole course that is located pretty close to town but almost impossible to find. One of the championship courses, El Cid, in the heart of the golden zone. The course at El Cid is open to the public during off-season and on a limited basis other times. (Members and guests receive preference) The other championship course, Estrella del Mar, is a beautiful new golf course that skirts the ocean and is located to the south of town, on Stone Island, just a a short distance from the airport. If you are staying in town, the short trip south will be well worth your time. This course is open to the public and even has a shuttle that will take you there from the golden zone.
Tennis players will be content in knowing that there are sufficient courts to keep their game polished. A tennis complex at the El Cid Golf and Country is open to the public (subject to availability, with guest and members getting preference), featuring 13 well kept courts and is located directly adjacent to their golf course. There are many other locations within Mazatlán where you can play tennis or get lessons. The Playa Real hotel has two courts, available to the public, which are located on a bluff right above a small cove. An incredible view of the Pacific can accompany your tennis.
The Mazatlán dining scene is fairly diverse. Of course the seafood here is always a good choice. But many of the local restaurants serve up great steaks, prime rib, Italian food, oriental food and other pleasant surprises. Most of the better restaurants are located in the golden zone or along the Malecón. There are restaurants of almost every description and cuisine. Mazatlán also pleasantly disproves and old theory about “hotel food”. Some of the best meals to be eaten in Mazatlán come from the restaurants in the hotels. The historic zone is home to many pleasant sidewalk cafes, a great place to enjoy a casual coffee or a leisurely meal.
The beaches all along the Malecón and the beaches just north of the Golden Zone are lined with numerous restaurants and stands serving fresh seafood, most offering a very high quality menu. When you are choosing a local seafood restaurant, be aware that looks can be deceiving. Some of the Mazatlan’s better taste treats come out of some pretty suspicious looking establishments. Take a close look, check out the menu, ask some of the customers, and then decide if you want to try your luck.
Nightlife in Mazatlán should live up to your expectations. In Mazatlán it is not only acceptable to party like a pro, it is totally expected. You will have plenty of chances to do your party routine. Mazatlán’s nightlife starts late. Many of the nightclubs and discos do not even open until 9 or 10 PM and don’t wind down until early in the morning. Most of the discos in Mazatlán close around 3 or 4 AM. A good starting place (or stopping place), is the nightlife and dining complex known as Fiesta Land.
Many of the local Mazatlan restaurants feature live music, there are Mexican Fiestas and Theme Night Spectaculars. One thing is certain; you won’t be bored in Mazatlán after dark!