A Visit To Mazatlán Offers The Perfect Combination Of Mexico's Past, Present, And Future

From downtown historic plazas to the beachfront promenade, this destination’s culture and thrills make for a fantastic vacation.

As a frequent visitor to the resorts of Los Cabos, I was looking forward to my first vacation in Mazatlán, located about 200 miles across the Sea of Cortez on Mexico's mainland. The town also offers sandy beaches, luxe resorts, fine restaurants, and convenient flights, and it didn't take long before I wondered why I hadn't planned a visit much sooner.

We arrived at the small airport and breezed through passport control and customs to meet our driver for the half-hour ride to Pueblo Bonito Mazatlán Beach Resort, our home for the week. An all-inclusive, all-suite resort located along Mazatlán's Zona Dorada—or Golden Zone of hotels—Pueblo Bonito features an expansive white sand beach with gently lapping waves, perfectly positioned for stunning sunsets. Two large pools overlooking the sea are surrounded by lounge chairs and umbrellas, with a snack bar nearby. For beach lovers, thatched cabanas and lounge chairs are set on the sand.

The resort's sister property, Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort & Spa, a secluded upscale beachfront resort with an elegant spa, fitness center, and several dining venues, features architecture reminiscent of old-style Mazatlán. Guests at the Pueblo Bonito resorts have access to restaurants and amenities at both properties, and a scheduled shuttle operates between them.

When it opens in early 2023, the Mazatlán Aquarium will become the largest of its kind in Latin America. | Pueblo Bonito Resorts

A visit to the site of the future Mazatlán Aquarium was enough to make me plan my return trip. Expected to open in spring of 2023, it will be the largest aquarium in Latin America, featuring outdoor plazas, walking trails, a restaurant, and exhibits with jellyfish, seahorses, rays, turtles, reptiles, and marine life of the Sea of Cortez. A tide pool, touch tanks, an aviary, interactive educational exhibits, and a tunnel where guests will feel as if they're under the sea will make this a spectacular attraction for residents and visitors.

Things to Do in Mazatlán

Hop into a pulmonia—my new favorite mode of transportation—for some sightseeing or a ride to the seaside malecón. The most popular form of public transportation in Mazatlán, the cars are open with soft tops, kind of like a golf cart, but with a driver and a bit more space. You can flag one down along the street, but you'll probably find several near your hotel waiting for passengers.

The malecón is a 12-mile seaside promenade with food and souvenir vendors, sculptures, monuments, cliff divers, and a colorful Mazatlán sign of huge block letters that is probably on every tourist's Instagram. Statues dedicated to family, fishermen, sea lions, pulmonia taxis, Pacifico Brewery, and others tell the story of Mazatlán. The wide promenade is perfect for a bicycle ride, a romantic sunset stroll, or a place for an afternoon of people watching.

Take a funicular ride to the hilltop Observatorio 1873, once a military observation post, and today a nature preserve, museum, gift shop, cactus garden, and bird sanctuary. At El Nido, colorful parrots, toucans, macaws, and flamingos live happily among lush trees, and if you look up, you might see a huge iguana resting on one of the branches. Relax and enjoy the view with a cocktail at Sky Bar 360.

El Faro Lighthouse
It's very hard to miss El Faro Lighthouse. | Pueblo Bonito Resorts

Get your workout and take in the view from El Faro Lighthouse, one of the highest in the world. A hike to the top involves more than 300 paved steps, but once you catch your breath, you'll appreciate seeing Mazatlán from above. Another bonus is the glass-bottomed lookout, for a thrilling perspective of the city and sea below.

We visited the town of El Quelite, a few authentic blocks of historic Mexican buildings, shops, horses, street vendors, and famed restaurant El Meson de los Laureanos, a colorful, rambling building with indoor and outdoor seating and delicious traditional dishes. 

Spend some time in the downtown Historic District, where you'll find Plaza Machado, with gardens, palm trees, a gazebo, and benches for relaxing and taking in the atmosphere. The gorgeous Basílica de la Inmaculada Concepción is the area's crown jewel, interesting for the Star of David designs on its stained-glass windows, created in gratitude for the donations from Mazatlán's Jewish community that helped to complete construction of the cathedral. 

Casa 46
Mazatlán's culinary scene is expectedly creative and vast, boasting excellent dining options like Casa 46. | Pueblo Bonito Resorts

While you're downtown, treat yourself to a marvelous dinner at Casa 46, a historic restaurant serving exquisite cuisine in an old-world atmosphere. We sat at a table on the outdoor veranda overlooking the Plaza Machado and enjoyed attentive service, delicious cocktails, and traditional dishes.

The Angela Peralta Theater, named for the beloved Mexican opera singer, dates to the late 19th century, and it has been restored with plush seating and elegant mezzanine and balcony boxes. Ballets, operas, and concerts fill the theater's schedule. 

While time didn't allow during my recent visit, Mazatlán is known for sport fishing, golf, and day trips to nearby islands like Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island) and Isla de Venados (Deer Island).

When to Go to Mazatlán

The weather is warm and sunny all year, with temperatures reaching 90 degrees during the rainy months of July through September. Hotel rates are generally lower during summer, and the beaches and pools are there for a cooling swim. The months of January through March are the busiest, with visitors escaping the winter up north.

Carnaval de Mazatlán is an exciting time to be in the city. The five days before Ash Wednesday (dates vary in February and March each year) are celebrated with music, dance, parades, cultural activities, fireworks, and parties. Along the malecón, bands perform and huge crowds enjoy the lively atmosphere. 

Carnaval de Mazatlán
Carnaval de Mazatlán (pictured) is a great way to experience the town's culture early in the year, while Dia de los Muertos provides a reason to come back. | Pueblo Bonito Resorts

Dia de los Muertos, the first two days of November, is celebrated in Mazatlán with a huge parade of floats, dancers, fireworks, and catrinas with elaborate makeup. Families visit cemeteries and create altars to honor their deceased relatives. Special performances take place at Plaza Machado and the Angela Peralta Theater.

Baseball fans will want to plan a visit during the sport's season in Mazatlán. The Mazatlán Venados of the Mexican Pacific League play from October through January. In their newly rebuilt 16,000-seat stadium, the atmosphere is lively with cheerleaders, a mascot, and lots of pre-game activities.