Our descent into Mazatlan revealed deep canyons and gorges, mountain peaks and jungle, and finally, the deep turquoise blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. For travelers who wish to experience true Mexican culture along with pretty beaches and comfortable resort accommodations, Mazatlan is a magical destination.
Mazatlan has been one of the most important seaports in the Western Hemisphere for centuries and remains so today. Located in the state of Sinaloa in northwest Mexico, Mazatlan’s top industries are agriculture, mining, fishing, and tourism. Known for its beautiful beaches and sport fishing, the city is poised to become one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations due to investment in the historical district, a new aquarium, and a ballpark.
From a walk through the open-air fish market to an evening of theater and fine dining, here are some ideas on how to spend a perfect long weekend in Mazatlan.
Note: This trip was hosted by Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan. All opinions are my own.
Things To Do In Mazatlan
Take A Walk Along The Beach
Along the Mazatlan malecon, it is easy to see why this glittering port city is known as the Pearl of the Pacific. The malecon, or beachfront, is 16 miles long, stretching from downtown to the Golden Zone. Take a walk and enjoy the scenery and sculpture trail which tells some of the history of the city.
Hike El Faro – The Lighthouse
A great place to get a perspective on Mazatlan is from El Faro, the Spanish word for lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1897, updated in 1905, and updated again in 1933. The original source of light was an oil lamp made in Paris. Il Faro is the highest lighthouse in the Western hemisphere at 515 feet above sea level. Hike to the top for spectacular views of the coastline all the way to the Golden Zone.
Pro Tip: This hike is moderately strenuous, and you will need very comfortable shoes. It’s best to go early in the morning because there is no shade at all and the sun is intense, even in the winter.
Another place to enjoy a birds-eye view of Mazatlan while learning about its history is the Observatorio 1873. With its excellent location on a hillside above the bay, you can see across to the lighthouse. No longer an observatory, the existing building now houses a museum furnished with period furniture, artifacts, and photographs of old Mazatlan.
Learn about the process of making mescal while touring the grounds. Step inside an interactive bird sanctuary. All of the birds are rescues from zoos or owners who’ve abandoned them.
A trip to the observatory includes a short film explaining the history of Mazatlan, complete with popcorn. After the film, there is a short ride via funicular to the observatory above.
Pro Tip: There’s a nice bar with the same stellar views.
Angela Peralta Theater
The Angela Peralta Theater was named after one of the most famous opera singers in Mexico. Tragically, she died of yellow fever in Mazatlan at the age of 38. Angela was a very wealthy woman and at the time of her death, she was in a relationship with her manager. Apparently, they were legally married post-mortem, as her death certificate had not yet been filed. File that bit of information under the “truth is stranger than fiction” section.
Built in 1874, it was originally named the Rubio and was one of the grandest opera houses in the country. After decades of being shuttered, the theater was restored in 1992. Angela Peralta’s legacy is honored by the A-list talent that is booked to perform at the theater.
The heart of the historical district is Plaza Machado, which is surrounded by charming shops, restaurants, and galleries that used to be the homes of wealthy residents. Shady side streets offer hours of wandering.
Mazatlan’s historic district is captivating at any hour, but at night it is especially so. The city installed uplighting along the key streets highlighting the street art and architectural details of some of the city’s oldest buildings. Along with the brick-paved streets, vintage street lights, and 19th-century architecture, the atmosphere is very romantic. When the sun begins to set, the area is lively with people enjoying a stroll or a meal at one of the many cafes and bars.
Pro Tip: The Centro Historico is full of photo ops. Be sure your batteries are charged and you have plenty of memory cards.
Visit Mazatlan’s Basilica
Construction of The Cathedral Basilica of Immaculate Conception began in 1856 and took over 40 years to complete. Located in Plaza Republica, it is designed in the Mexican Baroque style and is considered one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Northwest Mexico. An interesting feature is that the windows of the cathedral are decorated with the star of David to honor a wealthy Jewish family that donated money so that the construction of the cathedral could be completed.
Best Restaurants In Mazatlan
Mazatlan is synonymous with shrimp, one of its top exports. I ate shrimp prepared in many different ways from shrimp cocktails and grilled shrimp to shrimp salads. It was all delicious. I also had red snapper, sea bass, and tuna. You simply can not beat Mazatlan for fresh seafood.
In the evening, many of the restaurants in this old part of the city have outdoor seating and romantic lighting. It looks and feels very European.
A few restaurants to try in the area are Casa 46, an upscale restaurant that has a captivating view over Plaza Machado, the central point of downtown. Casa 46 was once the residence of the man responsible for the development of the plaza and occupies an entire block.
El Presidio may have one of the most charming patios in Mazatlan. For a casual lunch try Via Condotti which serves panini’s, and other Italian-style dishes in a minimalist atmosphere. There are also a few tables for outdoor dining on the sidewalk.
Pino Súarez Market
Located in the heart of downtown, the Pino Suarez Market originally opened in the 1900s. Still the hub of the city, take a walk through the market for real insight into the local culture.
Not far from this market is the open-air fish and shrimp market. Buckets of shrimp (Mazatlans’ #1 export) and many other types of local fish are sold here. This is really worth seeing because it is a very old market and things are still done as they have been for decades. It was amazing to see the fresh catch on blocks of ice. Not shaved ice but blocks of ice. You can also learn more about what kinds of fish are local to the area.
We bought a pound of freshly caught shrimp then took it to a small neighborhood restaurant where they prepared it for us Mojo de Ajo style, with lots of garlic. This was a delicious and very local experience. Be sure to also try the dried shrimp which people eat straight out of the bag. They were tastier than I expected.
Pro Tip: An easy treat to take home with you are marshmallows made with toasted coconut. They are a specialty of the region and make a tasty sweet snack or a nice twist on smores. Kids love them.
Best Hotels In Mazatlan
The Golden Zone
The Golden Zone was developed to lure tourism to Mazatlans’s miles of beachfront. From the malecon downtown, you can see the high-rise development of the Golden Zone to the north. All of these hotels are beachfront properties, and many are all-inclusive resorts.
Pueblo Bonito Resort is located on the far north end of the Golden Zone. One of the very first developments in Mazatlan, it is still a popular destination, especially with locals. In spite of the pandemic, the resort completed a $27 million renovation of the guest rooms in 2021. The result is a bright room with a light color palette and minimalist appeal. For small families traveling together, this could be the perfect place. The living room has a pull-out sofa and the bedrooms have king-size beds. Most rooms have a beach or pool view and a balcony … the perfect place to snap your sunset photos.
With four onsite restaurants plus the beachside palapa bar, you will not go hungry here. Breakfast is served only at Las Palomas. You can order from a menu or serve yourself from the buffet-style breakfast which serves delicious regional cuisine. There’s also a custom omelet bar. Las Palomas offers both indoor and outdoor seating.
Other dining options at Pueblo Bonito include Cilantro’s for fresh seafood and ocean views, Angelo’s for an onsite fine dining restaurant featuring Northern Italian cuisine, and a palapa bar during the day for casual poolside dining.
All of the restaurants at their sister property, Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay, are available for guest dining as well.
Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay
Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay is a sister property to the original Pueblo Bonito Resort. Completed in 2008, Pueblo Bonito Emerald encompasses over 20 acres. It’s an upscale, beachfront property, built in a romantic neoclassical style reminiscent of old town Mazatlan. Lush gardens, wildlife viewing areas, outdoor sculptures, three swimming pools (one adults-only pool), a spa, tennis courts, and a fitness center, provide guests with multiple options for luxurious experiences.
Armonia, the onsite spa is one of the most popular in the region. It offers a variety of services and products including its own organic line made with shea butter. There are three organic body treatments, an organic facial and massage.
In addition to the in-house products, you’ll find world-class brands like Natura Bisse.
Guests can also use the wet room which has a cold plunge and hydro circuit as well as a jacuzzi.
Travelers who prefer a more independent experience will love Casa Lucila. An eight-room boutique hotel terrace has incredible ocean views that once hosted Hollywood celebrities and writer Ernest Hemingway. The property owner died in the 1950s, and it was abandoned until 2005 when Mazatlan Native Conchita Valades restored the hotel. Valades named each of the eight rooms after one of her daughters. In 2018 ownership transferred again, but the new owner has kept the tradition of Valades. There is a spa, art gallery, and restaurant open for breakfast and lunch only. Casa Lucila is within walking distance of Mazatlan’s historic district.
Mazatlan is located in the Tropic of Cancer. Daytime temperatures are warm to hot year-round. It can also be very humid. Evenings are much cooler in the winter, so it’s a good idea to bring a jacket. One final tip: Mazatlan has the world’s third most important carnival in the world. The first event was in 1898. In 2022, it is scheduled for February 24 through March 1, 2022.