Mazatlán Travel Guide
Mazatlan's promenade © Judith Duk
The holiday destination of Mazatlán is the most important port on the Pacific coast of Mexico. It is also the shrimp capital of the world, with the largest fleet of commercial shrimp vessels in Latin America. This attractive city also has the reputation of being one of Mexico's premier beach holiday resorts.
The contrast between commercial port and tourist resort is extremely well balanced, combining world-renowned deep sea fishing, miles of beaches, excellent seafood, water activities and a choice of accommodation to suit all tastes. Fondly called the 'Pearl of the Pacific', Mazatlán boasts Mexico's longest and prettiest waterfront promenade, or malecon. This is the city's defining characteristic, and much of the city life can be viewed from here.
The colonial old town centre is the heart of Mazatlán, where the busy main plaza, alongside the 19th century cathedral with its blue and gold motifs, and the open-air market are a hive of activity. The city emanates a combination of laid-back seaside charm and affordable luxury, its beaches lined with bars and outdoor cafés, and the sky above filled with colourful parasails. Sunbathers and hawkers compete for space on the city beaches, and fishing vessels and jet skis circulate in the Mazatlán bay.
For girls who believe diamonds are their best friends, Mexico is
a great place to shop because the gems can be purchased here
tax-free. The best place to seek out jewellery is Mazatlán's
Golden Zone (Zona Dorada) tourist area. The streets of the Golden
Zone are a paradise for greedy shoppers, where there are far more
enticing buys from within tiny boutiques and vast emporiums than
just jewellery, from designer label clothing to seashell
The Mazatlán Arts and Crafts Center is a treasure-trove of handmade goods. The most colourful shopping experience is to wander the central market in Old Mazatlán where street food stalls swarm busily under bright umbrellas in front of little stores selling a hodge-podge of crafts, clothing and novelties. Away from the sea, on the Avenida de los Deportes, is a large shopping mall, La Gran Plaza, which has a supermarket stocking essentials. Shops generally open from around 10am and stay open until late.
Shrimp in every guise is the mainstay of Mazatlán restaurants, this being the coast's shrimp capital. A favourite spot for tasting this tempting crustacean is the tourist-oriented El Shrimp Bucket on Olas Altas, the original of the chain of restaurants that has proliferated throughout Mexico. Great cuisine here is not confined to shrimp however; Asian and Italian restaurants abound, along with some superb authentic Mexican eateries. A favourite among these is El Tunel, near the Angela Peralta Theatre, famed for its chicken gorditas and the best pozole (pork stew) in town, or get more local flavour at Te Amo Lucy's. Copa de Leche is a scenic restaurant where you can dine while listening to the waves washing onto the shore.There is a fairly good choice of dining options around the Plazuela Machado, including the Ambrosia vegetarian restaurant, the upmarket al fresco Pedro y Lola and the Beach Burger, reputedly offering the best hamburgers in Mazatlán. For a quick snack opt for a hotdog or taco from a street stall, or find a cheap meal at the central market where a few restaurants offer inexpensive daily specials.
Mazatlán, like any busy seaside resort, has a lively
nightlife with a plethora of dance, live music and drinking venues.
Extremely popular are Mexican fiesta theme parties that are
organised by the larger hotels. Most of the nightclubs and popular
pubs are to be found in the Zona Dorada, offering a variety of
music from chilled piano playing to lively local mariachi
One of the favourites for locals, offering sizzling Latin beats, is Mundo Bananas, on Avenue Camaron Sabalo. A block or so away is another hotspot known as Mangos. The young crowd tend to favour the Fiesta Land complex at the southern end of the Zona Dorada, which is packed with restaurants and lively clubs like Bora-Bora and Valentinos. Those whose tastes run to other than dancing will find plenty of sports bars, karaoke bars, cocktail bars, and brew houses in which to spend a fun, social evening.
The focus of daytime fun on holiday in Mazatlán is on the
tourist beaches of the Golden Zone, Playa Camaron and Playa
Gaviotas, which are generally as packed with vendors of all sorts
as they are with sunbathers. Playa Camaron, its yellow sand studded
with small seashells, lends itself ideally to bodysurfing, with its
steep drop-off. Further north the beach becomes Playa Gaviotas and
the sand texture becomes smoother, the slope more gentle, waves
lazily rolling in.
All along the beaches it is possible to indulge in watersports of all sorts, including parasailing, jet-skiing, hobie-catting and boogie boarding. Snorkelling is rewarding here, particularly at Deer Island. Also popular is horse riding, or for those averse to the saddle, a jog along in a burro-pulled cart. Mazatlán caters particularly well for keen golfers, who can tee off at the magnificent Estrella del Mar 18-hole course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Junior.
Whatever time of year one visits Mazatlán it is likely there will be a circus, fair, fiesta or sports tournament on the go, and the eagerly awaited bullfight season draws the crowds on Sundays between January and May. Dozens of local tour operators offer day excursions on sea and land to nearby places of interest or excitement, like sport fishing for marlin or driving to an inland village for a leisurely lunch.
There are lots of hawkers on the beach in Mazatlan and this can become a nuisance to travellers. Don't stray too far from the tourist areas as travellers are easy targets for petty crime.