18 Best Sights in Mazatlan, Mexico

Acuario Mazatlán

Olas Altas

A perfect child-pleaser—and a lot of fun for adults, too—Mazatlán's homey little aquarium has more than 50 tanks with sharks, sea horses, and multicolor salt- and freshwater fish. Animal shows featuring kissing sea lions, skating macaws, and penny-pinching parrots are offered three times daily. Note that if you sit in the front, you will get splashed! The grounds aren't extensive, but there are two turtle and crocodile habitats and a small aviary, as well as a gift shop and snack bar.

Buy Tickets Now

Bosque de la Ciudad

Olas Altas

The city's best (read: only) real park is around the corner from the aquarium. With 29 acres of shaded playgrounds, trails, and a train to ride, it's a great place for kids to work off hotel-bound energy. It really gets moving on Sunday, frequently to the beat of a live band.

Av. Leonismo Internacional and Av. de los Deportes 111, Mazatlán, 82000, Mexico
-No phone
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Daily dawn–dusk

Catedral de Mazatlán

Centro Histórico

A new lighting scheme gives nighttime drama to the bright yellow spires of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, which have towered over downtown for more than a century. Church construction began in 1855 and took nearly 50 years, along the way embracing Moorish, Gothic, baroque, and neoclassical architectural styles. A recent restoration has the Italian marble, cedar fixtures, elaborate chandeliers, and Parisian organ shining brighter than ever.

Buy Tickets Now

Recommended Fodor's Video

Cerro del Vigía

The view from Lookout Hill is fantastic, but the road up from Paseo del Centenario is steep and confusing; take a pulmonía. At the top are a rusty cannon and the Centenario Pégola—built in 1848 to celebrate the end of the U.S. invasion (aka the Mexican–American War).

El Faro (The Lighthouse)

The best view in Mazatlán gets you some exercise, too—a 30- to 45-minute climb along natural trails and rough-hewn stairs to the lighthouse that since 1571 has been warning ships from atop Cerro del Creston, 515 feet above the sea. Wear sturdy shoes, bring a bottle of water, and, if you go up to watch the sunset, maybe a flashlight for the trip back down. Note that it takes about 20 minutes to walk from the southern terminus of Paseo Claussen (the end of the malecón) to the start of the lighthouse trail, but it's a lovely route, most of which skirts the water. When Claussen ends just follow the signs for Paseo del Centenario for a few blocks through residential streets until you reemerge on the seaside road.

Malecón

A long, gorgeous waterfront makes Mazatlán a great city for walking, biking, or rollerblading. The malecón, a sidewalk atop the 10-km-long (6-mi-long) seawall, runs from the Zona Dorada south to Viejo Mazatlán. It bustles, especially in the evenings. The route is filled with a dozen quirky monuments, from a vat from the Pacífico Brewery to a bronzed pulmonía, Mazatlán's beloved open-air taxi. The centerpiece is the massive Monumento del Pescador (Fisherman's Monument), which seems to portray a man preparing to throw a net over a napping woman. The road turns into Paseo Claussen, which continues past several more statues, including the Monumento a la Continuidad de la Vida (Monument to the Continuity of Life), a large fountain on which a bronze nude couple stand atop a large conch shell and a school of leaping porpoises. A few steps more bring you to a seaside plaza where you can buy snacks and kitschy souvenirs. If the crowd gets big enough, which it usually does when tour buses arrive around 11 am, 3 pm, and sunset, young men will dive into the sea from a high white platform.

Mazatlán Membership Library

Centro

If you forgot your beach reading, the nonprofit Mazatlán Membership Library will lend you English-language books one at a time for a $15 annual membership fee ($30 for unlimited books). There are also used books for sale. Sixto Osuna 115 E, Centro, Mazatlán, Sinaloa, 82000. 669/982–3036. www.mazinfo.com/library/. Apr. 1–Oct. 31, weekdays 10–2; Nov. 1–Mar. 31, weekdays 9–5, Saturday 10–2.

Museo Arqueológico de Mazatlán

Centro Histórico

The black-and-red pottery of the Totorame (an indigenous tribe that inhabited the area until 200 years before the Spanish arrived) highlights a small but interesting collection of regional artifacts here. Temporary exhibits fill the small main hall. Little of the information is in English.

Museo de Arte de Mazatlán

Centro Histórico

The revival of the Centro Histórico has injected new relevance into this small museum. Beyond recognized Mexican artists like José Luis Cueva and Armando Nava, there are also debut exhibits by lesser-known artists in the burgeoning local scene, as well as eclectic concerts, films, and symposiums.

Calle Sixto Osuna and Av. Venustiano Carranza, Mazatlán, 82000, Mexico
669-985–3502
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Tues.–Sat. 10–2 and 4–7, Sun. 10–2.

Playa Camarón Sábalo

This beach is just north of Playa las Gaviotas on the map but a couple of notches lower on the energy scale. Although hotels and sports concessions back both stretches, there's more room to spread out on this beach. It's also well protected from heavy surf by offshore islands. Most of the hotels have lounge chairs and umbrellas that nonguests can often use if they order drinks.

Playa Escondida

Relentless condo construction is creeping along the 6 km (4 mi) stretch of sand between Marina Mazatlán and Punta Cerritos, so Hidden Beach no longer truly lives up to its name. Still, it is far calmer than the hotel zone. A few small hotel bars and restaurants sell food and drink; otherwise you're on your own. Note that the undertow is strong in places.

Playa Isla de la Piedra

Stone Island is where locals come on weekends, and it's a wonderful adventure for visitors—a short trip to a side of Mazatlán that seems worlds away. Stone Island is really a long peninsula and has 16 km (10 mi) of unspoiled sand fronting a coconut plantation and an adjacent village nestled in greenery. There's plenty of space for everyone, although most folks pack the northern end, where bands and boom boxes blare music, restaurants sell seafood, and outfitters rent water-sports gear. There's horseback riding, too. Tour operators sell party-boat trips for $35 and up, but inexpensive water taxis cross the same channel with departures nearly every 15 minutes from dawn to sunset (save your ticket for the return). You can catch them at two small piers: one near the Pacífico Brewery, the other at La Paz ferry terminal.

Playa Isla de los Venados

The most memorable way to get to Deer Island—one of three islands that form a channel off the Zona Dorada—is on an amphibious tank. The World War II relic departs regularly from El Cid hotel, in the Zona Dorada. It's a 20-minute ride. You can also get here on snorkeling and day cruises arranged through area tour operators. The beach is lovely and clean. For even better snorkeling, hike to small, secluded coves covered with shells.

Playa las Gaviotas

Seagull Beach, Mazatlán's most popular, parallels the Zona Dorada hotel loop. Streams of vendors sell pottery, lace tablecloths, silver jewelry—even songs. Concessionaires rent boats, Boogie boards, and Windsurfers, and tout parasail rides. Food and drink are abundant, either at one of many beachfront hotel restaurants or from more of those vendors, who bear cups of freshly cut fruit, chilled coconuts, and even the odd pastry. If you're looking for relaxation, look elsewhere—between the constant solicitations from vendors and the endless renditions of "YMCA" blasting from the bars, you won't find a moment's peace here.

Playa Marlin to Playa Norte

This 6-km (4-mi) arc of sand runs below a seawall walkway along the waterfront road known as Avenida del Mar, from Punta Camerón (Valentino's) to Punta Tiburón (south of the Fisherman's Monument). Palapas selling seafood, tacos, and cold drinks line the way. Fishermen land their skiffs at the sheltered cove at the south end; a bit farther south is Playa los Pinos, a calm inlet popular with families.

Playa Olas Altas

In this small cove, named for its high waves and edged by rocky hills, you can forget that the rest of Mazatlán exists. A couple of hotels—La Siesta, Belmar, Casa Lucila, and Posada Freeman—and several cafés line the waterfront. At the north end, a saltwater swimming pool is filled and drained by the tides. Excluding the one plaza where vendors hawk tacky souvenirs to tourists, this stretch is a favorite spot of locals.

Buy Tickets Now

Plazuela Republica

Centro Histórico

Also known as the zócalo or Plaza Revolución, this shaded square at the center of downtown—near the cathedral, city hall, and post office—is the perfect place to relax with a snack from the adjacent ice-cream and pizza shops or shaved-ice stands, get a shoeshine, or mail a letter home. Streets within a couple of blocks in any direction have small restaurants where fast, multicourse lunches (comida corrida) cost between $3 and $5.

Teatro Angela Peralta

The restoration of this 1860s-era opera house—named for a touring diva who died of yellow fever before she could give her concert—ignited the revival of the Centro Histórico in 1990. Catch a performance by students at the adjacent contemporary dance school (schedule is outside the theater) or take a self-guided tour.

Buy Tickets Now