Pearl of the Pacific - Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico

By WanderingMonkey | May 15, 2021
North America > Mexico > Sinaloa > Mazatlan

Jumping on a plane for my first adventure in Mexico was a crucial stepping stone in my life and not only was it important and enjoyable, it is also where my love affair of Mexico started and continues to influence my everyday life today. As soon as I arrived a huge weight was lifted of my shoulders and I couldn't wait to get stuck into this irresistible and engaging part of the world; and thanks to Salem, Funky Monkey Hostel and everyone I came to meet whilst living in Maza, it is now I place I cherish and will always miss.

When I tell people I lived in Sinaloa I can see their brain working overtime and the first thing that comes from their mouths is the Sinaloa cartel, Narcos Mexico or El Chapo and although it is understandable when you look at the U.S. government page and watch anything to do with the cocaine trade. Honestly I take offence, It's like Mazatlan or the state of Sinaloa has nothing else to offer and unless a percentage of the population have been under a rock then I will just have to assure you all that Mazatlan is a must.

Sitting in the taxi on route to my new place of work and looking outside the window my initial image was somewhat like a scene from Terminator II where Arnie and co were driving through this dry and arid part of the of Mexico, I have no idea why this come to mind but it did. Driving down the highway I could feel the cool breeze hitting my face and smell a little hint of the Pacific Ocean. Although I had been to Lima previously and also lived on the coast in Uruguay and Brazil, hitting the Pacific coast in this part of the world filled me with huge excitement and it was hard to contain myself.

Finally arriving at Funky Monkey Hostel after 3 flights and a little taxi drive to the door, it was time to meet the other workers and be shown around. Within the hour and after all the niceties it was time to take a walk around and get the feels for what would become my home for the next 6 months.
Well known for its laid back restaurants, open air bars, hotel resorts and beaches the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone) is a great way to start your adventure in Maza and although Mazatlan has a stigma due to being in the heart of Sinaloa you couldn't be any more safer or secure in this region along its beautiful Pacific coastline. Working your way through the streets towards the beach you will realise this is well organised, clean and a tourist hotspot. The restaurants here will offer you anything from homemade tacos, American burgers, Chinese and a vast amount of delicious seafood that is fished locally every morning. Fun fact: Mazatlan is Mexico's largest commercial port due to the amount of tourism and fishing that is here in this colourful and vibrant city. It is also the gateway to Baja California where one can get a boat across the Gulf of California to the famous tourist destination La Paz for a day or two. Not only does Mazatlan offer some of the best seafood in the world, but it also offers some of the best whale watching, shark encounters and deep diving experiences that you cannot ignore.

From the Golden Zone looking south you will find beautiful stretches of beach that follow what is thought to be one of the longest boardwalks in the world: The Malecón at around 21km (13 miles) it is one of the major highlights when visiting Maza. Along this stretch you will find that sometimes you do not know which way to look. Surfers, sunsets and the ocean on one side; shops, bars and restaurants on the other and cyclists, skaters and joggers passing you by in the centre. The Malecon is bustling during the day, but it is the night time when it gets most interesting as it seems to be the place to meet and enjoy the cool breeze, have a cold beer and listen to either the waves or the music the beach clubs and bars are playing.

Between the famous Valentino's fiesta land and the world famous surf spot of Olas Atlas you will also get to enjoy a vast amount of statues and sculptures representing what it is to be a Mazatlanian, you will no doubt come across La Cueva Del Diablo (devils cave) on your to do list and the famous Carpa Olivera public bath. Heading towards the port you see El Faro lighthouse the highest natural lighthouse in the Americas and one of the highest operating lighthouses in the world, El Faro should be on your list of things to do in Mazatlan.

Next is the old city which is both captivating and enchanting. One of my favourite things to do in Mazatlan was to actually just ride around here and grab some ice cream and people watch. This part of Mazatlan will no doubt take you back in time with its colonial feel and old-fashioned bars, charming and delightful cafes and its artistic and decorative hotels. In the centre you will find the gorgeous Basilica Cathederal of Mazatlan,the Macardo Pino Suarez (Traditional Market) and the Museo El Rincón de Pedro Infante paying homage to the famous Mexican actor who is a national treasure. One place that should be on anyones list is the Plazuela Machado a bustling gathering spot that is an open air square and surrounded by beautiful restaurants and cafes.

Mazatlán has the biggest open-air archaeological museum of Mexico: Las Labradas. There you will find petroglyphs with ancient abstract art figures, and pre-Columbian monuments, which are about 3400 years old. Mazatlán also boasts the 3rd largest carnival in the world and has been celebrated since 1898.

When in Mazatlán


Basilica Cathederal of Mazatlán

Also known as The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is the main religious building in the city. Originally the works of the temple began in the year of 1856 and completed in 1899. It still operates as the main church in Mazatlan.

Plazuela Machado

Plaza Machado originally constructed in 1837 to show case the wealth and progress of the city and has now become a hub of life and a great meeting spot for the community. Surrounded by popular restaurants, art galleries, bars and even a restored theatre this is the perfect place to come to relax, enjoy and people watch.
Definitely worth passing by on a Friday or Saturday night to watch one of the many shows.

El Faro Lighthouse

El Faro - Spanish for "The Lighthouse" sits upon Cerro del Creston and offers a dominating view over the Pacific Ocean. Originally a beacon in 1828, everything changed in 1879 when El Faro was constructed to what we see today. Completing this nearly 750 meter hike and its steep 325 steps that can bring you up to a quick elevation of 550 meters is quite a feat. El Faro is considered the 2nd highest working lighthouse in the world and can be seen from 30 nautical miles from sea.

Museo Arqueologico de Mazatlan

This museum holds a collection of archaeological artifacts from pre-Hispanic Sinaloan civilizations and local native cultures. Among obsidian tools and ceramics, standout exhibits include beautiful Aztatlán pottery and a mammoth skeleton.

Acuarro Mazatlan

Mazatlan wouldn't be complete without its aquarium. Holding over 250 species of fish, a marine museum and also a walk-through aviary, crocodile and frog area. If you are not one for getting out on a boat or into diving then it is defiantly worth checking out.

Central Market

Officially opened on 5th May 1900 Central Market has been a bustling, hustling and rustling place since.
With over 250 vendors who sell everything from hats, jewellery, clothes, fresh produces and meat.
You can not mss out on a little adventure through here.

Favourite eats and drinks


As stated previously Mazatlan is a fishing port and one of the biggest in the Americas, so there is without a doubt that you will find some of the best food the ocean has to offer right here. Along with the amazing seafood that can be found everywhere is the array of bars, nightclubs, restaurants and venders all over the place so you could spend two weeks here having breakfast, lunch and dinner in a different spot for each meal.

F.I.S.H.

I love the place. It has a small, simple and easy menu and the staff are excellent even when they are run off their feet. Thursday night is a winner so book a table in advance. It is my favourite spot in the golden zone and is a must.

Joes Oyster Bar

Probably the most famous open air bar on the beach. If you are looking for a good start to a party and really want to mingle then this is a must go to. Loud, fun and always a fun night.

Pancho's

If a romantic sunset dinner at the beach is what you want then look no further.
Attentive staff, wonderful service and the food is fantastic. A must during your stay in Maza.

Barracudas

If you are looking for the best seafood in Mazatlan then I wouldn't hesitate to check out Barracudas Olas Atlas.
As stated on their Facebook page "This is our music, this is our art". Indoors or outdoors this creative restaurant owned and managed by Manny is without doubt the most colourful restaurant in Mazatlan.
Note: Check out the sister restaurant Captain Mantarraya Fonda Casual.

Life en Español

I love it here, the ambience and atmosphere make this one of the best hot spots in Mazatlan. Contemporary bar and restaurant with an inventive food and drinks menu.

Tres Islas

Serving the best craft beers in Mazatlan without a doubt. In the first minute of my arrival here I received a t-shirt and a tour of the micro brewery, be friendly and ask questions. I fell in love with this place, cozy, cute and simple.

Marina Mia

When I think of Marina Mia I envision succulent chicken wings and a litre of cold beer in front of me. My mouth waters and with the sun settling as a backdrop in the marina it is an easy and friendly place with great service.

Valatinos Bora Bora

During the day walking along the Malecon you will no doubt take some shots of this elegant white structure where Valentinos rests quietly. When the sun goes down and the dark of the night arrives this complex takes on a whole different personality. Big strobes lights, loud music and a bustling atmosphere, it is Mazatlan most famous night club.

Taqueria los Chiles

There maybe disputes here, but personally this is hands down the best place to go for tacos.
I have nothing else to say.

Mr Lionso

One of the kind of places you could just sit all day at and not be bothered by anyone. Relaxed, warm and homely and you would even know you were at the Plaza Machado.
Note: Mr Lionso has his own tequila farm and a second restaurant at Playa Bruj. So defiantly worthy of a visit.

Beaches:


Playa Bruja

Playa Burja attracts surfers to the northern end of Mazatlan.

Playa Los Gaviotas

Calm waters, smooth sand and a picturesque backdrop.

Playa Sabalo

North of the Golden Zone this beach is know as the best beach in Mazatlan.

Playa Olas Altas

If you surf then this is the spot and catching high waves here is the norm.

Pato Blanco

An intimate and isolated beach that is ideal for those seeking peace and privacy. Its soft sand and clear waters are perfect for a relaxing day.

Honourable Mentions:


Aquatic Park Mazagua

Defintaly worth a day trip here and lots of fun for families and groups. Great shoots, slides and pools, but be carful shooting down the big white slide, both scary and dangerous.

Isla de la Piedra

Not actually an island, but with its smooth long coastline and with palm trees dotted along this region of Mazatlan it does make you feel like you have just been transported to the middle of the Pacific.
Bring a sleeping bag, a bottle of rum or your logo mats and be transported to island life.

Deer Island

Get an Echo-tour day trip and enjoy snorkelling, kayaking and hiking in this beautify nature hotspot, and if you feel brave enough take an ice bucket on a paddle board over the waves to get there. Gorgeous.

Funky Monkey Hostel

If you are like me and not one for a luxury hotel then I fully recommend staying at Funky Monkey Hostel.
Everything you want in a hostel is here. If you are looking for surf lesson its here, if you are looking for a bbq on a roof top it's here, if you are looking for a movie night and homely meal in front of the TV its here.

The staff are totally amazing, friendly and helpful, you just want to be in their company at all times and they make you feel like its your home and you are part of the family. If they are going camping you are going camping, if they are going to the water park you are going to the water park, you get the drift here.

The location is perfect, being in one of the nicest and friendliest places in Mazatlan, the Golden Zone you can't go wrong. It's a ten minute walk to the beach, bars and restaurants or the banks, buses and shops, everything is just so convenient when you staying here and I always felt safe and secure.

For me personally it has everything you want and need in a hostel and its in the perfect spot if you really want to see Mazatlan and make friends for life. Funky Monkey Hostel is one of these places that just doesn't cater for one kind of guest, it literally caters for everyone who passes through here and without a doubt you will enjoy your stay here.

Fun Fact


Mazatlán is a Nahuatl word meaning "place of the deer." The city was started in 1531. By the mid-1800s a large group of immigrants had arrived from Germany and also started the Pacifico Brewery on March 14, 1900.

Final Thoughts


I ask myself everyday is it a good idea to go back to live and questioning the very thought of returning to Mazatlan tells you that this place has become something very special to me. I personally found Mazatlan an ideal place to live and should be considered a great place to also retire.
Mazatlan has a bad rep due to the influence of cartels, but I never saw or felt the influence of the criminal underworld and I always felt safe. It will always be a part of my life that I will treasure and I have made friends for life. Weather you are looking for a family vacation or go at it alone I totally recommend forgetting what you see on TV or in the movies and just get there.

Peace, love and travel xx

Wandering Monkey

North America Mazatlan Food Drinks Accommodation Things to do Sinaloa Mexico Beaches Restaurants

Share this tip:

Written by WanderingMonkey
Hello everyone I am Paul and now having over 20 years experience living, working and travelling this charming, engaging and magnificent planet, it is now the time to share my knowledge, experiences and stories of my life as a Wandering Monkey. ​

Thoughts? Questions?

See also

Accommodations

Tours and activities

by brinca

Immerse into the real Mexico

Mexico City is cool, vibrant, and eclectic. Oaxaca is beautiful, colourful, and laid-back. We LOVE both! Join us on this trip and allow us to show you why! Be prepared to fully immerse. See, listen, taste and smell while we walk through Mexico’s streets and markets, connect with its people, and try lots of mouth-watering food (and drinks)!

Mexico City Food & Cultural Tour

Experience one of the most magical neighborhoods in Mexico City, walk around beautiful cobbled streets. Go back in time and feel the charm of the colonial era, a neighborhood full of history, with lovely churches, monasteries and plazas. Between delicious food samples, you’ll visit cultural, religious and historic landmarks.

COVID-19 Information & Resources