If a pearl signifies smooth, endless, rich, perfection, Mazatlan lives up to its moniker of being Mexico’s “Pearl of the Pacific.” Its long shoreline of golden beaches, azure lagoons, seaside promenades, and inviting coastal islands beckons snowbirds and sunbirds alike. As do the lingering, friendly ghosts of its colonial history.
Just south of the Tropic of Cancer, Mazatlan enjoys temperate semi-tropical weather year-round. The average temperature is between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit, with an average of 300 sunny days per year.
1. Malecón; 2. Old Mazatlan; 3. Las Playas; 4. Isla de la Piedra; 5. Fish in Mazatlan; 6. Taco Jicama and Shrimp; 7. Markets in Mazatlan
is terminally bitten by the travel bug, and is always on the go, whether in actuality, in her mind, or in her armchair. She is passionate about seeing the world by ” the roads less traveled,” and has a white hot compulsion to take her readers with her.
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The hardest part of a vacation is the choice of destination: sun and sand or culture and history? With Mazatlán the decision is easy. Connecting the new and old parts of town, the Malecón is a four-mile boardwalk littered with statues and monuments.
Wonderlane/Flickr CC BY
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2. Old Mazatlan:
In Old Mazatlan or the Centro Historico (Historic Center), life carries on as it always has in the markets, cafes, churches and shady plazas of traditional neighborhoods. Be sure to visit the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and Teatro Ángela Peralta.
Sonyaseattle/Flickr CC BY
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3. Las Playas de Zona Dorada:
The Zona Dorada (Golden Zone) houses modern hotels, shops, bars and restaurants scattered along the idyllic beachfront. Mazatlan abounds with phenomenal, world-class beaches within the city and up and down its coastline. Catch and surf 8-10 foot waves at the less crowded Playa Brujas (Witch Beach) north of the city. Relax in the warm, calm waters of Playa Sabalo and the adjacent Beach Cerritos for Mazatlan's famous watersports: jet skiing, parasailing, snorkeling, scuba diving and sailing.
Jennifer Luis/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND
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4. Islands Hopping:
A favorite weekend pastime for the locals reveals a different side of this "Colonial City by the Sea." Stone Island, a five-minute ferry ride away, showcases stunning views of the Mazatlan cityscape, while wandering mariachis serenade visitors. Three other islands dot the horizon and each has its own personality. Venado ("Deer") and Lobos ("Wolf ") are quiet and undisturbed, perfect for watersports. Pajaros ("Birds") is popular for bird watching of the hundreds of species that nest on the island. To the south lies Isla de la Piedra, (actually a peninsula) with tropical, palm-lined beaches and a South Seas atmosphere (pictured).
Los viajes del Cangrejo/Flickr CC BY
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5. An Angler's Mecca:
Mazatlan ranks among Mexico's most popular sport-fishing destinations, especially if you're looking for sailfish, marlin, dorado, wahoo, grouper and yellow fin tuna. Mazatlan delivers options ranging from deep sea, freshwater bass, fly, inshore, sport and mangrove fishing. Sport-fishing fleets are found along Marina del Crestron near the lighthouse in Mazatlan harbor. The newer marinas, El Cid and Marina Mazatlan are located at the northern end of the Golden Zone. Bass fishing tours are available in the Culiacán and El Salto areas, nearby reservoirs, wetland areas and lakes. And at the end of the day, local restaurants are often willing to cook up your fresh catch for you.
Dennis S. Hurd/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND
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6. The Shrimp Smorgasbord:
Real Mexican food is nothing like what we eat in the U.S. Foodies will love the variety of restaurants—from rustic beach shacks to romantic candlelit courtyards. Shrimp doesn't come any sweeter or fresher and the talented chefs have created masterful local recipes: coconut-breaded, ceviche in lime juice, sautéed in a garlic-butter sauce, flambéed with tequila, fired with a Diablo sauce or plain steamed—shrimp comes in all forms. Mazatlan is unique in its contribution to Mexican cuisine with the "aguachile"—shrimp marinated in lemon juice, with chili and red onion. It is said to be a cure for hangovers and a favorite with marlin tacos and "pescado zarandeado"—smoked, charbroiled fish.
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A stroll through traditional markets such as the Centro Mercado (pictured) in Old Mazatlan reveals stores stocked with ethnic furniture, liquors, jewelry and handicrafts. Mazatlan offerings run the gamut from precious stones to seashells. Indoor shops sell delicate pottery, wall hangings, jars, and pre-Hispanic figures that reflect the roots and customs of the Sinaloan people. At the colorful Plaza Machado, visitors can buy souvenirs like jewelry, traditional regional clothing and coconut oils from the market vendors who come out at night while musicians serenade diners. The Mercado Pino Suarez on Calle Benito Juarez sells a wide variety of clothing and handcrafts.
Prayitno/Flickr CC BY