Running on nearly the same latitudinal line as Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán sit’s on the mid-western coast of the Sinaloa state of Mexico. Also in proximity to Puerto Vallarta, six hours south along the coast it’s quite touristy to Mexicans but not as internationally touristic as the southern resort city. It’s tropical savanna climate as well as old colonial Spanish architecture that post against a pristine coast of beaches and fishing boats make this destination an absolute must.
Before traveling of course prepared with choice of clothing, travel essentials and awareness. Check out our latest post with some Mexico travel tips! One other thing to touch base on, buy bottled water as filtered tap water isn’t as popular in much of Mexico.
We took just under a week travel here just touching surface on all this beautiful city of around a half million people had to offer. Imbibing craft cocktails, local sea-fare and of course being the home of Banda-Sinaloence, a very popular style of music heard all over Mexico consisting of brass and drums made this trip so worth it.
Today we’ll be sharing a little on our trip, expenses and tips to make this your next destination!
Volaris, a Mexican airline was the spark to the adventure as we wanted to travel down into Mexico but weren’t sure quite where so we let Volaris’s price dictate a bit of this. Giving us three weeks advance along with the many deals through the Volaris site (I used the app) I was able to book 2 round trip flights to Culiácan, Mexico for $120 after taxes (a neighboring city of Mazatlán. It’s not always like this but a definite great app to have with their low fares and Volaris for me compared to flying Delta, free wifi with our plane and clean and spacious seating.
Culicán is the largest city in Sinaloa and the capitol. Flying out of Tijuana to Culicán was just over 2 hours. With Ubers just as available as any U.S. city it took no time to get picked up from the airport to a bus that would bring us the rest of the way to Mazatlán. Before heading straight to the depot though breakfast was necessary having flown in on a red-eye and a bit of interest of this known seafood city. There wasn’t too much open early (7am) but we were able to come across a quaint like cafe, “El Recreo” on our way to the bus depot. It was traditional Sinaloense restaurant that has been around since 1960. We each went for the classic breakfast, eggs with ham beans and quarter block of queso fresco (fresh cheese that easily crumbles). Of course corn tortillas on the side and fresh squeezed mango juice brought the dish together.
Another quick Uber brought us to the depot/shopping mall. Bathrooms in Mexico definitely don’t have the plumbing you may be used to if living in the states as not all have seats and many public restroom charge ~25 cents to use while receiving toilet tissue before even entering your stall. No game changer there, just something to point out. Without buying any tickets prior, traveling with TAP bus-line we were able to purchase 2 one-way tickets to Mazatlán for about $16 total. Another brief 3 hours of driving through the farms and coastline brought us to our destination, beautiful, sunny Mazatlán.
The main bus depot of the city was just blocks from the beach. Modified beach golf-cart taxis zoomed up and down the strip blasting reggaeton with the beach boardwalk sitting up from the beach which lined with beach bistro huts all promoting Mazatlán’s own Pacifico, the most popular pilsner-style Mexican beer in the area for less than a dollar.
A mile walk down along the beach led us to our Airbnb which was just across the street from a steep cliff overlooking the endless mar. We had pre-booked a couple weeks (easter week) prior during one of the busiest weeks of the year, Semana Santa which is Holy Week where many businesses and schools shut down and families take advantage of vacationing as well as observance. Still we were able to lock down a beautiful botanic inspired living space, RUCOS shared with another few floors of units and connected alongside a full-sized Olin Hotel Sense. The hotel was separate from the space with a charming trail leading through the gardens up stone steps to a floor to ceiling front entryway. For $42 a night it couldn’t be beat, just a little searching between travel sites and personal rentals helped find the best value. It was pretty bare basic with a large living space and a bathroom, standard outlets and a stand-up shower and toilet. Unattached was the main lobby which had fruit and coffee in the morning and surf boards to use and steps from an outdoor plaza which held food trucks and live performances each night.
Loma Linda, the neighborhood we stayed was walking distance to a more touristic colonial district which as we were’t looking to be catered to as tourists it was a beautiful area with a rich history and structures that have stood the test of the past few centuries. Steep stepped towers stood tall along the brick balconies with a magnificent fountain nearby, Monumento A La Continuidad de La Vida, copper statues of a couple viewing a pod of dolphins.
During the day the beaches filled with live Banda as being the birthplace of the genre, vendors and people dressed in casual regular clothes. Western culture in the sense of bathing suits weren’t really noticeable as families would lounge under tents in pants and t-shirts even with the semi-tropical weather swimming like this as well. Fresh briny oysters were common to find along the beach/boardwalk walls. One particular vendor had a guy dragging big netted bags of oysters to another man who with a double sided blade was able to shuck a dozen in under a minute for about $6. Mercado Pino Suarez in the Centro barrio (neighborhood) is one of the larger markets in the city a block large and a central shopping area. A definite tourist attraction as well as serving purpose to the the many residence fresh food and clothing needs acted as a one-stop shop. Sectioned off by fresh produce, to your beef butcher, off the boat mariscos and dedicated areas to threads and other fashion accessories crammed with curious buyers really added to the overall experience.
As dusk came upon each night the markets and beaches emptied out as tourists and locals alike ventured into bars and restaurants many along the main strips, Ave Del Mar and Paseo Claussen that ran along the sea. Just a few more blocks in was a square, Plazuela Machado in the colonial styled Old Town neighborhood with narrow cobblestone streets, pastel painted houses, a different color per house and wrought-iron fences giving the sensation of living in past times. Around the square were a handful of open-air casual to fine-dining restaurants, each with their own form of entertainment. From acoustic harp to flamenco and other classical Spanish music to fit the neighborhood, each played at a nice level as to not sound bleed over into each others venue. When acts would take a break, local musicians would fill in for table side entertainment. Artists of many medium popped up as well selling paintings, jewelry and ornate hand sculpted goods. A couple spots we visited was the more casual Mr Lionso, Pedro y Lola a bit more upscale. Though somewhat a touristic feel to the area, everything seemed a little more contained than the rest of the city. Still a must visit. Just outside of the square was Mazatlan Cathedral, designed in a Baroque-Revival style. As being Holy Week beyond the square being crowded, the cathedral seemed at full capacity as well.
The boardwalk and bike path along the ocean stretched on for easy walking Loma Linda to Golden Zone 4.5 miles up the coast with outdoor workout equipment along the way. We started our days jogging along the coast and making use to hold ourselves together while still trying to taste a little bit of everything. Seriously fresh seafood was the normalcy. So much of it. The last night of our stay they held an annual fiesta with Banda music on the beach from daytime Friday until 4am Saturday with the party that never stopped.
The last morning before heading back to the bus depot was bittersweet as great times continue to perpetuate yet the sites, scenes and smells of Mazatlán overexcited any exceptions I had about the city.
Overall Mazatlán holds awesome value if planning a trip somewhere out of the ordinary. A less touristy version of Puerto Vallarta with more vacationers from Mexico makes this a wonderful spot to visit expanding beyond the touristic scenes catered towards the typical traveler.
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