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Cafe in historic district of Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Cafe in historic district of Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

6 Reasons to Go Ashore in Mazatlan, Mexico

Cafe in historic district of Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Cafe in historic district of Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Executive Editor, U.S.
Chris Gray Faust

Last updated
May 10, 2024

Read time
5 min read

Located on the western coast of Mexico – often called the Mexican Riviera -- Mazatlan is a port where cruisers often wonder whether or not they should get off the ship. For one, cruise ships dock in an industrial shipyard, and you need to take a shuttle just to get to the terminal building. And two, there have been times when Sinaloa, the state where Mazatlan is located, has been in the news for cartel crime.

That’s a shame, however, as Mazatlan is safe for visitors, drawing thousands of land travelers every year, as well as cruisers. Also a stop on some Panama Canal sailings, Mazatlan has one of the world’s longest beachfront Malecons, and like Puerto Vallarta, it’s filled with artwork and sculptures. (As you're planning your trip, here are our top reasons to go ashore in Puerto Vallarta).

There's plenty  to do in Mazatlan, Mexico (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
There's plenty to do in Mazatlan, Mexico (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Getting around Mazatlan is easier than you think. A shuttle will take you to the cruise terminal, which has its own restaurants, shops and bars inside the gate. Outside, you can walk to the Centro Historico on your own, take a private tour with a shuttle, taxi or an only-in-Mazatlan pulmonia (more on that later). Vendors take cash, generally; both American dollars or Mexican pesos. Uber is also an option (and is often the cheapest).

Here are Cruise Critic’s top reasons to get off your cruise ship and go ashore in Mazatlan, Mexico.

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Mazatlan has a Cute Historic Center That You Can Walk to From the Cruise Port

Historic downtown in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Historic downtown in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Similar to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan has a historic center -- known as the Centro Historico -- with restaurants, cafes, art galleries and a renovated theater. The Plaza Machado is the largest of these, with palm trees, a gazebo and sometimes on port days, volunteers from Mazatlan's tourism board who are there to give directions.

Blue line guiding cruise passengers to historic center in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Blue line guiding cruise passengers to historic center in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

If you're up for a 20 minute walk, it's easy to get to the historic center from the cruise port. Just follow the blue line -- literally, blue tiles on the sidewalk -- that take you directly to the town center.

Centro Historico is Mazatlan's oldest area (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Centro Historico is Mazatlan's oldest area (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

As you're winding your way through the center, look for the Teatro Ángela Peralta, a landmark for the city's cultural community. Built in the early 1870s, the theater has an interesting history, seeing many uses and going through decay before renovation in 1992. You can tour the theater -- it's often a stop on city tours -- or even attend a performance if one is going on during your port stop.

Mazatlan’s Beach is World Famous

Malecon and beach in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Malecon and beach in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

At 13 miles, the Mazatlan Malecon is the one of the longest city beach fronts in the world. The southern part of the Malecon is closest to the cruise port and is walkable from the Centro Historico.

Mazatlan's Zona Dorada - or Golden Zone - is dedicated to modern stores and shopping (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

For other beach areas, particularly the Golden Zone where most luxury hotels are located (you can buy a resort pass for some of them or your cruise line might offer it as a beach break), you'll want to take a taxi, pulmonia or Uber.

You Can View Art -- And More -- Walking Along the Mazatlan Seawall

Outdoor art in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Outdoor art in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

If it's not too hot, you can easily walk from the Centro Historico toward the sea, in an area known as Olas Altas. What we loved about the Mazatlan seawall are the number of sculptures that overlook the ocean.

Beatles statues in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Beatles statues in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

A tribute to the Beatles, via a rendition of the Abbey Road album cover, is a draw for Instgrammers. Wait your turn to take your photo "walking" alongside the Fab Four.

The Beatles have no known ties to Mazatlan, by the way. The statues were commissioned in 2021 as an attempt to lure European tourists.

Statue of Jacques Cousteau in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Statue of Jacques Cousteau in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

A few blocks away, another public figure celebrated in sculpture has a stronger tie to Mazatlan. The French ocean explorer and researcher Jacques Yves Cousteau is shown pointing north toward the Sea of Cortez, which he called "the aquarium of the world."

Divers Point in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Divers Point in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

If you continue walking, you'll reach an area known as Divers Cliff. Just like in Acapulco to the south, young men make stunning dives into the water from a platform 50 feet above the Pacific, to get tips from tourists. Even when the divers aren't performing, the area attracts tourists and vendors.

Food and Drink in Mazatlan are Delicious -- Get the Shrimp

Margaritas in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Margaritas in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Have you even visited Mexico if you didn't get a margarita by the beach? The Mazatlan Malecon has many beachside restaurants and bars that are perfect for a drink (or two).

Shrimp enchiladas at a beach cafe in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Shrimp enchiladas at a beach cafe in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Shrimp is a specialty in Mazatlan, and I had perhaps the best shrimp enchiladas of my life at Fishermans, a beachside cafe on the Malecon. The waiter recommeded them smothered in an avocado-tomatillo sauce. The result was divine.

You can Take a Pulmonia City Tour

A Pulmonia drives through Mazatlan's Centro Historico (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
A Pulmonia drives through Mazatlan's Centro Historico (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

To really say you've seen Mazatlan, you need to take a ride in one of the city's open-air taxis, known as pulmonias. They are so associated with the city that there's even a statue of a pulmonia on the Malecon. It's more than a fun way of transport (although it IS really fun to drive down the beach with the sea breeze in your hair). Pulmonias are an iconic symbol of the city.

Pulmonia car in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Pulmonia car in Mazatlan (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

You'll want to negotiate the price of your pulmonia ride with the driver before you get in. Expect them to ask for at least $20 to take you from the cruise port to the Malecon, perhaps more if you have a big party. You can haggle if you want to; just keep in mind that drivers will only accept cash (American dollars or Mexican pesos).

Pulmonias will also stop for you by the side of the road if you're walking and you've decided the heat is too much for you.

Mazatlan, Mexico (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Mazatlan, Mexico (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Lots of pulmonia drivers give city tours as well, taking you to major sites like the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Tours will typically charge by the hour. Just make sure your driver speaks adequate English to give you a real tour, as opposed to a means of transport.

You Can Visit Stone Island for the Day

Mazatlan's Stone Island, as seen from Holland America's Westerdam (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Mazatlan's Stone Island, as seen from Holland America's Westerdam (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

If the Malecon beaches don't appeal, Stone Island -- which isn't really an island, but a peninsula -- is a popular place for cruisers to spend the day. You can see Stone Island from your cruise ship as you come in, and getting there only requires a short water taxi ride.

Stone Island near Mazatlan (Photo: VOLEYMOM)
Stone Island near Mazatlan (Photo: VOLEYMOM)

Once you arrive to Stone Island, you'll find a line of beach bars and palapa restaurants where you can plop down with a lounger and umbrella for the day, for a reasonable fee. Some establishments offer more amusements you can do, such as banana boat rides, boogie board rentals and horseback rides through the surf.

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