Skip to main content

Top 10 things to do in Mazatlan

Carnival cruise ship in Mazatlan

Located on the Sea of Cortez, Mazatlan is a popular cruise stop on many cruises to the Mexican Riviera. The Spanish settled in the area in 1531, leaving a strong mark on the regional food, culture and architecture.

Well known for the city’s iconic cliff divers, it is described as a colonial beach city. Nicknamed the Pearl of the Pacific, with warm weather throughout the year, it has a semi-arid climate which makes it ideal for outdoor activities.

There is a wide variety of great activities and excursions for cruisers wanting to spend their day, regardless of budget.

Here is a look at some of the top 10 things to do in Mazatlan.

Overview of Mazatlan

Mazatlan view

Cruise ships visiting Mazatlan dock at the commercial port, where free shuttles take passengers to the cruise ship terminal. Outside there are plenty of taxis, and it is just about 1 mile to get to the historic part of the city, known as the Centro Historico district.

One unique option for transportation in Mazatlan are “pulmonias”, small vehicles that look like extended golf cars; a great way to get around. A word of caution, some vendors list prices as Mexican $; however, this generally refers to the price in pesos, which can be confusing. Using cash instead of credit cards may get you a better price, and some shops charge extra to use your credit card.  

Tourism information often refers to the Golden Zone, the western part of the city, along the coast. It is a popular tourist area that has a nice sandy beach, lots of restaurants, bars and shops.

Hike El Faro

El Faro

Among the most popular things to do in Mazatlan is hike El Faro. One of the highest lighthouses in the Americas, it sits 515 feet above sea level, providing some of the best views in the city. First built in 1879 to guide seafarers, it is still used today.

A newly built cantilevered glass structure provides guests with the opportunity for even better views as they walk along the glass floor, extending off the side of the mountain.

Not far from the port area, cruisers can walk or take a taxi to El Faro. Entry to the park is free; however, they do accept donations for the conservation and upkeep of the park. It is a good 30-minute hike to the top, and guests are encouraged to dress appropriately for the climb and bring water.

Take a stroll on the Malecon


It seems like this pops up as a must do activity in most ports of call in the Mexican Riviera, but there is a good reason why. Leisurely strolling along a seaside boardwalk is a great way to take in the culture of the area. Not to mention an easy, budget friendly excursion.

The Malecon in Mazatlan is a staggering 13 miles long, with plenty of access to beaches, along with great restaurants, bars and shops. They are lots of works of art, and statues, such as the famous Fishermen Monument and the colorful Mazatlan sign, which are great spots to take pictures.

One unique feature along the Malecon is Carpa Olivera, a free saltwater pool set right in the ocean at the north end of Olas Atlas Beach. Then to top off your day, take a few minutes to watch Mazatlan's famous cliff divers, which typically start around noon and continue throughout the afternoon.

Visit Centro Historico


The heart of the city is Centro Historico (old Mazatlan) which is filled with national historic landmark buildings from the early 19th century. Buoyed by commercial success as a port, this famous area features many great places to be explored. There is even an option to take a tour on a segway, a fun way to travel and cover a lot of ground. 

Another highlight is the Mazatlan Cathedral, previously referred to as the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Built in 1865, the cathedral has incredibly ornate décor and Moorish, Gothic and Baroque influences.

In addition to churches, the area has more than 500 buildings designated as historical landmarks. This part of the city is a hub for artists and is a great place to buy local goods. There are also plenty of cultural events such as flamenco dancers and musical performances.

Learn to surf


Whether you are a newbie or have some experience, Mazatlan is known as one of the best spots to surf in Mexico. Summer can see some of the biggest waves, but surfing is good all year long.

Centrally located, Playa Bruja, is a popular spot, along with Playa Olas Atlas, and Playa Los Pinos. with plenty of places to rent boards or take a lesson for the day.

There are lots of reputable companies providing shore excursions, and many will pick you right up at the dock. Some even have a "no port, no pay policy," meaning if your ship cannot dock for some reason, you don't need to pay for the activity.

Explore the Aquarium


For families wanting to do a little different than a typical beach day, the Aquarium is a fun, affordable option, with an entry price of U.S. $7.30 for adults and U.S. $5.30 for kids. As the only Aquarium on the Pacific coast of Mexico, this isn’t something you get to do in other ports.

Open every day of the week, the aquarium houses 250 species of fish, sea lions, stingrays, and bioluminescent jellyfish. There are several live shows every day, including a diving show.

They also have lots of birds, including colorful parrots, as well as flamingoes, crocodiles, frogs, and sharks. Kids can get hands-on with touch tanks, always a crowd pleaser. There is a gift shop, a small café, and an adjoining botanical garden.

Take a day trip to Sierra Madre Villages


For a relaxing outing, a day trip to the Sierra Madre villages lets cruisers experience the slower pace of the countryside, visiting quaint towns less than an hour outside of Mazatlan. There are plenty of options through cruise lines as well as local tour operators for half and full day tours.

This area has some of the earliest colonial settlements, with a strong legacy leftover from the gold and silver mining eras. Many tours stop at Copala, a ghost town that fell into disrepair after its silver mining operation shut down.

Travelers have raved about this part of the region, which is a throwback in time and offers a unique experience to see local artisans and learn about the history and culture of the area. Visit charming old churches, see an authentic bread-making process, or how to make tiles and pottery.

Visit Deer Island


Sailing to this uninhabited island, known as Venados in Spanish, visitors are treated to a spectacular setting not far from the beaches of the Golden Zone. It is the largest of the coastal islands in the area and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

As part of the Mazatlan Islands Ecological Reserve, it has no commercial development. Visitors can explore, kayak, snorkel, and see some of the local tropical fish and sea lions. Guests enjoy a beachside BBQ on the sandy beaches, which are perfect for relaxing or taking a swim. There are even banana boat rides for family fun. Rugged in parts, it is also great to hike and explore the island.

Do a food tour


Mazatlan is known for its food and seafood. With a large fishing fleet, restaurants and markets have the freshest products.

Traditional dishes include shrimp aguachile, tostadas piled high with fresh tuna, octopus, and Sinaloan-style ceviche. They even have their own version of sushi inspired by seafood.

There are numerous local restaurants to try, along with incredible street food. Explore on your own, or even a guided Mercado (market) food walking tour is a great way to try those off the beat and path gems. Beyond seafood, these markets are known for other staples such as fresh fruit and vegetables, dried chilies, Mexican cheese and ice cream, to name a few.  

Sample some Mezcal


Mexico is famous for tequila, but mezcal is also a coveted spirit. Although both are made from agave, tequila is a specific type of mezcal. During the fermentation, tequila is steamed, whereas to make mezcal, agave is roasted in earthenware pots, which is why many notice the smoky flavor of mezcal.

Mezcal production in serious business in Mexico and Sinaloa achieved the prestigious designation for their product, granted by the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property, a much sought after accreditation.  

Popular excursions include a visit to some of the local distilleries, where the agave plants are grown. See how it is transformed into the final product, learning about the history and culture of this important export.

Go deep sea fishing


One popular activity in Mazatlan is deep sea fishing, which is not surprising given its location and great weather throughout the year. The marina is conveniently located for easy access for those wanting to fish for the day during their visit.

Fish such as marlin or sailfish are prized catches, along with swordfish, tuna, mahi-mahi, and sea bass. Many charter companies do catch and release for those guests interested in that option.

Guests over 16 do require a fishing license, which can be easily provided by the charter operator.


Loading Comments