15 Oct Mazatlan: Pacific Gem and Seafood Paradise
Mazatlan, a town that evokes ideas of tequila-fueled spring break with its glory days, has been on my travel radar for some time. Having lived so close to the Mexican border, it was just another beach town that I was excited to explore for myself. Mazatlan is, in fact, much more than a resort town. Mazatlan is a real city, with a picturesque and historic old town. Of course, the beaches are also lovely, certainly worthy of a beach destination.
Being able to fly domestically (from Tijuana) makes flying incredibly cheap within Mexico, especially if you wait for airfare sales. Be sure to sign up for deal alerts with domestic Mexican carriers Volaris and Interjet, even if you aren’t along the border. They have promos that can reach 80 percent and both now fly from many major American cities. For example, I have been to Mexico City 5 times and have never paid more than $100 for my roundtrip fare from Tijuana. Of course international flights will be pricier but some of the deals are great.
I booked my hotel stay on the Citi Prestige card with their amazing fourth night free on hotel stays perks. Unfortunately, this benefit has been watered down along with some of their other benefits, so I can no longer recommend their credit card as a top choice.I booked at the Quality Inn, a relatively standard hotel in a great location near the beach in the Zona Dorada. This part of town is just a bit north of downtown, where many of the hotels lie but it didn’t feel overly touristy. The Quality Inn had an excellent and clean pool, which was perfect for the hot and steamy September days.
One reputation that Mazatlan (and Sinaloa, the state in which it resides) has from my discussions with Mexicans was its renown for its amazing food, particularly seafood. I was most excited to try a wide array of seafood, and also beef, another good option in this beef-producing region. While generally an adventurous traveler, my main goals on this trip were related to light sightseeing, beach time, and food- certainly nothing wrong with that! As an added bonus, Mazatlan is incredibly cheap, even compared to other parts of Mexico. This was a surprise, given that this is still a resort town.
I found the city to be quite lively, despite this being relatively low season. I can’t comment as to how busy it is during the winter time, but it was refreshing for it to be a decidedly local vibe. The beaches were quite lovely, and there are different beaches for different tastes. Generally speaking, the closer you are to town, the livelier the beaches and where you will find more of the action. If you are looking for something quieter, head to the northern part of town. For even more tranquility, take the ferry to stone island, or do one of the many beaches outside of town (you’ll also find great surfing at Playa Bruja). Regardless of where you go, you will encounter the same lovely white sand and natural beauty.
Things to do
Mazatlan has many of the same activities that you might find in other Mexican resort towns, but there are some other unique activities. Considering its location on the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean, fishing here is world-renowned. There are also kayaking and tours of the small islands just off the coast, and surfing is possible here as well. Be sure to spend time exploring the colonial downtown, and sampling the local bars and restaurants.
The hike up el faro is gorgeous, assuming its not too hot for the trek. In any case, it’s a short hike. Mazatlan is also known for its aquarium. While certainly not the nicest aquarium I have been to, it’s not a bad way to spend an hour and it only costs a few dollars.
Where to eat
Mazatlan had some truly amazing seafood options, and it would be hard to pick a favorite. I don’t think I had a bad meal while here, and what I can say is that its reputation as a food city is well-deserved.
For the most amazing steak tacos, head to the unassuming Taqueria San Pablo on Avenida Rafael Buelna. Typical of a Mexican taqueria, very casual and incredibly cheap. Al pastor tacos are another excellent choice.
An amazing local small restaurant chain, called Restaurant Panama, is kind of like a local diner. It has endless food options, and their food is incredibly good (and cheap)!
Getting down to the real star of the show, the seafood. Barracuda’s, Diego’s Beach House, Restaurante Todos Santos, and Muchacho Alegre were some of the excellent seafood options that I dabbled in. I love seafood, but normally I get sick of it in Mazatlan. I was able to eat it everyday and never tired of it, it’s that good!
Where to drink
For some of the best cocktails and beach views in town, head to La Corriente, on the malecon. It’s a lovely vibe and the views are stunning, plus amazing seafood to boot.
You will find a huge selection of bars, with more of a local vibe, on and around Camaron Sabalo. There is a local gay club there, Lolly Pop, which was surpisingly busy and vibrant. Just like other clubs in Mexico, the party goes all night and you probably won’t hear well the next day (but you’ll have a great time)!
If you are looking for bars that are more tourist-centric, then head to Playa Gaviotas area where you can find many options as well.
Where to Stay
For hotel and accommodation, there are endless options that fall within every price range. As mentioned, I found the Quality Inn to be relatively basic but clean, well located near the beach, and budget friendly with a quite nice pool and near the beach. It fit in well for my travels, balancing comfort with reasonable cost. That being said, I would recommend the area quite a bit, right in the Playa Gaviotas area. It was a good balance of quiet and calm, and a quick and cheap uber ride to most anywhere in town.
All in all, Mazatlan was quite the surprising destination. Amazing food, cheap all around, and blessed with great beaches and weather. What else can you ask for!