Mazatlan, known as the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’, is the largest port between the United States and the Panama Canal with over 16 miles of golden sand beaches, a vibrant historic center and a stalwart lighthouse that has been blinking warnings to ships since 1879. Here are a few quick tips and fun facts you should know about this family-friendly beach destination.
Location: Mazatlan sits on Mexico’s Pacific coast across from the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula and about 275 miles north of Puerto Vallarta just below the tropic of cancer line.
Famous For: Mazatlan is best known for its plentiful shrimp, it’s also famous as Mexico’s only colonial city on the water. And because it was a well-used port, it’s always been influenced by foreign cultures, including Europe, seen in its architecture, art and multicultural vibe.
Language: Spanish, but English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas.
Time Zone: Mazatlan is on Mountain Standard Time, including daylight savings.
Climate: Mazatlan is tropical but with a winter dry season. July to September are the hottest, wettest months with highs in the 90s. January through March is the cool, dry season with highs in the 70s.
When Should I Go: Anglers hoping to chase five of Mazatlan’s coveted sport fish should go between August and December when black and blue marlin, sailfish, mahi mahi and tuna all swim offshore. Late September to December is when baby sea turtles are released and visitors can sometimes watch.
Travel Documents: Valid passports are best. U.S. citizens can travel into Mexico by sea with a passport card, but it isn’t accepted for air travel.
From Port to Town: Cruise ships dock on the southeast side of the peninsula, about a 15-minute walk to Old Town. There are taxis just outside the port terminal.
How to Get Around: In Old Town, the best mode of transportation is by foot, giving passengers a chance to poke into interesting shops and galleries or relax in a sidewalk café. Mazatlan’s cathedral and Teatro Angela Peralta are also here. The Golden Zone is a short taxi ride north of the port. On a nice day, flag down a pulmonia, Mazatlan’s ubiquitous open-air taxi resembling a golf cart but faster and breezier.
Money. Money. Money.
- The Mexican Peso is the official currency.
- Most shops and restaurants take credit cards, though some mid-to-low price range establishments, like small galleries and stands only accept pesos.
- U.S. dollars are widely accepted but change will be given in pesos, so having small bills is a good idea.
- There are ATMs at banks in Old Town and the Golden Zone. Most ATMs in Mexico dispense pesos.
What's Good for Kids: A good destination for young surfers is Playa Olas Altas near Old Town, a popular surfing beach especially in summer.
The Mazatlan Aquarium has marine life on display and bird and sea lion shows. There are also interactive activities (extra charge) putting visitors up close with sharks, sea lions and rays.
What's on: Mazatlan has the third largest Carnival celebration in the world each year the week before Lent, complete with parades, concerts and fireworks. Check the city’s events calendar here.