Mazatlán: Sinaloa’s premier cultural hub.

Posted on November 19, 2017 by Misty Foster

Mazatlán is having a renaissance. Coined, the colonial city on the beach, this Sinaloan hub has it all, from pristine nature reserves to enchanting cultural celebrations. While neighboring Puerto Vallarta has traditionally drawn more tourism, Mazatlán is poised to be the next big beach destination on the western coast of Mexico. Not only because of the multitude of activities the region provides, but also because access to the city has increased. United Airlines have added non-stop flights from Chicago and Houston, and Sun Country from Denver and Minneapolis, making it an attractive and affordable stop for US visitors.

The charming Centro Histórico provides visitors with a chance to dip their toes into the city’s colonial past with colorful, 19th-century Spanish architecture. Looking for a night on the town? Dine at the elegant El Presidio and enjoy traditional Sinaloan cuisine. Or catch a variety of shows from opera to Broadway tours at the Teatro Angela Peralta. For the more health-conscious traveler, the 13-mile long, seaside Malecón (boardwalk) scratches your itch for exercise. There you can bike, run, or just enjoy watching the epic sunsets. Or perhaps, you want to be a bum and beach it all day? In Mazatlán, that’s not an issue. Grab a fresh coconut, curl up with a good book, and dig your toes into one of the cities many beaches. You’ll also find that Mazatlecos are some of the most friendly hosts you’ll encounter in Mexico!

The socially and economically diverse city offers more than the usual fare of excursions for travelers. For fans of immersive travel, Mazatlán is a great place to delve into cultural and wildlife experiences. A trip to the “Faro,” the highest natural lighthouse in the world, will delight those who want to witness a grand view of the city. And if you like to get more up-close-and-personal with nature, you can volunteer at Estrella Del Mar Sea Turtle Sanctuary, the largest privately funded sea turtle preservation.

The Centro Historico. Photo by Misty Foster.

These examples are only a taste of what travelers can explore in this burgeoning city. At OPTYM we’ve rounded up some our top picks for traversing through Mazatlán.

Art Walk

Every first Friday of the month, the Centro Histórico turns into an interactive Art Walk. The self-guided tour takes you to galleries and shops that house locally made artwork, jewelry, sculptures, and more. You’ll also spot several public works of art and street murals that rival the flare of those in Mexico City.

Street art in Mazatlan. Photo courtesy of the Mazatlan Tourism Board.

Deer Island

Adventure abounds on Deer Island! The name Mazatlán comes from the Nahuatl meaning “place of deer.” While deer rarely occupy the island these days, there are plenty of ways to interact with the wildlife on this secluded island. Surrounded by crystal clear water, adventurists will find it an ideal spot for snorkeling or kayaking. Eco-friendly travelers can enjoy hiking several trails or exploring the petroglyphs left behind by indigenous populations. The island is also one of three protected national reserves off the coast of the city and the only one that can be accessed by humans. While most people take a catamaran to get there, if you are feeling bold you can swim from the mainland to the little patch of paradise.

Kayaking on Deer Island. Photo by Misty Foster.

El Quelite

In 2001, Mexico’s Secretary of tourism launched an initiative called, Programa Pueblos Mágicos. Small towns across the country earn the distinction for their uniqueness and historical significance. The goal of the program is to highlight places that have strong ties to craftsmanship, conservation, cultural traditions, and a commitment to bolstering their community. El Quelite is in the process of qualifying to become a Pueblo Mágico and is currently listed as a Pueblo Señorial. Though residents have recently started inviting outsiders to come and experience a slice of life in El Quelite, they are doing so with the aim of keeping the integrity and authenticity of the village alive. One way this plays out is at the restaurant, El Meson De Los Laureanos. They take farm-to-table literally by bringing the actual farm to the table. Goats, chickens, and horses roam the open-air restaurant freely, and guests can interact with them while waiting for a meal. Don’t be surprised if you see a donkey saunter next to your table for a treat or a giant Iguana hanging out in a tree above your plate. The experience may be a little overwhelming for those with a plant-based diet, but the upshot is that gives diners the chance to connect with their food and appreciate the source. The restaurant also employs over 120 locals on the weekend and is the most lucrative source of income for the town. A trip to the village Panadería is also a must to satisfy your sweet tooth!

The village of El Quelite. Photo by Misty Foster.

Day of the Dead

While not the most extensive Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico, Mazatlán is a great place to witness this important cultural celebration. The festive affair is a time to honor those who have passed on from this earth. The multi-day holiday often starts with a trip to the graves of the deceased to bring flowers and to place Calaveras, or sugar skulls and other offerings on the family alter. Loved ones gather together to reminisce, cook meals together, and share tasty treats like pan de muerto. Tradition holds that on November 2nd, the day after the big parade, the spirits of the ancestors stop by the to enjoy the goodies left out for them. During the callejoneada (promenade) participants often dress in costume and paint their faces as Catrinas. It’s a colorful and joyous celebration of the circle of life! Many travelers come to Mazatlán during Carnival, but if you have the chance to visit during Dia De Los Muertos, you won’t be disappointed.

Dia de Los Muertos Alter and statue at the Angela Peralta Teatro. Photo by Misty Foster.

For more information on the city or to book activities in Mazatlan, visit Pronatours. Looking for a place to stay? We recommend the Pacific Palace Hotel for their conservation and eco-friendly initiatives.