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Things to Do in Mazatlan

Perched on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, adjacent to the southern tip of Baja California Sur, is Mazatlan. Thanks to a recently renovated historic center and endless stretches of sandy shore, the coastal city magnetises travelers with a penchant for outdoor adventure and beachside relaxation. At the top of all Mazatlan itineraries should be a cliff-diving show, during which visitors can watch fearless divers plunge into the Pacific Ocean from dizzying heights. In Centro Historico, the likes of Plazuela Machado and Teatro Angela Peralta make for gorgeous walking tours, while in Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), Playa los Sabalos and Playa las Gaviotas swell with visitors soaking up year-round sunshine. From the city, day trips to the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains for ATV rides and ziplining are a popular choice for thrill-seekers. Culture connoisseurs can gain insight into local culture during a tour of El Quelite, while Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra), home to coconut tree-fringed beaches and authentic Mexican restaurants, is a great place to escape to for half a day. Also within easy reach of Mazatlán is El Rosario, renowned for its artisan crafts, the Estero Ecological Reserve, home to more than 270 species of bird, and La Noria, where blue agave plantations and tequila distilleries abound.
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Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra)
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With calmer, warmer waters than other popular beaches in Mazatlán, plenty of opportunity for snorkeling, and several open-air seafood restaurants, Stone Island is one of the most popular day trip destinations in Mazatlán. Palm-lined Isla de la Piedra—which is not technically an island—is also a hub of soft adventure activity, such as horseback riding and hiking, as well as relaxation.

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Mazatlan Lighthouse (El Faro)
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Thought to be the highest lighthouse in the Americas, El Faro in Mazatlán sits 523 feet above sea level and has been in operation since 1879. Now a Mazatlán landmark, visitors can walk along the glass lookout platform, admire panoramic views over the port city of Mazatlán, and catch some of the city’s best sunsets.

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Plazuela Machado
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One of the oldest squares in Mazatlán, leafy Plazuela Machado dates from 1837 and is a jumping-off point for further exploration of the Mazatlán Old Town. Surrounded by brightly colored restaurants, galleries, and the Ángela Peralta Theater, visitors can soak up the laid back, family-friendly atmosphere at Plazuela Machado by day, and enjoy live music performances by night.

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Old Mazatlan (Centro Historico)
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A few blocks away from the popular Olas Altas Beach, Mazatlán’s Old Town is a neighborhood filled with restored, French-style 19th and 20th century buildings. Centered around the leafy and laidback Plazuela Machado, visitors can explore art galleries, small museums, boutiques, and a range of bars, restaurants, and cafes, as well as historically significant attractions such as the Ángela Peralta Theater.

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Golden Zone (Zona Dorada)
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Once an unoccupied stretch of sand and swampland, the Golden Zone (Zona Dorada) is now the top tourist district in Mazatlán, dominated by hotels, resorts, and several popular beaches. A jumping-off point for further exploration of the region, travelers can visit the modern marina, lounge on Sábalo or Gaviotas Beach, and party all-night in the bars and clubs.

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Olas Atlas Beach (Playa Olas Altas)
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Perhaps the best-known beach in Mazatlán, Playa Olas Altas was the center point of Mazatlán’s burgeoning tourist industry in the 1950s. Situated just blocks from the city’s historic Old Town, Olas Altas is a popular surfing spot where visitors can marvel over ocean sunsets, take a dip in the saltwater swimming pool, and escape the crowds of Golden Zone beaches.

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Angela Peralta Theater (Teatro Angela Peralta)

Originally built in the late 19th century, the Angela Peralta Theater (Teatro Ángela Peralta) is a landmark of downtown Mazatlán with a tumultuous past. Over the years, it served as a boxing arena, movie theater, and opera house, before falling into decline, but visitors can now tour the neoclassical building, catch live performances at the intimate 841-seat venue, and visit the onsite art galleries.

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Estero Del Yugo Nature Preserve

Saltwater and freshwater lagoons, 1.5 miles of nature trails marked by wooden boardwalks, and tropical deciduous forests make up the 11 hectares (27 acres) of the Estero del Yugo Nature Preserve in Mazatlán. Excellent for nature lovers, look at for over 250 species of native and non-native aquatic and tropical birds, crocodiles, and mammals such as ocelots, and lynx.

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Mazatlan Aquarium (Acuario Mazatlán)
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Marvel at over 800 species of jellyfish at Mexico’s largest jellyfish exhibition and admire seahorses, octopuses, and clownfish in one of several saltwater tanks at Mazatlán Aquarium (Acuario de Mazatlán). Ideal for families and animal lovers alike, there are also daily live animal shows, an onsite marine museum, botanical garden, aviary, and more.

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Mazatlan Cruise Port

Mazatlán, the "Pearl of the Pacific," has drawn people to its shores since pre-Columbian times thanks to its gorgeous beaches. Add an architecturally outstanding old town, the festive, hotel-lined Golden Zone, and top-notch shopping, dining, and nightlife, and it's no wonder that this is a heavily trafficked cruise stop. This is Mexico's largest commercial port, so even the largest boats can pull right in.

How to Get to Mazatlán

The enormous port is less than two kilometers (about one mile) away from Old Mazatlán, the historic old town. You can walk there along the scenic seaside malecón, or paved oceanfront walk, one of the longest in the world, or even continue the 7km (4mi) to the hotel-lined Zona Dorada, or Gold Zone. Inexpensive taxis wait at the port—as do pulmonías, topless, fiberglass taxis that are cheaper but sometimes targeted by thieves; keep valuables close by.

One Day in Mazatlán

Mazatlán's exceptional beaches are its claim to fame, and not just the touristy stretches of sand in town where you can surf, tan, or see the cliff divers. More adventurous travelers will find other, less crowded beaches accessible by taxi.

If you'd rather see what lies beneath the sea, head into the city proper for the Mazatlán Aquarium. Others can explore the beautiful city center, including Plazuela Machado and the Moorish-style basilica, just two of Mazatlán's architectural gems. Shoppers will find just about any Mexican handicraft, including fine silver jewelry, at Mercado Pino Suarez and scores of slightly pricier Gold Zone shops.

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