As the heat sizzles by this beachfront stage, a frenzy of bobbing dancers gyrate to a wave of spectators clamoring to get in on the seaside fun. But the ultimate moment happens when Mazatlán’s night sky crackles into a blaze of fireworks.
Each year fiestas rumble through the only colonial city on the beach in Mexico. Tourism insiders gather for Fiesta de la Mazatlán which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. While everyone else anticipates the annual Day of the Dead holiday (Dia de los Muertos) when revelers don toothy, grinning skeleton costumes called calacas (a colloquial name for skeletons).
But no matter when you visit Mazatlán, there are always ways to celebrate this diverse area of Mexico. Whether hanging out among friendly locals or dancing the night away at your resort.
Your home away from home
There are plenty of hotels and resorts to choose from to get your sun and sand fix. These range from small and intimate boutique hotels in the historic centre to larger all-inclusive resorts offering all the bells and whistles.
Many beachfront properties stage nightly shows highlighting the region’s music and culture. Many also offer daily activities, from salsa dancing lessons to Spanish classes. When you’re not soaking up the sun by the pool or practicing your salsa moves, fill your days with horseback riding, parasailing and splashing in the waves.
Going local is easy in Mazatlan
Mazatlán residents are a multicultural mix of Indigenous, Spanish, French and most recently German immigrants. They arrived in the mid-19th century bringing their traditions with them. Banda music, a quirky mix of German polka melodies, can be heard echoing in the streets, while the refreshing thirst quencher Pacifico beer was established by German immigrants and is regularly served in restaurants.
Be sure to hang out with local Mazatlán residents at La Carpa Olivera. Swimming at the public saltwater pool has been a favourite tradition that goes back to World War One. Friendliness and a simple pace of life take precedence as residents take pleasure in a laissez-faire “live and let live” attitude.
DON’T MISS: Mazatlán: Where Stories Make the Best Souvenirs
Hit the colonial streets
Designed in a grid pattern, Mazatlán’s scenic streets open to palm-fringed parkettes known as plazas. Brightly painted facades in ochre and pink highlight the elegance and wealth of this colonial city as Mazatlán brims with charm and character.
Centro Historico is a must-visit and its heart is Plaza Machado. Here vendors often showcase handicrafts and other locally made items along the bustling street markets.
One of the nicest strolls happens along Mazatlán’s Malecon, the Avenue del Mar. It’s common to find canoodling couples and kids playing by this refurbished seafront walkway. Mexico’s longest Malecon, which is nearly 20 kilometres in length, runs north from Olas Altas (High Waves) Beach to the touristic area of Zona Dorado (Golden Zone).
For a post-tour break, head to the Sky Bar at the Freeman Hotel. The historic property, which is now a Best Western Hotel Posada, is where patrons who love panoramic views hit the rooftop terrace for drinks and a pool dip.
Insta-hits in Mazatlán
The colonial city’s backdrop of cobbled streets and period architecture offers Instagrammers dreamy spots for filling their feeds with envy-inducing photos.
Over at the Mazatlán Museum of Art, snap shots of the eggshell blue exterior. Inside the historic building, amble through corridors and stop by a room covered in graffiti art. Don’t be surprised if you encounter musical acts as the intimate space is often used for live concerts.
At the revived Angela Peralta Theater, one of the city’s most important cultural treasures, culture buffs attend top notch performances. Then during Art Walk Mazatlán, a seasonal arts exhibition that takes place on the third Thursday between November and April, you can snap a shot with one of the exhibiting artists. The cultural event along Zona Dorada features works by local painters, photographers and ceramicists.
Thanks to the largest shrimp fishing fleet on Mexico’s west coast, there is no shortage of shrimp in Mazatlán. See the Shrimp Ladies (Las Changueras) selling them street side where they get their supply directly from the boats. Shrimp lovers can enjoy signature shrimp cocktails or a bowl of aguachile, with its zesty taste of shrimp that packs a punch. This local dish is a favourite!
Mercado Pino Suarez, a lively market that first opened in 1900, tickles the taste buds with its wide array of tempting local goods. See rows upon rows of fresh fruit stalls, citrus stacked in whimsical pyramid designs and vegetable farmers proudly standing by their fresh produce. The market is also home to artisanal cheese stalls and butchers selling fresh cuts of meat of all kinds. And if you find yourself getting hungry after shopping, stop by one of the market’s small restaurants for an inexpensive local meal.
Around Mazatlán there’s no shortage of unique restaurants. For diners who have a penchant for colonial city views, Casa 46 has a view of Plaza Machado. At El Presidio, chef Diego Becerra has turned a 19th-century mansion into a fantasy dining experience. Guests dine on fresh, innovative dishes in a courtyard rife with century-old trees and roots hugging the ancient walls.
Leave behind the cobbled streets and ribbon of sand to set aside a day for off-the-beaten-path exploration. Island hop to quiet spots like Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra) for horseback riding along the beach or trekking into the jungle. Mazatlán is rife with Mexican heritage and magical adventures.
In El Quelite, jungle life leaps out at you and friendly villagers go about their day as you dine at a family-run restaurant. The next stop is Los Osuna, a tequila distillery and a landmark fixture founded in 1876. Enjoy a guided tour of the facility and knock back a tequila tasting.
Once you explore El Quelite and Los Osuna it’s time to witness one of Mazatlán’s oldest traditions: cliff diving. To watch the Malecon cliff divers is something out of this world. Just before the sun kisses the horizon, crowds face the rocky cliff. You instinctively hold your breath, watching a single diver leap from his rocky podium into the wild, salty sea. In this moment, the magic of Mazatlán continues to cast its spell.