Trip Date 05/22/2018
Posted On 07/31/2018 17:36:47
Destinations | Mexico Cruise Ports | Walking | Old Mazatlan | Stone Island | Mazatlan On Your Own | One Day in Mazatlan | DIY Sightseeing in Mazatlan | Mazatlan Tourism
Frequent comments about Mazatlan include "it's not safe", "I don't like it" and "there's nothing to do there". While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I can honestly say that during my recent visit, I felt very safe - more so than in other cruise ports as there were volunteers all over the place to help cruise ship passengers. Based on all that I had heard, I was surprised at how much I liked Mazatlan, and believe it or not, I want to go back because there is already more that I want to see there!
If exploring on your own is appealing to you, Mazatlan is an easy port to do just that. Continue reading for four favorite ways to spend your day. Depending on what makes the top of your list (and, of course how long you want to spend there) you could actually have time to see more than one!
Cruise Ship Terminal at Port of MazatlanThe port in Mazatlan is actually a container port - in order to exit, all passengers are required to take a 2 minute shuttle ride to the cruise ship terminal. (Before boarding the shuttle, look for a volunteer distributing "Follow the Blue Line" brochures which will come in handy as you explore the historic city center and more.)
The terminal building is packed full of vendor shops, and the good news is that the salespeople are not annoyingly aggressive!
The atmosphere is a little different once you are outside where tour guides and taxi drivers will be competing to win your business. If you want to walk and explore on your own, just tell them that you want to "walk to get exercise" and they will leave you alone!
Although the primary purpose of the brochure and map below is to provide information to help visitors walk to Old Mazatlan, the map actually shows each of the "4 Favorites" detailed in this article.
1. Follow the Blue Line to Explore Old MazatlanJust after you pass through the painted blue stucco arch with gold trim at the port exit, you should be able to see the start of the walking path to Old Mazatlan that is nicely described in this Mazatlan Tourist Aide. The unmistakable blue line painted on the street was just beyond a second large arch (actually shaped more like a "stick home") made of painted blue metal piping.
The directions for the walk to the historic city center are very easy - all you have to do is walk straight until you reach Calle Carnaval (about 4 blocks from the port). You will then turn right and walk along Carnaval for the remaining distance to Old Mazatlan. Although there are sidewalks along the entire route, you will notice that the blue line is actually painted on the paved streets on which cars drive. (You will also see blue and white Centro Historico directional signs along the walking route.)
You will likely meet several blue shirted volunteers along your route who will provide you with additional printed tourist information to help with your visit. (Once inside Old Mazatlan, volunteers will also be strategically located at several of the points of interest to answer questions and provide more information. In addition to the volunteers, municipal police officers will be stationed at some of the busier streets to stop automobile traffic in order to ensure that all walkers can cross safely.)
From the port exit to the intersection of Libertad and Carnaval streets (the beginning of the pedestrian only zone), plan on your walk taking about 20 minutes. The final couple of blocks of your journey will be on cobblestone rather than paved streets, so make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes.
Now that you have made it to Old Mazatlan, there is lots to see. If your goal is to get to one or more of the other "4 Favorites", you'll need to move more quickly in the historic center. If your interests lead you to spend more of your time admiring both the interior and exterior of the 100+ year old buildings, soaking in the local culture in the squares and possibly grabbing a bite to eat, then your biggest concern should be allowing enough time for your walk back to the ship!
Below, you'll find some of the buildings and squares that you'll want to see during your visit (listed in the order that you will approach them as you walk from the port). If you are interested in museums, there are also a couple of museums in Old Mazatlan for your enjoyment.)
Teatro Angela PeraltaMusic, dance, drama, ballet and opera are all performed at the beautiful Teatro Angela Peralta. Although unfinished, the theater originally opened in 1874 as the Rubio Theater. The theater's current namesake had a planned visit in 1883 after an extensive renovation, however she and other members of her company tragically died of yellow fever just days before their scheduled performance.
The theater had many years of ups and downs, and with the building in near ruins, it was finally closed in 1964. Nearly 30 years later, the President of Mexico inaugurated the restored building which had recently been declared a National Heritage Building.
Plazuela MachadoWith park benches, decorative gardens, palm trees and a central kiosk, Plazuela Machado is located just across from the theater. If you need a rest from your walk into Old Mazatlan, this is the first of many places where you can find a bench and sit down for a few minutes. (It's also a great opportunity to take a closer look at any of the tourist information that the friendly expatriate residents gave you along your walk into Old Mazatlan.)
If you want to visit some of Mazatlan's museums or the Malecon, your best bet is to venture off to the south from Machado Square. About 4 blocks away, you will find both the Museo Arqueologico (some recommend skipping Mazatlan's archaeology museum) and the Museo De Arte (a fine arts museum). Both museums are one block away from the Malecon (see below).
Plazuela RepublicaContinue a couple of blocks further down Carnaval Street before turning left on Angel Flores. One short block ahead you will find Plazuela Republica. In addition to the Plaza Revolucion Stage, the square is also the home of the cathedral, City Hall and post office.
Basilica of the Immaculate ConceptionWhile you will have to cross a street to reach the cathedral, there will be no question as to which street you must cross to reach the impressive building.
While construction of the cathedral began in 1856, it became apparent that the budget was insufficient to complete the building. Completion of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception did not occur until 1899 after the Jewish community donated the money needed to complete the Catholic Church building with no strings attached. In recognition of the substantial donation, the 28 stained glass windows around the building's perimeter each have a Star of David at the top.
Mercado Pino SuarezEven if you don't want to make any purchases, walk the few blocks north to Mercado Pino Suarez, a year round market which covers a full square block. You will know that you are getting close when the number of street vendors as well as brick and mortar retail shops starts to increase.
Take some time to roam up and down the many aisles to see the wide assortment of fish and meat, fruits and vegetables as well as other food items - both fresh and preserved.
There is so much more to the market than just the food. If you have any interest in bringing home gifts for yourself or others (including clothing, accessories, souvenirs, handcrafted items and more), check out the offerings from the many vendors within the market - and remember, the prices are very negotiable!
2. Stroll along a part of the Oceanfront Malecon and Watch the Cliff DiversA stroll along part of the Mazatlan Malecon requires about a 5 block walk to the south from Machado Square. At 13 miles long, the Malecon is billed as the longest in the world. It is reportedly a great place for people watching including both pedestrians and those on bicycles and roller blades ... plus, of course an assortment of local vendors.
You've likely heard of the cliff divers in Acapulco, but did you know that you can also see diving stunts on your visit to Mazatlan? When walking from Mazatlan's Centro Historico, you'll want to turn to the right and walk several more blocks until you reach El Clavadista (the cliff diver). It is said that divers jump from a platform that is almost 50 feet high into some very shallow water requiring them to time their jump so that they are hitting the water just as an incoming wave will reach their landing spot. (While there is no set schedule for the dives, you will most likely see divers in the afternoon or early evening hours).
Avoid losing track of time while watching the cliff divers! The 1 1/4 mile walk back to your cruise ship will likely take a minimum of 30 minutes. With lines to enter through security, getting back on the ship will take much longer than it took for you to disembark earlier in the day.
3. Take a Ferry to Stone Island to Relax, Dine or Enjoy Water SportsDirections to Stone Island will help you locate the departure point for ferries to Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island) - just remember that the Baja Ferry Dock highlighted on the map is not where your cruise ship is docked. In a nutshell, if you're heading toward the ferry from either Old Mazatlan or the Malecon on foot, you can either walk back toward the port and then follow the route below, or save a few steps by making your way further down Carnaval until the street ends. There, you'll want to turn left to reach the Stone Island ferry.
If you are heading directly to Stone Island upon disembarking the ship, rather than walking toward the blue line leading to the historic city center, you'll want to turn to the left and walk alongside the port area. As you head toward the departure point for the ferry, the container port will be on your left and the streets of Mazatlan on your right.
Round trip tickets for the Stone Island ferry are sold at Playa Sur Embarcadero on the water's edge at a cost of 30 pesos or $2.00 US per person (make sure to hold on to your return ticket!).
The ferry leaves several times each hour, so after receiving your ticket, head down to the dock where they are likely already boarding the "launcha" for the next voyage.
Less than 5 minutes after your departure, you will arrive at the peninsula (it's not really an island) called Stone Island. Upon exiting the water taxi, walk across the peninsula to the beach side.
Take some time to stroll along the beautiful stretch of sandy beach lined with restaurants and a coconut grove which stretches as far as the eye can see. Until you are ready to either do something more active or wanting a bite to eat, you'll need to attempt to avoid the many vendors. You'll hear offers for everything from food and drinks to horse back riding, various water sports including boat rentals and photos with iguanas!
To get a great overview of what to expect during your time on the "island", check out Stone Island Mazatlan. Whether you just lounge on the beach and people watch or actually participate in a more adventurous activity, you are sure to enjoy your time. If you decide that you want a drink, snack or meal, find a restaurant where you can sit under a palapa. You should be able to find seating where you can cool off (but still see the ocean), share stories of your travels, people watch and maybe even enjoy a serenade by a nearby mariachi band or see some of the locals performing native dance!
If Stone Island is your final destination during your day at Mazatlan, make sure to leave with enough time to catch a return ferry and walk back to the port. Depending on how many ships are docked, the lines to get back on the shuttle can be long and rather slow moving.
4. Hike / Climb to El Faro LighthouseIf you are up for it, hiking up a 1/2 mile trail will take you to the highest lighthouse in the Americas. The bad news is that, including the distance to reach the base of the hike from the cruise terminal, your total walk / hike will be just over 3 1/2 miles round trip.
Heading directly to El Faro Lighthouse upon disembarking the ship, you'll want to turn to the left and walk alongside the port area. As you walk, the container port will be on your left and the streets of Mazatlan on your right. At the intersection with Hilario Rodriguez Malpica, turn right. Continue walking until you merge onto Calzada Joel Lopez Camarena which will eventually lead to the entrance gate for the hike.
Make sure to wear proper footwear for hiking as getting up to El Faro Lighthouse, located on the peak of Cerro del Creston, begins on a paved road which turns to a dirt path followed by nearly 350 concrete steps. The reward for making it all of the way to the top is an unobstructed view of Mazatlan (and your cruise ship) that can't be beat. (The hike to the top is best on a clear day so that you can truly enjoy the view. Since the climate is tropical, an early start is recommended so that you are not hiking up during the hottest part of the day.)
There are no restroom facilities along the way nor at the top of Cerro del Creston. While you can enter the doorway at the base of the lighthouse (which leads to small room where you can buy juice and water), you can no longer climb inside of the lighthouse.
If the lighthouse is your final destination for the day, make sure to begin your downward hike so as to have plenty of time for the nearly two mile return walk to the port.
Shopping in MazatlanIf you plan to shop, it's helpful to know that US dollars seemed to be accepted everywhere. As far as prices, the vendors in both the Pino Suarez Market and the market in the cruise ship terminal were very willing to negotiate prices. Those in the brick and mortar locations near the market did not seem to negotiate.
Puerto Vallarta, MexicoIf you enjoy seeing a port city on your own and your cruise includes a port day in Puerto Vallarta, take a look at our post titled 11 Must See Attractions in The Romantic Zone of Puerto Vallarta for ideas. When docked for a full day, there is plenty of time for exploring the city!
Mazatlan, MexicoIf you could only choose one of the four favorites for your port day, which would you choose and why?
1. Follow the Blue Line to Explore Old Mazatlan
2. Stroll along a part of the Oceanfront Malecon and Watch the Cliff Divers
3. Take a Ferry to Stone Island to Relax, Dine or Enjoy Water Sports
4. Hike / Climb to El Faro Lighthouse
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