Mazatlan is exploding. Although historically not as fancy as Puerto Vallarta to the south or Los Cabos to the west, it’s getting there.

A middle-sized city that used to depend on its shrimp fleet and a few other industries for its livelihood, Mazatlan has sprung to life with aspirations of becoming a major beach resort as renowned as Los Cabos or Cancun. Its long-stagnant marina development has received injections of new capital, and the state of Sinaloa has funded the construction of a sparkling malecon (seaside promenade) that stretches more than 3 mi/5 km from the edge of Old Mazatlan at Olas Altas to the southern edge of the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone). There is also major construction ongoing between the marina and the northern edge of the city.

Because tourism isn’t its only business, Mazatlan accepts its visitors gracefully. Unlike some resort towns that become completely consumed (and jaded) by the travel trade, Mazatlan maintains its Mexican character and offers vacationers the things they go for—relaxation and entertainment in a pleasant seaside setting. In a single visit, travelers can experience comfortable resorts, and the sights and smells of a Mexican city. It’s as simple as moving from one part of town (Zona Dorada—the tourist area) to another (Old Mazatlan).


The northernmost link in a chain of Pacific Coast cities known as the Mexican Riviera, Mazatlan sits just south of the Tropic of Cancer, 750 mi/1,210 km south of the Mexico-U.S. border. The Pacific Ocean and the fish-rich Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) converge offshore. A municipality (county) as well as a city, Mazatlan stretches beyond the city limits to El Quelite, a quaint village 20 mi/32 km to the north, the state of Durango to the east, and Walamo, a seaside fishing village, to the south.

Of most interest to visitors in Mazatlan proper are two zones: the Centro Historico (Old Mazatlan), where many late-19th-century mansions have been restored to the city’s credit, and the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), a tourist district filled with beach hotels, restaurants and shops. Several steep hills loom above the sea and the otherwise flat city. But the city reaches ever northward. A third area between the marina and the far northern fringe is enjoying a building boom thanks to Emerald Bay, a five-star timeshare resort that calls itself the beginnings of Nuevo Mazatlan.

Note: Some businesses in Mazatlan are located on unnumbered streets and labeled as “s/n,” or sin numero (without number). Their addresses are described using the closest intersection.