Family Vacations to Mazatlan, Mexico

Overview - Mazatlán, Mexico
Winding down the day with a stroll on the beach in Mazatlán (Guillermo Aldana/Mexico Tourism)

Mazatlán Family Travel Tips

  • Soak up the local ambiance by strolling the six-mile oceanfront Malecón.
  • Sun on bustling beaches or on uncrowded island shores.
  • Hike to the 2nd tallest lighthouse in the world for a spectacular view.
  • Catch swordfish and marlin in this sportfishing capital.

A popular cruise port along Mexico’s Pacific coast, Mazatlán lies at the foot of the Sierra Madre Mountains. The destination appeals to families because it offers affordable lodging, golden sand beaches, and a revitalized historical section. With a population of nearly 600,000, Mazatlán is far from a sleepy village, but the tourist areas have ample charm.

Soak up the local ambiance by strolling the recently refurbished malecón. This 6.21-mile (10-kilometer) promenade fronts the ocean, connecting the resorts of the Golden Zone to the lively streets of Old Mazatlán. Along the way, sun at the beach, snack on fresh seafood from one of the many palapa-shaded eateries, and watch the cliff divers plunge 45 feet off Ice Box Hill into tide pools.

Mazatlán features a variety of beaches. Teens prefer the bustle of vendors selling T-shirts and other souvenirs at the crowded Playa las Gaviotas. Just north of this beach, popular Playa Camarón Sábalo is lined with concessionaires. Watch the surfers—but don’t swim in the rough waters—at Playa Bruja, site of the annual international surfing tournament. Playa Isla de la Piedra, the beach on “Stone Island,” has miles of mostly uncrowded sands (unless it’s Sunday when locals flock there). The island also offers golf, horseback riding, and snorkeling. Isla de los Venados (Deer Island), easily reachable by boat from the resort area, also features a sandy beach and good snorkeling offshore (bring your own gear).

Older kids and teens looking for a work-out can take the challenging hike to the hilltop El Faro, Mazatlán’s lighthouse. The 500-foot structure is reputed to be the world’s second highest lighthouse (Gibraltar’s is taller). Bring binoculars and water, and visit early when the heat is more bearable.

Old Mazatlán, a 180-block district, is known for its 479 national historic landmarks. Some of these 19th-century buildings, with pastel fronts, balconies, and iron railings, now house boutiques, art galleries, jazz clubs and restaurants. To add to the ambiance, the city is adding theatrical lighting, mostly along Angel Flores Street. Buildings of note include the Teatro Angela Peralta, home to a contemporary dance company, as well as the Catedral Basilica de la Immaculada Concepcion, touted as the world’s only Roman Catholic Church to display the Star of David in each of its 28 stained glass windows.

Mazatlán’s aquarium, a good stop for young kids, displays more than 200 species of marine life, including sea lions, and lies nearby a playground and a botanical garden. With ‘tweens and teens, try sportfishing for swordfish and striped marlin (December to May) and for sailfish and blue or black marlin (May to December).

Tip: Take your teens and twenty-somethings to Carnaval Mazatlán, reputed to be the third largest Mardi Gras in the Americas after celebrations in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro.

Nearby: The towns of El Quelite, Concordia, and Cosala.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 24 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 6 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »