Planning a Trip
Getting There & Departing
By Plane -- A number of airlines operate direct or nonstop flights to Mazatlán, though charters predominate. From the United States, AeroMéxico (tel. 800/237-6639 in the U.S., or 01-800/021-4000 in Mexico) flies from Los Angeles, Atlanta, Phoenix, and Tucson, via Mexico City. Mexicana (tel. 800/531-7921 in the U.S.) has direct service from Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and San Antonio, most connecting through Mexico City. Alaska Airlines (tel. 800/252-7522 in the U.S., or 669/985-2730) flies nonstop from Los Angeles and Seattle. Continental Airlines (tel. 800/523-3273) flies nonstop from Houston. In Mexico, AeroMexico (tel. 669/914-1111) has flights from Hermosillo, Durango, Monterrey, Puerto Vallarta, Tijuana, and León, all via Guadalajara or Mexico City. Mexicana (tel. 669/982-5666) offers service from Mexico City and Los Cabos. Aero Calafia (tel. 669/985-4300; www.aereocalafia.com.mx) offers direct service from Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos. Check with a travel agent for the latest charter flights.
By Bus -- First-class and deluxe buses connect Mazatlán to Guadalajara (7 hr.; $42 one-way), Mexico City (16 hr.; $92 one-way), Puerto Vallarta (8 hr.; $33), and other points within Mexico. The main first-class bus company is TAP (tel. 01-800/001-1827 toll-free in Mexico; www.tap.com.mx). The bus terminal is located on Hwy. 200 N. Km 1203 (tel. 669/982-1949).
By Car -- To reach Mazatlán from the United States, take International Hwy. 15 from Nogales, Arizona, to Culiacán. At Culiacán, change to the four-lane tollway -- it costs about $40 but is the only road considered safe and in drivable condition. On the tollway, total trip time from the United States to Mazatlán is about 10 hours. Consider an overnight stop, because driving at night in Mexico can be dangerous. From Puerto Vallarta, the 560km (347-mile) drive is not easy -- the road winds through the mountains and takes about 8 hours, but is in generally good condition. Take Hwy. 200 north to Las Varas. There it becomes four-lane Hwy. 68; follow that until you see a detour for Hwy. 15. Take 15 north to Mazatlán.
Arriving -- The Rafael Buelna International Airport (airport code: MZT) is 27km (17 miles) southeast of the hotel-and-resort area of town. The following rental-car companies have counters in the airport, open during flight arrivals and departures: Alamo (tel. 800/424-3687 in the U.S., or 669/981-2266), Avis (tel. 800/331-2112 in the U.S., or 669/954-8148), Budget (tel. 800/527-0700 in the U.S., or 669/913-2000), Hertz (tel. 800/654-3131 in the U.S., or 669/985-0845), and National (tel. 800/227-3876 in the U.S., or 669/982-4000). Daily rates run $35 and up. A car is desirable if you want to explore the coast and nearby villages, but it is not essential in Mazatlán.
Taxis and colectivo minivans run from the airport to hotels; the airport-chartered taxis cost about $30, which is significantly more than the colectivos, which cost $7 but take up to 12 passengers and, therefore, make multiple stops. Only taxis make the return trip to the airport, which costs $20 to $30. The Central de Autobuses (main bus terminal) is at Río Tamazula and Chachalacas. To get there from Avenida del Mar, walk 3 blocks inland on Río Tamazula; the station is on your right. Taxis line up in front of the bus station.
Visitor Information -- The extremely helpful and professional City and State Tourism Office is on Calle Carnaval 1317, corner of Mariano Escobedo, close to the Plaza Machado (tel. 669/981-8886, -8887; www.sinaloa-travel.com). The office is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm; the staff speaks English. To preview what's going on in Mazatlán before you arrive, check the website of the local English-language newspaper (www.pacificpearl.com), or pick up a copy of their very helpful publication upon arrival for a complete schedule of current activities. Three other very helpful guides in English are the Welcome Digest (tel. 669/913-3628; www.welcomedigest.com), Viejo Mazatlán (tel. 669/985-3781; www.viejo-mazatlan.com), and Mazatlán Interactivo (tel. 669/981-8435; www.mazatlaninteractivo.com.mx).
City Layout -- Mazatlán extends north from the peninsula port area along Avenida Gabriel Leyva and Avenida Barragan, where the cruise ships, sportfishing boats, and ferries dock. Downtown begins with the historic area of Viejo Mazatlán (Old Mazatlán) and Playa Olas Altas to the south. A curving seaside boulevard, or malecón, extends 27km (17 miles) along the waterfront, all the way from Playa Olas Altas to Playa Norte, changing names often along the way. Traveling north, it begins as Paseo Olas Altas and becomes Paseo Claussen parallel to the commercial downtown area. The name changes to Avenida del Mar at the beginning of the Playa Norte area.
About 6km (3 3/4 miles) north of downtown lies the Sábalo traffic circle in the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), near the Punta Camarón, a rocky outcropping over the water. The Zona Dorada begins where Avenida del Mar intersects Avenida Rafael Buelna and becomes Avenida Camarón Sábalo, which leads north through the abundant hotels and fast-food restaurants of the tourist zone. From here, the resort hotels, including the huge El Cid Resort complex, spread northward along and beyond Playa Sábalo. The Marina Mazatlán development has changed the landscape north of the Zona Dorada considerably; hotels, condo complexes, and private residences rise around the marina. Although completion of the extensive project -- to comprise the marina, condominiums, and commercial centers -- is still years away, the new marina will be the largest on the western seaboard between Los Angeles and Panama, and one of the largest in all of Latin America. This area north of the Marina El Cid is increasingly known as Nuevo Mazatlán. North of here is Los Cerritos (Little Hills).
The downtown transportation center for buses, taxis, and pulmonías is on the central Plaza Principal, facing the cathedral.
By Taxi -- Eco Taxis are green and red cabs with posted set fares, but generally are about $5 to $10 per trip. Taxis are easy to flag around town and can also be rented by the day or by the hour. Agree on a price in advance. Fares between the Zona Dorada and Old Mazatlán average $10; within the Zona Dorada, you should pay about $5. To request a taxi, call tel. 669/986-1111 or 985-2828.
By Pulmonía -- These open-air vehicles resembling overgrown golf carts carry up to three passengers. Pulmonías (literally "pneumonias") have surreylike tops and open sides. As a rule, they're slightly more expensive than regular taxis but are also a quintessential part of the Mazatlán experience.
By Bus -- Buses, some with air-conditioning, cover most of the city and are relatively easy to use, although knowing some Spanish is helpful. The fare is 80¢ for local routes. The SABALO CENTRO line runs from the Zona Dorada along the waterfront to downtown near the market and the central plaza; at Avenida Miguel Alemán, the buses turn and head south to Olas Altas. The CERRITOS-JUAREZ line starts near the train station, cuts across town to the malecón beside the Zona Dorada, and heads north to Los Cerritos and back. The SABALO COCOS line runs through the Zona Dorada, heads inland to the bus station, and goes on to downtown (also stopping at the market) by a back route. The PLAYA SUR line goes to the area where the sportfishing and tour boats depart. Buses run daily from 6am to 10:30pm. Fares are about 75¢ for air-conditioned green buses or 45¢ for the white buses.