A Gringo’s Guide to Mazatlan, Mexico | What You Must Know
Creating this Mazatlan, Mexico travel guide for my fellow gringos was a must for me.
Well, that’s easy.
I absolutely fell in love with the charms of Mazatlan.
It’s one of my favorite cities in all of Latin America – and the only beach city I’d even consider living in.
I’ll never forget my first trip to Mazatlan.
Basking in the warm sun before taking a dip in the Pacific Ocean. The waves rolled in as I attempted to body surf my way back to shore.
Splashing around for hours on end before the sun quickly began to set and that stunning Mazatlan sunset started to roll in.
Something like this:
Once the sun finally set, I treated myself to a damn good tuna medallion before prepping for a night of rumba.
And sure enough, the Mazatlan nightlife didn’t disappoint. The reggaeton blared, the ocean waves rolled in, and the cheap rum flowed.
I’m looking at you Joe’s Oyster Bar.
After one day of swimming at the beach and partying the night away, I knew Mazatlan was a city I could spend some time in.
Hell, I ended up spending three months here and plan to go back soon.
If you’re thinking about heading down to Mazatlan, Mexico – this here is the only travel guide you’ll need to succeed.
Aka have a damn good time in this charming beach city!
I cover things like:
- Getting to Mazatlan
- Cost of Living in Mazatlan
- Where to Stay in Mazatlan
- Language Barrier in Mazatlan
- Infrastructure and Internet
- Mazatlan Beaches
- Food in Mazatlan
- Weather in Mazatlan
- Is Mazatlan Safe?
- Nightlife and Dating
- Top Things to Do in Mazatlan
If any specific section above is of interest to ya, just click the link.
For those looking for general Mazatlan travel tips and tricks, just keep on reading. I cover everything in this bad boy.
From costs to safety to dating in Mazatlan…
– Getting to Mazatlan
This isn’t Mexico City, Cancun, or even Puerto Vallarta.
You’ll generally have a connecting flight when coming to Mazatlan. Most of the time you’ll fly from the United States or Canada to Mexico City.
Then from Mexico City you’ll be sent to Mazatlan.
A couple airports fly direct to Mazatlan from the States, including:
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Phoenix (PHX)
- Dallas (DFW)
Direct flights can also be found from certain Canadian cities, including Toronto.
Many of these direct flights are seasonal in nature. You can find non-stops during the winter months pretty easily from certain places, but in June and July – forget about it.
Bus travel to and from Mazatlan is not recommended.
Outside of visiting cities like Durango by bus, I found it far easier to fly between cities in Mexico. Flights tend to be cheap and are often just $10-15 more expensive than a bus ticket.
– Cost of Living in Mazatlan
In fact, I wrote about cost of living in Mazatlan, Mexico a little bit before.
Hell, I even dubbed the city, “Mexico’s cheapest beach city” in the past.
Because I’ve yet to find a high-quality beach city where you can live for as cheap as you can in Mazatlan.
Seriously, the good life won’t cost you a pretty penny here.
Plus, Mazatlan is cheaper than Guadalajara too, and far cheap that the capital, Mexico City.
For example, you can rent a luxurious beachfront one-bedroom apartment with stunning ocean views for around $900-1,100 a month.
In one of the nicest areas…Zona Dorada.
For accommodations that aren’t on the beach, rental prices plummet. You can easily find something a few blocks from the beach for $500-750 USD per month.
Beachfront hotel rooms can be had for $40-60 USD a night. I’m talking a nice hotel too.
For more information on Mazatlan cost of living, check out my video:
– Where to Stay in Mazatlan
This isn’t a tiny beach town. However, the city isn’t huge either. You can get from one end of town to the other in 15-20 minutes – depending on the traffic.
As such, there’s only a couple neighborhoods I’d recommend foreigners check out.
The best barrios in Mazatlan are:
- Olas Altas
- El Malecon
- Zona Dorada
- Marina Mazatlan
Unsurprisingly, all four of these neighborhoods are right by the beach. And trust me when I say, you won’t want to live too far from the beach in Mazatlan.
Hell, that’s one of the main reasons to come to Mazatlan – la playa.
Te lo juro.
With that in mind, I’ll breakdown a few of these neighborhoods and help you find the best area to stay during your time here.
Olas Altas is a colonial area in the south of Mazatlan. This is where most of the “snowbirds” choose to stay when they come down for the winter. You’ll find a nice beach, tons of good restaurants, and Plazuela Machado – a relaxing colonial square filled with coffee shops and places to eat.
Don’t stay in Olas Altas if partying is your objective. The nightlife is found in the north of the city.
El Malecon is the stretch of the city that connects the north from the south. This barrio runs along the ocean and is generally cheaper than other areas of Mazatlan. You can find some dirt cheap apartments and hotels here.
If being around locals, enjoying the ocean, and living cheaply are your goals – then El Malecon is a great place to stay. Just note that there aren’t as many good restaurants and bars around this area.
Zona Dorada is the most popular tourist area in Maztalan, Mexico. The barrio is chalk full of hotels, Airbnb apartments, and tourist shops. You’ll also find great nightlife around here, including the infamous Joe’s Oyster Bar.
The amenities in Zona Dorada are better than anywhere else in Mazatlan, but the are tends to die down when the weekend ends. Not many locals spend time here.
Marina Mazatlan is the high-end local neighborhood. The wealthy people in Mazatlan tend to live in La Marina. I didn’t spend a ton of time here, but the malls, clubs, and restaurants around this area are all quite nice from what I noticed.
…For most people, I recommend getting an Airbnb while in Mazatlan – if you’re staying for more than a week.
– Language Barrier in Mazatlan
Since Mazatlan has been a touristic city for awhile now, people in the city understand the value of speaking English.
Gringos have been rolling into Mazatlan for awhile now.
That being said…
Unless someone has a college education or works in tourism, it’s highly unlikely they’ll speak English here in Mazatlan.
So overall, you’ll definitely want to speak some Spanish if you plan to stay in Mazatlan, Mexico for more than a weekend.
Ya tu sabes.
Luckily, that’s pretty easy these days.
You can pick up Spanish quickly by studying online with a private tutor before you even arrive to Mazatlan.
– Infrastructure and Internet
The Internet in my apartment consistently faster than what I have back home in the United States. No complaints there.
However, I never found a decent coffee shop to work from.
That’s definitely a complaint when working as a digital nomad in Mazatlan.
Still, the city does boost a solid coworking space called Beehive. It runs about $125 per month or $18 USD daily.
Outside of Internet and coworking…
Mazatlan offers all the amenities and infrastructure one would want. There’s tons of gyms, yoga studios, pilates, and more.
There’s no shortage of bars, clubs, and world-class seafood restaurants either.
Uber works well in the city, but there wasn’t Lyft or Uber Eats when I was in the city.
– Mazatlan Beaches
The whole reason many a gringo comes to ole’ Mazatlan, Mexico in the first place.
I fell in love with the beaches in Mazatlan from the jump.
The strong Pacific Ocean waves kept me entertained for hours on end. Splashing around, body surfing, and generally, just relaxing.
If you enjoy big waves, then the beaches in Mazatlan will be ideal.
The sand is golden and the sun is hot as Hades.
But for those looking for calm, crystal clear waters…well, Mazatlan beaches might not be what you had in mind.
For calm waters, you’re far better off in Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
Some of the most popular Mazatlan beaches include:
- Zona Dorada
- Olas Altas
- Playa Bruja
- Playa Marlin
For chillin’ out, maxin’ and relaxin’ all cool while at the beach in Mazatlan…
I definitely prefer Olas Altas.
The waves are always strong at Olas Altas, the vibe is super chill, and the beach definitely has a laid-back locals vibe.
Plus, the sunsets at Olas Altas are damn tough to beat.
And once the sun goes down, you’ll find a bunch of people drinking beers and relaxing on the boardwalk here.
For surfing, Playa Bruja tends to be the best spot in town – however, currents change by the season in Mazatlan.
So definitely check with a local if surfing is up your alley.
– Food in Mazatlan
And I’m far from a foodie, fam.
But hear me out…
Mazatlan offers some of the best damn seafood in the world. Then you throw in some delicious Mexican food on top of it and you’ve got more than a winning combination.
Personally, I couldn’t get enough of the fresh-never-frozen tuna medallions, ceviche, and those swordfish tacos.
Oh, and don’t forget about the ranchero marlin tacos!
If you enjoy fresh seafood, you’ll absolutely love going out to eat in Mazatlan.
And while I’m no foodie, I certainly have one recommendation for gringos looking for a great meal by the beach.
– Weather in Mazatlan
From October through May, the weather in Mazatlan tends to be pretty ideal – especially for a beach city in Mexico.
During the daytime, it’s more than warm enough to enough a dip in the cool Pacific Ocean. No wet-suit needed whatsoever.
In the evening, the weather cools off and you might even need a jacket. This is especially true in December through February.
In the hottest summer months, temperatures in Mazatlan can way too hot. It also rains a lot and humidity goes through the roof.
Overall, I believe the weather is never unbearable in Mazatlan.
However, if I had to choose the best months to visit, I’d say:
- September – November
- March – May
During these months, you’ll find little rain, perfect daytime beach temperatures, and you won’t be sweating during the evenings.
– Is Mazatlan Safe?
While taking photos from an abandoned trap house above Olas Altas around dusk one evening.
Probably wasn’t the smartest idea on my part.
Still, I do believe Mazatlan, Mexico is safe – enough.
I mean thousands of “snowbirds” – aka old Gringos and Canadians – come down to Mazatlan for 2-4 months during the winter.
If you’re Granny can live in Mazatlan, then there’s a good chance you’ll be alright too.
While Mazatlan does tend to end up on the world’s most dangerous city list almost every year, that’s typically due to cartel on cartel violence.
Violence against tourists is generally quite low and you’ll see more police patrolling the tourist areas of Mazatlan than damn near anywhere else in the world.
If you spend most of your time around Olas Altas and Zona Dorada, you shouldn’t have much issue while in Mazatlan.
Just have to be smart if you decide to get off the beaten path.
I did a little video on Mazatlan safety, although that was before I got jumped ;(
– Nightlife and Dating
For a city of around 500,000 people, the nightlife absolutely pops off in Mazatlan.
You won’t have any issue having a damn good time in this city – if la rumba is a priority.
With that being said, this is still a smaller city.
You won’t find things popping every single night in Mazatlan. The nightlife here isn’t like Bogota, Colombia.
You won’t find something going on every single night.
But if partying on the weekends if what you want and need, Mazatlan will more than feed the needy, fam.
Here’s a few of my favorite spots:
- Joe’s Oyster Bar, Zona Dorada
- Prive, La Marina
- Classico, Zona Dorada
These are the three most popular clubs in Mazatlan. You’ll find at least two of them packed every single weekend night.
I’d say Joe’s is usually the most fun out of all three, but Prive tends to be the most high-end scene.
Mazatlan, Mexico is certainly more of a traditional culture.
The people here are a bit more conservative than in Mexico City or Playa del Carmen.
Plus, there’s not many foreigners here – especially young gringos living in Mazatlan for months on end.
As such, you’ll find online dating is practically worthless in Mazatlan.
If you want to meet high-quality individuals of the opposite sex, you’ll either need to go out at night a lot on the weekends or make some local friends.
This isn’t a city to live like a playboy.
Too small. Too conservative.
– Top Things to Do in Mazatlan
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Mazatlan, Mexico…
The beach is where you’ll want to go.
This isn’t a city filled with world-renowned museums and attractions.
That’s not why you come to Mazatlan.
You come here because you’re an absolute beach-addict looking for fun in the sun.
Still, here’s a few of my favorite things to do in Mazatlan:
- Go to the beach
- Learn to surf
- Ride ATVs on the beach
- Go deep sea fishing
- Eat delicious seafood
As you can see, the ocean is the main tourist attraction in Mazatlan. When looking for things to do here, most of them start with the sea.
For more information…
I did a whole post on things to do in Mazatlan here.
A Gringo’s Guide to Mazatlan, Mexico | What You Must Know
For my fellow gringos and foreigners thinking about checking out Mazatlan, Mexico…
I absolutely fell in love with the city, as I’m completely addict to beachfront living.
Mazatlan is safe enough, cheap as can be, and offers some of the best Pacific coast beaches I’ve found.
I had a damn good time here and I’m confident you will too. The nightlife is solid and the locals are friendly as can be.
For any and all questions about Mazatlan living, feel free to comment below.
I’ll do my best to get back to you with a detailed response.