Consider Isla de las Piedras, or Stone Island, for a quintessential Mexican vacation where you'll find yourself sitting on the beach and sipping a cold drink while watching the surf lap at the shore. Accessed via a short drive along a peninsula or aboard a cost-friendly ferry, the island is easy to get to, though still free from major crowds.
Small rock outcroppings - which gives Isla Tortuga, or Turtle Island, its name - are the gathering place for California sea lions during winter. These cute and boisterous animals are often seen playing in the crystal water and warming themselves on sun-bathed rocks. Hiring a boat is the best way to get relatively close to these marine mammals and experience the otherwise barren beauty of Isla Tortuga.
The cultural center of the city, Old Mazatlan, is the site of historic buildings, parks, and a local market that has been held here for generations. A visit to this heavily trafficked area of the city easily warrants an entire day. Consider starting early and touring the 1875-era cathedral and neighboring Parque Revolución, followed by lunch at one of the area's many restaurants, then finishing the day with shopping at the open-air market Mercado.
The most popular of Mazatlan's beaches stretches along the Zona Dorada. On hot days, the white sand beaches of the area fill with sun worshippers intent on bronzing under the sun. A good number of the city's hotels are found here, as are shops, restaurants, and nightclubs, making it a top tourist destination.
Zona Dorada and Old Mazatlan are connected by the Malecon, a pedestrian-friendly road that hugs the beachfront for 13 miles. The three to four mile stretch between these two neighborhoods provides tourists with stunning sunset views as well as their choice of restaurants and after-dark dance clubs.
Isla de Venados, or Deer Island, is situated between Bird Island and Goat Island. Accessed via boat, the island is home to innumerable plants and animals, and because of this has been designated as a nature reserve. Sandy beaches and thriving sea life make a trip out to this small island a wonderful way to spend the day.
Located in the Hotel Playa, the Terraza is an open-air restaurant and bar serving offering international fare such as Creole soup, fillet shish kabob, and marinated fish. Breakfast is offered all day. Live music occurs every evening from 7:00pm until midnight.
Hotel La Siesta's El Shrimp Bucket was the first of a chain that now includes over fifty restaurants worldwide. In addition to the famous Mazatlan shrimp, the menu includes myriad International dishes, soups, and salads. Patrons can choose between dining indoors or on an ocean-view terrace. A breakfast buffet is offered every Sunday.
Pedro and Lola is well-known for its combination of international cuisine and regional Sinaloa dishes. The walls are decorated with paintings by local artists. Live music plays most evenings.
Pura Vida serves omelets, whole wheat pancakes, burgers (including soy burgers), salads, soups, and Mexican cuisine. The also specialize in vegetarian meals and assorted smoothies, from kelp to papaya.
Angelo's serves fine Northern Italian and international cuisine in a graceful setting that features live piano music and singing. Angelo's also offers an extensive list of select imported and domestic wines.
Nestled on the beach, diners at Papagayo enjoy the natural beauty of the sea, with a choice of beach or open-air patio seating. The food is consistent and elegantly presented, with an extensive menu of international fare and includes shrimp CocoLoco and tournedos Rossini in wild mushroom sauce.
This shaded sidewalk cafe on the waterfront at Playa Olas Altas feels the way Mazatlan must have in the 1930s, and the food is consistently as good as the ocean view. The menu includes: pechugas en nogada, shrimp in tamarind sauce, traditional alambre barbecue, seafood soup loaded with squid, shrimp, and great shrimp with chipotle sauce. Listen to live music on Friday and Saturday nights at the Copa de Leche.