As a cruise ship passenger, you will see that the Mazatlan cruise port is the northernmost city to visit on the Mexican Riviera. Travelers and adventurers have been landing here since pre-Columbian times.
The modern terminal is staffed with helpful volunteers and, as we shall see, navigating this port of call and the surrounding city is easy. You will be surrounded by an authentic quality. It is a real city that happily welcomes visitors, rather than a place simply built around tourism.
The area surrounding the Mazatlan cruise port is charming and the activities range from the sublime to the adventurous. Miles of beaches, deep culture and scrumptious seafood are the signature qualities of this destination.
Known as a sportfishing mecca around the world, the popular cruise destination is also home to the country’s largest fleet of shrimping boats. So, at the shrimp capital of the world, be sure to taste the huge variety of flavors developed over the centuries.
The culture here dates back hundreds of years. Experience it via the celebrations, food, museums, churches and art located throughout the growing city. Throughout Mazatlan, you will see monuments, dancing fountains and attractions like an animal kingdom, historic observatory and the new Sea of Cortez Aquarium – all celebrating the heritage and history of this important port.
Mazatlan, a colonial beach town known as The Pearl of The Pacific, is truly a cruise destination with “something for everyone.” Here are some tips to guide you during your stop at Mazatlan cruise port.
Preparing for Mazatlan Cruise Port
To enjoy your time in Mazatlan cruise port and beyond, consider these three categories of preparation: clothing, currency and the clock. Our first item is dependent on the weather. During the summer months, expect the occasional rain shower with a possibility of brief yet severe weather in the afternoons.
In the late fall, the temperatures are pleasant and most of the wet weather has passed. During the busy winter months, nighttime temperatures can dip into the 50°s (F) with a high near 80° (F) during the daylight hours.
It is a good idea to wear sunscreen and take a hat and sunglasses onshore any time of the year. Traveling around town and exploring the many outdoor locations will include hours in the tropical climate.
Keep in mind that the risk of heatstroke and sunburn are quite high on both sunny and overcast days. Also, remember to stay hydrated. Bring your own water from the ship or buy bottled water since it is not recommended that visitors drink the tap water.
The second item, currency, takes a bit of planning. While the US dollar is welcomed, the official local money is pesos. The latter is accepted at all businesses as well as by the street vendors located throughout the city. When shopping, the prices will be marked with the familiar US dollar sign or (more likely) in pesos. If you are unsure, simply ask.
Stop at the port terminal ATM or authorized money exchange establishments to get some cash. It is not always an option to pay with credit or debit cards. And, you will want some “folding money” for tips.
A final consideration in planning your visit at the Mazatlán port of call is time. There are lots of places to visit, adventures to have and local flavors to taste.
The city is spread out and it might require a bit of travel time to reach the places you want to see. So, transportation might take longer than expected – particularly during the busy seasons. Make sure to leave enough time for the ride back to the port. The cruise ship will leave as scheduled!
Arrival at Port
The first thing you are likely to notice as your ship leaves the Pacific Ocean and enters the Canal de Navigación is El Faro – Spanish for “the lighthouse.” Look left! To the northwest on the way into the Mazatlán cruise port stands a piece of history in seafaring navigation – the highest lighthouse in the Americas. This icon sits 523 feet above high tide on the spot where light has guided ships since 1828.
What first began as a beacon of fire created with wood, coconut chips and whale oil lit in the evenings atop the hill later became a proper lighthouse in 1879. Still operational today, El Faro casts its important light for 30 nautical miles into the ocean.
The second obvious quality at this destination is the unique nature of the Mazatlán cruise port. Unlike some other destinations along the Mexican Riviera, this is one of the busiest shipping ports on this side of the ocean. Your vessel will share the waterway with all types of commercial fleets like cargo and container ships.
What this means for you as you step onto the land amidst the hustle and bustle of commerce is a free tram ride to the terminal. These complimentary rides run continuously, so getting to and from the cruise ship is easy to manage.
Once at the terminal, you will find a modern new building. Along with restroom facilities, there are souvenirs and a local craft market here.
You may also find local Tourist Aide Volunteers (easily identifiable by their blue shirts) who are happy to answer your questions, make suggestions for sightseeing and supply you with a map of the area. The port gate is located beside the main thoroughfare and there are vehicles just outside waiting to carry you to the sights.
Once you have left the port, there are multiple options for exploring the scenery, history, eateries and adventures in this popular destination. For a bit of exercise, consider a stroll to the “Old Town” about one mile away.
This retro area has the look and feel of several eras from the 19th Century up to the mid-20th Century. From the terminal, you can follow along a cobblestone path lined in blue color for ease of navigation. There are also “blue shirts” to assist you along the 20- to 30-minute walk.
If you would rather ride, there are several public bus routes in the city. And, the buses are either white or green. The former have no air conditioning and, thus, are cheaper. The green ones are considered “tourist” buses – a bit higher priced, air conditioned and move around the city more quickly. These run on a set schedule from early morning to late evening and are the most economical way to get around (other than walking!).
Also, you can hail a taxi for a ride to anywhere in the area. The licensed taxis have either a red or green stripe on the vehicle. There are no meters; you ask the fare ahead of time. This is a good opportunity to use your language skills and negotiate with the drivers. Insider tip: You can arrange for a ride to and from a particular location at the same time. That is, agree upon a better rate by scheduling a pickup time with the same driver.
For a more cultural experience, take a ride in a Pulmonia. These iconic open-air taxis number in the hundreds. They are part of the history of the entrepreneurship of Mazatlan, dating back to the 1960s. Most accommodate four passengers and are a bit more expensive than buses and taxis.
Read Also: Your Guide to the Best Mazatlán Beaches
You will see all manner of customized decorations as you ride the streets rich with aromas of local restaurants and Latin music. There is even a monument on the Malecón honoring this unique form of transportation! Simply flag down an empty one and off you go on a fun ride.
Select one of these options at the Mazatlán cruise port and ride to another location for walking the Malecón. This 13-mile-long elevated wall built along the seashore is one of the longest walkways of its kind on the world. The ocean, the beach, stores, restaurants and vendors are found all along the route.
Access to WiFi is increasingly easy throughout the Mexican Riviera. Your best option for hopping online will be in cafes, restaurants and at public spaces. Some places offer this for free to their customers; and, other locations will charge a fee.
To avoid unwelcome surprises on the bill, check with your cell phone provider before sailing to get the specifics of using the phone, texting or browsing both on the ship and in another country.
Who Docks at Mazatlan Cruise Port
If this port of call in the Mexican Riviera is on your list of places to visit, the following cruise lines have regular itineraries. Some offer multiple arrivals and departures throughout the year, and others only travel here during certain seasons. Regardless of when you plan to travel, there will be many choices of ships to make the journey.
- Carnival Cruise Line
- Celebrity Cruises
- Disney Cruise Line
- Holland America
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Oceania Cruises
- Princess Cruises
- Royal Caribbean
Each website for these cruise lines has search options that allow you to include the Mazatlán cruise port in your criteria. Simply select your favorite fleet, sort by ports of call, choose a range of sailing dates and pick the desired type of ship (family, adult, adventure and so forth) for your next cruise.
Where to Go First
Now that we know how to navigate the port and extend our visit into this beautiful city, let’s make our way to the first place we saw upon arrival – El Faro. Grab a ride to the base of Cerro del Creston to begin the climb with your camera at the ready.
The summit is accessed via a somewhat strenuous climb (hiking boots not required) up the 500-foot elevation. At the top, you can walk out “over” the cliff on the glass bottom walkway; have refreshments; and, enjoy the premier view of The Pearl of The Pacific. And, you might even see your cruise ship docked in the harbor. This is the perfect place to launch your adventures in Mazatlán!
If you would like to stay close to port or your time onshore is limited, these are the top recommendations nearby:
- Centro Historico (Old Town) – architecture in tropical colors, shops, museums, art galleries, eateries
- Plaza Machado – a family-friendly open tree-lined courtyard amidst gorgeous buildings and cafés
- Angela Peralta Theatre – tour inside the stunningly restored 1874 landmark or catch a live performance
To learn about specific details of the above locations and the other best places to go and things to do here, see our articles on 10 Highly-rated Things to Do in Mazatlán.
A Final Note
Much has been said in recent years about the safety of Mazatlán. Advice from travelers and expats alike is that this city is a safe place to visit. Like any trip, stay aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your valuables.
Avoid showing lots of money (withdraw only small amounts at a time from secure ATMS) or wearing flashy jewelry. Be polite and respectful and, if you see an argument on the street, walk away. These are good practices no matter where you go! In Mazatlán (like in other urban areas), go where the other tourists are going.
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For example, the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), the Malecon, Zona Marina (Marina Zone) and Centro Historico (Old Town) all have security about and very little crime. It is not recommended that you travel too far away from the city.
If you have found places you would like to visit beyond the frequented areas, book a shore excursion with your cruise line. This will be a guided tour with your fellow shipmates, thereby decreasing safety issues. Follow these simple precautions and you can also stay after dark for the nightlife.