Mazatlán, Family Style!


Kids love Mazatlán! There is so much to do that it is hard to choose. If you are hosting grandchildren over the holidays, are on holiday here with children, or if you live here and are looking for something new and exciting to do with the kids during school break, here is the list for you! Enjoy!

  • Aquarium: The aquarium in Mazatlán is a lot of fun. The most exciting thing at the aquarium is that with the new tiburonario scheduled to open this monthyou will be able to swim with the sharks! In addition to the indoor marine exhibits there are entertaining bird, sea lion and animal shows held on outdoor covered stages. Aquarium staff do most of the rescue of marine animals and birds here in town, so we all very much appreciate you supporting this venue. Tel 981-7815.
  • Baseball/Basketball Game: Los Venados, our local professional baseball team, runs October-February. Games often feel like a party with a baseball game going on in the background, but the stands are always full of fun-loving baseball fans ready to cheer at a moment’s notice. Seeing a game here is different from the U.S. or Canada – come check it out. Basketball fans will find that the Nauticos put on a good show.
  • Batting cages and driving range: Pacific Golf Center on Avenida de la Marina is a whole lot of fun for younger and older kids, as well as adults. They also have batting cages, a bar, and a full restaurant. Tel 180-0919.
  • Beach day: Boogie board, body surf, swim, fly a kite… You can get chair-side service and do all your souvenir and gift shopping with the vendors at a hotel beach. Enjoy some ceviche, fresh fruit or turnovers/empanadas from a strolling vendor, and maybe some live music from a passing band. You can dine on fresh, affordable seafood in a palapa/thatched hut on Playa Pinos. Make sand castles, pick up sea shells and sea glass, play soccer or football, volleyball or catch. You name it, you can’t go wrong with kids and a beach. Stone Island (it’s actually a peninsula) feels like going back in time to a simpler, more charming era. Pretend you’re shipwrecked, or that you own your own private piece of paradise. There are plenty of restaurants with lots of adult beverages; the beach is great for kids as the ocean is pretty calm. On Deer Island you can get a few things to eat or drink. You can get tours to either island that include banana boating, snorkeling or jet skiing; Stone Island tours often include horseback riding. If you go on your own, Stone Island has an affordable water ferry (about US$3 round trip per person). In the early morning, you can go down to Playa Norte and watch the swim club swimmers do their ocean swims. Many are grandmas and grandpas and boy can they swim! In November each year the club does a Travesía, during which swimmers swim out to Deer Island! You are most welcome to join them in the early mornings, starting about 6:00 am.
  • Bicycling: Biking along the malecón/oceanside promenade is gorgeous, easy and fun! From Valentino’s to the Pedro Infante Monument is about 4 miles one-way, it’s of course a very level ride, and safely out of the traffic. Baikas has two locations along the oceanside promenade, tel 110-0267. They also do Segway tours of Centro Histórico. Want something a little more adventurous, perhaps for the teenagers—something tougher, like mountain biking? Güero, Kelly, will take you on a tour, or take you around the mountain bike course he has set up. His shop, Kelly’s Bikes, is on Avenida de la Marina, tel 914-1187. He has bikes to loan out as well.
  • Boat ride or water sports: You can have one of the playeros take you and your family out for a cruise on a catamaran around the bay for very little cash. Cruise past Bird, Goat and Deer Islands, and view the city from the sea. There are also sailboats, or you can go out on a party boat and enjoy music, dinner or sunset, tel 918-2360. Or, rent a couple of kayaks on the beach in front of one of the hotels, and enjoy some terrific family time paddling in the bay. In the Golden Zone you can also go parasailing, ride jet skis or banana boats. Before I parasailed I never imagined I’d enjoy it as much as I did! It is amazingly fun and exciting! Book a trip on the beach in front of your hotel.
  • El Bosque/City Park: Located one block off the malecón, just south of Ave. Insurgentes, this park has a large pond with waterfowl, swing sets and climbing gyms, a small zoo, and a walking trail. There are play areas in small parks throughout the city, though I recommend you check their safety before letting your kids climb up and slide down.
  • Bowling, skee ball, video games, pool tables: Great for hot, humid days or during the rainy season. Inside the Gran Plaza, Recorcholis, tel 983-2127, also has an ice skating rink. Alboa Mazatlán in the Galerías shopping center, 688-0005, also has pool tables. They both also have video arcades.
  • Fishermen: Sitting near the pangas/boats at Playa Norte beach, watching the fishermen bring in their boats, unload and sell their fish, and the birds try to steal the entrails, can make for a very enjoyable morning for a family. There is excellent fishing in Mazatlán, and if your children enjoy it, you can fish from shore or rent a boat to take your family out deep-sea fishing.
  • Hiking, bird watching and picnicking: Climbing up the lighthouse is one of our very favorite family activities. The climb only takes about 20 minutes, and the view from the top is gorgeous! On the north side of town, Estero del Yugo is a gorgeous nature preserve with both a coastal lagoon (fresh water) and estuary (brackish water). Your family can walk or bike several trails. Nature walks and plant medicine tours are offered year-round. They are primarily in Spanish, but Sandra and staff speak English and will do their best to accommodate you. Just give them a call at 989-8700.
  • Horseback riding: There is nothing like a family horseback ride on the beach, or through a forest of palm trees on Stone Island, tel 941-9549. From Mr. Lionso’s in Cerritos you can take horses up into the mountains, tel 988-0425.
  • Las Labradas Petroglyphs: A 45 minute drive north of Mazatlán, over 600 ocean-side rock carvings in this national archeological zone. 667-996-8450
  • Movies: Movie theaters in Mazatlán are MUCH more affordable ventures than they are north of the border. If you don’t speak Spanish, be sure to see a subtitled (subtitulado) movie rather than one that’s dubbed (doblado). Some of the major movie theaters in town are  Cinépolis in the Gran Plaza, in Sendero Plaza or Santa RosaCinemex at Galerías Mazatlán advertises a “4D” viewing experience, while Cinemex El Toreo and Cinemex Mazatlán are both on Avenida Insurgentes in the main part of town; Cinemas Gaviotas is an older theater in the Golden Zone near Valentino’s.
  • Paint ball: For some weird reason, paint ball is called “Gotcha” in Mazatlecan Spanish. Gotcha Las Espuelas is located just outside of town, tel 124-3434. Gotcha Sport, tel 981-1151.
  • Port tour: Watch the workings of the port from the Mirador or the Old Observatory. Drive, walk or bike up Paseo del Centenario to either of these places, and you will be rewarded with incredible views of the city of Mazatlán and the workings of its port—second most important in Mexico. See the loading and unloading at the docks, the boats of the largest shrimping fleet in the Mexican Pacific, as well as the tuna fleet. You an also hire one of the panga-owners to take you on a cruise through the Parque Bonfil, to see all the shrimp and tuna boats up close and personal.
  • Sea Turtles laying their eggs or being released: Witness sea turtles laying eggs on the beach from June through November or later every year. It is an amazing process to watch, but please don’t bother the nesting Moms! You can read a blog post about the sea turtles. Groups can make arrangements via the Aquarium to do a private release of baby sea turtles, or you may call the Aquarium to see if there is a release scheduled while you are in town, tel 981-7815. Release season is August to December. On Stone Island (at Estrella del Mar) there is a sea turtle sanctuary, and the kids (and adults) may very much enjoy visiting it. Tel 01-800-727-4653. Also Santuario Verde Camacho north of town: 6691-18-0629.
  • Skating: Bring your skateboard, rip stick, BMX bike or inline skates, or just your eyes and good humor to watch the festivities. The main skate park is in the median on the boulevard that runs beside the City Park/Bosque de la Ciudad. You can in-line skate along the malecón—rent skates at Baikas locations—or ice skate in the Gran Plaza at Recorcholis, tel 983-2263.
  • Snorkeling: Playa Norte has a sheltered beach, just south of the swim club and the outdoor gym, which has pretty interesting snorkeling: lots of colorful fish and sea glass. Remember that the Pacific is not the Caribbean; water here is not nearly as clear. On Deer Island you can snorkel for octopus or scallops. The oyster divers are also a very friendly lot here, and they will be happy to have you pay them to dive with them—only recommended if your kids are expert swimmers, of course.
  • Spray fountain/waterpark: Right across the street from the Fisherman’s Monument, the spray fountain installation is a big hit with local and tourist kids alike!  If the kids want more slide action than the hotel pool or the spray fountain can provide, take them up to Mazagua, on the north end of town on the way to the Hotel Riu or Emerald Bay. Tel 988-0041.
  • Surfing: Many kids would love to learn how to surf! In Mazatlán here are two options: Javier’s Quicksilver Surf, 6691-20-9703,  or Aqua Sports Center, tell 913-0451.
  • Tide pools: One of the BEST activities ever, on the planet, for families with young children. Bring a book of tide pool life along with you, put on some water shoes, and take a walk when the tide is out along the beach south of Valentino’s. Starfish, crabs, tadpoles, sea urchins… Gotta love it!
  • Volleyball on the beach: Play or watch local and national championships at Barras al Mar in the Golden Zone, 6699-13-0748.
  • Whale, dolphin and sea lion watching: One of our favorite activities! DEFINITELY do this if you are traveling here! Contact Oscar or Saúl at Onca Explorations, tel 913-4050. Nothing like having a marine biologist, who knows these whales intimately, cataloging and tracking their movements, teach you about them. You can almost touch these gorgeous creatures, and the sound of their breathing will blow you away! Read another blog post about this, one of our absolute favorite things to do here. Also swim with dolphins in the wild.
  • Zip linesHuana Coa is located in La Noria, close to the Los Osuna mezcal distillery. It is a whole lot of fun! They use double-cables for added safety, and state-of-the-art equipment. Tel 990-1100. Veraneando has twelve zip lines, including one where two people can ride/race in parallel. They also offer a river tour, hot springs, sweat lodge (temazcal) and ATVs. Tel 988-0425. If you haven’t zip lined, we HIGHLY recommend it.
In addition to the above year-round activities, there are also terrific seasonal events that you should try not to miss. These include:
  • Carnaval/Mardis Gras (a very family-oriented five days before Ash Wednesday—in 2016 February 4-9)
  • Easter Week processions
  • MotoWeek, a huge gathering of motorcycles from around the continent. Includes concerts, an expo and a huge parade (early April each year)
  • Independence Day, especially “El Grito” the night before in the main Plaza downtown (September 15)
  • Day of the Dead, altars and callejoneada parade (November 1 and 2)
  • Revolution Day (November 20)
  • ExpoCar, usually held in December, this is a car show and, I guess, drag racing event. Exhibitions, concerts, and lots of burning rubber.
  • Look for signs for special events such as Monster Truck shows, Lucha Libre, circuses (one going on somewhere in town at least once/month), carnavals/fairs (5-7 every year), NBA exhibition games, etc….
  • There are cultural events such as bullfighting (held occasionally) and cock fighting (held all the time at various venues). Look for signs around town or ask around when you here if you are interested.
  • Finally, there are often child-friendly shows put on around town, frequently for free. Consult the CULTURA Mazatlán calendar.

In the lists above I’ve only included things right here in town. There are also loads of things to do outside the city—small pueblos to visit, the petroglyphs at Las Labradas

We know those grandkids will be back soon! Please let us know what adventures you and your kids or grandkids enjoy, and we’ll add them in!

About Dianne Hofner Saphiere

There are loads of talented people in this gorgeous world of ours. We all have a unique contribution to make, and if we collaborate, I am confident we have all the pieces we need to solve any problem we face. I have been an intercultural organizational effectiveness consultant since 1979, working primarily with for-profit multinational corporations. I lived and worked in Japan in the late 70s through the 80s, and currently live in and work from México, where with a wonderful partner we've raised a bicultural, global-minded son. I have worked with organizations and people from over 100 nations in my career. What's your story?

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