The thing that surprised me about Mazatlán, Mexico is how much there is to do beyond the beach.
Don’t get me wrong, the beaches are great. Mazatlan has warm Pacific currents soft strips of sand, and broad views of three wild islands rising from the sea just off the coast.
While I appreciate a nice beach, it’s not enough to lure me to a destination. I’m drawn to people, culture, communities, history, nature, and most of all, of course, food. I’ve traveled through Mexico several times before, but the Spring Break crowd and endless resorts I imagined always led me to leave Mazatlan off my list.
So when the local tourism agency invited me to join a trip they were planning to show off some culinary and agritourism opportunities across the mostly rural Sinaloa state, I jumped at the chance to eat my way around the region and I discovered there are lots of things to in Mazatlan beyond the beach!
I just got back last Sunday and haven’t started looking through the 1,000+ photos I took over four days–stories to come. In the meantime, here are some images I shared on Instagram.
1. Breakfast: Chilaquiles!
I had some variation on this dish for breakfast every single day. Chilaquiles is a popular Mexican breakfast dish made of thin corn tortilla strips, covered a rich green (verde), red (rojo) or chipotle sauce, then baked and served topped with fresh cheese, sour cream, and–one amazing time–local shrimp.
2. Blue agave (tequila) tasting at Vinata Los Osuna
I guess it was five o’clock somewhere, but in Mazatlan, it was only 10am. You gotta do what you gotta do.
We stopped into Los Osuna Distillery to sample their three varieties of 100% distilled blue agave, or “tequila”. Being in the state of Sinaloa, the company has to call their spirit “blue agave” by law–tequila is a regional protected word, limited to agave grown and distilled in the state of Jalisco. Even if it can’t be branded as such, the company recently surprised the global booze world by winning three top medals at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
5. Village life in Puerto de Canoas, Sinaloa
The main square in small town of Puerto de Canoas, population: 334. Villages like this are the center of life in the outlying agricultural communities. Sinaloa is the agricultural heart of Mexico. The state grows 30% of food for Mexico and it’s the largest producer of tomatoes in the world.
4. Making salsa and tortillas with Doña Rosa
In Puerto de Canoas, we were invited into local food-stand owner, Doña Rosa’s kitchen to learn to make salsa and tortillas. For the salsa, she roasted up some roma tomatoes and serrano chiles that we mashed together by hand using a traditional molcajete. Throw in a little garlic and salt, and pair with fresh local cheeses and hand pressed tortillas roasted up on her wood-fired griddle–the perfect, simple snack. I was so inspired by Dona Rosa’s salsa, I picked up my very own molcajete (just like this one) in the Mazatlan central market
3. Alberto and his dancing horses
Before lunch we met up with Alberto, who trains beautiful Azteca horses to dance to local Sinaloa-grown banda music. The horses perform at local festivals and events.
6. The colorful town of El Quelite, Sinaloa
Exploring the colorful streets of El Quelite. This is cowboy country.
7. Cowboys & carnes
Mazatlan is probably best known for their seafood, but in the ranching villages, meat is much more common. This was the carnivorous sampler platter we ordered at El Meson de Los Laureanos restaurant, in El Quelite.
8. The seafood rocks, too.
It’s true–Mazatlan’s seafood is excellent, especially their fresh local shrimp. The city has the largest shrimp fleet in Mexico. One popular local dish (shown here at Restaurante Los Arcos) is aguachile, a chile-spiked shrimp ceviche with cucumber, red onion, carrot and lots of lime juice–delicious!
9. A walk through Mercado Pino Suarez
Hunting for interesting foods and Mexican kitchen ware at Mazatlan’s central market, Mercado Pino Suarez. I bought some colorful fruit-print oilcloth fabric, a traditional stone molcajete (see #4), and a bag of pint-sized local mangos.
10. Visiting a marshmallow factory
For the past 50 years, Doña Maria Clara has been making a candy called “Suaves“, vanilla marshmallows rolled in shaved coconut, in a converted bedroom in her home. Now in her mid-80’s, she leaves the work of cooking, cutting, and bagging the fluffy treats to her family. Before we left, she gave us each a bag. The bags sell for 20 pesos ($1.50) each in the market, and they are a popular local sweet in Mazatlan.
When we went to the airport to come home, my friend Karin had her suitcase checked by the Mexican TSA. When he opened it and saw the fluffy bag of Suaves on top, his face lit up and his voice softened, “Ohhh, Suaves!”
11. Street art in the Centro Historico
From dawn to dusk, the historic downtown (centro historico) of Mazatlan is the commercial center of town and packed with people going about their day. But by night, it turns magical, with warm colonial architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, bohemian cafes, and modern street art.
12. Those Pacific sunsets!
Last but not least, our good friend, The Beach. There’s no better place to be at sunset. I was blessed with this gorgeous sunset the night I arrived at my hotel, Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan. What a treat!
Thanks to the Mazatlan Tourism Board for organizing this trip. Opinions and photos are my own.
Have you been to Mazatlan or Mexico? What are some of your favorite things to do in Mazatlan?
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) says
I’ve never heard much about Mazatlan other than about its beaches (and, of course, someone always says wherever you’re going in Mexico is dangerous…) so it was really nice to see another side to it! We breezed right past it during our initial push into Mexico, but your post has me thinking it might be worth checking out whenever we’re back in that part of the country. Like you, I’m not really someone who will go somewhere just because it’s on the ocean and has a beach, so it’s nice to see there’s more to Mazatlan than just what the guidebooks write about!
One question for you: As a vegetarian/pescetarian, how did you find the food situation in Mexico? I keep saying that I’m glad we don’t have any dietary restrictions because it seems to be meat, meat, meat 24/7 around these parts!
Cassie Kifer says
Definitely worth exploring if you head back north. I really love the small towns and villages in Mexico, I think they are underexplored by travelers.
And, that is a great post idea! I’ll write that one for you 🙂 The short answer is I love Mexican food and have never had a problem eating well. There are two caveats to that: 1. I’m not too strict, so I accept that there may be meat (especially lard!) in some things I eat. Not everyone can or is willing to do that I understand, but I’ll put together some tips in a blog post. 2. I speak Spanish, so I’m pretty good and communicating my needs and talking to vendors and waitstaff about what I can and can’t eat, having them suggest things for me and asking for modifications. I’ll pull some tips for that together, too!
Suzie B says
Absolutely wonderful post 🙂
I went to Mazatlan for the first time 5 years ago and fell in love instantly! It is such an amazing city with so much to offer (beyond the beaches!). So much so, I have returned every year since 🙂
I haven’t had the opportunity to go outside of the city to some of the smaller towns, but hopefully will get the opportunity to visit in the future.
As a vegetarian myself, I have never struggled to find things to eat.. I would be very interested though to read a post on the subject though 🙂
Cassie Kifer says
Hi Suzie, glad you agree! Do try to get to some of the outlying villages. Some of the local tour companies can arrange visits to the smaller towns if you don’t have transport. We used Pronatours (http://www.elcid.com/pronatours_Mazatlan/), I don’t think they have an organized group culinary tour (yet!), but if you wanted to arrange something like that I’m sure they could work with you on a custom itinerary. Our guide was Julio Cervantes, he was very knowledgable and a lot of fun to be with–and helpful when I was looking for vegetarian options. And I’ll pass on my vegetarian food post when it’s up, I’m working on it later this week and you can let me know if you have any tips to add!
Suzie B says
Thanks for the reply! I will look into taking a tour to one of the outlying villages next time – it sounds like it would be wonderful 🙂
AS for tips – there are a few great vegetarian/vegan food options in Mazatlan: La Ruta in centro is 100% vegan/vegetarian; Delirium taco in centro has some AMAZING vegetarian and vegan tacos that will leave you dreaming of them for weeks after hah.. In the Golden Zone, Zab Thai makes a great pad thai that you can add tofu to and Pura Vida offers a great veggie burger and some wonderful salads, burritos, etc.. Other than that, I have found that places are more than willing to make substitutions – like instead of bacon on a BLT, a few slices of avocado…
Looking forward to your post 🙂
Cassie Kifer says
Hi Suzie, I just shared my post on vegetarian Mexican food and quoted you in it! Let me know if you have anything to add: https://everintransit.com/how-to-find-vegetarian-food-in-mexico/
Thanks for your help!
Thank u for sharing. We r retiring in Mazatlan this October. Love it there. Very excited
Cassie Kifer says
Wonderful! Such excellent food and so much to see and do, I’m excited for you!
Cathy Sweeney says
Love these ideas. I got to enjoy a few of these activities in Mazatlan a few years ago. Sampling blue agave at Los Osuna was definitely a highlight. And the food everywhere was great. I’d love to try making salsa and tortillas with Doña Rosa sometime.
Cassie Kifer says
Thanks Cathy! It was such a fun trip, I remember seeing your Los Osuna post, too! What a fun place, and beautiful country out there.
And I have yet to season (so that I can finally use!) the molcajete I brought back from the centnral market, it’s sitting on my kitchen counter looking pretty, but I need to put it to work and make some darn salsa 🙂