Mazatlan visitors seeking an adrenaline rush might zipline at Huana Coa Canopy Adventure's facility outside of the city. // © 2014 Mazatlan Tourism Board
Feature image (above): Exploring Mazatlan's mangrove jungle by boat is a popular excursion in the area. // © 2014 Mazatlan Tourism Board
Mazatlan is known for its wide beaches and historic downtown, but the diversity of its natural beauty is an equally strong selling point. After all, Mazatlan’s terrain ranges from sparkling ocean and sun-soaked sand to dense mangrove jungles and the soaring Sierra Madre Mountains.
Local tour operators and attractions make it easy for visitors to admire Mazatlan’s majesty. Here are five ways to experience the natural attractions of Mazatlan and its nearby regions.
Mazatlan Jungle and Beach Tour
During this decidedly varied excursion (which has been featured on the Animal Planet network), visitors start at the lighthouse that towers over the city before boarding a boat for a trip to a lush mangrove jungle located four miles south of Mazatlan.
An abundance of avian species inhabits this rich ecosystem, making for terrific bird watching. After admiring the mangroves, visitors head by land through vast coconut plantations to an unspoiled beach, where they can swim, relax or look for starfish and sand dollars. Both King David Tour Company and Pronatours offer variations on this tour.
Huana Coa Canopy Adventure
The foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains provide an ideal backdrop for canopy tours. Huana Coa Canopy Adventure is about 45 minutes outside of Mazatlan. It’s a well-equipped facility located at La Vinata Los Osuna, an agave distillery where visitors can take a tour and learn about the process of making this traditional Mexican alcoholic beverage. The ziplines at Huana Coa extend between 12 platforms mounted in trees and along the steep hillsides, providing scenic and fast-paced adventures.
Whale and Dolphin Watching
Between December and April, humpback whales congregate in the waters off the coast of Mazatlan for breeding season. Local tour operator Onca Explorations offers four-hour boat tours — accompanied by marine scientists and naturalists who provide expert insight and commentary — to view these magnificent creatures.
Passengers aboard Onca’s boats might witness females nursing their calves, or hear the songs that males perform during courtship. If clients can’t make it to Mazatlan during whale season but are still interested in seeing marine life: From April through November, Onca offers a Wild Dolphin Adventure program that includes the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins in their natural ocean habitat.
Horseback Riding and Relaxing on Isla de la Piedra
Although its name means Stone Island, Isla de la Piedra is not actually an island. It just feels like one, since it’s a rather isolated stretch of sand that seems disconnected from the rest of the city. Most visitors arrive here by water taxi or tour boat from downtown Mazatlan and spend the day on the beach swimming, snorkeling and horseback riding among the incredibly tall palm trees. Thatch-roofed eateries line the beach, providing ample opportunities to savor freshly caught seafood.
Tour operator Best Day offers an excursion with a catamaran ride past some of the most-photographed spots off the coast, including Sea Lions Rock, where the giant marine mammals sunbathe, unwittingly offering perfect photo opportunities for passersby.
Mexiquillo Canyon Tours
Travelers willing to travel a bit to enjoy stunning scenery should consider an excursion to Mexiquillo, a region in the nearby state of Durango where otherworldly rock formations and deep canyons provide dramatic settings for exploration. The 60-foot Mexiquillo waterfall is another must-see attraction in this paradisiacal destination. Visitors can also rappel the walls of the waterfall. Located about 106 miles from Mazatlan, this canyon tour excursion takes approximately 12 hours round-trip from Mazatlan.