Mazatlán is a true beach city with top rated resorts, excellent food and night life. But you need to plan for at least one day to leave the city and explore old-fashioned Mexican heritage, only a short drive from your Mazatlán hotel.
A perfect day to visit multiple destinations within an hour of Mazatlán is easy to achieve. Several tour groups offer van tours that quickly take you out of Mazatlán and into the nearby jungle that’s filled with can’t-miss adventures and cultural experiences.
After breakfast at our hotel, we took a 45 minute drive to El Quelite. This charming jungle village provides a true small town Mexican cultural experience with colorful streets, smiling locals and one of the most memorable meals you’ll ever eat at El Meson De Los Laureanos. After lunch, we took a short hike to the peak of the village for a scenic view, visited El Quelite’s historic church and browsed local shops. If you’d like to stay in El Quelite for more than just a day visit, there are overnight rentals that look really fun and they put you in the heart of the town and the friendly locals. I found two loft rentals above a shop near the town square where I will definitely stay during my next visit.
After a few hours in El Quelite, we took a 30 minute drive to Los Osuna tequila distillery. This is a truly one-of-a-kind visit for all ages. Located on a well-maintained natural jungle setting, the distillery, founded in 1876, includes a tour of the distillery and serves as a museum with original equipment from the early days of the company. The facility is a time warp of the old distilling process with modern conveniences. And then of course there are tequila tastings. An outdoor tasting bar includes five flavors and a friendly and knowledgeable staff. The distillery property also includes zip lining for adults and kids. You haven’t visited a jungle until you’ve zip-lined high above the trees. This is a unique and fun experience to witness the process of creating tequila, relaxing in a natural jungle setting and of course, tasting a variety of Los Osuna’s signature tequilas.
After a full day exploring El Quelite and Los Osuna, we returned to Mazatlán in the early evening in time to watch the Malecon cliff divers. This is one of Mazatlán’s oldest traditions and a must-see, especially just before sunset. A single diver launches off a rock podium precisely when a wave rolls into the rocky coast. The diver doesn’t land far from where water and rock meet, but it’s apparent that he knows what he’s doing and provides a memorable thrill for all spectators. It defintely lives up to the hype. You couldn’t ask for a better adrenaline rush with a more scenic ocean background. Spend an evening watching the divers, eating street food along the Malecon, mingle with locals and enjoy a Mazatlán sunset.
After watching the amazing Malecon cliff divers and one of the best sunsets I’ve ever witnessed, we took a short car ride to Mazatlán’s Centro Histórico (Old Town) for dinner at El Presidio. This is a must-visit dining location and is one of my favorite restaurants ever. El Presidio was built in an abandoned 2-story building. The architecture blends modern elements with the existing structures, along with a blend of indoor and outdoor elements. The center of the restaurant is an open atrium with a tree and plant-lined canopy. Enclosed dining areas are protected with a mix of brick and glass walls. Balconies with outdoor seating, private, glassed-in rooms and an inviting central bar create a nice problem to have: where do I sit with so many fun choices? I felt like a kid in a playground where I couldn’t decide where to go first.
After dinner, a completely unexpected fireworks display began on the same block as El Presidio. Just when a day of adventure, tequila tasting and dining couldn’t get any better, we watched an excellent fireworks show shine above the newly-restored Old Town (Centro Histórico) buildings. This may seem like a lot to do in one day, but I never felt rushed and was surrounded by welcoming locals that helped make this a day I’ll always remember.