The seafood in Mazatlan is based on quality ingredients, fresh vegetables, cold beer, and banda music. The Pearl of the Pacific is a special place that has come to define Mexican food on the coast. There are Sinaloa-style seafood restaurants serving delicious food all over the country. The state is considered to be the bread basket of Mexico exporting fresh fruit and produce across the country.
The Historic Core is like a time capsule with an evolution of architectural styles dating back to the 19th century with glimmers of 20th-century art deco. This is where Hollywood used to party in the 1940s and even though the hotels are a little run down the soul still shines through.
Mazatlán is a classic beach town and the locals absolutely adore their 21-kilometer-long boardwalk. Around sunset, the malecón is packed with locals and tourists alike taking it all in, usually with a Pacífico in hand. There are dozens of beach parks, monuments, attractions, and surf spots that need to be experienced.
Surfing and seafood tend to go together. Mazatlán has plenty of surf spots with consistent waves. It is one of the best surf towns in Mexico for intermediate-level surfers. There are waves right off the boardwalk and across the street from world-class street food vendors.
Ever since I drove my truck off the Sea of Cortez ferry I have been in love with this town. It is one of my personal favorites on the coast because of the food, culture, and surf. We always stop in Mazatlán when driving the Nogales route to the United States.
These are just a few of my favorite places to eat and things to do in Sinaloa’s favorite beach destination.
The Best Seafood in Mazatlán
I often compare the seafood in Puerto Vallarta to the seafood in Mazatlán because they are two of the principal tourist destinations on the Pacific Coast of mainland Mexico.
While Puerto Vallarta is much more international, Mazatlán is much more local. The recipes tend to be homestyle and the street food carts are far superior in Mazatlán than it is in Puerto Vallarta.
Mazatlán has more affordable prices than both Puerto Vallarta and Ensenada. One thing to keep in mind is that both Mazatlán and Culiacán have spectacular fresh seafood. Culiacán is the large, inland capital while Mazatlán is the tourist destination.
1. El Cuchupetas
El Cuchupetas is located in the Mazatlán Metropolitan Region but is not in the municipality of Mazatlán itself. That doesn’t matter because this restaurant is a destination. It is the most authentic Mexican seafood restaurant in the region and one of the best in all of Mexico.
El Cuchupetas is a family-run restaurant that has access to some of the freshest seafood in the Pacific Ocean. I have never tasted a better oyster than the dozen I was served on a busy Friday afternoon.
The shrimp a la diabla is made with real chiles and uses NO ketchup. The sauce is rich and smokey with notes of bacon fat. This leads me to the bacon-wrapped shrimp, stuffed with cheese. The order only comes with four pieces and I could easily put back 20.
It’s crazy when you try food that you are familiar with but something is different. I eat shrimp all the time but never like this.
The fresh shrimp ceviche doesn’t smell like shrimp, it smells like lime. The shrimp are all perfect. There are no bits but all complete pieces of shrimp. In a number of dishes, I ate the head, tail, and shell in all.
I also bought a T-shirt. I love that so many people recognize the logo.
The restaurant is full of pictures of the owner with famous people. Where we sat I saw pictures of President Andres Manuel López Obrador, Actor Diego Luna, and Businessman Carlos Slim. I can only imagine the other celebrities that have passed through those doors.
El Cuchupetas is a mandatory stop as you are coming into town, and you will want to repeat it on your way back out.
2. El Toro Pesado
El Toro Pesado is a street cart serving callo de hacha sea scallops that I found on YouTube. I had to ask around to find him because he is a little ways off the tourist track, just chilling in the shade under a tree.
The owner is an older man whose nickname is El Toro Pesado and he has been preparing scallops, octopus, and fresh shrimp for decades. I felt like I was sitting at a sushi bar watching a master chef at work.
I ordered a plate of all scallops. A few chiltepin chiles go into the molcajete and are ground up with lime juice to make a simple spicy salsa. The plate has red onion, chile, lime, and scallops, nothing more.
Eating scallops and telling stories with this old man was one of the best experiences of a weekend filled with awesome experiences. It felt authentically Mazatleco.
A number of people on the internet complain about the price. At $500 pesos for a medium-sized plate of scallops and shrimp is not cheap. I think eating at this street food cart is a premium experience superior to eating scallops at a fancy restaurant. To each their own.
3. Cahuamanta La Mexicana
I love soups. In San Diego I eat a ton of pho, in Guadalajara, I can’t get enough birria. I was super stoked to try a new soup with a protein that I wasn’t familiar with, manta ray.
There is nothing like a big bowl of soup after a long surf session. Cahuamanta La Mexicana is right around the corner from Los Pinos Beach, and it’s packed to the gills.
In fact, it is kind of hard to order. Not much of an organized line but more like a bunch of people pushing their way up to the soup Nazi. Just as I make it up front some kid behind me calls out his order and I get skipped again.
While the guy slanging soup says the protein is manta ray I hear Mexicans call all classes of rays manta rays; stingrays, bat rays, and eagle rays all get turned into manta rays. It is up for debate what particular class of ray I was actually eating.
I ordered a combinado bowl: tuna fin and manta ray soup. I was surprised at how rich the broth was and asked if they used beef broth as a base, which they categorically denied. The rich flavor comes from the manta ray they said. The texture of the manta ray was a little softer than the texture of the tuna fin, almost like it had been served rare and not boiled.
This is a specialty dish that I will always associate with Mazatlán.
4. El Muchacho Alegre
Mariscos, Cerveza y Banda. Banda music may not be uniquely Sinaloan, but it is something that they do very, very well. It is a genre of music that has taken me a while to warm up to.
In these parts, it is culturally significant due to the waves of German immigrants that made their way here in the 19th century. Dive in, learn a song or two, and see if they will let you karaoke it out in front of the band. It is part of the local culture.
El Muchacho Alegre has some decent seafood but most people are here for the music and the beachfront location.
One dish that I particularly enjoyed was the octopus chorreada. It is like a big sope, or small corn masa pizza, with sliced octopus and chile. I know some Sinaloan ladies in Guadalajara who sell chorreadas but they don’t sell seafood, just carne asada.
Food always tastes better at the beach, especially in Mazatlán.
5. El Sinaloense
El Sinaloense is a local favorite seafood joint that plays live banda music but doesn’t overdo it like the Mucho Alegre can. The music is loud on the side of the restaurant with the band but on the other side of the restaurant, the volume is at a level that you can talk at dinner. Live music is often played way louder than most families with children can tolerate.
We got a table right next to the kid’s play area and ate in peace. The kids came and went, and actually ate a lot of food.
There are a dozen different preperations of shrimp but I am always a fan of the zarandeado grilled shrimp. The bacon-wrapped shrimp looked really good too. The rice that everything is served with tastes like it was made by a grandmother who uses lots of fresh vegetables.
One of the best things about El Sinaloense is the parking lot. They have a huge private parking lot with an attendant. I left my surfboards on top of the car while we ate and could see them from the table the whole time.
6. Los Arcos
Los Arcos is easily one of the most iconic Sinaloa-style seafood restaurant groups in all of Mexico. They have restaurants all over the country but they are from Sinaloa and the Mazatlán location was one of their first restaurants.
Of all the seafood restaurants in Mazatlán, Los Arcos is one of the most refined and has the most extensive menu. They have the best food servers who know the menu well and make good recommendations for the customer.
I have had the pleasure of eating at Los Arcos restaurants across Mexico and Mazatlán will always be one of my favorites.
The pescado zarandeado (whole red snapper) and the zarandeado shrimp are both excellent. I always get an avocado stuffed with shrimp salad. It reminds me of a country club I used to for in college. Make sure to ask the servers about the fresh callo de hacha (raw sea scallops). They are harvested nearby and really a treat.
I can guarantee that Los Arcos is one of the best restaurants in Mazatlán and all of Mexico for that matter.
7. El Guamuchilito
El Guamuchilito is one of the old-school favorites for Mazatlán mariscos. The restaurant has been around since 1979 and is still family-run. It is simple yet delicious.
There is no valet parking and rather limited parking for the size of the restaurant. We had to do a couple of loops around the block to find a place to park.
The dining room is one large hall that feels more like an event space rather than a famous seafood restaurant. The food too. It is simple but absolutely delicious.
What I love about El Guamuchilito is the simplicity. The shrimp ceviche has tomato, onion, cucumber, and lime. There are none of the salsas negras (soy sauce, Jugo Magi, and Worcestershire sauce) that are so popular at modern seafood restaurants. The focus is on quality ingredients rather than salsas.
We loved the crab ceviche tostadas and my kids ate all of their fish plate. It was not breaded fish sticks but a filet of mahi mahi (dorado) cooked in butter. That is something that I would order.
8. Ranch Roll
Ranch Roll is the most popular Culiacán-style (Culichi) sushi restaurant in Sinaloa. The sushi is very different from the Japanese or even the California style in the use of different ingredients.
Culichi sushi tends to use lots of sauces, cream cheese, and even carne asada. One of the most emblematic rolls is a shrimp and carne asada roll that is deep fried. A lot of people dislike this style of sushi but it is a big part of the local culture and they have a reasonable price when compared to a traditional sushi restaurant.
9. El Presidio
This was the nicest restaurant that we visited and the best spot for a romantic dinner in Mazatlán.
The atmosphere is stunning. An abandoned mansion from the era of Porfirio Díaz is taken back by the jungle.
There is no roof and the trees grow through closets and old sitting rooms. There are a couple of enclosed dining rooms but the best tables are in the patio underneath the dimly lit trees.
The menu is ambitiously Mexican with recipes from much of the country. While the presentation and the meats were very well done I felt like the sauces fell short of the versions I had tried elsewhere.
The panceta de cerdo confitado was very well cooked but the chile pasilla sauce that accompanies it was insipid. The panuchos de chorizo de camaron were enjoyable but left me feeling like it was a high-end imitation of a classic street food.
My favorite dish was the Cienaga Salad. Roasted red beets, goat cheese, avocado and roasted cherry tomatoes with a delicate mustard vinaigrette. Everything was balanced perfectly and I may try to make this one at home.
I will recommend El Presidio to my family and friends because it is a beautiful restaurant. They have a very clear vision about what makes the Historic Core great. Just make sure to check the weather forecast before you make reservations. A tropical shower caught the management off guard just as we were leaving.
Best Breakfast in Mazatlán
This is another local favorite that my wife and her family would always visit while on vacation. There are a number of locations, some just selling desserts and others with a full-service restaurant attached to the bakery. The location behind the downtown cathedral is very convenient for going after mass. Be prepared to wait for a table because this is downtown and it will be full on the weekends.
The service and the food are solid. Since this is a bakery I would recommend the thick-cut french toast. The menu is ridiculously large and the portions are big enough to share. I am always a fan of the huevos rancheros, the machaca con huevo, and all of the bread.
The coffee could be better but I am picky when it comes to coffee. Make sure to pick up some pastries on your way out. We bought a couple of loaves of white bread for the family back in Guadalajara because everyone loves Panamá.
Things To Do In Mazatlán
Alberca del Mar
Mazatlan has a fairly rugged coastline. Lots of reef and consistent swell energy are a dangerous combination for the novice swimmer. What better way to enjoy the warm ocean water than a pool built into the rocks. At high tide on a big swell the waves hit the breakwater but the pool is still safe for novice swimmers and families. The kids will love the concrete slide that empties into the pool. Just remember that no glass of any type is allowed near the pool.
Is he going to make it? Is he not going to make it??!! Much like the Quebrada in Acapulco, the local cliff divers know how to put on a show, and make a few pesos in the meantime. The Sanchez Taboada Esplanade is perched on the cliffs where the tourists like to take in the sunset and grind on you overpriced corn, fried bananas and tostilocos. The real show is put on by the cliff divers who have to time the incoming sets and plunge 40 feet to the rough sea below. Make sure to hook up the assistant with a few pesos, the show it worth it.
Monumento A Pedro Infante
Pedro Infante is probably the most famous movie star of the golden age of Mexican cinema, and he just happens to be from Mazatlan. Make sure to get a photo with the Pedro Infante monument and chat it up with the other Pedro Infante fans about what your favorite movie is. My favorite is Escuela de Vagabundos (1955) with Los Tres Garcia (1947) a close second.
Playa Los Pinos
In the morning it is one of the best waves in the region and in the afternoon it is the favorite local beach in the Historic Core (the wave still works in the afternoon but good luck finding parking or even a cab for that matter). Playa Los Pinos is an awesome left point break that runs from the Casa de la Marina all the way to the Ocean Sciences campus of the Autonomous University of Sinaloa. You can expect rides as long as 100 to 150 meters. The wave is soft, rolling and best suited for a longboard/funboard but watch out for sea urchins on the inside where the wave stands up again. It is a picturesque surf spot with a 19th century canon perched on the cliff just above the take off spot. In my experience the locals were awesome and everyone was taking turns.
Playa Cerritos and Playa Brujitas
On the far north end of Mazatlan is Playa Cerritos and Playa Brujitas. This was the first time that I has driven through the Zona Dorada to see the north end of town. Honestly, not really impressed. The Zona Dorada reminds me of Tijuana’s Avenida Revolución on the beach. The waves are inconsequential beach break without much form and the instant there is a hint of westerly wind it all goes to hell. Swimmers beware because the currents are strong and push right into the rocks. After spending the day at Brujitas ae didn’t see much reason to leave the Historic Core again. Maybe one day we will go stay at the El Cid Resort because that is where my wife used to stay with her family when she was little, but the Zona Dorada pales in comparison to the Historic Core.
What I love about Mazatlán is the fact that there is a Historic Core right on the beach. With a few exceptions, most of the historic architecture in Mexico is inland. In contrast with the Historic Core in Mexico City or Guadalajara, I couldn’t find any buildings that date to the Spanish Colonial era. The cathedral is post-independence and most of the interesting buildings look to be from the late 19th and early 20th century. What’s cool about this timeframe is that these buildings were commissioned by Mexicans and not the Spanish.
While it is an absolute must to stroll around the Plazuela Machado and take in the architecture in the neighboring streets, I recommend walking around the periphery a little more. I particularly enjoyed the buildings along Belisario Domínguez as you walk north of the Plaza Republica towards Los Pinos Beach. The area has not been restored as well as the southern part of the Historic Core but these buildings still have stories to tell.
There is no debate as to whether I would rather stay in a smaller hotel room in Historic Core or in a big resort in the Zona Dorada. The Historic Core wins hands down. My wife was a little disappointed with the hotel’s amenities when we first arrived but after a weekend of walking the malecón and the streets of the Historic Downtown she was happy with our romantic weekend in Mazatlán.
Where To Stay In Mazatlán, Sinaloa
Just steps from the water this classic hotel was built in 1944. Originally it was one of the first high rises in Western Mexico and the rooftop pool is still a great place to take in the views of Downtown and the boardwalk.
Everything you need is within walking distance and the surrounding area is picture-perfect. The rooms are small but all we did was sleep in the room and watch a little tv at night.
The pool is also small but we much preferred the Alberca del Mar (500 meters down the boardwalk) and Playa Los Pinos (about 1500 meters away). There is secure parking, a decent breakfast, and a lot of history. This one I will probably repeat.
Final Thoughts On The Best Seafood In Mazatlán
It isn’t hard to find some spectacular seafood in Mazatlán. When I wear my El Cuchupetas t-shirt anywhere in Mexico and people will stop me to say how much they love that place or tell me about another great option.
Mazatlán is a great town and seafood is one of the reasons that people love this place so much. Fishing is a big part of the history and economic development. I enjoy eating seafood in the heart fishing community.
We are just getting started. I have a list with another ten great seafood restaurants that we want to try the next time we are in town. Enjoy the ride and keep searching for great seafood in Mazatlán.
Thanks for reading. I can’t wait to get back to Mazatlán and I hope you get there soon too!
If you liked this article, you might enjoy my article on the best things to do in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, just a few hours down the freeway.