The botanical garden is one of the best things to do in Culiacán

Things to do in Culiacán, Sinaloa: Best Activities in 2023

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Looking for the best things to do in Culiacán, Sinaloa?

You have come to the right place to discover the best things to do in Culiacán. The capital of Sinaloa has a lot of charm and some of the best food in the country. It might be small, but there is plenty to do and see once you arrive.

Culiacán gets a bad rap and I don’t know if that’s fair. I am not going to dwell on the negative but talk about what I loved about my time in one of Mexico’s least-understood cities.

In this article, you will discover all the best Culiacán attractions and foods, but you’ll also get some information on the city itself.

If this is your first time traveling to Culiacán, you will be a pro by the time you finish reading this article. Ready to travel to Culiacán? Let’s do this!

Best Things To Do In Culiacán Sinaloa

Culiacán is an under-the-radar travel destination. It is a wealthy farming community that knows how to eat well. There are excellent restaurants, nice museums, and a world-class botanical garden. It is also home to one of Mexico’s most popular baseball teams that has won the Caribbean Series on several occasions.

I have found Culiacán to be a great destination to stop and relax while traveling up and down Interstate 15 from Nogales to Guadalajara. The hotels are cheap, the food is great, and the people are warm and welcoming.

This is my list of things to do in Culiacán, Sinaloa for first-time visitors.

1. Jardín Botánico Culiacán

The Botanical Garden in Culiacán is spectacular! It is one of the finest botanical gardens in North America with a unique selection of plants from the tropics to the high desert. Additionally, the architecture is almost as interesting as the botanical collection.

There is a strong dedication to conservation, investigation, education, and expositions. The garden is free on Tuesdays and a very popular field trip for school kids. In 1996, the garden joined the Culiacán zoological society in order to become a real research institution.

Culiacán is tropical and hotter than hell in the summer. In January the weather was absolutely delightful, warm in the sun, and perfect in the shade of some big trees.

From the library to the gift shop and community spaces, this botanical garden is amazing. There are a ton of places to kick back in comfortable chairs with big shade umbrellas or bamboo gardens for shade. There are huge iguanas climbing around the bamboo jumping from one branch to another. I spent more than two hours exploring that park and kicking back in the raddest gardens I have seen in a long time. Watching the iguanas play in the canopy was a highlight.

The Jardín Botanico Culiacán has a nominal cost of MX$20 pesos most days but is free Tuesdays. Guided tours cost MX$40 pesos.

2. Go To A Tomateros Baseball Game

The Tomateros de Culiacán are one of the most popular baseball teams in Mexico’s Pacific League. As of 2023, they have 13 Pacific League championships and 2 Caribean Series championships.

Mexican baseball is a lot of fun. The level of play is on par with Triple-A minor league baseball in the United States. Since the season is in the winter, many athletes play in the US during the summer and in Mexico during the winter.

The Estadio Tomateros is a little smaller than the stadiums in the MLB so every seat is right up front. There is great food and a great crowd that supports their team. The fanbase comes off as wealthier than I remember the fanbase of the LA Dodgers or the SD Padres.

3. Catedral Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario

The Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario is one of the best things to do in Culiacan

The Culiacán Cathedral is located in the downtown area just a few blocks from the Tamazula River. It is a very scenic area with the giant Culiacan letters and the central plaza/garden. The city is so beautiful because of these garden pockets.

The Cathedrals in Mexico are the seat of the bishopric in charge of the governance of the regional parish churches.

I found this area to be very safe even after dark because of the large number of people on the street walking around. There are a ton of great restaurants on Calle General Angel Flores behind the cathedral.

4. Zoológico de Culiacán

The zoo feels much smaller compared to the Guadalajara Zoo and the San Diego Zoo, the two zoos that I know best. That being said, if you are traveling with little kids, they are probably going to enjoy it. Little kids and big kids alike enjoy feeding the giraffes.

The zoo is very well maintained and has an impressive collection of animals considering its size.

5. Parque Las Riberas Riverside Walk

One of the defining characteristics of the geography of Culiacan is the rivers. The Tamazula, Humaya, and Culiacán Rivers come together right at Las Riberas Park.

The park got some major redevelopment funds for pedestrian bridges, bike paths, and lighting. It is neighbored by a large fancy mall and two of the nicest hotels in the city.

The park is the largest in both Culiacán and the entire state of Sinaloa.

6. Capilla de Jesús Malverde

Questionably the most important chapel in the state of Sinaloa, people come to visit from all over the Americas.

The traditional media depicts Jesús Malverde as the narco saint, while the faithful use a Robin Hood-type analogy to describe their faith in him. They say that he was a generous bandit that would rob the rich to give to the poor.

The real person, Jesús Juárez Mazo, was said to have been born in Mocorito, Sinaloa in 1870. He became famous in the first decade of the 20th century for robbing rich landowners with ties to the corrupt dictator, Porfirio Díaz. This was all going on in the ten years leading up to the Mexican Revolution.

Where To Eat In Culiacán

Culiacán is famous for its food. It is an agricultural community that happens to be very close to the ocean. The local baseball team is named the Tomateros de Culiacán which means the tomato growers or the tomato sellers. And it is true, the tomatoes in Culiacán are much better than the tomatoes in other parts of the country.

The seafood in Culiacán is legendary. Many of the most popular seafood restaurants in Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Tijuana are Sinaloa-style seafood places.

Culiacán has its own style of sushi, sushi culichi, that if popular throughout Mexico and even some parts of California.

And then there is the birria. The birria in Sinaloa is very different from the birria in Guadalajara. They are both goat meat but in Sinaloa, the tatemado searing process is different from the tatemado oven in Guadalajara. It reminds me more of the lamb breakfast at Doña Esthela’s place in Valle de Guadalupe. It feels like it has been fried crispy but I think it has just been seared in the oven. It is shredded finely and the goat meat is fatty so it ends up delicately crispy when warmed up before serving.

I recommend watching everything that Lalo Villar has made about Culiacán on his YouTube channel, La Ruta de la Garnacha. There are a dozen more seafood joints that I want to try. I can’t wait to go back to Culiacán to eat.

Birriería Palazuelos

Birria is one of the best foods in Culiacan Sinaloa

Birriería Palazuelos is an absolute classic that any birria lover is going to go crazy over. From the Coca-Cola tables to the trio playing music, this is classic Mexico. If you are a birria lover, this birriería might just be enough of a draw to bring you to Culican for a day.

Birriería Perez Moreno

Birria tatemada in Culiacan Sinaloa

This was another recommendation from Lalo Villar of La Ruta de la Garnacha. It is a little ways outside of the city of Culiacán in the agricultural district but well worth the drive. Coming from someone who lives in Guadalajara and eats birria regularly, I can safely say this is one of the best birrias I have ever tried.

The Sinaloa-style chile adobo that the meat is cooked in is different from the Jalisco-style adobo. This also causes the broth to have a different flavor. It is similar to the Hidalgo-style barbacoa de borrego but by no means identical.

If you like birria, please stop in Culiacán to taste these birrierías. You won’t be disappointed

Mariscos Don Jacobo

Snook filet with nopal cactus in Culiacan

Eating at Marisco Don Jacobo it is easy to see why Culiacan is famous for seafood. There is a plethora of high-quality agriculture and seafood, and good chefs that like to experiment.

We didn’t order anything off of the menu. I asked for scallops but they were out. Scallops were delivered just as we were leaving and they looked good. We told the chef what we liked and he sent us course after course. Most of it wasn’t on the menu.

We started with a little shrimp aguachile appetizer that was heavy on the spicy thai chiles. One thing that I found interesting but enjoyed was putting mayonnaise on a tostada and then shrimp aguachile. Mayonnaise is used like a condiment and combines with chile very well.

Because we asked for scallops they served us robalo (snook) in big sushi-like chunks of delicate raw whitefish. It is served with a bunch of lemon juice, cayenne pepper dust, and raw red onion.

Jacabo made us a fish ceviche with apple cubes and a mango-habanero salsa. I have been eating ceviche for decades and I have never tasted anything like it. The green apple cubes really pop with a bright acidity that complements raw fish.

We finished with a zarandeado fish filet. Again, it was robalo (snook) but a huge piece. Jacabo makes the zarandeado sauce out of mustard and shallots. The fish filet is garnished with strips of nopal cactus and served on a big plate with lots of salad and vegetables. It is unlike any other zarandeado I have ever tasted. I am going to be thinking about this meal for a long time.

Jacobo is a very talented chef. I was pretty stoked to get to meet him and try his recipes. He has access to some of the best seafood and agriculture on the planet. We had four chiles sauces made with different types of unique chiles ranging from hot to extremely hot. There was a homemade Thai chile sriracha sauce, chile de arbol sauce, a sweet Vietnamese chile sauce with ginger, and orange habanero that will light you up.

Each table has a ‘champagne’ bucket that is used to keep your family-sized beer (caguama) cold.

The experience of eating in the restaurant was incredible. A popular seafood restaurant in a working-class neighborhood in a town famous for seafood. I felt privileged to get to try seafood that good.

How To Get To Culiacán

Culiacán is located in the middle of the State of Sinaloa, about two hours north of Mazatlán and two hours south of Los Mochis. It is a few minutes off of the 15D toll highway that connects Nogales, Arizona to the Western Mexican states of Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Michoacan, and Mexico State.

I think Culiacán is a great place to stop, rest, and eat along that drive. There are plenty of inexpensive hotels with safe parking and a lot of great food.

It takes barely an hour to fly from Guadalajara to Culiacán. I woke up just as we were landing. My first thought was that this place is beautiful. Culiacán airport is in the agricultural fields. I knew that Sinaloa is an agricultural state but looking at the geometry of the fields you realize that they do not waste one square meter. Everything is planted and manicured. It looks more like the gardens of a 19th-century monarch rather than vegetable fields.

Agricultural fields near the airport in Culiacán, Sinaloa

The Culiacán airport is small. There are only 5 gates. We landed and exited the airplane onto the tarmac and proceeded to walk to the airport building. The gift shops in the Culiacán airport are amazing. They are selling exotic frozen and canned seafood. Abalone at a hundred dollars a can. Frozen giant shrimp, sea snails (caracol), and scallops. There is a ton of artisanal food in Sinaloa and seafood is just the beginning.

Where To Stay In Culiacán

There are lots of great hotels with safe parking in Culiacán.

Homesuites Malecon

⭐️ Rating: 8.8 /10 | Neighborhood: Malecón | View on

I liked the Homesuites Malecon so much that I stayed here twice. It is in the back of a small strip mall and there is an underground parking lot that is locked up at night. I was traveling with a vehicle FULL of stuff and liked having the underground parking area to rearrange my stuff out of the view of anybody that happened to be walking by.

The rooms at the Homesuites Malecon are larger than I was expecting for this price point. They are basic but clean.

It is a very short drive to the best things to do in Culiacán from this hotel.

Hotel Lucerna Culiacan

⭐️ Rating: 9.0 /10 | Neighborhood: Tres Ríos | View on

The Hotel Lucerna Culiacán is a beautiful property with one of the nicest pools in the city. If you happen to be traveling during the hot summer months, you will really enjoy their pool.

Located in one of the best neighborhoods of Culiacan, the hotel is just steps away from the One Culiacán Forum Mall, Las Riberas Park, and numerous excellent restaurants.

The Hotel Lucerna is a luxury option with safe parking, tastefully decorated rooms, free wifi, and a small gym. Most people will be spending at least some time in the spectacular pool.

Culiacán Travel FAQs

Is Culiacán Safe to Travel?

No, Culiacán is not considered to be one of the safest places in Mexico to travel because of some sensationalized events that make the international news. There are both safe and unsafe activities in Culiacán but experienced travelers will easily be able to avoid problems. Sensational events are rare.

Culiacán reminds me a lot of Guadalajara. Yes, there are dangers but they can be managed. For experienced travelers heading south to Mazatlán or Puerto Vallarta, Culiacán is a great place to stop and break up the trip.

What is Culiacán Known For?

This is such a loaded question. People who have never been to Culiacán are going to say that it is known for cartel violence. There is no struggle for control of the plaza like there is in Tijuana or Cancun. One transnational organization is firmly in control. Violent outbursts are rare.

People who know Culiacán will say that the Culichi people are famous for their warmth, hospitality, and attractiveness. There is exceptional food in Culiacán and many of the top seafood restaurants in Mexico prepare Sinaloa-style food.

I was talking with the owner of Fortaleza Tequila about botanical gardens and was surprised to hear how well-regarded the botanical garden in Culiacán is on a global scale.

Lastly, the Tomateros baseball team is known throughout the baseball world as an exceptional triple-A team. They train a lot of young baseball players that make their way into the major league baseball in the US. Nabil Antonio Crismatt is originally from Barranquilla, Colombia but played for the Tomateros for a season before moving to the United States. He is currently a pitcher for the San Diego Padres.

Wrap-Up: The Best Things To Do In Culiacán, Sinaloa

I can’t believe how beautiful Culiacan is. I was nervous to get on a plane to go buy a car in Culiacan but the dealer selling it was a friend of a friend, and that reassured me. And even though I didn’t buy the car I made an excellent trip out of it. I have a completely different impression of Culiacan than I did the day before. While I am well aware of what happened in October 2019 and then again in January of 2023, the first thing that I associate with Culiacan is food and then baseball.

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