If you have an upcoming cruise that will stop at Cabo, Mazatlán or Puerto Vallarta, this is one is a series of must-read articles about these ports. I will go into detail about what we typically do and what we recommended you do when visiting these three wonderful ports. In this post I will focus on the Mazatlán leg of the cruise.
Excursions & Information About the Cruise Line Stop to Mazatlán
First some background info: We are frequent cruisers based in San Diego who have found Mexico to be a very safe place to visit, especially the tourist areas around Cabo, Mazatlán & Puerto Vallarta. We have spent a lot of time in Mexico and Erika, my wife, is originally from Mexico. This isn’t an advertisement for the cruise lines, I will mention the ups and downs of each stop in the Mexican Riviera Cruise – while we normally don’t do excursions through the cruise line, I believe these are worth doing for various reasons which I will explain in more detail below.
Our second stop on the Cabo, Mazatlán & Puerto Vallarta loop. This section will consist of two sections. What we did on our most recent visit and what we typically do. I will explain what we did last time but it is not our preferred thing to do in Mazatlán. We had no choice because we took our 6 month old daughter off the ship in Mazatlán and had to do a bubble / ship organized excursion. For Cabo and Puerto Vallarta we left her on the ship with our baby sitter who was traveling with us at the time.
The Bubble Tour Experience – We typically never do excursions through the cruise line but we did do a Bubble Tour for our most recent visit to Mazatlán.
Our Mazatlán Bubble Tour was not much of a “Bubble”. We did the beach and hotel all-inclusive which took us on a bus to the EL Cid Marina Hotel. Once we were on the tour bus we were basically on our own. We met up with several other buses from the cruise ship who were on a normal tour and we were also surrounded by hotel guests. Not exactly what you’d expect in a Bubble Tour.
The best part of this tour was probably the caves and waterslides at the pool area. That was fun and kept the kids busy.
As for the tour itself, it was a bit of a disappointment. It reminded us of some of our All-Inclusive vacations we have taken the last few years. A lot of fried food and cheap plastic bottle liquor. We ended up paying for better quality liquor and beer and purchased a few appetizers which were ok.
The best part of this tour was probably the caves and waterslides at the pool area. It allowed the boys and I to jump off the top which the life guard said was ok. That was fun and kept the kids busy.
Overall this tour was fine, the pool and caves in the pool were really fun and our boys loved that part of the tour. Other than that it left a lot to be desired. If you are looking for a relaxing day at a nice hotel please be sure to check out our options for Puerto Vallarta.
Our Preferred Experience in Mazatlán – Our preferred option for Mazatlán is to do it on our own! We usually do a red truck tour – this has a lot more flexibility than a cruise-line run excursion. The red truck tour is owned and operated by a friend we originally met in Mazatlán and continue to see every time we visit Mazatlán. If you ever find yourself in Mazatlán and looking for a great tour guide reach out to Julian. Here is the link to his Facebook profile and his Facebook business page. He manages the Red Truck Tours in Mazatlán and offers a wide range of tours. He can take you to the beaches, take you to eat at some great restaurants, drive you to some cool cultural spots and beautiful churches or do a combination of these items. Also the cliff divers are always a fun thing to do in Mazatlán. Although the last couple of times we have stopped at the Cliff Diving rock it has not been that busy. You really need a good crowd to keep the costs down. For example, if you have 30-40 people watching they will collect a $1 or so from each person and jump every few minutes. Last time when we were the only one that stopped they wanted $25-30 per jump so we moved on to our next stop in the tour. Update on Cliff Divers. We visited again in March of 2023, there were several divers and a lot more tourist around. We all pitched in, one guy jumped for $25, another guy jumped for about $50 since more people pitched in. Bottom line is that we saw them jump 4-5 times. It was fun to watch but a little nerve racking.
The cliff divers in Mazatlán are always fun to watch. They typically want $25-50 per jump. If everyone pitches in a few dollars each you will be able to get them to make a couple dives.
This is a video of our Red Truck Tour in Mazatlán. This video is from our cruise in 2019 on the Norwegian Bliss. We got a little wild since he has a cooler in his truck. We stopped for beer, ice and snacks for the kids.
If you would like to watch the video of a recent tour we did in Mazatlán with Julian here is the video of our tour. As I said above you can customize this tour to your liking.
We just visited Mazatlán again in March 2022 and we switched things up a bit. We went to a new seafood spot which happened to be walking distance from the ship. It’s called Mariscos El Parguito. It was really good and if you aren’t doing a tour and want to walk there from the cruise ship it’s only about a 5 minute walk from the port. It’s actually not far from the Blue Line Walk if you plan on doing that.
Not sure what I am talking about? There is a historic walk many people do through Mazatlán that is easy to find. It has a Blue Line in the street. Just follow the Blue Line and make your way around the city.
Also in our recent visit we visited Las Flores Hotel which was a decent hotel. Likely a 3 star hotel so nothing fancy but what is nice is that they provide free access to their pool and facilities for free as long as you buy a couple drinks. Each bucket of beer we purchased was only about $10 for 5 beers and it’s located right on the beach which was nice. Keep an eye on your belongings though. We did notice several people walking by on the beach that appeared to be searching for east targets. We had our stuff by the pool area and kept a close eye on our possessions the entire time. And this goes with just about anywhere you travel these days. Always keep a close eye on your possessions.
Another popular option is Stone Island which is very affordable. It’s been 10+ years since we visited Stone Island. As you enter the port on your cruise ship look off to the right side, you will see a large rock mountain that looks like it’s all made out of stone. Behind that area is a beach and that is what is referred to as Stone Island. Stone Island is a good time and it’s super easy to get there from the cruise port. You just take a short boat (Lancha) ride to the other side of the channel. Last I heard the boat ride to Stone Island was $2 per person.
Summary of Mazatlán
BUDGET CONCIOUS – Stone Island is a great option. $2 to get over by boat. You can spend what you want once you arrive. You can find some great food options and beers are pretty cheap. You will have access to water sports like a banana boat or parasailing. Or you can just relax and take it all in.
BIGGER BUDGET – WILLING TO SPEND A LITTLE MORE – Do a private tour, we have used Julian and would strongly recommend him. He’s a great guy and will set up a nice tour catered to what you want. He will coordinate and meet you just outside the cruise terminal at the OXXO convivence store. This way he saves some money because he has to pay a fee to the port if he enters to try and get a tour.
Our tours with him typically cost $120-$160 depending on how much time you want. Typically 6-7 hours. His trucks can handle 10 people but 8 is ideal and most comfortable. Here is a link to his Facebook Business Page. And if you prefer WhatsApp, here is Julian Aoctsa’s WhatsApp # +52 669 150 7292