While Mazatlan certainly isn’t a secret, the resort city on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico isn’t nearly as well-known as more popular west-coast areas such as Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos. Partly because of limited direct air connections and partly because of its distance from major cities, it seems to have more foreign expatriates than it does foreign vacationers. This means the resorts appeal more to domestic tourists than foreign ones, the result being that the best hotels in Mazatlan are very attractively priced if you can make it here.
Mazatlan has a lot going for it though, including a long list of terrific beaches in both directions. The Golden Zone beaches are the best known and are attractive, but you can go further north or south to get away from the crowds. There’s one beach just a few hundred meters from the historic center or you can walk to the ferry port and end up on Stone Island, a great place to spend the whole day.
There are more independent Mazatlan resorts than there are chain hotels and two of the top properties are part of a small Mexican chain, not an international one. So if you want to cash in loyalty points for a vacation, you’ll be limited to the Doubletree (Hilton), Holiday Inn, Park Inn (Radisson), or Best Western. A new oceanfront Courtyard will be the first Marriott entry to the scene.
This being a value-oriented resort city, there are not a lot of true luxury options in this region. Most high-end foreign travelers have gravitated to Puerto Vallarta/Punta Mita, Costalegre, or Los Cabos instead. Check into the few we’ve highlighted here or just rent a serviced villa instead if you want to get pampered.
Before you head to Mazatlan, check up on the latest visa and entry requirements. The traditional type of visa to enter Mexico for tourists from 96 countries of the world is not required today. The only document that both adults and children need to get before the trip is an electronic permit also called a Mexico Tourist Card (FMM in Spanish). You can fill one out on the plane or upon arrival at immigration. Hold onto the bottom part as you’ll need to hand it back upon departure. As of mid-2020 though, some airports in Mexico started phasing out this antique process and went electronic-only, so you may only need your passport to enter, nothing to fill out.
Tourists from countries that are not included in the visa-free list must obtain a visa from the Mexican consulate or embassy located in their country. Some, such as citizens of Turkey and Brazil, must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization in advance. Apply for it here through the Natvisa service. No matter where you’re from, you don’t currently need to show proof of vaccination or a Covid test to enter Mexico.
Golden Zone Resorts of Mazatlan
If you’ve seen photos of beautiful sandy Mazatlan beaches that are glowing at sunset, with a couple of islands in sight, you’ve probably been looking at the Golden Zone. This is the most popular tourist area, with the greatest concentration of hotels, and it stretches on for miles.
It’s not the quietest stretch: banda musicians battle to get hired by partying Mexican families, blasting out their music that’s an odd marriage of German and Latino sounds. It’s easy to indulge here though: the whole stretch is lined with bars, beachfront restaurants, and convenience stores for restocking the cooler. Vendors work the beach selling whatever else you need. Here are the best Golden Zone hotels in the area.
The Golden Zone basically starts where Emporio Mazatlan is situated, so you could actually go out the front door and then walk for 4.3 miles/7 kms on the malecon that goes all the way past Olas Altas. As with El Cid and Pueblo Bonito, Emporio is part of a Mexican chain that has properties in other resort locations and has a solid reputation. We’ve reviewed their Cancun property here.
Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan
After a major recent renovation to all the rooms, the lobby, and several restaurants, this is now the top resort in the Golden Zone for families and those looking for an all-inclusive experience. We were able to spend some time there late last year and found that it hit all the right vacation buttons. Good food and drink, an attractive stretch of beach with lounge chairs, two pools, and some of the most stylish guest rooms in the city.
See our full review of Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan here. Then check out the even more upscale Emerald Bay sister property on the outskirts, covered further down.
Best Western Hotel Posada Freeman Zona Dorada
Again we’ve got the same name for two hotels, the difference being that the Mazatlan Best Western near centro doesn’t have “Zona Dorada” on the end like this Best Western Hotel Posada Freeman does. The pool here is rather small for a hotel with two towers of rooms, but it’s right on the beach and the rooms themselves are spacious. Plus they have a balcony with a view.
Park Inn by Radisson Mazatlan
Guests praise the clean and modern rooms, the good service, and the views at this small chain hotel on the beach. Choose a balcony room so you can look out at the water from where you’re sleeping.
If you’re part of Radisson’s program you can earn or cash in loyalty points here and it’s easy to get from here to other parts of the city in a taxi or pulmonia (open-air buggy car unique to this area). Check rates at Radisson.
Luna Palace Hotel & Suites
“Palace” seems like a bit of a stretch, but you’ll have an ocean view from your room and there’s a large swimming pool complex. It’s worth upgrading to a suite with a kitchenette to get more room to spread out and have some food on hand. This is not an all-inclusive resort so stock up with your own supplies at a local grocery store or convenience store nearby.
Oceana Palace Beach Hotel
Another “palace” that was overly ambitious with its name, this resort seems to be tied in with all the big vacation package companies that connect with Sunwing, Westjet, and the like, frequented by people looking for an easy button getaway. As such, it’s your basic middle-ground all-inclusive resort, with some guests on a European plan that can create confusion at the restaurants and bars.
If you’re looking for a large hotel on the beach and want to keep the budget in check, however, this is a solid choice. Check rates online here.
Doubletree by Hilton Mazatlan
Near the Park Inn and Best Western on the Golden Zone beach, this Doubletree had the bad luck of opening up in the midst of the pandemic in 2020, so it wasn’t easy filling those 281 rooms on 18 floors in the beginning. Suites and junior suites comprise 80 of the units and there are four swimming pools, a 24-hour gym, and two restaurants with a view.
In a resort city where there is only one mid-range choice each from IHG and Marriott (see below), this is the best choice for business travelers expecting chain hotel predictability and the ability to earn loyalty points at the 4-star level. Check prices at the Hilton site.
Holiday Inn Mazatlan
With the former Crowne Plaza going independent as the Park Royal Beach, IHG loyalty members looking to cash in points or earn some are limited to this less impressive-looking Holiday Inn. The location is good though, smack in the middle of the Golden Zone, and rates are usually under $100 including taxes. Kids 12 and under eat free at the restaurants here, a big plus for families.
This is one of the newer hotels in the area and its 164 rooms all have a view of the water and Deer Island. See more at the IHG website.
Courtyard Mazatlan Beach Resort
The Marriott Corporation’s one and only property in the city opened its doors in the summer of 2022 after years of announcements and multiple delays. (The spa is slated to open sometime in 2023). It is a thin high-rise a few steps away from the Holiday Inn and is on a similar level in terms of comfort and amenities. It has a nice infinity pool on the beach and upper floors have some suites with a balcony and a view.
The decor is designed to be more beachy and modern than you’d expect from the normally staid Courtyard brand, with colorful accent walls behind the bed. Most rooms have a sofa bed and there’s a kids’ club on site. Rates here are some of the highest in the Golden Zone of Mazatlan, starting at $215 a night with no meals, so hopefully you’re earning Bonvoy points. Check the listing here to book a room at Courtyard by the beach.
Hotel Playa Mazatlan
This institution in the heart of the Golden Zone has been around since the 1950s, but multiple rounds of upgrades and renovations have enabled it to stay ahead of the pack. It has one of the most impressive swimming pool complexes in the area, a cascading, multi-level extravaganza that has an upper section with a panoramic view and a grotto section with a swim-up bar. It has good restaurants of its own with a view and lots of other choices are a short stroll away.
Rooms here are also a cut above most in the area and all-inclusive rates aren’t hard to justify here if you’re going to indulge, generally going for $200 to $350 per night double.
Costa de Oro Resort
If you want proof that there’s something fishy about how TripAdvisor ranks hotels, just look to their #1 listing for Mazatlan: Costa de Oro. This is a budget beachfront resort that sometimes goes for as little as $50 per night and it only has an average ranking of 4 out of 5, much lower than many others in TripAdvisor’s top-20.
We haven’t seen this one in person, but the main consensus seems to be “great public spaces, great staff, but dated rooms that need an upgrade.” At these rates though, it’s hard to complain. See more info here.
The Inn at Mazatlan
Not to be confused with Park Inn (and not really looking like an inn at all), this independent high-rise resort gets good ratings from guests for its large swimming pool with hot tubs and its oceanfront restaurant. Rates are often less than $100 per night double with taxes and unless you’re on one of the bottom floors, you’re sure to have a nice view from your balcony.
All rooms have a coffee maker and mini-fridge and if you book a suite, you’ll have a kitchenette as well. See more info here.
Where to Stay in Mazatlan: Emptier Beaches to the North
Rui Emerald Bay Mazatlan
If you want a typical Mexican all-inclusive vacation on the beach, look to the company that has a few decades of experience in offering that: the Spanish Riu chain. If you head up to Brujas Beach, you can’t miss this Riu Emerald Bay property as it dominates the view. Nothing will block your ocean view if you get a room here and this is, in my opinion, the prettiest beach in Mazatlan, never too crowded even on a weekend.
Since Mazatlan gets fewer foreign vacationers than more famous resort areas with greater air connections, rates here tend to be a great value as they’re priced more for the domestic market. Rates are often less than $200 per night double, which is a steal for an all-inclusive beachfront resort with unlimited food and cocktails. Check rates here for your stay.
Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay
Unlike the Riu, the second Pueblo Bonito property is actually on Emerald Bay. This is, in nearly every respect, the best all-inclusive resort in the region and the best choice for luxury travelers coming to Mazatlan. It frequently wins readers’ poll awards as one of the top resorts in Mexico. Its remote location to the north is either a plus or a minus depending on your view, but you get lovely grounds, a quieter vacation (the roaming bands on the beach don’t generally make it up this far), and the largest swimming pools in Mazatlan.
There’s just one oddity here: the spacious rooms all have kitchens even though this is an all-inclusive property. Hey, at least you can bring back leftovers and have some cold drinks in your room. There’s an excellent gym, a full spa, and an attentive staff to take care of what you need. See our full review of Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay here.
Best Hotels in Mazatlan: Olas Altas and the Historic Center
Mazatlan is unique among Mexican resort cities in that it has a real historic center with buildings that have been here for centuries. It’s a small historic area, so don’t expect to spend an hour walking from one end of it to another like you could in Mexico City or Puebla, but if blocky concrete high-rises are not your thing, come here for some character and a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.
You won’t get the same long stretch of beach like you do in the Golden Zone, but you can walk a few blocks from the historic center and be at the Olas Altas beach and the malecon walkway. There are restaurants, bars, and a bike rental shop facing the water, as well as several hotels below that have an ocean view.
Casa de Leyendas
There are several charmless hotels in the historic center of Mazatlan that go for less than $70 per night, so there are plenty of bargains around. But if you want to be right in the center of the historic district, in a place with more personality, check into Casa de Leyendas–House of Legends.
Hotel Raices del Mar
You can’t get any closer to the center of the action than Raices del Mar (Roots of the Sea), a tk-room hotel right smack on Plaza Machado. This may not be the best spot if you’re a light sleeper since this is a popular area to gather at night, but the upside of that is you have multiple drinking and dining spots right outside the front door. The hotel’s own attractive restaurant under tree lights, facing the plaza, is one of the best in the area too.
Raices del Mar has a small plunge pool for cooling off and rates are quite reasonable here, often less than $80 per night double. Check availability here.
While “luxury” and “Mazatlan” don’t really go hand-in-hand very often, this boutique hotel on the water is currently the best upscale choice near the historic center. It has prime sunset views from its restaurant terrace a few steps up from the street level, as well as the gorgeous pool deck with lounge chairs a few more floors up. Since it’s right across the street from the malecon, you can walk for miles from the front door down the coast and the main plaza of the historic district is about a 10-minute walk as well.
Rates are a good value for what you get here, starting at $120. See a detailed review of Casa Lucila here.
Best Western Posada Freeman
As with El Cid, don’t think you’re seeing double. Yes, this Mazatlan Best Western hotel has the same name as another mentioned, but that has “Golden Zone/Zona Dorada” in the name and this one doesn’t. You can’t miss the Best Western on the water near the historic center: it’s the highest building around by far. That gives it a terrific view from the rooftop pool and if you’re not staying here, you’re welcome to head up and order drinks from the bar anyway as we did.
The sunsets from here are magical and you get reliable mid-level chain facilities. Rates often come in around $100, including breakfast. Check them at Best Western here.
Las 7 Maravillas
This adults-only upscale bed-and-breakfast option is near the historic center, but on the water looking across at the Golden Zone. Las 7 Maravillas (The 7 Wonders) has a great terrace where you can enjoy the sunset show from a Jacuzzi. What rooms lack in size they make up for in interesting decor, often a terrace or balcony, and attractive rates. An excellent fresh-cooked breakfast will start your day right and there’s a small spa on site where you can book a massage.
Be advised that Las 7 Maravillas only appears to be open in the winter high season. Check availability and prices online at Expedia.
Other Mazatlan Hotel Options: Marina and Golfing
If you have a passion for golf or want to get on the water while you’re here, there are two other ideal resorts to consider.
El Cid Marina Beach Hotel
El Cid is a local company that owns a variety of hotels in Mazatlan, but their Marina Beach Hotel is the highest-rated and most popular of them with foreign visitors. The marina area of Mazatlan is the most popular expat zone in the city, partly because it’s popular with boaters and golfers. You can enjoy all of it from this resort with a sprawling pool complex and easy golf access by the marina, or board a complimentary water taxi to head over to the beach.
Guests on the all-inclusive plan here really have a lot to choose from because having that plan here provides privileges at the other El Cid properties nearby here in “New Mazatlan.” See our full review of El Cid Marina Beach Hotel.
Las Villas Hotel & Spa at Estrella del Mar
If you’d like to combine the beach and a golf course in one vacation–and get a massage or two while you’re at it–head south past Stone Island out to the empty stretch of coastland developed by Estrella del Mar. Here you’re steps away from a nearly empty beach where baby sea turtles hatch (there’s a conservation center on site), but you can see that beach from the hotel infinity pool and several holes on the golf course.
This hotel is part of a residential development with homes and condos, so it’s lively most of the year, plus this gives you access to multiple swimming pools. The complex has its own water filtration system, so you can drink the tap water and avoid the throwaway plastic that’s ruining our oceans. It’s a bit of a hike to get here, so bring what you need and settle in for a while. See a full review of Las Villas at Estrella del Mar here.
Article by Mexican resident and Hotel Scoop editor Timothy Scott, who has been to Mazatlan several times on writing assignments and for vacation. He has been hosted at 4 of the 21 hotels mentioned here. As always, all opinions are his own.