Is Mazatlan Safe for Solo Travel?
So I just returned from a quick trip to Mexico, hitting two spots I’ve never been to: Mazatlan & San Miguel de Allende. And Queretaro…which I ended up loving. Anytime you travel somewhere new in Mexico, I feel like the “safety” question inevitably comes up. And because Mazatlan is located in Sinaloa, with the Sinaloa Cartel being one of the most infamous in the world: concerrns about safety are pretty natural here. In this article, we’ll take a look at actual safety statistics as well as my own experience as a solo traveler, in determining: “Is Mazatlan Safe for Solo Travel?“
My #1 recommendation for determining if a place is safe to travel to or not ~ is to speak with people who have actually been there, & ideally, recently. Solely relying on news reports or even State Department statistics does not always provide an accurate picture, as it’s hard to categorize the safety of an entire region (i.e. certain parts of the Sinaloa district may well be very safe ~ while others, you surely want to avoid).
How to Get to Mazatlan
Mazatlan International Airport (MZT) is how most visitors will arrive in the city, & there are many direct flights available from the United States; I flew directly from Phoenix in an easy, two-hour flight on American Airlines. The airport is a 30-minute drive from Mazatlan ~ but if you’re staying in one of the beach resorts in the “Golden Zone,” the drive can take up to 45 minutes. Ubers have trouble getting in & out of the airport due to tax issues, so it’s easiest just to take a taxi.
Mazatlan International Airport
Safety in Mazatlan vs. America
The website Numbeo.com allows you to compare safety statistics between virtually any two cities in the world: so I went ahead & did a comparison between my hometown of Bend, Oregon & Mazatlan. What are the results?? Here’s the crazy thing: safety statistics between the two places are almost identical, with Bend being slightly safer overall (mainly due to Mazatlan’s higher score for government corruption).
Let’s get more specific: worries about being robbed or mugged are “Very Low” in Bend, & “Low” in Mazatlan. Problems with people using/dealing drugs are “Moderate” in both places, & issues with violent crime are “Low” in Bend, & “Moderate” in Mazatlan. Where Bend lost to Mazatlan is in the category of “Crime Increasing in the Last 3 Years” ~ in Bend, this level is “High,” while in Mazatlan, it’s just “Moderate.”
To switch things up, I then compared Portland, Oregon to Mazatlan. If you know anything about Portland lately, I’m sure you might be able to guess how these stats go: Mazatlan rates as FAR SAFER than Portland, with the level of crime in Portland rated as “High,” while Mazatlan is “Moderate.” Worries about homes being broken into/property being stolen is extremely high in Portland, at 81% ~ whereas in Mazatlan, it’s “Moderate.” Drug problems, property crimes, & violent crimes are ALL higher in Portland than Mazatlan.
The take-away for me in looking at these stats is: Mazatlan is slightly less safe than where I live in Bend, but FAR safer than Oregon’s major city, Portland. And based on my own feelings having spent time in all three places: I feel that this definitely tracks.
If you have safety concerns about traveling to Mazatlan, or really anywhere in Mexico: I recommend going to Numbeo.com & comparing the city you’re traveling to with where you live, to get a better feel for actual statistics.
Safety in Mazatlan vs. The Rest of Sinaloa
Now let’s talk about the rest of the Sinaloa state. Would I feel comfortable renting a car in Mazatlan & exploring the surrounding area? NO, personally I would not. Would I visit its major city Culiacan, which lies about three hours north of Mazatlan? HELL NO!! The level of crime in Culiacan is “Very High,” & apparently this is a major hub for the Sinaloa Cartel.
So that’s a hard pass for me.
But is it fair or even accurate to compare Mazatlan with a place like Culiacan? In my opinion, NO. You’re talking apples & oranges here, particularly if when in Mazatlan, you stick to popular areas like the “Golden Zone” (where all major beachfront hotels are) & the very charming, very colorful Centro Historico ~ where there’s been a huge effort to restore old buildings & bring in new businesses (think cute coffee shops, super-busy outdoor restaurants, gorgeous hotels with beautiful, hidden courtyards, & even fabulous spas like Athini).
I walked along the Malecon & all over Centro Historico with zero qualms; there were always a lot of people around, & it felt extremely safe to me. I never got a “bad vibe,” & met many charming shop owners & friendly servers as I made my way through town.
The place in Mexico that Mazatlan most reminds me of is the island of Cozumel ~ & Cozumel is one of the places in Mexico where I felt the safest. Walking along the waterfront in both cities is not only beautiful, but very safe, as there are so many people around, both Mexicans & “gringos.”
And if you’re traveling solo but wish to tour the surrounding area: book a tour via a reputable company like Viator. In Mazatlan, you can go zip-lining, tour the nearby islands, or even go tequila-tasting…
Safety Tips & Info on Mazatlan
- How Did You Get From the Airport to Your Hotel in Mazatlan? By TAXI, which I arranged at the airport. When you exit Baggage Claim, turn right ~ there’s a counter where you pay for a taxi with credit card or cash. Then take the form outside to the men in yellow jackets, & they’ll hail a cab for you. The cost for was around 400 pesos, or $20. (Originally, I tried to book an Uber ~ but the Uber driver called me & said it would cost an additional 400 pesos on top of the Uber charge, due to taxes….so I just went back inside & got a taxi.)
- Can You Walk at Night in Mazatlan? Yes, you can in certain areas ~ but if you’d feel more comfortable, go with a group. Both the “Golden Zone” & Centro Historico are popular spots for nightlife, which means you’ll find a lot of people milling about at nearly all hours. The beauty of hotels in the “Golden Zone,” such as the popular Pueblo Bonito Resort & The Palms (where I stayed): is you really don’t have to leave the resort to find good food & drink…it’s right there. I found walking in the “Golden Zone” less pleasant than walking in the Centro Historico, which is far more charming & less congested.
- What’s the Best Way to Get to Around in Mazatlan? Walking is a great way to get around ~ but if you want to get from the “Golden Zone” over to “Centro Historico,” either Uber, take a taxi, or hail one of the cute “open-air” taxi cabs that roam the Malecon area. It’s a 15-minute drive from the “Golden Zone” to Centro Historico, & if you walked: it could take over an hour. So just hail a cab instead!
- Best Tips for Staying Safe in Mazatlan: Wear an anti-theft, cross-body purse when walking in town, to give you an added feeling of protection. Don’t wear valuables ~ & don’t bring them to Mexico, period. Feel free to wander around the Malecon (the sidewalk that runs for miles along the beachfront) & the Centro Historico: but if you start finding yourself on streets without many people ~ head back to where the crowds are. Find a local coffee shop that you love, & make it your morning spot; get to know some of the locals. Talk to your hotel about any places to avoid, & have them help you arrange a taxi back to the airport. As a general rule of thumb in Mazatlan: the closer you are to the waterfront, the safer it will be/the more people you’ll be surrounded by. To maximize safety, I would stick pretty close to the water.
- The Safest Places to Stay in Mazatlan: I stayed at The Palms Resort of Mazatlan, which is right on the water in the “Golden Zone.” I felt entirely safe there (I hardly left the property because they had everything I needed). Then I switched over to the Best Western Posada Freeman by the Centro Historico, because I wanted to explore that side of town: & I’m SO glad I did!! Though the beach is beautiful in Mazatlan, I found that most of the city’s character lies in the Centro Historico. Other great places to stay: Pueblo Bonito Resort & Spa ($204+/night), Casa de Leyendas ($124+/night), & Courtyard by Marriott Mazatlan Beach Resort (which is pretty much brand new).
Photos of Mazatlan & Centro Historico
Words are one thing: but photos really tell the story of how safe a city feels, because you can actually see for yourself what it looks & feels like. All photos below are ones I took last week, in March 2023, as I walked all around Mazatlan’s Malecon & the Centro Historico district.
Check rates at The Palms Resort of Mazatlan, where oceanfront rooms can set you back for less than $100/night. For a little more luxury, check rates at the Pueblo Bonito Resort & Spa ($204+/night) ~ which is an all-inclusive beachfront hotel.
Check rates at the Best Western Posada Freeman ($82+/night) ~ which has an incredible rooftop pool, with some of the best views in Mazatlan. I loved how you could walk out the door here & be on the Malecon, or walk two blocks to reach Centro Historico. If you’re someone who likes to explore: this location may be better for you than the hotels in the “Golden Zone,” where you tend to stay put rather than explore.
Casa de Leyendas ($124+/night) is an upscale, adult’s only hotel located right next to the Best Western: a great option for discerning couples who want to be close to great restaurants in Centro Historico.
Is Mazatlan Safe for Travelers?
Feel free to ask me any questions about Mazatlan in the comments below…