Take a short day trip from Mazatlan to visit a small-scale mezcal factory. // © 2017 Mark Chesnut LatinFlyer.com
Feature image (above): Zipline in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. // © 2017 Mazatlan Tourism Board
Advertised as the “colonial city on the beach,” Mazatlan offers enough activities and attractions to fill an entire vacation. But leaving the city for a day or an afternoon can be equally exciting.
Some excursions are easily done independently, while others are best handled by local tour companies such as Pronatours and Vista Tours. Here are several good reasons to get out of town during a Mazatlan vacation.
Enjoy Mezcal and Fly Through the Air
It may seem like a strange combination (and you may want to give some thought about which experience you have first), but two very different attractions are located on the same sprawling grounds just outside of Mazatlan. There’s Vinata Los Osuna, a traditional, small-scale mezcal factory that offers tours and tastings, and Huana Coa Canopy Adventures, where 12 ziplines soar above the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Whether your idea of fun is taking a breathtaking leap into the air or taking a delectable sip of locally prepared spirits, this is an ideal day trip.
Get Some Sun on Deer Island
This island, sitting offshore from Mazatlan’s hotel-lined Golden Zone, is a delightfully less-crowded place to swim, sunbathe and take part in watersports. Aires Fleet, which operates from El Cid Marina Beach Hotel, offers day trips aboard the Kolonahe catamaran, with a pay-one-price deal that includes an open bar, lunch and activities such as kayaking, beach volleyball, a banana boat ride and snorkeling.
Go on Set in Durango
For years, reaching the historic city of Durango required such long journey that it wasn’t doable as a day trip from Mazatlan. But a new highway, opened in 2013, has made it much more accessible, taking about three hours or less, each way.
The destination has much to offer, including landmark architecture, a museum dedicated to revolutionary Pancho Villa, a bustling market and a movie studio used for filming Westerns. The trip itself is noteworthy, too; en route, travelers pass over Baluarte Bridge, which is one of the highest suspension bridges in the world.
Horseback Ride on Stone Island
Technically, Stone Island is not an island; it’s a peninsula. But since most tours take you there by boat — and since it’s a decidedly laid-back and palm-lined beach destination — the equivocal moniker seems to fit.
You can jump on a horse for a memorable ride along the wide beach; swim and relax on the sand; and perhaps order the freshest catch at one of the open-air, beachfront restaurants. Since services are limited, organized tours are a good way to visit; most excursions include an open bar during the boat ride over, as well as a selection of activities including kayaking, wagon rides, banana boat rides and horseback riding.
Savor Small-Town Charm and Flavor
Located about 25 miles from Mazatlan, the town called El Quelite once served as a trading post for miners. Today, it’s a peaceful place to stroll streets lined with red-tile roofs and explore local bakeries for freshly made treats.
Lunch here is a must-do, thanks to El Meson de los Laureanos, a restaurant that looks like one giant photo opportunity. Vintage decor and local arts and crafts provide an appropriately unique backdrop for the generously proportioned Mexican dishes served. Patrons can even spend quality time with farm animals that live on-site.
Step Back in Time in Concordia and Copala
The foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains are dotted with charming villages that offer fascinating glimpses of bygone days. The 16th-century colonial mining town called Concordia, for example, is built around a beautifully baroque church, and is known for the handiwork of local residents, many of whom are skilled at pottery and carpentry.
Also dating back to the 16th century — and sharing a similar mining history — is Copala, which was governed by indigenous people until 1564. Today, its postcard-perfect cobblestone streets are still lined with colonial architecture, all set against a gorgeous mountain backdrop.
View Natural Beauty in Teacapan and Escuinapa
A fishing village at the mouth of Mexico’s largest natural bay, Escuinapa is graced with abundant flora and fauna, including palm trees, white and pink herons, deer and ocelots.
Nearby, the waterfront town of Teacapan is another hub for nature lovers. Guided bird-watching boat rides are among the most popular activities here, while small restaurants serve up fresh-caught seafood to hungry nature lovers.