Mazatlán is the city that truly has it all.
No matter if you are a history buff who loves architecture and cobblestone streets, or if you are beach bum who favors a condo tower with gym and pool, Mazatlán will have the ideal area for you to live in.
The biggest question for newcomers is:
Which area of Mazatlán is best for expats to live in?
The answer is:
That depends on your personality and what you value the most!
Is it having easy beach access? The ability to live without a car? Being in the middle of all the action? Or perhaps you value peace and quiet over anything else?
No matter what your criteria looks like, Mazatlán has a neighborhood that will fit perfectly into your individual wants and needs. There is no ‘BEST’ area of town per say, because expats are very split on the idea of what they consider the best area of town. The debates will go on forever. People are either Centro lifers, or swear on other areas like the Golden Zone or Cerritos.
Note: This blog is to help you make more of an informed decision on what area of Mazatlán you might want to consider living or vacationing in. In order to make it concise and clear, I wrote it with making lots of generalizations, which are necessary for getting the point across without making this an entire novel. Of course, there are exceptions to all of the generalizations, but trust me, they are there for a reason!
Where I personally chose to live in Mazatlán:
As an expat living in Mazatlan, I have already gone through the whole “What neighborhood should I live in?” conundrum. After a lot of research and asking fellow expats and locals what their favorite areas are and WHY, I realized that all the key neighborhoods are ideal in their own way.
Personally, I decided to live in the Golden Zone.
I love how walkable the Golden Zone is. Within a 400m circle from my condo, I have everything I could ever want. My favorite fine dining restaurant, dry cleaner, seamstress, dentist, beach access, healthy food place, bus stops, spa, bakery, bank… I mean I could go on ALL day.
I also love how it’s smack dab in the middle of the city, which is easy to go north for the Galerias mall, but also easy to go south to be in Centro. Either way is an easy bus, Uber or pulmonia ride almost directly outside my front door.
I am only one block back from the beach and have a beautiful ocean view to watch the colorful sunsets every single night directly from my condo.
It can get really noisy. There are many hotels and condos under construction within a 1 block radius of me that gives a lot of dust and noise pollution. Plus, I can usually hear the pulmonias blasting their music as they drive by, even at 3 am. But I am getting so used to it that I hardly hear it anymore. To be honest, I love being surrounded by a constant hum of people and activity.
Where to Live in Mazatlán
The Best Areas/Neighborhoods for Expats
To make this as easy as possible to understand, I divided Mazatlan up into 3 sections:
1)The ‘Centro’ section in the south
2) The ‘Golden Zone’ section in the middle
3) The ‘Marina/Nuevo Mazatlan’ section in the north.
Centro is basically the oldest part of town, with the Golden Zone being newer and the Marina area being newest.
Within the 3 sections, I get detailed about each individual neighborhood and their specific pros and cons.
While Mazatlán is a huge city, most of the expats will live in these 3 areas, almost exclusively within 1km of the coast. While of course some families or expats might live in the interior of the city, the vast majority do not.
Centro is without a doubt the most charming and eye-catching area of Mazatlán.
This is the neighborhood where it all began, with some of the buildings being over 500 years old! Most of the gorgeous buildings you’ll see today all painted in pastels are from the 1800s and bring with them lots of Spanish, French, British and German influence.
Living down in the central core of town will give off a certain European vibe that is really hard to compete with.
Centro is also the art, theatre and gastronomic capital of the city, which is a huge draw for creative and social expats.
While Centro is undeniably beautiful and quaint, most of the downtown core homes will not have any sort of an ocean view. For people that love the sea, they might want to look closer to Olas Altas on the Malecon, or perhaps certain areas of Playa Sur to the south of the downtown.
Centro Areas & Neighborhoods
The heart of the city.
Here is where you’ll find the gorgeous Angela Peralta theatre, Plaza Machado, the cathedral, parks to people watch and sip coffee, beautiful historical buildings, bustling local markets, and so much more. If you are looking to be immersed, Centro Historico is where you should live.
These few central blocks are stuffed with unlimited trendy cafes and restaurants, endless activities and community events, and tons of markets and small local shops.
- Extremely walkable (no car needed)
- Endless activities, events, and socials.
- Gorgeous architecture with stunning pastel colonial houses.
- Potential to flood during the rainy season.
- Older houses with potential for mold, plumbing issues, etc.
- Some streets have very high levels of noise around the clock.
- No ocean view.
Centro Historico is perfect for:
History buffs, foodies, people looking for an old town European feel and expats who like to be in the heart of it all.
Vibe: City views, cobblestone streets, old school
Playa Sur is just to the south of Centro Historico and is the place to find bigger family homes than what you might encounter downtown. People who live in Playa Sur are lifers… they really enjoy this neighborhood!
They love how it’s still close enough to be a few minutes’ walk to all the action of Centro, but far enough removed to be out of the heavy noise and sometimes crumbling real estate.
- Very close to Stone Island Ferry.
- Quieter than Centro Historico but still walkable to all the action.
- Lots of family houses with a variety of sizes and prices.
- Close to the cruise terminal so some streets can get lots of foot traffic on busy port days.
- Where it used to the best place to get the best bang for your buck, it’s rising in cost due to popularity.
Playa Sur is perfect for:
People who love the quieter and more authentic side of Mexico life, but still want to be a 10-minute walk to the action.
SOUTH MALECON/ OLAS ALTAS / LOMA LINDA
Some expats might not enjoy living inside the picturesque streets of Centro and opt for an ocean view instead. Thankfully you can stay in the Centro area and get the best of both worlds by living in Olas Altas or Loma Linda.
These are two neighborhoods on the south end of the Malecon.
Olas Altas is just a step out of Centro along the Malecon with a high concentration of cafes and restaurants, all with an ocean view. The Malecon in this area is always bustling with people, parades and events.
Loma Linda is the hill that overlooks the same section of Malecon where you’ll mostly find bigger homes and estates.
- Literal steps away from Centro Historico.
- Amazing ocean views with lots of energy.
- A bustling area of the Malecon filled with ocean view restaurants and cafes.
- Can be very noisy especially during peak times and holidays.
- Real Estate and rentals can be expensive here, especially on the hill.
Olas Altas/ Loma Linda is perfect for:
People who want ocean views but still need that old town vibe.
The Golden Zone started gaining popularity in the 60s and still remains one of the most coveted places in town. Since all the buildings are relatively ‘new’ compared to the colonial Centro area of town, living in the Golden Zone is a totally different vibe! It’s more modern, beachy, and perhaps commercial.
Here is where you will find another entire collection of restaurants, cafes, and tourist souvenir shops. It’s also the place with the highest concentration of hotels.
Within the last few years, the Golden Zone has seen a big jump in new buildings, which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you ask. The good part of new buildings is a lot more options for brand spanking new ocean view accommodations. The bad part is tons of construction and towering buildings that block out the sun for vendors who have been in the area for years.
At the southern tip of the Golden Zone is the start of the Malecon. The rest of the Golden Zone provides miles of walkable sandy beach, which is perfect for ocean lovers.
Golden Zone Areas & Neighborhoods
GRAN PLAZA / STADIUM / CENTRAL PARK
This area is located in the southern tip of the Golden Zone, from the Malecon to a few blocks inland. It’s home to the Gran Plaza mall (complete with casino and cinema) and well as the newly remodeled Venados baseball stadium.
Right now there are many hotels, condos and office buildings popping up in the area, many still under construction as of early 2020.
One of the most exciting projects for this area is the new Central Park. The plan for this massive park in the middle of the city, just a block off of the Malecon is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen.
It will feature a museum, amphitheater, IMAX theatre, brand new aquarium, tons of green space, bike paths, picnic areas, pond, pedestrian bridges, commercial space, and even boutiques.
Once the project is complete, I can only imagine that real estate will be very coveted in that area!
- Easy walk to the Gran Plaza mall, Soriana’s, Stadium and Aquarium.
- Many new options for homes, even some directly on the malecon.
- On many bus routes and central enough to not need a car.
- Constant construction noise for the next few years.
- Currently not as many real estate options as there will be in a few years time.
- Not as pretty as other GZ areas.
Gran Plaza / Stadium / Central Park area is perfect for:
Mall walkers, sports lovers and people who will love the future Central Park
Lomas is a mostly residential area tucked in behind the main streets of the Golden Zone. Most of the homes here are larger family houses with gates, but there are some newer low-rise condo projects popping up.
Lomas is a very desired area of town because of how quiet is it, it’s proximity to Sharp hospital, schools and shops, it’s safe streets and having many beautiful family homes.
- Great variety of homes, all situated in a quiet setting.
- A very small amount of commercial shops, just enough to be convenient without being overwhelming.
- Connects easily to busy Golden Zone or Rafael Buelna street.
- More upscale (and therefore expensive) area of town.
- No ocean view like many other Golden Zone areas.
Lomas area is perfect for:
Families who want yards and quiet residential type streets, but value being outside of isolating gated communities
The main Golden Zone area only covers about one block back into the city and stretches about 2km across the beach.
It starts at the beginning of the Malecon where the Valentino ‘castle’ is, as well as the famous Mazatlan letters – and goes until just after ‘The Inn’ hotel.
This area is full of condos, timeshares, hotels and long term rentals for almost any budget. You can find cheap basic accommodation or swanky penthouses.
- Perfect for people without a car. Very walkable, great bus routes, easy to get a taxi/Uber.
- Most condos have great ocean views in this area with easy beach access.
- Tons of restaurants from street food carts to fine dining, all steps from each other.
- Loud noise from hotel fireworks, parties, pulmonias and tourists.
- The main road Cameron Sabalo is prone to flooding during the rainy season.
- Lots of new hotels and condo buildings under construction which gives off noise constantly, even evenings and weekends.
- Detached family homes area harder to find in this area.
Golden Zone area is perfect for:
People who want to be completely surrounded by restaurants, cafes, shops, and services all within walking distance in the ‘newer’ touristy/hotel area of town. Condo lovers.
Sabalo Country is the most ‘northern’ part of the Golden Zone. It runs from the West gate of the ‘El Cid’ gated community of the town, right up until the El Cid Marina Beach Hotel.
People who live in Sabalo Country love how close it is to the beach and how much quieter it is than the rest of the Golden Zone. In Sabalo there are still many restaurants and shops, great beach access and tons of availability for affordable condos.
- Many new condos have been built in recent years giving lots of options for housing.
- Very close to the beach.
- Quiet, yet still walkable to the action.
- Lots of bus routes connect through Sabalo.
- Getting a little farther from Centro and the Malecon.
- The main road is known to flood during high rains.
- Construction noise can be a bother in some areas of Sabalo.
Sabalo Country area is perfect for:
People who want easy beach access, a few walkable options, and a quieter scene than the heart of the Golden Zone.
El Cid is under ‘The Golden Zone’ area of town, but truly is it’s own unique neighborhood.
El Cid is a gated community set back onto a gold course and green space, with marina access leading out onto the ocean.
The types of homes you will find in here will range from beautiful medium-sized family homes right up to palatial mansions. Since the community is fully walled and gated, homes aren’t behind their own individual gates and have access to lots of green space.
- Gated and secure area for enhanced safety and peace of mind.
- Beautiful landscaping and green spaces with some houses being on the golf course or having direct marina access.
- Less flooding than other areas of the city.
- Great for big families.
- Luxurious living in a quiet setting.
- Not walkable at all. You 100% need a car to live in this community.
- It’s a process to have food delivered, cabs ordered, or even visitors into El Cid.
- Can feel isolated for people who like to walk to stores.
- No ocean view.
- One of the most expensive areas of the city.
El Cid area is perfect for:
Families with cars that love extra security, green space and the finer side of things.
Marina / Nuevo Mazatlán
The Marina area of town has also been called ‘Nuevo Mazatlan’ because it really has just popped up within the last few years. Almost everything you see is a new build and between the strip malls and big-box stores, it will feel more North American than anywhere else in the city.
Because of the large stores and the way it’s spread out, many neighborhoods up here are not as walkable as Centro or Golden Zone. But of course, the other side of that is you can enjoy newer roads, stores, restaurants and houses and condos, which is a selling factor for some expats.
Much of the Marina area and ‘Nuevo Mazatlan’ don’t have much beach access within walking distance, with the exception of Cerritos neighborhood, which is directly on the beach.
Marina / Nuevo Mazatlán Areas & Neighborhoods
Obviously the best part about living in the Marina area is having direct access or a view of the Marina itself. You’ll see yachts, sailboats and all kinds of vessels moored from your condo or townhouse.
The Marina area also has access to golf on both sides, plus it’s the closest community to the new Galerias Mall and Liverpool department store. Another big draw to the Marina area is the Marina Hospital which is one of the nicest health facilities in the city.
Truth be told, it’s not the most walkable area of Mazatlán, since all these new stores and hospitals are all spaced out more than in Centro or the Golden Zone.
- Lovely marina views
- Newer condos and accommodations.
- Good access to Galerias, Liverpool and Walmart.
- Short distance to Marina Hospital.
- Not as walkable as some would like.
- Far from Centro.
- While there is marina views, ocean views and beach access are almost non-existent.
Marina area is perfect for:
Nautical loving expats and retired golfers.
Cerritos is as far north as the city currently spans.
It has been very popular with expats lately because of having more economical accommodations, being a very quiet community, but still having coveted beach access.
Now, while Cerritos is wonderful, it’s pretty dang far from Centro if you plan on going there frequently. The area itself has a few small shops and restaurants, but only a fraction compared to the Golden Zone or Centro. The trade-off is you get nice quiet streets and a tranquil beach vibe.
- Many oceanfront and ocean view options available.
- Quieter than many other areas in the city.
- Good beach access with a walkable beach area.
- It’s far. Currently the farthest point from the downtown Centro area.
- A high concentration of expats can also result in less Mexican culture and influence in daily life.
- Not many walkable options for shops and places to eat as other parts of the city.
Cerritos area is perfect for:
Beach bums, people who don’t mind longer rides/drives, and those who value newer more modern accommodations.
REAL DEL VALLE
There are new suburbs popping up all over the edge of Nuevo Mazatlán. Take Real Del Valle for example. I have a friend who lives there because of the great prices and the newer homes, but she does get a little frustrated by how far out of the actual city it is.
- One of the cheapest places in town to buy a brand-new house or townhome within a gated community with a pool.
- Not as many expats yet, mostly locals.
- So far out that it’s impossible to live without a car.
- Uber Eats won’t even deliver there yet!
Stone Island is another neighborhood expats like that doesn’t fall within the 3 main areas of Mazatlán.
Stone island really isn’t an ‘island’ these days, as there is a road that now connects it to the rest of the city, but it still is an island in spirit.
Have you ever seen to Sayulita near Puerto Vallarta? If so, Stone Island kind of reminds me of what Sayulita looked like 25 years ago.
It’s a collection of cute beach shacks and restaurants with a few streets of homes (both old and brand new) plus a few RV parks. The beach is long and uninterrupted and there are no high rises or big stores anywhere. It’s truly island vibes.
- It doesn’t get flooding like some areas of Mazatlán.
- Very affordable homes.
- Super laid back and chill island lifestyle.
- Beautiful walkable beach with calm waves perfect for swimming.
- A little cut off from the city. You either need a quick ferry or a very long drive around to get you into Mazatlán.
- Supply runs can be annoying.
- Power outages and poor internet connections can be frustrating for the super-connected.
Stone Island is perfect for:
Tranquil lifestyle hunters, beach bums, island lovers and people who value peace and quiet over convenience.
To sum it all up:
- Centro is going to be your old town feel, city vibe, and most ‘authentic’ Mexican experience.
- Golden Zone is going to be the hotel hub, ocean view, and most ‘tourist city on the beach’ type area.
- Marina is going to be the newest area, most spread out and ‘North American-ized’, area of town.