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To orient yourself, walk up and enjoy the panoramic view from El Faro, the famous lighthouse on the point at the south end of town. It's the second-highest lighthouse in the world (only Gibraltar's is higher), towering 135m (443 ft.) over the harbor. Begin at the end of Paseo Centenario, near the sportfishing docks. There's a refreshment stand at the foot of the hill. Allow about 45 minutes for the climb. The view is nearly as spectacular from the top of Cerro del Vigía (Lookout Hill), which is accessible by car from Paseo Olas Altas.

Beaches

At the western edge of downtown is rocky Playa Olas Altas, a lovely stretch of pounding surf not suitable for swimming. Around a rocky promontory north of Olas Altas is Playa Norte, which offers several kilometers of good sand beach.

At the Sábalo traffic circle, Punta Camarón juts into the water, and on either side of the point is Playa Las Gaviotas. Farther north, Playa Sábalo is perhaps the best beach in Mazatlán. The next point jutting into the water is Punta Sábalo, beyond which you'll find a bridge over a channel that flows in and out of a lagoon. Beyond the marina, more beaches stretch all the way to Los Cerritos. Remember that all beaches in Mexico are public property, so you have the right to enjoy the beach of your choice.

Mazatlán is one of only a few resorts in Mexico where surfing is common on central town beaches. The waves are best at Los Pinos, north of the fort -- known in surfing circles as "the Cannon" -- and at Playa Los Gaviotas and Playa Sábalo. Swells are most consistent from May to September. Other notable surf breaks are found at Olas Altos, Cerritos, Isla de la Piedra, and El Camarón, at Playa Norte. The Mazatlán Surf Center (tel. 669/913-1821; www.mazatlansurfcenter.com), in the Zona Dorada, at Camarón Sábalo 500-4, sells gear, rents boards, and offers surf lessons and Billabong day and overnight camps. Lessons cost $65 for 2 hours and include hotel transportation and equipment. Surfboard rentals start at about $25 per day. Boogie boards are widely available for about $15 per day; wet suits rent for $10 per day.

An enticing beach for a day trip lies on Isla de la Piedra (Stone Island). From the center of town, board a Circunvalación or Playa Sur bus from the north side of the Plaza Principal for the ride to the boat landing, Embarcadero-Isla de la Piedra. Small motorboats make the 5-minute trip to the island every 15 minutes or so, from 7am to 6pm, for a modest price. When you arrive on the island, walk through the rustic little village to the ocean side, where the pale-sand beaches, bordered by coconut groves, stretch for miles. On Sunday afternoons, the palapa restaurants on the shore feature music and dancing, attracting mainly Mexican families.

Cruises & Boat Rentals

The Kolonahe Sailing Adventure departs for Isla de Venados (Deer Island) Tuesday through Sunday from Marina El Cid. Reserve through any travel agent or through El Cid . This excursion sails aboard a 15m (49-ft.) trimaran to the island, where guests enjoy a hot Mexican lunch and open bar, plus the use of snorkel equipment, boogie boards, kayaks, and canoes, for a cost of $50 per person. The boat departs at 9:15am and returns at 3:30pm. A 3-hour sunset cruise sets sail on Thursdays at 5pm for a cost of $34 per person.

Deep-Sea Fishing

Mazatlán claims to be the billfish and shrimp capital of the world, and whether or not it's a valid claim, deep-sea fishing in Mazatlán is generally less expensive than in other parts of Mexico. July and August are the best fishing months, when marlin, sailfish, and dorado (mahimahi) pack the warm Pacific waters. Swordfish, dorado, yellowfin tuna, rooster fish, wahoo, and shark all swim the waters here. If requested, your captain will practice "catch and release." Rates are around $475 per day for a 9m (28-ft.) lancha for up to four people and $675 per day for an 11m (36-ft.) cruiser for up to 10 passengers. Rates do not include fishing licenses ($15 per person), drinks, or gratuities. Try the Aries Fleet located at the Marina El Cid harbor master's office (tel. 669/916-3468; www.elcid.com), or Escualo Fleet (tel. 669/913-0303; www.escualosportfishing.com) at Marina Mazatlán Pier 10. Locals suggest making fishing reservations for October through January at least 2 weeks in advance; at the very least, do it the minute you arrive in town. You may also choose to rent a panga (a small, uncovered fiberglass boat with an outboard motor) at a rate of about $275 per day (6 hr.) for up to four people.

Other Watersports

The best place to arrange scuba diving, snorkeling, or surfing expeditions is the Aqua Sport Center (tel. 669/913-0451; www.mazatlan-aquasports.com), located at Av. Camarón Sábalo s/n between the Posada Freeman Hotel and El Cid Hotel.

Tennis, Golf & Other Outdoor Sports

Try the El Cid Resort, on Camarón Sábalo (tel. 669/913-3333; hotel guests have priority). Courts run about $20 per hour. Many larger hotels in Mazatlán also have courts.

Mazatlán is probably the best golf value in Mexico. Try the 27-hole course at the El Cid Resort (tel. 669/913-3333). Nine holes designed by Lee Trevino complement the 18 holes designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. It's open to the public, with preference given to hotel guests. Greens fees for nonguests run $80 for 18 holes, plus $20 for the caddy. El Cid guests pay $60, plus $15 for the caddy. A driving range and golf lessons are available. The club's open daily from 7am to 3pm.

Green fees at the Club Campestre Mazatlán (tel. 669/980-1570) are 250 pesos for 9 holes and 350 pesos for 18 holes; a caddy costs an extra 130 pesos to 180 pesos, and a cart is 150 pesos to 200 pesos, respectively. The club is on Hwy. 15 just outside town, and is open daily from 7am to 3pm.

The Estrella del Mar Golf Club (tel. 800/629-2852 in the U.S., or 669/982-3300; www.estrelladelmar.com) is Mazatlán's best golf course. The 18-hole, 7,004-yard course, also designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., stretches along 3km (1 3/4 miles) of coastline on Isla de la Piedra, a peninsula just south of downtown Mazatlán. There's a PGA pro on staff, a driving range, and lessons available. Greens fees in high season run $110 for 18 holes and $74 for 9 holes, and in low season $75 for 18 holes and $49 for 9 holes; fees include cart, but no caddies are available. It's open daily from 7:30am to sunset. Clubs are available for rent for $35 plus tax.

You can go horseback riding on Isla de la Piedra for about 100 pesos. Ask your hotel's travel agent to arrange a kayaking excursion on El Verde Camacho Ecological Lagoon, or take a trip to Teacapán for birding in one of Mexico's largest estuaries.

Bird-watching tours are offered by Sendero Mexico (www.senderomexico.com), an outfitter that also runs sustainable nature excursions and a popular kayaking tour. The birding tours can be arranged in conjunction with a kayak tour, or as a separate trip to the foothills of the Sierra Madres or to the Palmito reserve (located just past Copala on the highway), home to the tufted-jay. In early 2009, Sendero Mexico organized the first Mazatlán Bird Festival (www.mazatlanbirdfestival.com).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.