Mexico’s west coast has historically been its most popular tourist destination, with major resort cities like Acapulco and Mazatlan attracting millions of foreign visitors starting as early as the 1940s. Significant infrastructure investment by the Mexican federal government in the Yucatan Peninsula has led to Cancun and the Riviera Maya becoming increasingly popular since the 1980s, but Mexico’s west coast still has some of the best beaches, cities, sites, experiences, and attractions in the country. Here are the 6 best resort cities on Mexico’s west coast, and a detailed breakdown of why you should visit each.
The original resort city on Mexico’s west coast, Mazatlan’s charm and splendor has not diminished at all over the decades. The city has a rich history dating back to its founding in 1531. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it developed from a small fishing village into the largest port city on Mexico’s Pacific coast. It was invaded by the US military during the Mexican-American War, bombarded by rebels during the Mexican Revolution, and finally became a major tourism destination by the 1940s.
Attractions and Activities
Today, Mazatlan remains an excellent city for tourism due to its wealth of historical sites and modern tours, attractions, and activities. Mazatlan’s biggest attraction is its beaches, which are vast, with soft yellow sands and deep blue Pacific waters. Some of Mazatlan’s nicest beaches include:
Stone Island: Trips to Stone Island are one of Mazatlan’s most popular excursions. The island is known for its long, beautiful beaches, calm waters, coconut trees, outdoor restaurants, and calm atmosphere.
Playa Olas Altas: A beautiful beach with a long boardwalk, calm, cool waters, and ocean water pools right on the beach.
Playa Bruja: Great surfing beach on the north end of Mazatlan.
Playa Sabalo: Quiet beach with protected waters, making it perfect for swimming.
Other popular activities on the beaches or in the ocean include horseback riding on the beach, kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving, boat tours, whale watching, and boogie boarding. Off the beaches, Mazatlan is famous for its great hiking trails, eco tours, ziplining, cultural and historical tours of the old city, tequila and taco tours, and shopping. Must-see sites in Mazatlan include:
Plaza Machado: A historic plaza in the center of old-town Mazatlan, with great restaurants, shops, and live music.
Golden Zone: The Golden Zone is an area along Mazatlan’s coast known for its swimming beaches, shops, hotels, restaurants, and great scenery.
Basilica Cathedral of Mazatlan: Mazatlan’s historic cathedral, built starting in 1856.
Acuario Mazatlan: Mazatlan’s aquarium, with over 250 species of fish, an aviary, crocodiles, frogs, sea lions, and more.
The Malecón of Mazatlan: The Malecón (boardwalk) of Mazatlan is one of the longest in the world, stretching over five miles along the beach, and passing cliffs, historical buildings, hotels, and more.
The primary hotel zone in Mazatlan is the Golden Zone, an area along the northeastern coast of the city. Season travellers to Mexico know Mazatlan as having some of the best value of any of Mexico’s resort cities–east or west coast. It is easy to find excellent accommodations for much less than you would pay in other cities. Some of the best hotels and resorts in Mazatlan include:
Hotel Kiko: Good value hotel with room service, air conditioning, and family rooms. Located less than a mile from the beach.
Hotel La Siesta: Low-cost 58-room hotel with direct access to the beach.
Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan Beach Resort: Direct beach access, five star dining, outdoor pools, spas, luxury suites, and more.
El Cid El Moro Beach Hotel: 27 story beachfront hotel with luxury suites, fine dining, pools, and easy access to the city
Hotel Riu Emerald Bay: All-inclusive hotel on Las Brujas Beach with private balconies and hot tubs in the rooms, 3 pools, a gym, and a spa.
Mazatlan International Airport receives direct flights from many major cities on the US west coast and midwest, and Canada. Cities that have frequent direct flights to Mazatlan include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver. There are also many connecting flights that stop in Mexico City.
A weeklong trip to Mazatlan for one person costs approximately $1,252, including accommodations, entertainment and activities, and dining.
Up there with Mazatlan as one of the oldest resort cities in Mexico, Acapulco has long been a premier destination for tourists from the US, Canada, and Europe. Located on the Acapulco Bay on the southern coast of Mexico, the city is known for its great weather, beautiful beaches, and stunning scenery.
Attractions and Activities
Surrounded by the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains on three sides and the cool, deep blue Pacific ocean on the fourth, the scenery in Acapulco is absolutely stunning. The cliffs and rock formations along the water’s edge are like none other in the world. One of the most popular attractions in Acapulco is watching cliff diving shows at the La Quebrada Cliffs, which tower 40 to 80 feet above the water. The divers must time their jumps perfectly with the waves to ensure they land safely, and it is spectacular to watch.
The biggest attraction in Acapulco, however, is the beaches. Acapulco’s southern Pacific beaches are some of the nicest in the country, with hot, yellow sands and cool, blue waters. The beaches are perfect for relaxing, strolling, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving, beach games, jet skiing, motorboating, sailing, and fishing.
Some of the best beaches in Acapulco include:
Playas Caleta & Caletilla: The two most well known beaches, Playas Caleta & Caletilla are beautiful, calm beaches located on an islet, which protects them from the rough waves of the Pacific. This makes the beaches perfect for children.
Playa de Barra Vieja: One of the most popular of Acapulco’s beaches, Playa de Barra Vieja is a long beach, famous for its beautiful sunsets and the great restaurants in the area.
Playa Puerto Marques: Great views, calm waters, and a great place to watch the sunset.
Other popular activities in Acapulco include golfing, the CICI waterpark, night clubs, shopping, historical tours and sightseeing, and much more. Some of the must-see sites in Acapulco include:
La Quebrada: The cliffs overlooking the ocean where the diving shows take place.
Punta Diamante: Historic neighborhood overlooking the famous “C” shaped inlet of Acapulco’s Bay.
Laguna de Tres Palos: Freshwater lagoon east of the city. Great for watersports, tours, and fishing.
Museo Histórico de Acapulco Fuerte de San Diego: 18th century fortress that now houses a museum. Excellent site for historical and cultural tours.
Parque Papagayo: Ecological park with a small zoo. Great for kids.
Hotel Vital Acapulco: Cheap hotel with a pool and easy access to great restaurants in the area.
Kingdom Youth Hostel: Inexpensive hostel just outside Acapulco. Has access to a nearby quiet beach.
Park Royal Beach Acapulco: Beautiful all-inclusive resort located on the secluded Playa del Secreto on the western side of the city. Excellent, authentic Mexican food, pools, spa, and great location.
Hotel Playa Suites Acapulco: 18 story resort with 488 rooms with private balconies, amazing views of the bay, 3 restaurants, and 2 bars.
Encanto Acapulco: Luxury residences overlooking the Pacific. Spas, pools, 3 restaurants and bars.
Juan N. Alvarez International Airport is located in Acapulco, and receives international and domestic flights. Cities that fly direct to Acapulco include Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Montreal. Most international travellers to Acapulco have a connecting flight in Mexico City. Flying from Mexico City to Acapulco takes about 35 minutes.
A week in Acapulco costs around $2,267 per person.
2. Puerto Vallarta
A resort town in the state of Jalisco, which is also the birthplace of tequila and mariachi music, Puerto Vallarta is a vibrant historic city with plenty of modern attractions. Flying into Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport, your first introduction to Puerto Vallarta will be the long, yellow sandy beaches bordered by the calm, deep blue waters of Banderas Bay. Puerto Vallarta stands out among other beaches on Mexico’s west coast for its calm, sheltered waters, and great swimming beaches.
Attractions and Activities
Puerto Vallarta is surrounded by the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains and thick jungle, giving it a secluded, peaceful atmosphere. The beaches are relaxing, with calm waters due to Puerto Vallarta’s location on Banderas Bay, rather than directly on the Pacific. Popular activities on Puerto Vallarta’s beaches include swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling, sailing, paddle boarding, kitesurfing, fishing, and more. The beaches in the city range from vibrant, crowded beaches located right in the city center, to secluded beaches only accessible by boat. Some of the best beaches in the area include:
Los Muertos Beach: Perhaps the most famous beach in Puerto Vallarta. Easily accessible from the hotel zone, but the beach is wide so it does not feel overly crowded. Great for swimming.
Mismaloya Beach: Made famous by the 1964 film The Night of the Iguana. Great for swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Easily accessible from major hotels, and has plenty of great restaurants just off the beach.
Camarones Beach: Located in downtown Puerto Vallarta. Less crowded than the two beaches mentioned above.
Palmares Beach: 3 mile long beach in downtown Puerto Vallarta.
Las Gelmas Beach: Located a 20 minute drive outside of Puerto Vallarta. Never crowded, and mainly frequented by locals.
Other popular activities in Puerto Vallarta include hiking and backpacking tours through the jungle and mountains, whale watching boat tours, mountain biking trips, tequila and taco tasting tours, shopping, nightlife, and more.
Hotel Tropicana: Nice, lower-price hotel with great pools, beachfront access, and a restaurant
Hotel Mocali: Small hotel in downtown Puerto Vallarta. Located just two blocks from the beach
Hotel Belmar: Small, family owned hotel with 30 rooms.
Golden Crown Paradise Adults All-Inclusive and SPA: All-inclusive adults-only hotel with private balconies and terraces in the rooms, which overlook the beach, indoor and outdoor pools, fine dining, and easy access to the main shopping and dining area of Puerto Vallarta
Dreams Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa: All-inclusive, luxury resort with private beach, several rooms with private swimming pools, three main swimming pools, four restaurants, a gym, spas, and more.
Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta: Luxury resort with nearly 300 rooms, 3 bars and restaurants, a spa, gym, pools, and more.
Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport in Puerto Vallarta receives frequent nonstop flights from many major US cities. When you land in Puerto Vallarta, you can take a taxi to your hotel, which will be very close to the airport, if you are staying in any of the major resort areas along the beach.
The average cost per person per week in Puerto Vallarta is $1,073 USD.
1. Los Cabos
Los Cabos is a municipality consisting of two cities–Cabo san Lucas and San Jose del Cabo–located on the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula on Mexico’s west coast. Between the two cities is a 20-mile strip of land known as “The Corridor,” which is full of golf courses, beach resorts, and beach fishing spots. Cabo san Lucas is the larger and more popular of the two cities, but both have plenty to offer.
Attractions and Activities
Both San Jose del Cabo and Cabo san Lucas have stunning yellow-sand Pacific beaches, with stunning rock formations along the water’s edge. Aside from relaxing in the sun and swimming in the cool Pacific waters, popular activities on the beaches include surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving at the reefs and shipwrecks off the coast, deep sea fishing, whale watching tours, and a submarine tour.
Some of the best beaches in Los Cabos include:
Playa Medano: The longest swimmable beach in Los Cabos. Sandy and warm, with plenty of restaurants and hotels in the area.
Playa Hotelera: A long beach in San Jose del Cabo. Strong currents, so not ideal for swimming, but great for sunbathing, fishing, horseback riding, jogging, and surfing.
La Playita: Excellent beach in San Jose del Cabo. Calm, shallow waters. Great for families, and a popular spot for snorkeling.
Playa del Amor: “Lover’s Beach” in Spanish, Playa del Amor is a beautiful, secluded beach with stunning rock formations.
Other popular activities in Los Cabos include ATV and buggy tours of the local beaches, mountains, and deserts; backpacking and hiking; going to the nightclubs; shopping; chartering yachts; spas; cultural and historical tours; and shopping.
Seven Crown Express & Suites: Small chain hotel with a location in Cabos san Lucas. Nice accommodations, swimming pool, and easy access to great restaurants and shopping centers.
Hotel Cabo Del Sur: Low cost hotel in the central district with nice suites, and great access to bars, clubs, and restaurants.
All Inclusive Options:
Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos Golf & Spa:Great all-inclusive resort with luxury suites, beachfront access, beautiful scenery, and a golf course on premises.
The Resort at Pedregal: Luxury resort offering master suites, private villas, private pools, beachfront access, fine dining, a spa, and more.
Los Cabos International Airport receives frequent flights from many major US and Canadian cities. The airport is located in San Jose del Cabo, and is about a 35-40 minute drive away from Cabos san Lucas.
A week in Los Cabos costs around $2,389 per person.
San Jose del Cabo vs Cabo san Lucas: Best Vacation Destination 2021