An Early Bird’s Guide to Mazatlán’s El Faro

Mirador de Cristal in Parque Natural Faro Mazatlán

Real quick, do a google search on what to do in Mazatlán, México and you will find a ton of fun tours, boat trips, and beach adventures. But if you filter for the free stuff to do, one of the top hits is to hike up to the famous lighthouse. One of the oldest on the Pacific Coast. El Faro de Mazatlán is the second highest lighthouse in the world. Not the tallest, as the lighthouse itself is actually pretty short. It’s a height thing (not a tall thing) because it is on top of this massive rock hill. It’s quite a hike to get up there!

Why so early!?!

You can’t actually go inside the lighthouse, but someone built one of those glass-bottomed platforms over the cliff-side next to it. Mirador Puente de Cristal. That’s the principal attraction and the only part that costs moneys (but only about $1.75 USD). So you buy your ticket for the glass platform at the bottom of the hill, hike all the way up, give your ticket to the guy guarding the platform, take off your shoes, and step out over the abyss. Have I mentioned I’m afraid of heights?

Mrs. ItchyFeet in front of Faro letters
You just have to get a shot in front of the letters! For the Instas!

The problem with this particular hike is that it is extremely popular. So much so that if you don’t get there early, or get there after the cruise-ship peeps have started up, you will be in line for the platform for a very long time. I’ve heard the wait can be close to an hour as each group of people gets a full three minutes to enjoy the views and take all the pictures for the Instas. I’ve heard of people buying the ticket at the bottom, and then just turning around and going back when they see how long the wait is. Plus, it gets really hot on this hike, with minimal shade available. You have to get there early. I don’t like early.

I’ve been watching the cruise-ship schedules for a time to go mid-week to avoid the weekend crowd (and the algorithms have rewarded me with frequent adverts for various cruises… nope… not the right audience). Some cruises get into port at 7am and I was not going to beat those folks to the start of the hike. Lucky for me, I found a weekday when the boat wouldn’t get here until 9:30am. That’s my day!

The Lighthouse
The Faro (lighthouse) itself is not that tall, but it is on one of the highest natural platforms in the world. So many stairs and switchbacks to get up here!

Stupid alarm clock

I woke up early and ate an excellent breakfast of… you guessed it… chicken tacos! Noms. Grabbed some water and snacks and headed out. You see, the start of the trail is 3.3 kilometers away (45 min walk). Fortunately, it’s a really pretty walk along The Malecón to Olas Altas and then around the back side of the Observatory. There are some wonderful views along the route.

Here’s the problem. As I’m walking along, I look out at the ocean and spot that cruise-ship coming in. Crap! It’s early! Those cruise-ship people will grab a Pulmonia taxi, or Ariga taxi, or a taxi-taxi and get there before me. Must keep moving! I did stop to get some pictures for you all. You’re welcome.

Cruise ship coming into port
The ship is early! Now it’s a race to beat the boat people!

Made it to the start of the hike on Isla El Crestón in no time at all. But… here’s the other issue. I now have to pee. Lucky for me, I remembered my 10 pesos for the bathroom. Unfortunately for me, that bathroom was under renovation and not of any use to me. Signs mocked me just after the ticket booth, warning that I better pee now because there were no bathrooms beyond the gate. Thanks. Sigh.

Feel the burn

That hill is no joke. Plus an additional 360 stairs! Plus-plus-plus emergency tents setup along the switchbacks! They prepared for unhealthy tourists getting off a boat and hiking up a huge hill in the tropical sun. Smart! It’s about 1.5 miles with an elevation gain of 275 feet and takes about 30 minutes. I took it slow and enjoyed the amazing views. From up high, I could see that the cruise-ship was going to take at least another hour to dock. Plenty of time to relax.

Giant cactus along trail
It’s very dry here so go early and bring water.

The vegetation along the hike is really cool. It’s dry, so there are tons of different kinds of cacti and agave. Some cacti were flowering and loads of hummingbirds and other tiny birds were flitting about. I saw this one bright yellow bird that was so cool but abandoned me before I could get my phone out for a picture. So fast! I guess they have to be with all the cats hanging out. The tourists must feed the cats and give them water because it would be hard to survive here otherwise.

In addition to the tiny birds, massive seabirds use the cliff sides for nesting. Magnificent Frigatebirds. Pelicans. Gulls of all sorts (except seagulls because that is not an actual bird… look at me, learned stuff!). The Magnificent Frigatebirds are the most fun to watch because they genuinely look like pterodactyls. It is really cool to look down on them while they fly. That is how high up I am right now!

View from the lighthouse hike
I beat the boat people! The massive beach in the distance on the right is Playa Isla de La Piedra.

El Faro!

Once I made it up to the lighthouse, I took in the panorama for a bit before making my way around to the backside. That is where the Crystal Viewpoint is located. While I had tried to make it here as early as possible, I wasn’t that early, so I was surprised at how few people were up here. I think the really early crowd had come and gone because I saw quite a few runners making their way down as I was heading up.

There was only one family on the crystal platform once I got there. I gave my ticket to the gatekeeper and removed my shoes. Don’t want to scratch up the clear floor. Let me tell you, taking that first step over the abyss is real-real scary! It feels like you are just going to fall right down onto rocks and bounce into the churning ocean below. That is a long way down! Remember… heights and I are not friends. But it is gorgeous and well worth it.

Mrs. ItchyFeet on Mirador de Cristal
You have no idea how high above the ocean this thing is! It got my heart racing.

There’s an interesting social phenomenon at this tourist destination. You see, this gentleman offered to take my picture at the end of the platform and everyone else waited while I got my photo taken. Then, once I was done, I offered to take pictures of the next family in line. I’m positive they did the same for the family after them. Nobody is worried about someone taking off with your unlocked phone because where are they going to go? They’re not jumping off the edge parkour-style! You would die.

Take all the pictures!

After the Mirador Puente de Cristal, I walked around for a bit and got some more pictures of the amazing vistas. It is sooooo high up! I also got a picture of the lighthouse for my pops. He likes those magical structures, and I like to grab a shot whenever I can. Time for the climb down. I had a good time chatting with peeps as they were going up. The tropical sun makes it feel hotter than it actually is. I still have to pee, but after working up a sweat, I think I can make it to my next destination.

View of Mazatlán from lighthouse
It’s slightly cloudy today, but still some amazing views from the top of the lighthouse trail. Well worth the hike!

Speaking of which, I have been trying to get my yellow fever vaccine for a long time now. Lots of countries reserve vaccines for locals and residents but not tourists. My home country of the USA makes you get a special travel doctor’s appointment ($100 USD) plus pay out of pocket for the vaccine (another $200 USD). That’s excessive. Especially because anyone, resident or not, can get the vaccine for free in Colombia. There’s even a vaccine clinic in the Bogota airport where you can receive it (again, for free!) if you have a layover there. However, I want to have gotten the vaccine at least a few weeks before traveling to Colombia. No dying!

While previously traveling around the historic district of Mazatlán, I had found a travel vaccine clinic. They allow even tourists to get vaccines. Perfect! However, the instant I stepped through the door, I realized I had made a terrible mistake. Kids! Sick kids! Coughing kids! Gross! The clinic is a pediatric clinic that also gives vaccines. I was pretty bummed that I forgot my mask at home, but truly happy that all the sick kids were wearing them.

Seahorse and octopus sculptures
Check out these sculptures along The Malecón to the Parque Natural Faro Mazatlán!

I really need to pee

In all fairness, the clinic was wonderful. They did a great job with the vaccine. A doctor came out and chatted with me about it to make sure I knew what I was getting and to warn me not to do any strenuous activities for the next few days. Good thing I got that climb in this morning! They gave me a yellow card with all the vaccine info. I will need this card when traveling from a country that has yellow fever to a country that does not have the disease. Vaccine cards are nothing new; they’ve been in use for over 90 years.

Due to all the sick kids in the office, I skedaddled as fast as possible without using the bathroom. I can make it! And I did, thank you very much! That is a long time to go without peeing. All told, my morning hike was about nine kilometers. I’m hoping the bathrooms at the bottom of the lighthouse trail will be open for you all. Remember to bring 10 pesos! Exact change is best. It’s an adventure!

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