Wednesday, 6 June 2012

How to find a rental and live inexpensively in Mazatlan- Part 1

This is the outside of the house we rented this past winter for seven months.  We found it by "walking around".  In the spring of 2011, in the last weeks of our stay in Mazatlan, we began looking around for somewhere to rent the following fall.  We walked by this house and saw that it had a little sign on the window.  It said that the house was for sale and listed a contact number and email address for someone in Canada.  On the spur of the moment I emailed the owner and asked if we could take a look at the house, not from an interest to buy, but from an interest to rent.  He replied and said he wasn't really intending to rent it out but we were welcome to look at it.  There was a local acting as live-in caretaker and all we had to do was pull the rope by the door to ring the cowbell (doorbell).  Well, long story short, we looked, we fell in love, we asked him to consider renting it to us in the fall.  After some back and forth over a couple of months, he agreed.  Houses in Mazatlan were not selling well and it was unlikely this one would sell anytime soon.  He said he would give us 3 months notice if and when someone bought it.  The house and two studio suites were fully furnished.

This house was not a "cheap" rental for us at $1000 a month, but we decided to go ahead because it was such a beautiful place and an extraordinary opportunity to experience living there.  We were able rent out our own house in Alberta for the winter, furnished, so in fact our monthly housing costs went down.

Finding a rental apartment or house in Mazatlan can be tricky.  It can be very difficult to discern what a place is really like from classified ads and the pricing tends to be out of whack sometimes.  It is really best if you go there in person to spend a few days to actually take a look at places you are interested in, or if you happen to know people living there, have them take a look.

I got lucky with my first rental, which I found on Craigslist.  It was a 2-bed, 2-bath apartment attached to a house owned by an American.  I really did not know a lot about the various areas of Mazatlan then and although there were pictures on the ad, I rented it sight-unseen over the internet.  It turned out to be a very nice apartment in a quiet mixed residential area called Sabalo Country, close to the beaches, bus line etc.  I paid $600 US for that.  Some people thought I was paying too much, and others thought it was a deal.  There are comparable apartments for less, but they are difficult to find unless you are okay with living farther from the beach and in what some people might consider less-than-desirable areas.  Having said that, I know a couple of single senior women who each rent and live full-time in totally mexican neighbourhoods without even paved roads, and they pay very low rent - something like $200 a month - and are very happy and safe there.

Here are some ways to find apartments and houses:

1. Craigslist
2. Kijiji (in Canada)
3. Several expat websites that have classified ads such as or
4. Join Mazinfo - a bulletin board group on Yahoo.  Many of the members are long-time residents of Mazatlan and very helpful.
5.  Search various Mazatlan real estate websites for rentals, such as (they will find a place for you for a flat fee too) or
6.  Walking around

It is important to keep in mind that it is common for landlords to expect you to take care of any issues such as plumbing or electrical, appliances and other minor repairs or problems yourself.  Also, it is much less expensive to rent unfurnished if you are planning a long term rental.  It is relatively inexpensive and easy to buy used furnishings, usually from other expats.  A good rule of thumb, I think, is that the further inland (east) you go, the lower the rents.

There are several main "areas" of Mazatlan to consider, depending on what your preferences are:

Nuevo Mazatlan or Cerritos - this is the most northern and newest area, dominated by gated and other communities, and high-rise condos, all of which are either on the beach or close to it.  The buses do run out there but it takes about 45 minutes or more to go from there to Centro, which is the southern most area.

Marina - a little south of Cerritos but still dominated by high-rise condos and newer housing developments, all around a marina with inland canals.  Less of a beach area, more of a boating area.

Golden Zone - a little more south, this is primarily a tourist area with hotel resorts. shops and restaurants geared to tourists.  Apartments and homes can be found here in the residential areas just east of the main road.  This close to where I rented my apartment the first year (2009) - it was a little north of the core of the Golden Zone in Sabalo Country.  I liked it there, but I like Centro more.

Everything in between the Golden Zone and Centro - this is about a 10 mile stretch, fronted by the longest malecon in the world along the waterfront.  There are many condo buildings along here and houses and apartments just east of the main road.  There isn't very much in the way of restaurants or shopping, but the buses run down the along the malecon frequently between Centro and Cerritos.  It is about a 10 to 20 minute ride to Centro depending on how far north you live in this area.

Centro - This is my favorite place to live, but it isn't for everyone.  The core historic area consists of the Mercado (market) where you can buy all manner of fresh food, public squares such as The Machado which is ringed by sidewalk cafes and restaurants, the Cathedral, Olas Altas (High Waves) the waterfront section and end of the malecon, which is lined with more sidewalk cafes and restaurants, and blocks and blocks of narrow streets and architecturally beautiful buildings - some crumbling and just waiting for someone to restore them.  It seems no matter where you live in historical Centro, you will have to get used to noise, especially on weekends, and a certain amount of dirt and grime and smells.  Its' charm exceeds all that for me and I wear earplugs at night.

There is one other area a little bit south of Centro called Playa Sur (South Beach) which is a newer residential area, much quieter than Centro but walking distance to it.  It is mainly houses, but there are a few apartments.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive guide.  If any of my Mazatlan friends have anything to add (or correct) to this information, please feel free in the comments.

Next post: Eating inexpensively


  1. Susan,
    There is also Isla de la Piedra or Stone Island which has rentals the old world style, just a water taxi ride away from Centro.

    Very safe and quiet. Not for those who desire culture and nightlife right out the door.

    1. Yes, absolutely! Thanks for bringing it into the mix. We haven't explored Stone Island much except to go to Lety's and hang out for a day - and have a delicious lunch! I don't see many rentals come up over there online - what is the best way to find something? Go there and walk around? Ask some locals?

  2. I have to address the shortchange you gave the area between the Golden Zone and Centro...There are many restaurant and shopping opportunities in our area--Don't forget all the wonderful Palapa restaurants on the beach that local residents can just hop over to, the more upscale ME Restaurant, and the many delicious little local restaurants, where you can get a wonderful meal such as a chicken breast in salsa verde with rice and veggies for as little as 30 pesos! For food, we have the wonderful Mercado Juan Carrasco, just in from the Fisherman's Monument. There aren't a lot of clothing stores, art galleries, or pottery stores, but there are a few. Easy bus access north or south, and not very far to either--perfect for those of us who can't make up their minds whether they prefer Centro or the Golden Zone! lol

    Enjoyed the article!

    1. And you would know! You are right - I was picturing in my mind the more southern end of that stretch where there are fewer places near or on the beach. In fact, I'm pretty sure that living in your area - a few blocks east of the malecon? - is likely one of the more inexpensive areas to live and you eat at little local restaurants too.

    2. I can walk down to the corner and turn and see the Fisherman's monument and the ocean--never thought I'd be able to live so close to the beach! It IS about the most inexpensive area within walking distance to the malecon, and the little restaurants have me spoiled--not to mention the "curb service" outside my door for shrimp, oysters, tamales, bread, even mops and brooms! Love it!

  3. Thanks very much for the article. We are looking for a place to spend 6 weeks in Maz this winter, but the prices seem very high. If you have any updated information to help us out, please post.

  4. Thanks Hamilton for your comment. Where are you looking to find a suitable rental? There are local sources you should check if you haven't already. has rentals listed under "Buy and Sell". I see one apartment listed there for $500 a month, furnished, in old centro by Patrick is known to me and a reliable person for his rentals. Of course, what area of Maz you would want to stay in is a factor, as is the the period of 6 weeks. Most of the less expensive rentals are looking for 6 months or more. But there are options such as cheap and cheerful hotels such as the Belmar - right on the ocean in Centro. Please tell me what you are looking for - everyone has different comfort levels in terms of roughing it a little. Have you ever been here before? You can respond to me privately at if you prefer. I am happy to help.