Gran Acuario (Mazatlan Aquarium)

We’ve been to some pretty impressive aquariums over the years, and Gran Acuario in Mazatlan turned out to be right up there with the best of them.

Fresh off a US$100 million dollar renovation, it’s far more impressive than I imagined. But at nearly US$30 per adult and US$25 per kid (ages 4-11) it better be!

I wasn’t thrilled about the cost, but glad we did it in hindsight. The boys have been wanting to visit an aquarium for years and at ages 5.5 and [almost] 8, the hope is they’ll actually remember some of this.

We woke up to more fog here in Mazatlan. By the time we reached the aquarium, the fog was well on its way to burning off.

The new central structure is nothing short of striking. Concrete and tiered tropical gardens, with 40-foot waterfalls meant to evoke a “flooded ruin” or “remnants of a retreating sea.” Gran Acuario reopened to the public in mid-2023 and is the largest aquarium in Mexico.

This is an excellent article on the unique design aspects of the renovation.

Even here on a weekday we arrived a few minutes before opening. To our surprise the line was already pretty long. Fortunately, Lori was able to book our tickets online which meant we got to skip the queue.

We were some of the first visitors in the doors and made a beeline for the aquarium’s most popular exhibits.

The stingray petting pool might just be the most popular exhibit in the whole place. When we got there, we were the only ones there and had all the creatures to ourselves. When we passed back through the room hours later, the place was a madhouse, and you had to pay extra for food to queue up to pet the stingrays. Getting here early seems to pay off.

We might have been a lot more interested in the seahorse exhibit if we hadn’t just visited the Seahorse Expedition on Stone Island days before.

No other single exhibit impressed the boys more than the enormous aquarium at the center of the building, offering up some impressive residents.

I liked the shrimp tank. Nothing flashy, but man do they keep that water crystal clear. It’s like the shrimp are just walking around on land and the fish are levitating.

The boys also got a kick out of the shark tank, even if most of the sharks were just chillin’.

The eel tank was another one of my personal favorites. I thought it might get a bigger response out of Noe and Riley, but they just nodded and kept walking. Kids.

One of the top shows at the aquarium is the Sea Lion show.

Now, I’m not up on the ethical nuances of sea lion shows. I suspect there are groups out there who condemn these shows as inhumane and barbaric. All I can say is that the sea lions seem well cared for (they look healthier than most I’ve seen in the wild and get all the fish they can eat), and put on one heck of a show.

The boys certainly enjoyed it.

For those uncomfortable with these sorts of shows, here’s food for thought, particularly as it relates to conservation efforts in Mexico.

There are thought to be around 15,000 California Sea Lions in the Sea of Cortez. That number was 45,000 thirty years ago. The decline is largely due to pollution, fishing, tourism, and rising sea temperatures.

Mexican culture isn’t activism-oriented. If there is to be any chance of seeing sea lions in Mexico twenty years down the road, average people need to care about them. These shows help to do that, as well as raise awareness of the larger ecological issues facing our oceans and the planet in general.

After the show, we went back to where we left off in the main building to catch the impressive jellyfish exhibit.

With our time here in Mazatlan winding down, we were long overdue for a ride down the Malecon on a Pulmonia. It’s not as cheap as taking a taxi or Uber, but there’s no more quintessential Mazatlan experience on wheels than taking one of these quirky open-air cars for a spin.

We had big plans to retrace the urban hike we did two years ago, from the Olas Altas malecon up to the lighthouse and back down. It’s one of my favorite city walks in Mexico, combining local history and spectacular sea views with a bit of a workout.

If you look hard enough in the picture above, you’ll see a precarious-looking spiral staircase stretching from the deck of the white building at the right down to the rocks at sea level. Keep that in mind next time you see an Airbnb in Mexico offering beach access…

The tiny white structure on the prominence in the background is the lighthouse we were headed for. We hiked up there in July of 2022 on a particularly hot and steamy day. Today’s hot, but not that hot. But the aquarium and walk to this point had done us in for the day.

Back on the island, it’s just another weekday afternoon.

Think we’re finally ready to move on.

Leave a Comment