Cruising Tips traveling South from La Paz to Bahía Banderas


Playa La Bonanza/ Ísla Espirito Santo
Very large scenic bay with long white sand beach and turquoise water. Snorkeling reefs on both ends of the bay.
Good protection of N winds and swell at N side of bay. We came in against 16 knots of N winds with 4-6′ waves and the bay was calm.
Large anchoring shelf of 15-20′ in sand.
Cell service, like all anchorages N of La Paz.


Altata/ Sinaloa
We arrived outside the entrance of Bahía de Altata around 10 am, there were large waves, 15-18′ breaking along the shore and we couldn’t find the entrance to the Bay. We hailed the marina, Marina Isla Cortez, and the port captain, no answer from both. The shoal had shifted from what we saw in Heather & Shawn’s and Pat Rain’s guide books and when we hit 10′ depth we decided to turn around, get to safe waters and continue to Mazatlan instead.
I would advise you to call well ahead for wave conditions and to make arrangements for a guide in.


Passage to Mazatlán
During our night passage there were a multitude of shrimp boat clusters, we decided not to pass through them and instead go 12-15 miles out to stay clear of fishing nets, pangas and shrimpers.


Marina Harbor is located 7 nm N of Mazatlán harbor. Fuel docks at Marina Cid and Marina Fonatur.
Harbor entrance is narrow with breakers, call ahead for breaker conditions, easier to get out against breakers then to get in.
No potable water at the El Cid service and fuel dock.
Cruisers Net on 22 at 8 am Mo-Sat, we couldn’t hear it anchored in the old harbor.

Old Harbor anchorage Mazatlán harbor is a busy commercial harbor with ferries, cruise ships, container ships and tourist boats.
Hail port captain in Spanish about 3 miles out for permission to enter. We arrived in thick morning fog during which the harbor was closed and waited 4 hours for the fog to lift and the harbor to open.
No marinas in the old harbor, only anchorage and some mooring balls, don’t know who rents them.
Room for 5 -7 transient boats at anchor, the rest of the harbor is filled with boats in varying stages of decay left on moorings and large barges.
Motorboats, tourist boats and pangas etc cross the bay during the day causing wakes.
Boat yards on the shore, ferry dock nearby, noisy during the day.
Sewage plant behind Club Nautico, smells a bit in afternoon N winds, but bearable.
Anchor in sandy mud with ok holding, heard that some boats dragged here in storms.
N winds come into the bay, probably also west and south winds to but no swell during North winds.
Pull up your dinghy always! Thefts were reported, even recently although less frequent, but mostly for the South anchorage right outside the harbor breakwater.
Club Nautico (painted in big letters on the building) has a 24-hour guarded dinghy dock; bring lock to lock outboard and dinghy to the dock and bring dinghy fenders. Dinghy dock, ok Wi-Fi, not beautiful and also cold showers, trash deposit and all this for 50 pesos a day or 350 per week.
Walk to old historic center, Olas Atlas Beach and Malecon, Mercado Municipal or take the bus (7.5 pesos per person) in front of Club Nautico (‘Morelos’ goes to the historic center and passes by the main square and Mercado Municipal. ‘Torero’ goes directly to the Mercado Municipal).
Taxis, open and closed, cost between 50-70 pesos depending on distance, as always set the price before getting in.
Mexican supermarkets: Ley, Mega, Waldo’s next to central market. American supermarkets: Home Depot, Sam’s Cub Walmart. Best fresh baked bread at Hector’s in old town.

Mazatlan guides online: Mazatlan Life (link) and Mazatlan Today (link)


Ísla Ísabel
Incredible bird habitat and National Park. Reefs, tidal pool, crater lake and hiking. Birdwatchers, nature photographers and biologists come with organized tours in pangas to the island and some camp at the former research center.
This is a nesting island, be aware not to disturb the birds. Bring a telephoto lens!
South Bay gives protection from N winds open to the South, we were anchored there during low winds and there was still a swell and it was quite rolly, but the ride was worth it. Cruising guides say that the east anchorage off the Las Monas Rocks is better, but we wanted to be close to the fishing village.
Check Navionics and guide books for pinnacle rock (off the rock dividing the beaches), submerged reefs and rocks in the bay.
Inner bay large enough for 4 boats.
Rocky bottom, not good or better no holding. We dropped the anchor, let out some 60′ of chain and dropped the rest (200′) in a pile. Worked well for us, but again in low wind conditions.


Passage Ísla Isabel to La Cruz/ Banderas Bay
There us a safe passage close to Punta Mita, but we were sailing at night and we’re afraid of fishing boats and nets so close to shore and decided to round the Íslas Mariettas. There was lots of current and it was a battle with the autopilot skipping out and us hand steering through the night. Round there during the day and best during the early morning before Northern winds come up at 11 am.


La Cruz de Huaxatecatle/ Banderas Bay
Anchored across the jetty, just south of the entrance bouys and sunken wreck (!, watch for a yellow tall bouy), some N wind protection, swell raps around, very rolly, put the stove on swivel.
20-30′ very large sand bottom shelf.
Fuel dock in harbor.
Dinghy dock on Pier 1, N of the marina office (rotunda building on the jetty), 40 pesos, pay the security guard.
La Cruz Nayarit Marina, 340 slips, always slips available, but call ahead for slip assignment, includes wifi, cruisers lounge, large shower area, small tienda. Not included are power and water, potable water available in jugs at the tienda.
La Cruz is a cute village with cobblestone streets, small restaurants and taco stands, small tiendas, daily fish market and Sunday crafts market with food and vegetable stands.
Great veggie market along the main road towards Punta Mita or walk along the beach N of the marina to ‘La Palapa’ restaurant, walk through the restaurant and follow the road behind it to the main road where the veggie store is located a bit set back of the SW corner.
Busses are very cheap (under $1) and convenient and go very frequently along the main road and the bay from Punta Mita to Puerto Vallarta
Good Mexican supermarkets in Bucerias (the village south of La Cruz) Chedraui and Mega. American Chain stores in Puerto Vallarta: Costco, Sam’s Club etc.


Skipped the rest of Vallarta Marinas and went straight to Yelapa. Heard good things about Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, at ruffly the same price as La Cruz Marina it includes all hotel resort and pool privileges.
Yelapa is by all accounts a difficult and fair weather anchorage. The bay is deep and open to the ocean swell, so it is always rolly and might even close off with breakers in heavy Northern wind conditions. Guidebooks said that we could anchor outside the moorings, but we could find a shallow enough spot, the whole bay seems now to be taken up by mooring balls, so we grabbed one for 200 pesos a night.
We checked the mooring for a night with the anchor alarm and went ashore the next day.
Two dinghy docks, one at the village and the other more protected one at the beach hotel. Don’t try to beach trough the breakers, we did and flipped dinghy plus outboard and a panga hauled us out because the outboard was naturally dead after!


Punta Mita
We didn’t anchor at Punta Mita because of our nighttime passage.
Calm anchorage in Bahía Banderas during northern winds, rolly in Southern winds.
Very large and open, can easily hold 50 boats. Over sand and some rocks, we anchored in 22′ in front of the panga harbor, because our outboard was dead and we were rowing ashore. Quaint little town with nice restaurants lining the beach, several tiendas and a fish market one street up from the beach.


South anchorage at Ísla Ísabel

View of Old Harbor in Mazatlan from Club Nautico.

Club Nautico in Mazatlan.

Very affordable medical care at Salud Digna in Mazatlan.




Please note that weather conditions make a big difference for anchorages. Also there is personal preference. This is what worked for us.

We traveled here from 1/30/2007-2/29/2007.