Mazatlán is one of my favorite cities on the planet, so I wanted to learn more about what was just around the outskirts of town. Personally, I think there is no better way to do this than to book a tour. Whenever Trevor and I are trying to get our bearings in a new place, we always book local tours, so we can learn about the area.
Sure, you can always head out on your own, but you never learn as much as when you have a guide take you through everything and answer any questions you might have.
I had heard through the grapevine that a tour company in Mazatlán offered a really cool combo tour that included a boat ride through the mangroves, a peek into the jungle, and an afternoon on a quiet beach.
If you are looking for the perfect day trip around Mazatlán, look no further. Here is my full review of King David’s ‘Jungle Escape at Stone Island’
Tour Name: “Jungle Escape at Stone Island”
Tour Operator: King David
Price: 1500 pesos per person ($79 USD)
Time: 8:30am to around 2:30pm
Days: Wednesdays and Sundays
Includes: Roundtrip transportation from hotel or cruise ship, boat tour through harbour and mangroves, bird show, jungle stop, transportation to Stone Island, upgraded fresh shrimp lunch, open bar, beach activities (horseback riding or banana boat).
We live in the Golden Zone of Mazatlan near lots of hotels, so we scheduled our pickup at the nearest hotel to our condo to make it easy for the tour guide to find us. At exactly 8:30am sharp Hugo met us in the Las Flores lobby and got us into the sprinter van to head down to the docks.
The ride is air-conditioned and in a newer sprinter van that was carrying other guests from other hotels.
We took a ride down the malecon on our way to the docks and Huge pointed out lots of sights along the way, including where to stop to buy fresh seafood directly from the fisherman.
By 9:00am we reached the docks where we were going to catch our boat for the first half of the tour. Thankfully King David has their own little area here with clean bathrooms to use before getting on the boat! Always something worth noting on a tour.
After a quick bathroom break we all boarded a small boat and put on our life vests.
The boat (and our hilarious guide Hugo) started touring us through Mazatlan’s harbour. We got to see many of the shrimp, tuna and sardine boats, the Mexican Navy Base, and many other marine vessels working along the shore. There is also a cruise ship being renovated in Mazatlán that is owned by Vidanta, which is shaping up to be Mexico’s first cruise line!
Hugo opened up a free cooler full of beer, water, and soda and talked in detail about the fishing industry and Mexican navy as we sailed past.
Pelicans and Birds
Even though this tour wasn’t specifically a bird-watching tour, there were MANY different species of birds we encountered on our way. Hugo passed around bird identification charts and talked a bit about some of the birds we were seeing, especially the pelican.
He opened another cooler that was full of fresh fish and the pelicans took immediate notice! One landed right beside him on the front of the boat in hopes of getting breakfast. Since these tours comes through several times a week, these pelicans are very used to people and were not afraid to get up close and personal.
Hugo called me up to the front of the boat, so I could get a few pictures with my new pelican friend. I was scared at first, but Hugo was feeding them with his bare hands and they were actually so gentle with him that I quickly got over it. The pelicans are absolutely gorgeous, and I had never seen one that close in person before!
After the pelicans left the boat we entered into the beautiful and lush protected mangroves. Hugo was mentioning that many locals had never been out to see these in person and they are quite the hidden treasure. The thick green mangrove bushes are so beautiful and the ride through is very peaceful and surreal.
While we didn’t see any crocodiles, alligators or snakes, they were definitely in there hiding from our boat. A few time we saw the bubbles of an underwater croc, but they never came up to show off.
If you are looking for a cool photo opportunity, this is your chance to take one at the front of the boat!
I want to talk a little bit about our tour guide Hugo. This guy is something else! He is quite the character and by the end of the trip you will have his saying “How bout that, take a picture!” looping over and over in your head. He had me in stitches half the tour.
What I really found admirable about Hugo was how many languages he speaks. And not just a simple “how are you” and “thank you”… I mean he actually SPEAKS about a million languages. We had a hindi-Canadian couple on our tour and Hugo was able to talk to them about the weather, amongst many other things in Hindi. There was also a French couple that Hugo translated some of the tour for. In his backpack, he had books he was studying for Korean, Swahili and German. This guy is major life goals!
He also knows a bit of Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, Indonesian and probably a half dozen more I am missing.
It’s impressive! If you take this tour with Hugo and you are multi-lingual, talk to him in your native tongue just so you can see for yourself how amazing he is!
Our boat pulled up to a little area in the mangroves where we disembarked for a short jungle tour. First stop, bathrooms!
After that we went over to a small little farm that had a store if you needed a snack, and a restaurant that is currently being renovated. On one of King David’s other tours, they actually sit down at this restaurant and have a traditional local meal. This tour however was taking us to Stone Island for lunch on the beach.
At this stop they have some wildlife you can take a peek at. Chickens and roosters are running all over the yard, and in pens they have some turtles and crocodiles.
We then boarded our ‘Mexican Limousine’ which is a huge wooden wagon pulled by a tractor. In some other reviews I read a few (obviously high maintenance) people complained about the noise and bumpy ride of the Mexican Limousine, to which I say “lighten up!” The ride was fine, and it was actually quite freeing to be able to drive down the road in open air like that. It’s nice to embrace getting out of your comfort zone and doing something different than back home. If you are also a party-pooper, just stay home 😉
We personally found it fun.
Anyway, as we drove through the fields on the way to Stone Island, we passed by many farms and plantations for coconuts, zucchini, sweet potato, mangos and many other local fruits and veggies. The farms were beautiful and so vast! There were also many bird species for any avid bird-watchers out there.
Our Mexican Limo pulled into Stone Island just a little after 11:00am. On the way in we stopped by a small peanut maker who used a very old and traditional machine to roast and cook peanuts and we absolutely had to buy some. They sell bags of spicy, salty, sweet and caramel peanuts for 12 pesos each. Super cheap! We bought a few bags of the red sugar peanuts and they were so AMAZING, we wish we had bought more to bring home.
Bring some change and load up on these, you won’t be disappointed.
Stone island is a super chill beach right next to Mazatlán. You can get to it the way we did, which was on the road that connect the ‘island’ the main land, or on a 3 minute ferry-ride across from Mazatlán.
If you have been to Puerto Vallarta and then headed up to the chill beach town of Sayulita, Stone Island is like what Sayulita was like 15 years ago. It’s completely removed from all the hustle and bustle of Mazatlan with no major chains, stores or brands. It’s just a few beach hut restaurants, an RV park, and a WIDE, clean, beautiful beach.
Stone Island, or Isla de la Piedra, is the best place to sit in a plastic chair with the sand between your toes, enjoy and ice cold cerveza, eat some seafood and just stare at the ocean.
This is also a great place for kids to play in the water. Many of the beaches along the malecon of Mazatlan have very strong waves and high tides, which might make some parents nervous. The water and beach at Stone Island is very chill and much easier for small kids to play in.
We sat down at an ocean view table at Molokay restaurant and had our choice of chicken, shrimp, or cheese quesadillas. Shrimp is such a major industry in Mazatlán and Stone Island and you won’t be disappointed. They are huge and full of flavour. This tour actually includes an upgraded shrimp lunch that other tours have to pay extra for, so make use of it!
All meals came with rice and beans and the best part… open bar! There was beer, mixed drinks, cocktails, water, or soft drinks to choose from.
The restaurant was great because the food was delicious, the bathrooms were clean, and there were even showers to rinse off after playing on the beach.
Vendors on Stone Island
There are many vendors walking around the beach selling all kinds of things! If you are going to buy anything, here are my recommendations. I LOVE the fresh coconut cookies they make (they are white, green and red) as well as the fresh donuts with cream filling. Nothing should really be over 20-25 pesos for single serving treats.
Of course, you will also find people selling everything from sunglasses, to jewelry, to fresh pineapples with chili, and everything in between. There were even some guys drawing caricature portraits for about $10 USD. If you don’t want anything these guys are offering, be polite and just say “No, no gracias.”
Activities on Stone Island
After lunch we then had 2 hours ‘free time’ to do some activities, swim, walk up and down the beach, or just chill in the sand. Our tour included either horseback riding or banana boats, so we did the horseback riding on the beach.
We also had the option of paying a bit extra to take out an ATV for half an hour, but we knew we would be back with friends at a later date that would want to do that with us. The ATV’s were around $400 pesos extra and can fit 2-3 people depending on the model.
After our horseback riding, we took a walk up and down the beach and marveled at just how undeveloped the coast still is! I imagine one day it will be full of luxury condos and hotels, but for now it’s just bliss! There is a small RV park mostly full of Canadian flags that is directly on the beach… now that is something we would love to live in!
With about 1 hour left on the clock we took a quick swim in the ocean, which is still very warm for December! We sat on the beach and baked in the sun for a few minutes, before rinsing off at the restaurant and changing into some dry clothes. By the way, our awesome and very trustworthy guide Hugo watched our backpack while we were off doing beach activities, which was very nice of him to do.
Just before we departed for the day, the photographer showed up who took our picture at the very start of the tour with actual printed photos. They were $100 pesos for 1 or $200 pesos for all three. We grabbed the one photo and it’s now hanging on our fridge. Very cute and affordable keepsake.
Time To Leave
At around 2pm everyone was done their beach activities and we started making our way to the ferry. It’s just a short 2-minute ride from the restaurant to the ferry boat on the Mexican Limo.
Instead of taking the limo back around the road to the main land of Mazatlán (which would take a long time), the tour put us on the quick 3-minute ferry boat, which looped back to the harbour where we started.
Once we were back at the Harbour, we could use the same King David washrooms as the start of the tour before we got on our bus to take us back to the hotel.
It was a full-size tour bus that picked us up from the harbour. The only complaint I have is that the AC was BLASTING on the bus and it was literally freezing. I covered myself with our two towels we had brought in our backpack… but I mean it was cold. Since most people are still wet from the beach, they should turn down the AC a little. We got dropped back off at our hotel pick-up location just before 3pm.
My Thoughts on the Tour
I actually really enjoyed my time on the Jungle Escape at Stone Island Tour. We had actually been to Stone Island once before on our own, but I appreciated it much more coming with a guide. I learned so much more and had a much better time with an organized element to the day. After the tour was over I felt I knew so much more about Mazatlan, the surrounding area, the local economy, flora and fauna than I ever could have found out on my own.
I really appreciated all of the infrastructure that went into making this tour a hit. The King David group has invested in their boats, vans, buses, tractors, and even washrooms along the way to make everything as smooth sailing and professional as ever. So many people work behind the scenes to make the tour great, and I really loved how the company fuels the local economy and hires so many local people.
I thought the little stops along the way to buy from locals (like the peanuts for example) was such a nice way to experience more of the area.
The tour was also the perfect mix of adventure and relaxing. It wasn’t a very physical tour by any means, but we still covered a lot of ground and many activities, all while enjoying some down time on the island.
Do I recommend the Jungle Escape at Stone Island Tour? Absolutely!
In fact, we have Trevor’s sister and brother in law visiting us in February and we are going to bring them on this exact same tour because we know they will love it.
Important notes and things to know about the tour:
- Yes, this tour is suitable for cruisers visiting on a port day. The start time is after your ship arrives and you finish 2 hours before you need to be back on board (assuming the time to be back is 5pm)
- The boat you take along the harbour and into the mangroves is covered on top, so it’s easy to find shady refuge from the sun. If you happen to WANT the sun, there are some seats that aren’t covered where you can soak in some rays.
- There IS a bathroom on the boat! Amazing!
- Bathroom stops include at the start of the tour in the harbour, aboard the boat, in the jungle at the restaurant/shop, on stone island at the restaurant, and back at the harbour before returning to your hotel. Lots of opportunities
- No, this tour is not wheelchair accessible
- Bring mosquito spray as in the jungle and the mangroves there can be many mosquitos
- Only wear reef safe sunscreen, especially if you will be swimming at the beach
- Bring a tip for your tour guide. They split it up amongst the captain, the drivers and the other staff that help make the tour awesome
- You can bring a bag or a backpack with towels, a change of clothes, and anything else you need. While on the island, your guide will watch your bag for you
- Bring change and small bills for snacks on the island if you want to eat local treats