Download GPX file for this article
24.799-107.39Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Culiacán (Culiacán Rosales) is a city of slightly over 1 million people (2019) in Sinaloa. Lying in the center of the state, Culiacan is the center of the distinctive Sinaloense culture. It is best known, however, as the nexus of narcotics trafficking and narco culture in Mexico.


Culiacán sits almost in the geographic center of the state of Sinaloa, about 1450 km (900 miles) south of the U.S.-Mexico border. Its citizens are known as culichis. Almost no guide books on Mexico cover Culiacán, or if they do, they give a very brief one-paragraph description at most. It is rarely visited by tourists. Among Mexicans, however, Culiacán is well known for its distinct sinaloense culture and for producing some of the best known norteño and banda musical groups in Mexico, including Los Buitres de Culiacán, Los Bukanas de Culiacán, Larry Hernandez, and Los Buchones de Culiacán.

Chinese miners brought opium poppies to the hills of Sinaloa around the turn of the 20th century, and during World War II, Sinaloa supplied the United States military with opium for medicinal painkillers. Following the demise of the French Connection heroin smuggling route to the United States in the 1970s, Sinaloa emerged to fulfil the United States' demand for the drug, and Culiacán became the center of the North American heroin trade. What was then a ragtag group of heroin traffickers from the hills surrounding the city began its evolution into what is, in the 2020s, arguably the most sophisticated and powerful criminal organization in the world: the Sinaloa Cartel.

Capilla de Jesús Malverde

Although ostensibly a normal, perhaps even boring, capital city, Culiacán is inseparable from its narco underpinnings. Narcotics production and trafficking, now consisting of amphetamines and synthetic opioids rather than heroin, contribute enormous amounts to the economy. Safe houses, which are unrecognizable to the tourist eye, dot the suburbs. Stories abound of drug lords who, before dining at local restaurants, send their entourages ahead to collect the phones of each patron with the warning that no one can leave but the promise that all bills will be settled. Thousands celebrate the anniversary of the death of Jesús Malverde, the so-called "narco-saint", at his shrine in the city each year.

Culiacán is the center of buchona culture, the flamboyant style of dress and body modification popular among narco wives and girlfriends (where the narco men are referred to as buchones). In Culiacán the gaudy narco style is paradoxically subtle: there is nothing ostentatious about the city on the surface, but dig deeper into the culture — potentially at your peril – and it's there, everywhere from the nightclubs to the cemeteries (the infamous Jardines del Humaya cemetery is as renown for its garish narco mausoleums as it is for its threatening security guards).

If all this sounds glamorous, it most decidedly is not. Setting aside the long-running disaster that is the effect of narcotics trafficking on the rest of the world – the countless deaths, the destroyed lives — and keeping the focus on Culiacán, the hazards of narco influence are apparent. The city occasionally explodes in war-zone-like violence when the Mexican military decides to do battle with the narcos, the local police waiting haplessly on the sidelines. And the police are hapless, a product of the corruption that plagues the state from top to bottom with its blight focused on the capital in Culiacán. This means city services and infrastructure are often mysteriously diminished, the money having been diverted to the hand of the strongest arm. Businesses likewise pay a fee — quarterly, as is the Sinaloa way — to merely keep their doors open. Drug consumption increasingly affects Mexican society at home, and this is apparent on the streets of Culiacán, the city with the easiest access, as drug-addled locals unnervingly trudge along the downtown streets (a spectacle normally reserved for downtowns in the USA).

Sinaloense culture — boisterous and brash, flamboyant and theatrical — is fascinating, but Culiacán is a city best viewed from the surface, a city where you may not want to dig deeper. Although the center is pleasant and the river walks are lovely, at first blush there is not much to see or do in Culiacán. For the tourist, it might be best to keep it that way.


Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm
Imperial conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches

Culiacán is dry for most of the year, except for the wet season which lasts from July to September. Summers are very hot and humid, shade temperatures can reach 45 °C (113 °F) and high humidity can produce heat indices of 50 to 55 °C (122 to 131 °F), with the risk of heavy rainfall from decaying tropical cyclones also present. Winters are much milder with less humidity and an average high of 27 °C, with warm nights.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

  • 1 Federal de Bachigualato International Airport (CUL  IATA). Volaris offers five daily flights from Tijuana. There are also Volaris flights to Culiacán from Guadalajara and Mexico City. Viva Aerobus offers one daily non-stop flight from Monterrey. Aeromexico offers two daily non-stop flights from Mexico City. Federal de Bachigualato International Airport (Q2231716) on Wikidata Culiacán International Airport on Wikipedia

By car[edit]

Mexican Federal Highway 15 (Carretera Federal 15) connects Culiacán to cities in Sonora state such as Nogales, Hermosillo, Guaymas, Ciudad Obregón, and Navojoa (from north to south), as well as Los Mochis, Guasave, Guamúchil, Mazatlán, Tepic, and Guadalajara. Toll booths and checkpoints are stationed throughout the highway.

More adventurous travelers could try getting in via the winding Federal Highway 24, opened in 2023, which crosses the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains through the heart of narco territory, including the hometown of the infamous drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. Start in Parral, Chihuahua, point southwest and say your prayers.

By bus[edit]

The 2 Central de Autobuses Culiacan is a major hub offering connections from various small towns around the state of Sinaloa. There are regular buses to Culiacán from Los Mochis, Mazatlán, Hermosillo, and Guadalajara, as well as cross-border buses to US destinations. This is a large terminal area with several buildings for different bus lines.

Get around[edit]

Map of Culiacán

The city has a total of nine bridges. Six cross the "Tamazula" river, two the Humaya river and the longest bridge crosses the Culiacán river of the same name as the city. The number of cars per capita in Culiacán is one of the highest in Mexico; traffic is bad most of the time and abominable at peak times.

By foot[edit]

Outside of the city center, it's not easy. Culiacán is a car-oriented city: blocks stretch for long distances while seemingly incessant traffic races along the wide boulevards between them.

By bus[edit]

Culiacán has over 68 urban transport routes, operated by RedPlus.

By car[edit]

By taxi[edit]

The ride-hailing services Uber and Didi are you best bet for going anywhere outside the city center. Otherwise, taxis can be found on the south side of the cathedral.


Catedral Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario
  • 1 Plazuela Alvaro Obregón. The city's main square, the Plazuela has many acrobats, artists, and musicians entertaining passersby.
  • 2 Catedral Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Av Dr. Ruperto Paliza (directly south of the Plazuela Alvaro Obregón). The city's main cathedral is an inviting neoclassically designed church dating from 1842.
  • 3 La Lomita (Temple of Our Lady of Guadalupe). This church sits on the top of a hill directly to the south of the Zona Centro. It offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the city of Culiacán, and the sierras surrounding it. From the Plazuela Alvaro Obregón, take a bus that with a placard saying "Lomita" on its front window, and tell the bus driver to stop at La Lomita. It should take you south along Bulevar Alvaro Obregón.
  • 4 Capilla de Jesús Malverde. This is the most well-known site in Culiacán. This chapel is dedicated to Jesús Malverde, a bandit who was executed in 1909 who has since become venerated as a folk saint by locals. Narcotraffickers and migrants alike visit this shrine to pay homage to Malverde, hoping for a successful journey up north. Malverde is often called "El Santo de los Narcotraficantes," although the chapel operators will say that he is far more than that. Plaques thanking Malverde adorn the chapel. The owner and operator of the shrine is Jesús ("Chuy") Manuel González, son of Eligio González (d. 2002), the shrine's founder. Ironically, the Palacio Estatal (State Government of Sinaloa) lies almost directly in front of the chapel, on the other side of the street. A biographical booklet on Malverde is available for M$50.
  • 5 Malecón. Playgrounds and picnic tables abound on this beautiful and carefully maintained greenbelt which runs along the banks of the Río Tamazula.
  • 6 Museo de Arte de Sinaloa (MASIN), Calle Gral. Rafael Buelna. This museum has many impressionist and modern abstract art pieces produced by artists from all over the state of Sinaloa. Admission M$5.
  • 7 DIFOCUR. The cultural center of Culiacán. The complex includes various exhibits and small museums. Events take place often at DIFOCUR.
  • 8 Ayuntamiento de Culiacán, Calle Carl. Mariano Escobedo, +52 667 715 9263. Many beautiful murals featuring street scenes in Culiacán and motifs glorifying the sinaloense spirit.
  • 9 Parque Revolución. This park has very beautiful fountains. Just to the north of it is a newly erected statue dedicated to the 75th anniversary of XEBL (710 AM, 91.9 FM), one of Sinaloa's oldest radio stations, which has been running since 1936. Live music also plays from the statue.
  • 10 Culiacán Zoo. — Located next to the heart of the city, forming part of the Civic Center Constitución with an extension of 13.5 hectares; which houses 1,400 animals belonging to more than 450 species including mammals, reptiles and birds.
  • 11 Culiacán Botanical Garden, +52 667 715 0036. 07:00-17:00 daily. Located to the east of the city, this area comprises 10 ha and is home to different ecosystems and hundreds of plant and tree species. The Culiacán Botanical Garden has a variety of more than 2,000 plants.
  • 12 Tres Ríos Water Park. A recreational park at the confluence of the Humaya and Tamazula rivers, where the Culiacán River is born. Not much to see; you get a better view of the confluence from the Dancing Fountains.
  • 13 Dancing Fountains. A spectacle of hundreds of independent fountains programmed to "dance" to the sound of typical Sinaloan music. This show is presented every day in an area of the 3 Ríos Project where the flagpole is located, more specifically, at the confluence of the Humaya and Tamazula rivers. The shows are always given twice at night and always at the same time.
  • 14 Jardines del Humaya, C. Heroico Colegio Militar 1411. The infamous narco cemetery on the outskirts of town with lavish mausoleums built for deceased cartel members. It is closed to the public, but it is often possible to walk in. Beware: there are reports of the cemetery security personnel stealing items such as phones and cameras and holding them for ransom. There are also reports of having no trouble at all and having a fine time touring the cemetery. Visit at your own risk. Jardines Del Humaya (Q6159845) on Wikidata Jardines Del Humaya on Wikipedia
  • 15 El Chapo's House, Constituyente Emiliano García 1811. The surprisingly unassuming residence of famed drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, before he escaped a raid by Mexican marines via a tunnel below the bathtub in 2014. You can't go inside and you might annoy the neighbors.


Culiacan's baseball stadium, home of the Tomateros

There are sports venues, casinos, discos, and theaters.

  • Musicians, consisting of norteño, banda, and mariachi bands, can be found on Bulevar Francisco I. Madero (the Mazatlán-Culiacán highway, or the 15) between General Aquilines Serdán and Venustiano Carranza. There are Pemex gas stations at both intersections. Many musicians have rented out buildings, and some of the bandas have their own trailers. The norteño bands tend to congregate around the Madero & Carranza intersection, which is easily recognizable because of the 135-degree bend that Venustiano Carranza makes at the intersection. Norteño bands can also be found at the Mercado Garmendia playing for tips.
  • 1 Presa Sanalona (29 km east of the city). A dam and reservoir nestled in the hills east of Culicán where you can camp and fish. Sanalona Dam (Q6085374) on Wikidata
  • 2 Estadio Tomateros (Estadio BBVA Bancomer), Av. Jesus Andrade. Modern state-of-the-art baseball stadium seating 20,000 fans. The hometown Tomateros play in Mexico's Liga Pacifica (winter season).



  • Mercado Garmendia




  • 1 Restaurant China-loa, Donato Guerra 160, +52 667 712 1221. Comida China & Sushi, offers an all-you-can-eat buffet for M$299 (children $99). Located in the Centro.
  • 2 La Casa de los Loaiza, Calle Miguel Hidalgo 460, +52 667 715 5847. Daily 07:00 - 15:00. Excellent restaurant as shown by its popularity among locals. Huge menu with a wide selection of Sinaloan cuisine. Great for breakfast.
  • 3 Las Marias, Blvd. Sinaloa 1100, +52 667 715 4322. Daily 07:30 - 17:30. Comfortable homey restaurant with a country style serving traditional and regional Mexican cuisine. Good place for family gatherings and parties. Sunday breakfast.
  • 4 El Guayabo, Av. Xicotencatl 949, Las Quintas, +52 667 688 2941. Daily 12:00 - 22:00. Casual traditional restaurant famous for their fried chicken. M$200.
  • 5 Restaurant Huy Fong 匯豐餐館, Rosales #5, Col. Centro, +52 667 715-78-17. Daily 08:30 - 20:00). Chinese restaurant offering affordable meals for around M$190 or less. It is just north of the catedral at the intersection of Alvaro Obregon (the main street that runs north-south) and General Antonio Rosales; to the left of Subway. Located in the Centro. The restaurant owners and employees are from the town of Enping in Guangdong province, China.
  • 6 Cabanna, Blvd. Francisco Labastida Ochoa 1695, +52 667 712 0919. Daily 11:00 - 23:00. Grilled meats, seafood, and homemade pizza. Casual place, good drinks, excellent service. M$300.
  • 7 Quinta Santa Rita, Calle Primavera 1440, Bella Vista, +52 667 387 9537. Daily 07:30 - 14:00 (Sa til 17:00). Ranch style outdoor dining with homemade regional Sinaloan cuisine. Clay ovens where the bread is baked fresh daily. Handmade tortillas. Family friendly.





  • 1 Hotel Sevilla, Jose Maria Morelos 170 Nte., +52 667 715 2993. Located on Morelos Street (which runs north-south) between Escobedo and Colón, in the Zona Centro. It is in the 170's block, located on the east side of the sidewalk. The lobby room has a guest computer with Internet, free of charge. Filtered water is also free. Rooms from M$300 per night.


  • Microtel Inn & Suites. A 113-room hotel adjacent to the Modern Hospital Angels of Culiacan.
  • 2 Hotel La Quinta Posada Real. Located near the intersection of Francisco I. Madero & Venustiano Carranza Boulevards. From M$500 per night.
  • 3 Hotel Lucerna, Diego Valadés Ríos 99 - 1, +52 667 759 0000. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 13:00. Modern international corporate style hotel. Spacious comfortable rooms. M$3200.
  • 4 La Riviera, Prol. Álvaro Obregón 886 Norte, +52 667 713 2428. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 13:00. Modern motor-style lodging with spacious rooms. Small on-site restaurant. M$800.



Stay safe[edit]

Downtown Culiacán is safe to walk around during the daytime and evenings (before midnight). Traveling around the outskirts ("colonias") of Culiacán at night is not recommended.

Traffic in Culiacán can be aggressive, much more so than in many other parts of Mexico (although still pretty tame on a global scale). Locals will attribute this to the sinaloense attitude, which is stereotypically aggressive, proud, and boisterous.

Mexicans from other states will often advise that Culiacán is dangerous to visit due to its reputation for narcotics trafficking and cartel violence. However, most deaths occur only among drug cartels and federal armed forces.


Go next[edit]

Routes through Culiacán
Los MochisPericos  N  S  La CruzMazatlán

This city travel guide to Culiacán is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.