Download GPX file for this article
25.002778-107.502778Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Sinaloa is a state in Northern Mexico. It is the most important agricultural state in the Federation, which has earned it the nickname "the granary of Mexico". It has the second largest fishing fleet in the country. Culturally, it is known nationally and even worldwide for its typical music, the Banda or Tambora.


  • 1 Culiacán — capital of Sinaloa, known for its historic center, and its "dancing fountains"
  • 2 Cosalá — a colorful, bucolic small town known for its natural wonders, one of Mexico's Pueblos Magicos
  • 3 El Fuerte — a colonial gem, named a "Pueblo Mágico" by Mexico's Secretariat of Tourism
  • 4 El Rosario — coastal mining town, spectacular colonial Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, one of Mexico's Pueblos Magicos
  • 5 Guasave — the agricultural heart of Mexico
  • 6 Mocorito — quaint 16th century town known for its focus on arts and learning, one of Mexico's Pueblos Magicos
  • 7 Los Mochis — city that is the western entrance to the Copper Canyon
  • 8 Mazatlán — lively beach resort, popular spring break destination with a beautiful historic center

Other destinations[edit]

Sinaloa is rather like the country of Chile in that it is a long narrow strip of land with ocean on its west and mountains in the east. As a result there are a lot of overlooked beaches and mountain playgrounds for those willing to get off the beaten path and explore a bit.


Prior to the arrival of the Spanish Empire, the entire region was once populated by the Cahíta, an indigenous ethnic group. The Spanish Empire maintained a very tight grip over the region, and committed numerous atrocities — the Cahita had been largely displaced, numerous tribal leaders were executed for instigating uprisings and rebellions against the Spanish, and many were forced to work as slaves. The state was once a part of Sonora, but in 1830, Sinaloa split to become a separate region.

Throughout much of the 1800s and 1900s, Sinaloa was a very popular destination for immigrants, receiving waves of people from all corners of the world; many Germans moved to the city of Mazatlan and were able to make it a popular seaport, the state was a major source of opium partly because of Chinese settlers, and the state is home to a large community of Arabs, most of whom trace their roots to either Lebanon or Syria.

Fishing boats line the harbor in Topolobampo Sinaloa

Sinaloa is widely known as "Mexico's breadbasket" — The state has one of the largest fishing fleets in all of Mexico, it is the country’s leading producer of rice and vegetables, and is the second largest producer of wheat and beans. These factors have helped to make Sinaloa one of the richest and most developed states in all of Mexico.

Since the 1990s, political instability, crime, and the ongoing drug wars have beset the state. One of the most infamous drug cartels in the world, the Sinaloa Cartel, is based here and it has been widely regarded by many as the largest and most influential drug cartel in the world. Its influence in the state is so profound that the state's culture has been influenced by them and even the Mexican government often doesn't have any clue on how to deal with them. As evidence, in October 2019, a major shootout took place in Culiacan in which the government was forced to release a member they captured because the Cartel proved to be too problematic for the government to handle.


The music of Banda sinaloense is the type of music recognized as original and typical of the state of Sinaloa. Its instrumental composition differentiates it from the other musical styles of the country. The dominance of banda music in this region of the country cannot be overstated.

Banda is performed by large bands composed primarily of brass and woodwind instruments. A 20-member band is fairly typical of well-known banda performers, such as Banda el Recodo (the most popular band in Sinaloa, performing since 1938, with many platinum albums, Grammy, Billboard and other awards to their credit).

Norteña music is also extremely popular in Sinaloa. In fact the most popular and widely known norteña group, Los Tigres del Norte, are from the small town of Mocorito, in between Los Mochis and Culiacan. Controversial for their narcocorrida songs that many feel glorify criminal organizations, their music has earned them millions of fans in every corner of Mexico and beyond.


Sinaloa has a warm climate on the coast; moderately warm climate in the valleys and foothills; moderately cold in the lower mountains, and cold in the higher elevations. Its weather characteristics vary from subtropical, found on coastal plains, to cold in the nearby mountains. Temperatures range from 22 °C (72 °F) to 43 °C (109 °F) with rain and thunderstorms during the rainy season (June to October) and dry conditions throughout most of the year. Its average annual precipitation is 790 millimetres.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

  • 1 Los Mochis International Airport Los Mochis International Airport on Wikipedia (LMM IATA)
  • 2 General Rafael Buelna International Airport - Mazatlan Mazatlán International Airport on Wikipedia (MZT IATA)
  • 3 Federal de Bachigualato International Airport - Culiacan Culiacán International Airport on Wikipedia (CUL IATA)

By train[edit]

The Chihuahua al Pacifico Railway (el Chepe) connects the city of Creel in the state of Chihuahua to Los Mochis, Sinaloa, on the Pacific Ocean coast. It travels 673 km, crossing the beautiful Copper Canyon.

Get around[edit]

The most common ways to get around within Sinaloa are by car or bus.

By bus[edit]

The two largest bus stations are in Culiacan and Mazatlan. Both cities have extensive connections throughout the state and to both neighboring and distant states in Mexico. Both also serve trans-border buses to/from the U.S. Both Culiacan and Mazatlan have city bus service with dozens of routes throughout their cities and nearby areas. In Mazatlan, the main tourist corridor between downtown and the hotel zones to the north is served by modern, air-conditioned buses.

  • Central de Autobuses Culiacan (which is also referred to as Central Camionera Millenium and Central Internacional) is a major hub for bus connections throughout the northwest. It's an extremely busy area with terminals in several buildings and a constant flow of buses in an out.
  • Central de Autobuses de Mazatlan is a major bus hub with connections to Culiacan, smaller destinations within Sinaloa, and cities in nearby states. The station is served by a variety of long-distance bus lines including Estrella Blanca, Primera Plus, TAP, Transportes del Norte, and Tufesa.

By car[edit]

The main highway through Sinaloa is federal highway MEX-15. It is often divided into a freeway and a tollway which run parallel to each other, but miles apart. The tollway, MEX-15D, is usually newer, better maintained, and runs outside large towns so that it is typically a faster route than the free road (libre). The highway runs from the southern border of Nayarit, north through Mazatlan, Culiacan, and Los Mochis to the northern border of Sonora.

Read travel advisories before taking road trips in Sinaloa as areas under the control of drug cartels change and while popular tourist destinations like Mazatlan remain generally safe, the countryside may not be.


  • A total solar eclipse in Mazatlan on Monday 8 April 2024, starting at 12:07 local time and lasting 4 min. This is the first continental landfall of this eclipse, tracking northeast towards Durango and Texas.
  • Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California — a UNESCO World Heritage site, shared with three other Mexican states
  • Tarahumara people. The central, southern and eastern areas of Las Barracas have been home to the Tarahumara indigenous community for hundreds of years. The Tarahumaras or raráhumare (raramuri), as they are also known, preserve many original elements of their culture although they have taken some others from Western culture.
  • Sinaloa is the only place in the continent where the ancient Mesoamerican ballgame, "Ulama", is still played, in a handful of small, rural communities not far from Mazatlán. The ritual ballgame was central in the society, religion and cosmology of all the great Mesoamerican cultures including the Mixtecs, Aztecs, and Maya.



Go to Los Mochis and catch the morning Chepe train through the Copper Canyon to Creel. The first half of the trip is the most spectacular with narrow, twisty passages, mile-high drop offs, and rugged mountain terrain.

Baseball is a popular spectator sport from November through January when the Liga Pacifica (LMP) plays its 82-game season. Four cities in Sinaloa field teams in Mexico's winter-league. Catching a game on a weekend or evening can be a fun way to experience "Americas favorite pasttime" with a dash of chile! Teams in Sinaloa are:


Although fish and seafood are an important part of the gastronomic specialties of Sinaloa, it also has typical foods of the state such as

  • Chilorio: pork meat finely shredded and seasoned with ancho chili sauce and other spices, achieving a unique flavor.
  • Sinaloa-style grilled chicken is another specialty that has spread to other places for its exquisite flavor.
  • Mochomo: cecina-type beef is another typical specialty of Sinaloa, in the same way as the papered pigeons, as well as the cut for roasted meat called cabreria.
  • Aguachile: marinated in lemon juice, stuffed with grated cheese, wrapped with bacon or cooked on the grill, not to mention the zarandeado fish.


Beer is the hands-down favorite drink of Mexicans, especially in the northern states. The beer of choice in Sinaloa is their home-grown brand, Pacifico, which has been brewed in Mazatlan since 1899.

Artesanal craft beers have become popular across Mexico, including brewpubs and craft breweries in several cities and towns in Sinaloa. In Mazatlan, you can enjoy a fresh craft beer at the Navegante Brewery or at Tres Islas. In Culiacan, fresh craft beer is served at Cerveceria Coordinada or at the NSR Brewery. Be aware that the word cerveceria does mean brewery, but is frequently used by mega beer distributors as a name for drive-thru beer stores that don't actually make anything.

There are several distilleries in the Mazatlan area producing mezcal and flavored liqueuers. Keep an eye open for drinks you may not be able to get elsewhere. These include:

  • Osuna - hacienda about 30 minutes northeast of Mazatlan producing 100% agave mezcal
  • Onilikan - artisanal distillery in Mazatlan producing mango and agave liqueuers

Stay safe[edit]

Caution Note: Sinaloa is one of the most crime-ridden areas in Mexico. Violent crime is widespread, and there are numerous criminal organisations operating in the state. Tourist destinations like Mazatlan and Los Mochis are safe to visit, but driving around the state, especially in remote areas, is not.
Travel advisories
(Information last updated 09 Dec 2023)

Sinaloa is widely regarded as one of the most unsafe states in Mexico, and its reputation as a crime-ridden state has been cemented internationally by the fact that it is the home to several criminal organizations. Outside of the tourist areas of Mazatlán, a healthy dose of caution and awareness of surroundings is prudent. If you feel unsafe or unsettled in an area, practice vigilance and vacate the area immediately. The police in Sinaloa are rarely reliable, regularly corrupt, and outside of tourist areas may aggresively shake down foreigners for cash.

The presence of the criminal organizations may be a magnet for travelers interested in visiting infamous criminal sites. The city of Culiacan is home base for the notorious Sinaloa Cartel and "narcotourism" is a thing there. Although generally safe day-to-day, the city does occasionally erupt in spates of dramatic violence.

Highway 1D between Los Mochis and Culiacan has a reputation for both banditry and corrupt police officers – tourists have been murdered on this highway. The Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range in Sinaloa is wild country, part of the "Golden Triangle" that supplies much of the world's amphetamines and opiates, and should only be entered with extreme caution (although Highway 40D – the toll road, not the old road – across the range is safe and can be traveled leisurely).

Go next[edit]

This region travel guide to Sinaloa is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.