Cruises to Mexico from San Francisco: Visit the Mexican Riviera in Style

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: October 11, 2023

Discover the Mexican Riviera on one of these fun cruises to Mexico from San Francisco. Almost every month, you will find cruises that stop in ports of call such as Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas.

They all feature round-trip service from San Francisco and include a few relaxing days at sea.

Sunset in Puerto VallartaThe colorful sunsets you will see along the way. This one is over the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Puerto Vallarta.

Popular Ports of Call on these Mexico Cruises

These are some of the most common ports of call for the cruises to Mexico from San Francisco.

Los Angeles, California: Many of these cruises stop in Los Angeles on the way south or as they are returning up north. This is typically a day stop where you can exit the boat and spend a day or an afternoon in and around the waterfront in Los Angeles. This stop is more common with the shorter cruises.

San Diego, California: Most cruises to Mexico from San Francisco either stop in LA or San Diego; a few stop in both ports. This is a great day stop where you can explore the waterfront area before you head back to the boat. This is a common stop for cruises that are four, five, or seven days long.

Ensenada, Mexico: This is a small port city on the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. Due to it being close to the US, this is often the only Mexico stop on the shorter cruises. You will find quite a bit to do here from strolling along the promenade to grabbing some local cuisine. You will also find some interesting history museums. Most cruises stop here in the morning and return to sea in the mid to late evening. 

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: This resort town is a stop on some of the longer cruises to Mexico from San Francisco. It's located on the Pacific Ocean and offers quite a few fun things to do. You can spend the day at the beach, explore some of its historic sights, do a little shopping, or grab a few drinks at a local bar or restaurant. This stop is most common with the cruises that run at least 10 nights. 

Manzanillo, Mexico: To the south of Puerto Vallarta, you will find another port of call at Manzanillo, which has gorgeous beaches, offers some great diving sites, and is a fun place to do a little shopping. You can join a guided tour or explore the city on your own. This is also on the longer cruises that run at least 10 nights.

Mazatlán, Mexico: This resort town is an other gorgeous stop along the cruises to Mexico from San Francisco. It has an amazing boardwalk. My favorite spot here is Old Town Mazatlán where you can see historic buildings, explore their museums, and check out some amazing restaurants. This is another popular stop on the longer cruises.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico: Another stop along the Baja Peninsula is Cabo San Lucas. This stop is common with the seven- and 10-night cruises. Here you can explore the beaches, do a little shopping, and enjoy its historic sights. 

What You Can Expect on a Cruise to Mexico from San Francisco

You will find cruises that run for four, five, seven, ten, or eleven nights. They run throughout the year, with most of the cruises running from September to May. 

What you can expect from the shorter cruises is just one to two stops in Mexico. The four- and five-night cruises often just stop in Ensenada for the day. The other days you will either be at sea or stop in Southern California ports such as LA, Santa Barbara, or San Diego. Even though it's a Mexico cruise, you will really only be there for one day.

The seven-night cruises usually also offer just one stop in Mexico and it's usually in Ensenada. For this cruise, you will find more stops along Southern California than the shorter cruises mentioned above. Instead of stopping at just two ports in Southern California, you will most likely stop at three ports on your way south toward Mexico. 

If you want to spend more than one day exploring Mexico, you'll want to look at the 11- or 12-day cruises. This gives you enough time to head further south and stop at additional ports such as Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas. 

The longer cruises offer quite a bit more time in Mexico than the shorter cruises, but also require that you be at sea longer. You'll often find that you are at sea for two or three days before you stop at your first port in Mexico. 

Usually you will then spend the next two to three days stopping at new ports and then a couple of days at sea again as you make your way back to San Francisco. 

If you can swing the time and money, I recommend opting for the longer 11- or 12-day cruises. They don't run as often, but you'll get to experience quite a bit more of what Mexico has to offer. 

What You Should Pack

The coast of California is usually cool but sunny. You'll find it's quite a bit cooler in San Francisco than your visit to Mexico.

That's one of the reasons I recommend packing a variety of layers. While in San Francisco, you may have to wear a couple of layers and you can remove then as you head further south.

Bring along a light-weight jacket, a sweater or two, and longer pants. I'd also recommend shorts and skirts for your stops in Mexico. Make sure you also bring along at least one pair of comfortable shoes so you don't hurt your feet while you are out exploring all of these amazing locations!

>> More on what to pack and wear for each month in San Francisco

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

Upcoming Dates for Cruises to Mexico from San Francisco

4-Night Cruise with Carnival

  • 2024: 5/9 - 13
  • 2025: 5/8 - 12, 5/22 - 26, 6/5 - 9, 6/19 - 23, 7/3 - 7, 7/17 - 21, 7/31 - 8/4, 8/14 - 18, 8/28 - 9/1

11-Night Cruise with Princess

  • 2024: 10/15 - 26, 11/16 - 27
  • 2025: 1/19 - 30, 3/8 - 19, 9/24 - 10/5, 10/19 - 30, 11/15 - 26
  • 2026: 1/18 - 29, 3/7 - 18

Book Your Cruise: Visit the Expedia website to find dates, prices, and to book your trip to the Mexican Riviera today! You will find more details on this cruise, as well as a few shorter and longer cruise options.

More About the 10- and 11-Night Cruises with Princess

mexican riviera cruise route

The 10- and 11-night Mexican Riviera Cruises are popular because they offer more stops in Mexico. They start and end at Pier 27 in San Francisco. The first few days of the cruise, you will be at sea catching some sun and relaxing before the real adventure begins.

You will head into a different port every day from Days 5 to 8. Stops include Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas. You will then spend another couple of days at sea before returning to San Francisco.

These cruises are either aboard the Crown Princess or the Ruby Princess. Both of these luxurious ships offer several onboard amenities, including a full spa, several pools, a casino, movies under the stars, indoor theaters, and several lounges.

They also have several food options from high-end dining to casual spots for pizza or burgers. If you prefer to stay in for the day or night, you can also order room service 24-hours a day.


Day 1

On the first day, you board your Princess cruise ship and set sail at around 4 pm. Make sure you stay outside as you will get wonderful views of SF and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Days 2 - 4

Sit back and relax on your first few days of the trip as it will take some time to cruise down to Mexico. Enjoy time in the casino, sampling new wines, or catching some rays at the pool.

Days 5 - 6

Your first stop will either be in Puerto Vallarta or Manzanillo (check the order on the itinerary for the particular cruise you choose). Both stops are from 8 am to 5 pm.

Puerto Vallarta is one of my favorite towns in Mexico, as it has gorgeous beaches and plenty of places to explore.

Some of the top shore excursions here include swimming with the dolphins, ziplining, and ATV adventure tours. You can also go on a guided walking tour around this historic city. Click here to visit Viator and learn more about the shore excursion options.

Manzanillo is south of Puerto Vallarta and also offers several fun activities. The picturesque bay is surrounded by golden beaches and jungle-covered mountains.

There is a shipwreck dive site that is teeming with marine life, as well as a turtle sanctuary, old ruins, and salt flats. You will again have all day to check out the sites. 

Day 7

You then cruise back up north for a stop in Mazatlán from about 8 am to 5 pm. Here you can hang out at the beach or enjoy one of many adventure activities.

This is another stop where you can swim with the dolphins, go ziplining, or head out on an ATV adventure. You can also tour Mazatlán on a self-guided bike tour, learn all about this town on a guided walking tour, or head out on an ecological jungle tour.

Click here to visit Viator and learn more about shore excursions in Mazatlán.

Day 8

Your final stop in Mexico is in Cabo San Lucas. Your arrival to this port of call is scheduled for 7 or 8 am. If you're on the 10-night cruise, you'll head back to the ship at 4 pm, but if you're on the 11-night cruise, you'll have until 10 pm to explore here. 

Adventure options here include going scuba diving, snorkeling, or kayaking. You can also hang out and relax on one of Cabo's gorgeous beaches or go horseback riding.

Click here for additional details on these and other shore excursions in Cabo San Lucas.

Days 9, 10 (and 11)

You now have some time to relax before you return to San Francisco. You will be cruising the Pacific Ocean with no more stops on Days 9 or 10 (or 11 if you're on the 11-night cruise).

Day 11 or 12

Depending on which cruise you chose, you will ride under the Golden Gate Bridge one more time before arriving at Pier 27 on Day 11 or 12 at 7 am.

If you plan to spend a little time in San Francisco either before or after your cruise, I recommend that you stay in the Fisherman's Wharf district near Pier 27, the cruise port.

This fun area offers shopping, bike rides to the Golden Gate Bridge, and ferry rides around the bay. You can also visit one of its many attractions, including the Aquarium of the Bay and the Maritime Museum.

It also offers dozens of places to eat, drink, and relax. Here are some of the top options for staying in Fisherman's Wharf.

Where to Stay Near Pier 27

Click here to find some additional Fisherman's Wharf hotel recommendations. You will find several for every budget.

Additional Cruise Destinations from San Francisco


Head out on an Alaska cruise that takes you through the Inside Passage. On these colorful tours, you will see glaciers, ice-capped mountains, and lots of wildlife. You will also stop at up to three towns in Alaska and visit one town in Canada on your way home.

Learn More: Find additional details for the Alaska cruises from SF


Another popular cruise destination is the Hawaiian Islands. You will find several dates from SF each year. On these trips, you will stop at up to four ports on the islands. You will also have several days at sea where you can relax and unwind. Most offer one final evening stop in the small port town of Ensenada, Mexico.

Learn More: Discover details on the Hawaiian cruises from SF


All of the Panama journeys take you south along the coasts of Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. You will then make your way through the Panama Canal and stop at either just a few or several places on the other side of the canal.

Learn More: Get itineraries for the Panama Canal options from SF

Other Options

In addition to the trips mentioned above, you will also find a handful of other options from SF. Some make the long journey to Australia, the South Pacific, or beyond. Others are shorter tips with stops along the western US coastline.

>> Find additional trip options from SF

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

I would love for you to join me in my private Facebook group

It's a great place to interact with me and others who know the area well.

You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It's a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!

Come join the fun here!

Cruises to Mexico from San Francisco Pin

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