The peninsular port city of Mazatlán crescendos dramatically as it thrusts into the sea, terminating in an imposing hill called Cerro del Creston. It is by far the highest point in the city, and offers commanding views of all that it surveys. And built atop the peak of Cerro del Creston is a lighthouse called El Faro — Spanish for “The Lighthouse” — which is one of the highest lighthouses in the world.
Do not mistake “highest” for “tallest,” as the structure of El Faro itself is not particularly tall. Standing two, maybe two-and-a-half stories or thereabouts, the vertical measure of the actual lighthouse building could be described as “just shy of regular,” as far as lighthouses (and a lot of other different kinds of buildings) are concerned. However, because its foundations rest upon the summit of a hill that towers 515 feet above the pounding surf below, this otherwise modest El Faro operates at a higher elevation than any other lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere, and is second in the world only to the Gibraltar Aerobeacon.
El Faro was originally built in 1879, utilizing an oil-burning lamp whose light was focused using a combination of mirrors and a Fresnel lens. This was a considerable improvement over the signal fires that had previously been lit atop Isla de Creston (as it was called before it was joined to the mainland by a causeway) since 1828. However, the signal of the new lighthouse was stationary and thus often mistaken for a star, so El Faro was upgraded in 1905 to a fully-rotating signal lit by a hydrogen gas lamp. An electric lamp replaced the hydrogen gas apparatus in 1933, and it is this light that shines forth from El Faro to this day. The lighthouse uses a 1,000-watt bulb that produces light equivalent to 600,000 candles that can be seen for 30 nautical miles.
El Faro is accessible to visitors via a 30-minute, moderately strenuous hike to the top of Cerro del Creston. Most people go more for the spectacular views of city, coastline and ocean, and less for the lighthouse, but hey, check them both out while you’re at it. Apparently there are sometimes people cliff diving off of ledges on Cerro del Creston. You won’t see anybody doing THAT at Gibraltar (probably).