We depart the airopuerto in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, in a sputtering, pollution-emitting bus that will transport us to the Radisson Ixtapa (formerly the Omni). After a longer-than-usual flight from Texas to Mexico, I am ready to relax! We chat with the other tourists on our bus about the various hotels each of us are staying at. Meanwhile, I felt sorry for the taxis behind us; having to inhale the overwhelming fumes coming from the large black clouds of smoke via the exhaust on our bus. I begin to feel more thankful that U.S. states require emissions testing. On the other hand, if we're conforming to such strict emissions, while other countries are just spewing it out with no concern for our environment, I wonder how much good it does us to keep such strict standards on our cars when other countries seem to be unconcerned and probably emitting 10 times more than they ever used to. I snap out of the pollution debate going on inside my head, realizing that this is supposed to be relaxing vacation time, not world-issues discussion hour.
I glanced out the dirty, open window of our non-air-conditioned bus and saw a lot of very tiny, ramshackle, primitive dwellings beside the road. None of them appeared to have running water, and it was obvious that there were families of at least four living in each, many having small children. Most were spread out and not built together (not like the colonias you may see in other areas of Mexico). Zihuatanejo is apparently quite a poor city, much like the majority in Mexico. I hadn't seen anyone as poor as the locals here since my Dad and I had taken the drive from Texas to Monterrey, Mexico when I was a small child. As much as I was trying to focus on the positive, it was impossible to ignore the extreme poverty that I was seeing here. There were children running naked, barefoot, and dirty around their small shanties. They looked hungry, yet the ones playing in the dirty puddles of water were smiling. I wondered to myself how people could come to Ixtapa; spend 30 minutes to an hour on a bus seeing how poor these people were, children living without the basic necessities of life; and then proceed to their various five-star resorts, seemingly ignoring and conveniently forgetting all that they had seen on the way to their hotels. I note that, much like any third world country, we saw the occasional rare mansion amongst mostly poor housing. Obviously, there are a few wealthy people who reside here permanently, but the majority of the locals here are very poor.
After checking in at our somewhat disappointing resort and spending a day or two there, we decided it would be a good idea to spend the day somewhere else besides lounging around at the pool drinking Coco Locos. We showered and threw our bathing suits on and added shorts and t-shirts. We flip flopped our way out of the hotel and into a cab, heading for an unknown destination. After my husband and I get settled in the cab, I ask the driver, "¿Dónde está la playa más hermosa?" (in English: Where is the most beautiful beach?). The driver smiles and replies, " Playa La Ropa." I get quiet briefly because I know that La Ropa means clothing and playa means beach. Is he trying to say that the prettiest beach is called Clothes Beach? So I laugh and quip, " Playa La Ropa??!!!" He smiled again and replied excitedly, " Si, si señora!" He too began to giggle which made me wonder whether this was some sort of beach where I'm going to be expected to take off my clothes. He had an awfully evil grin on his face, so I said, " Yo nunca voy a playas desnudas" (I don't go to nude beaches). At this, he laughed so hard that I thought he was going to wreck the taxi. I started laughing too. My husband then crops up and in English says, " Hey, ya'll stop talking about me behind my back and laughing at me!" My husband was convinced that the taxi driver and I were talking negatively about him in a language he couldn't understand. This made me laugh more. I explained in Spanish to the driver that my husband thought we were talking badly about him in Spanish behind his back. The driver I and I laughed and laughed. I tried to convince my husband that we were not talking or laughing about him at all. My husband wasn't exactly buying it. Nevertheless, I proceeded to direct the driver to take us to Playa La Ropa. We were dropped off near La Gaviota, a casual, beach-side seafood restaurant on Playa La Ropa.
We took a taxi on two different days to Playa La Ropa; enjoying the food there, the locals, and water activities. We spent the rest of our week at the resort pool and beach.
Overall, I learned a few things from this trip. One, the locals here do not speak English nearly as well as the locals in Cancun. I recommend that anyone choosing to vacation in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo should definitely brush up on their conversational Spanish. Otherwise, it will be harder to get around; in some cases, impossible to communicate with locals and hotel staff. The people we encountered who knew the most English (very broken English) were to be found at the hotel check-in desk. However, even they knew little in the way of English. Negotiate the price of your cab fare before entering the cab - if not, you'll pay the price! Second, don't expect to find the glitz and glamour of Cancun here. There is a stark contrast between the tourist hotels and the areas immediately surrounding these hotels. While some of the hotels are quite nice and provide many of the amenities you expect, you'll see many extremely poor people living in shanties just a stone’s throw from the nice hotels in Ixtapa. The selection of hotels here is more limited than in Cancun, and the quality of hotels offered here are lower as well. Third, we did not encounter the blinding, powder-white beaches of Cancun here. The resort beach had a more coarse texture and was more beige in color. It wasn’t a darker beige like the beaches of California, but more a cross between the white beaches of Cancun and the dark beige beaches of California; light beige to be more precise. The water here was not crystal clear with unlimited visibility like it is on the Yucatan Peninsula. It's got some clarity, but if you've been to Cancun, you might be slightly disappointed. Expect to see locals bathing in the water here. Beaches are public and the people living in those shanties have to bathe somewhere. Ixtapa is a good place to vacation if you have been to Cancun or the Yucatan Peninsula one too many times and are looking for a change of scenery.