Ixtapa Island is one of the most popular attractions in Ixtapa and Zihua. The waters are filled with exotic fish and the beaches are well known for every water sport imaginable and a few deer. We took a day trip here and arranged it through the activities desk at the Las Brisas. For a $30 fee, we were given roundtrip transfers to and from our hotel and Playa Linda, water taxis to the island, a half-day of snorkeling with a guide and lunch. The transfer was a suburban-like truck that was filled with people from other hotels—everyone was friendly and happy to be going out for the day, which set a nice tone. After getting off the water taxi (a 10-minute ride), you have a few options as to where you can set up camp. Before doing so, the guide asks you to order your lunch and fit yourself for snorkeling equipment. Once done, you are free to go explore and sit anywhere you like.
The island has four beaches: Playa Cuachalatate, Playas Varadero, Playa Coral, and Playa Carey, each with their own character. Cuachalatate, named after a medicinal tree that grows here, is where the main boat pier is located and is generally the first stop for people visiting the island. This beach is lined with restaurants, a bar, and rental shops. If you take a short walk (west) on a marked path, you will find Varadero. There are old wooden fishing boats that are used as planters and decoration on this beach. This beach has sand that is a bit more yellow, and it’s narrower than the others. There are restaurants and water sports here, as well, with these bars serving pina coladas in the natural shell. Over the small "hill" is Playa Coral, which is the best for snorkeling. For the most part the restaurants that serve at Varadero Beach serve here too. This beach is called Coral because just off-shore, there are a ton of coral reefs (which is obviously why the snorkeling is the best here). Carey is the most undeveloped of all of the beaches and the smallest. Secluded, very lush, and quiet, this beach is also known as Sacrificio. There is a small lighthouse here and a nice view of the mainland. There are no restaurants or facilities on Carey, so it’s good that the other beaches are only a short walking distance away. Carey, in Spanish, means "species of turtle," which is interesting because there is a fenced area on this beach for hatching sea turtles (everything in Mexico stands for/means something).
So we finished up with the tour guide and walked over to Playa Coral (over the "hill"). We parked ourselves in a few lounge chairs right in front of the restaurant we were eating at later (that was prearranged). We figured that, this way, we’d get the best service, and it would be very convenient as well. There are no resorts here—just open-air restaurants, water-sport rentals, and some vendors, all of whom kept to themselves unless we approached them (what a nice change). The whole day was very relaxed, and we did everything at our own pace. Lunch was served promptly at 2pm (I got the feeling they did this a lot) and consisted of shrimp cocktail, fish tacos (their "signature" lunch in Ixtapa), crackers (I guess their version of bread), and a plantain for dessert. My husband doesn’t eat fish, so they were willing to accommodate him with beef tacos, and there was no fuss made at all.
The water was very warm, and the guide was great, even taking us around the island to snorkel and pointing out fish, attracting them with food, etc. We snorkeled for just about two hours with the guide and had the rest of the day there to ourselves. The staff at the restaurant was extremely accommodating and served us all kinds of fun drinks in coconut shells, pineapple shells, etc. The coral reefs provide for some really nice snorkeling, and the water is crystal-clear. It is very important to either have water shoes or flippers on, since the coral is everywhere and very sharp. I thought it was interesting to find out that no trash is kept on the island; it is all brought to the "mainland". I think that has a lot to do with how clean and pristine the island is in general.
Fortunately, we got another beautiful day, weather-wise, and when all was said and done, we were glad we took this excursion. Tip: if you should go on your own, look for water taxis that say "Cooperativo"; that way, your round-trip ticket will be valid for the ride back. It’s a great day to relax, to get some sun, or spend with your family.