Written by jenandfrank on 02 Feb, 2005
In the heart of the Mexican Riviera lies Ixtapa. Referred to as "the taste of Mexican present and past" and surrounded by mountains and turquoise-blue water, this picturesque resort area is a perfect getaway. The beaches are pristine white and never crowded, while…Read More
In the heart of the Mexican Riviera lies Ixtapa. Referred to as "the taste of Mexican present and past" and surrounded by mountains and turquoise-blue water, this picturesque resort area is a perfect getaway. The beaches are pristine white and never crowded, while the people are warm and so welcoming. I’ve never been to a place where the locals are more appreciative than Ixtapa.
We flew from New York to Mexico City, claimed our bags, and had to recheck them before continuing on to Zihuatanejo. We flew Mexicana Air, and although I initially had ill feelings about this airline, my husband and I were both pleasantly surprised. The cab ride to Ixtapa was slightly disheartening after seeing how the locals live, many in shacks and rundown buildings. Our hotel was located along the Zona Hotelera, which is a 3km stretch along Playa del Palmar shaped like a horseshoe. For the movie buffs out there, this is where the final scene of The Shawshank Redemption was filmed. It is every bit as beautiful as the movie portrays it and then some.
A lot of people go to Ixtapa expecting Cancun – an Americanized environment with loud parties, drunks everywhere, tons of bars, clubs, etc… - you won’t find it here. I cringe when I read, "Well, we went to Cancun and loved it, came here and were bored and disappointed and it sucked, etc." If you are looking for a Cancun-esqe atmosphere with fast-food restaurants that deliver at midnight, then go back to Cancun. Ixtapa is for a more mature crowd, one that appreciates great food, great weather, top-notch service, and peace and quiet. Just because Cancun is in Mexico doesn’t mean that all of Mexico is like Cancun. I really don’t get why people compare the two. It’s like comparing Maui to Florida because they are both in the U.S. and are both "warm" locales. Get real. I feel better having said that.
In general, Ixtapa is not a real city; instead, it’s an upscale beach-resort area. Locals predominately live in Zihuatanejo and work in Ixtapa. Most of the hotels were built in the 1980s after a major tourism push was created in the 1970s by a Mexican tourism organization called FONTAR. They tried to push Ixtapa as a glitzy, expensive tourist area, which it is not, although the resorts are beautiful, the beach remains the big draw for vacationers, not the glam factor. In terms of museums, theater, etc., you will not find that here, but you will find two championship golf courses, sports fishing, galleries, boutiques, and a few five-star hotels. For night owls, there is Carlos and Charlie’s, Senor Frogs, and Christine’s Disco (in the Krystal Hotel).
We booked an excursion one day to go horseback riding on the beach at sunset. The cost was almost $200 and was an experience to remember. I swear our "guide" was drunk but entertaining to say the least. We were taken to a private beach that was unkept and had overgrown weeds everywhere. Our horses were beautiful but not very well-trained considering all mine wanted to do was go knee-deep into the water (my knees that is) and my husband’s horse kept turning around to bite him when he pulled on the reigns. We ended up cutting the trip short after less then a half hour, but it was worth it. We got some great pictures and had a true experience that we will never forget. I think that if we were true equestrians, we would have really enjoyed ourselves since the beach was as long as the eye could see and empty, the guide was not on top of us, and the weather was beautiful.
The weather here tends to be hot and humid most of the time, with their rainy season occurring during the fall season in the United States. That being said, we were there in late October and never had a rainy day. I did mention it, though, because the bugs were out in full force and we were unprepared. My legs were covered in bites.
Generally speaking, the drinking water in Mexico is not exactly the safest, and although the hotels have purifying systems, your best bet is to just drink bottled water. Banks are open Monday to Saturday, just like at home, with varying hours. We found two internet cafés: Dolfy’s and Comunicacion Mundial in town. Buses run between Ixtapa and Zihua every 15 minutes or so and are usually packed with the locals. The bus fare is less then $0.50. Cabs were reasonably priced but not governed by anyone so the rates varied. It’s in your best interest to negotiate a rate before getting into the cab – this way there are no surprises. On average, the cabs from Ixtapa to Zihua were about $5 one-way. Our cab from the airport was less then $10 and took about 20 minutes. Car rentals are possible and cheaper to rent in advance, but I don’t think it’s necessary. The signs are all in Spanish and very vague, plus the public transportation is cheap and ample, so why bother.
There is a mall called The Mercado de Artesania Turistico in Ixtapa (just like in Zihua) that has 150 stands and stalls where bartering is a sport. It is smaller then the one located in Zihua, but the vendors here sell all of the same items, from wood carvings to leather and from jewelry to souvenirs. This mall became popular after a law was passed that vendors were no longer allowed to sell on the beach. Before you go to Ixtapa, decide whether all-inclusive appeals to you. For us, that is never an option because we like to explore and check out highly rated restaurants. If you are the type who never wants to leave the resort, this town is a great option for that and you will be well taken care of. Packages range, as do prices, but the Las Brisas does not offer it at all. We heard many people complain about timeshare pitches, but at the Brisas we were not approached by anyone. Most of our days were spent outside until 2-ish, then taking naps on our terrace on the hammock, and then going out to a nice dinner. How much more relaxed could two people get?! When all is said and done, it was a fantastic trip. Just to say it was relaxing would be an understatement. This is Highly Recommended.
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…Read More
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.
The city of Zihuatanejo (pronounced see-wan-tin-a-o), also referred to by locals as Zihua for short, is located southwest of Mexico City and is considered the "sister" village to Ixtapa. That means, when someone refers to one, they are usually speaking of both, although Zihua is…Read More
The city of Zihuatanejo (pronounced see-wan-tin-a-o), also referred to by locals as Zihua for short, is located southwest of Mexico City and is considered the "sister" village to Ixtapa. That means, when someone refers to one, they are usually speaking of both, although Zihua is very different from Ixtapa in every way. Zihua is the classic Mexican beach village, and Ixtapa is more of a luxury, high-rise sort of town. Zihua was made famous in the final scene of the movie, "Shawshank Redemption".
Less than 30 years ago, Zihua was known only as a fishing village where the locals were willing to live without basic amenities (like running water) in order to be in paradise. It wasn’t until the city of Ixtapa was built up that Zihua began to make a name for itself, although it has remained a low-key, lower-budget village. Today the streets have been paved, boutique resorts have been built, and the fishermen have become entrepreneurs by working with nearby resorts (to provide local catch for their restaurants) and by hosting fishing charters. Although there are very expensive boutique-resorts located in Zihua, overall most of the budget lodging will be found here, rather than Ixtapa. This is also the home to the airport, which is located in a very dirty and poor part of town. The major shopping "mall" in Zihuatanejo is called Mercado de Artesania Turistico and has 255 stalls and stands selling everything from silver jewelry and masks to ceramics and T-shirts. A supermarket called Mercado Central sells excellent tropical fruit, veggies, fresh fish, and booze, and it's easy to get to by bus.
Obviously known for its beaches, Zihuatanejo has four major areas to speak of: Fisherman’s Walk on Playa Municipal (also known as Municipal Beach), Playa La Ropa, La Madera Beach, and Las Gatas. Fisherman’s Walk (also known as Paseo del Pescador) is a pedestrian walkway along the municipal beach between the fishing pier and the regional museum. The "walk" is shaded by trees and is lined with restaurants, shops, and a small shell market. You’ll see both tourists and locals relaxing on benches, having picnics, or shopping daily here. The Regional Museum of Archaeology is at the southern tip of the municipal beach. Inside, there are historical and archaeological artifacts from the region. At the fishing pier, you can buy tickets for small boat rentals, taxi tickets to Las Gatas Beach, or purchase fresh fish from one of the local fisherman’s tables. The Port Captain's office also arranges fishing charters here, if you’re interested. During the first week of May, Zihua hosts an annual International Sailfish Tournament, where hundreds of fisherman come hoping to win a prize for the largest sailfish, marlin, or dorado. There is live music, food, drinks, and a ton of people for the 3-day event. Other events are held during the year, as well, but this one is by far the most popular and well-attended.
Playa La Ropa is a long white-sand beach which goes from the Zihuatanejo Bay to the south part of town. It is by far the most convenient beach here and is considered by locals as the best. Only a 5-minute cab ride from downtown, this beach has lots of great seafood and international cuisine restaurants from the very casual to the very expensive. The northwest end of the beach is home to expensive residences built up on the rocks (near La Casa Que Canta and Villa de la Roca resorts). The rocks provide a great area for snorkeling. The Sotavento was the first hotel to be built on this beach. La Ropa is a great beach for swimming, since the waves are small and there are plenty of rental places if you are interesting in snorkeling, jet-skiing, sailing, or just getting an umbrella to lay out. Between the Villa Mexican and the Villa del Sol resorts, you will find a small market filled with souvenirs, hammocks, rugs, etc. Similar to the Las Brisas, many of the hotels along this beach are part of the "turtle conservation campaign" in which staff members rescue turtle eggs that are abandoned by their mothers and cultivate them before setting them free into the ocean.
There isn’t much to say about Playa La Madera, also known as "Wood Beach". It’s basically a small beach between the Municipal Beach and Promontory Over (a road). This is the beach where you’ll see surfers, condos, bungalows, and some hotels. Playa Las Gatas is considered a very special beach here; legend says it was the playground for ancient royalty. The legend goes on to say that a man-made reef was created to provide a safe swimming area for an Indian princess. To get here, take a taxi from the municipal fishing pier ($3 round-trip) across the bay. This beach has no major hotels, no roads, and is a safe place to swim and spend the day (children included). Las Gatas is by far the most popular snorkeling beach in Zihua, and there are several areas for wave-runner rentals and banana-boat rides. The last taxi heads back around 5-ish, so ask before you go or get there with a tour. Camping is permitted here if you get permission from the restaurants (can you imagine); if not, there is the Las Gatas Beach Club at the far end of the beach, which has a few very simple bungalows for rent. Overall, there are no major sights or sightseeing in Zihuatanejo, but the land is beautiful and exotic, the beaches are unspoiled, and the people are warm—you will never want to leave. If you chose to stay in Ixtapa like we did, make your best effort to at least come to Zihua for dinner, because the restaurants are some of the best and definitely the most romantic. The best resort here is La Casa Que Canta, hands down.
Written by jenandfrank on 01 Feb, 2005
Las Brisas Hotel & Resort – Playa Vistahermosa, Ixtapa, 52-755-55-32121
Formerly the Westin Las Brisas, this hotel left the Starwood chain in 2001 but is still widely knows at "the Westin" by the locals. Located 20 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes from…Read More
Las Brisas Hotel & Resort – Playa Vistahermosa, Ixtapa, 52-755-55-32121
Formerly the Westin Las Brisas, this hotel left the Starwood chain in 2001 but is still widely knows at "the Westin" by the locals. Located 20 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes from Zihuatanejo, this orange, pyramid-shaped building was built into the side of a mountain, separated from the rest of the hotel strip. This resort is surrounded by incredible views and lush vegetation (on a private beach). It’s definitely the most stunning of all the hotels in Ixtapa, hands down. Pictures cannot really relate what a beautiful hotel this is. The drive up was unimpressive and was sort of a disappointment, since we heard what an incredible resort we were going to. Valet parking is free, and after walking past the carport and into the lobby, we realized that this was going to be a great vacation. The lobby is absolutely huge, with tremendous columns, lots of bright colors, a huge front desk, unbelievable open views, clay tile floors, and a funky lobby lounge. The lobby lounge has shag carpet, brightly colored pillows, a large bar, and a large sitting area both inside and outside, with unparalleled views. The bar has live music at sunset every night, and it’s usually still hopping into the wee hours. The front desk staff was attentive, quick, and very helpful. The concierge desk was off to the left of the front desk, and she had baker’s hours, it seemed, but was very sweet.
There are 416 oceanfront rooms (every one with terrific ocean views) and 26 suites with a contemporary Mexican design. The rooms are done in a minimalist style with Mexican flair—white with brightly colored bedding and decorations (ours was all royal blue). The headboards are done in artisan tile, and the floors are clay. There are white "shutter" sliding doors that open completely to your terrace. Depending on the room, the oversized terraces have everything from hammocks and picnic-style tables to Jacuzzis. The terraces have both full sun and fully shaded areas. The way the building was constructed, everyone has privacy on their terraces and a full ocean view at the same time. All rooms come equipped with a minibar, hair dryer, coffee maker, ceiling fans, satellite TV, safe, and purified water system. They do offer Internet connections, but they have a very slow server, so it took a lot of time to connect or stay connected. The air-conditioning works very well but turns off automatically when you open the shutter doors or when you take the key out of the air-conditioning control (the room key is what turns the a/c on and off, making it impossible for you to leave the ac on when you leave the room—unless you get two keys, that is). The closet door is actually a fishnet, which I thought was different and gave the room a different feel. Housekeeping was excellent—probably some of the best we have ever had. They left us floral pictures on our bed every day, made out of hibiscus, and performed turn-down service with treats on our pillows every night.
Although this hotel is great and we would go back in a second, I think it’s fair to say that it is less glamorous than a place like the Four Seasons. By that, I don’t mean to suggest this is like a Best Western or Days Inn—which it is NOT in any way. But there aren’t expensive draperies or expensive wood furniture anywhere. People are not on their cell phone at the pool getting Evian spritzes and moist scented towels etc. Things here are simple and clean, with a natural/nature look and feel. To get to the pool or the beach, you must take the elevator down (way down). I thought that was different and fun. The walk to the pool area is sort of a long one, but it’s beautiful, as you walk through a "jungle-esque" atmosphere with the ocean on your right (the hotel also has a shuttle). The hotel offers four (different-level) pools with tons of seating and a pool grill nearby. Each pool is done in royal blue tiles and white grouting with fountains, waterfalls, ocean views, privacy, and they are all kept extremely clean. There are places to sit in the shade and plenty of lounge chairs in the direct sun. The pools even have "seating" areas in the water, where you are in the water but only waist deep or lower. There are ample and very clean bathrooms (so you don’t have to trek it back to your room) and a great pool staff. While at the pool, you almost feel like you are somewhere else, since you can’t see the hotel at all and everything is so lush. There is no vendors & no music— so it’s total relaxation. And.. no kids while we were there!
The beach is clean and private, and there is always room, so there is never a need to rush down there to get a spot. The only way to the beach is through the hotel, so there is a high level of privacy here. You definitely get what you pay for, without question. On the beach, the Las Brisas staff rescues sea turtle eggs that are left by their mothers. They put them in salt-water tubs on the beach and let them hatch and grow before releasing them. It's interesting to see (especially for a kid) and so heartwarming that the staff does it at all.
Most of the hotel’s activities are off-site due to the rough water behind the resort, but all are within 5 minutes. The hotel uses both Palma Real Golf Club and the Marina Ixtapa Golf Club for their guests. There is a gym, beauty parlor, small shops, car rental booth, activities booth (separate from the concierge), kids club, and six restaurants on-site. The Portofino restaurant is the Italian restaurant on the premises, and it was delicious. The service was as good as the rest of the hotel. We paid for a Royal Club Level room and received free continental breakfast every day and a cocktail hour every night starting at 5pm. Cocktails included wines, margaritas, guacamole, cheeses, salsas, and dessert. The concierge desk runs/maintains the club level, so there is always a concierge person on-site for questions. The actual club room was okay, cafeteria-like with a TV, but it did the job. It’s definitely a place to forget about life at home and be totally relaxed and pampered. The activities desk setup a sunset horseback riding trip for us and a day trip to Ixtapa Island. Both excursions were great and went off without a hitch, transfers included.
We went in the fall, which is rainy season here. Although it didn’t rain one day during our vacation, the bugs were out in large supply. Due to the fact that the resort has so many plants, trees, and just vegetation, in general, you must bring bug spray. My legs got so bitten up, I looked like I had the chicken pox. (of course, my husband did not get bitten once) Although the hotel had kid-accomodations, to me, this is not a place for children. For that matter, it's not a place for large groups of rowdy friends either. This is not Cancun, and you will not find that atmosphere anywhere in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo, especially not at the Las Brisas. The staff here was gracious and so helpful—they actually seemed happy we were there. Although the resort is large, we never saw many people and never felt rushed or like a number here. Lots of honeymooners and couples just looking to get away.
Very Highly Recommended.
Written by beach_lvr on 11 Oct, 2004
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…Read More
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.
Written by Ishtar on 23 Sep, 2003
Before you go to Ixtapa, do some things from home rather than wait until you get there:
1) Rent a car online. If you wait until you get down there, the cost is 300% more. No kidding.
2) If you don’t care how you get around, as…Read More
Before you go to Ixtapa, do some things from home rather than wait until you get there:
1) Rent a car online. If you wait until you get down there, the cost is 300% more. No kidding.
2) If you don’t care how you get around, as long as it has four wheels, DO NOT rent a VW bug. They may be cute, but they have no air conditioning, and you will die. Case closed. We switched over to an Atos for only $29 more, and it’s worth every penny.
3) If you pick up your car at the airport, rather than at some downtown point in Zihua, there is an additional airport charge. This may be a little vague, because most of the cars are stored at the airport. When we visited Hertz downtown, they had no vehicles.
4) If you are flying from the West Coast, you might want to forget the usual carriers, unless you want to spend the whole day traveling. We took Mexicana, and had quite the tour. San Jose > Guadalajara > Mexico City > Zihuatanejo > Acapulco > Zihuatanejo. And that was just getting down there. The extra stop in Acapulco was due to inclement weather in Zihuatanejo. Alaska Airlines flies directly there from the Bay Area.
5) Try to learn some basic Spanish phrases; even in the best of circumstances, most people don’t speak English. An effort on your part will elicit pleased responses and more assistance.
6) If you want a wild and crazy vacation, this is not the place.
7) Be prepared to attend at least one, if not more, timeshare presentations. Most of the hotels have their own, and if not that, other hotels will recruit you with rewards too good to pass up.
8) If you have trouble with currency, an easy way to translate pesos into dollars is to move the decimal point over one place (to the left). Try not to exchange dollars for pesos there; the buying rate is more favorable here. Otherwise, get your pesos through an ATM, which will give you great rates.
9) Don’t drink the water. Bottled water is plentiful and cheap, except in the hotels. They have a mini-market in Ixtapa where the bottles are three for $1.00 instead of $2.50 each in the hotels.
10) We had no trouble with foods, fruits, etc. Avoid trouble by not shopping in places with no refrigeration, as in the Mercado Central in Zihua. If you stick to fish which is broiled, you can’t go wrong. And the fruit is outstanding. Green oranges are wonderful, even though they look sickly, and mangoes are completely yellow, but quite sweet.
11) If you want to try out an expensive restaurant, call ahead just to find out what the deal is, to avoid disappointment. We had such an instance with "Bogart’s," which was next door and had all the looks of a Moroccan place. They also describe it themselves as recreating the exotic charm of the movie Casablanca. Cuisine combined with the Arabian nights, etc. The food is totally Continental; it’s just the ambience which is Oriental. Now isn’t that silly?
12) This is a great place to buy leather, silver, and local crafts. You can get amazing pieces with real stones at up to 30% off. I was also able to have one of the sellers make a custom piece for me right on the spot. Where else does this happen?
13) Many Americans and Canadians have apparently decided to retire here. If the thought crosses your mind, make sure you have mucho bucks. Some of the properties in Ixtapa especially are breathtaking, and their prices match.
14) Take side trips if you have time. We went to Petatlan, and loved the experience. The new highway route 200 goes all the way to Acapulco (it takes about 3.5 hours to get there, heading south of Ixtapa). You can also head north to Morelia in another 3 hours or so.
15) The Barcelo Beach Resort hosts theme nights that include music, dancing, and food relative to the culture being presented. Among them is Argentine night, Mexican Fiesta, Tropical Night, and International Night. Tickets run about $35-$40 a person. You can call ahead for tickets to Jose Alfredo at 044-755-1010-527. This is his cellphone.
16) Make sure your passport is current.
El Faro – Pacifica Resort, Ixtapa, 52-755-553-2090
Boasting beautiful panoramic views of the beach, the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding hotel-zone resorts, this restaurant/bar is a perfect place to eat, dance, and just relax under the stars. The best seats for dining are…Read More
El Faro – Pacifica Resort, Ixtapa, 52-755-553-2090
Boasting beautiful panoramic views of the beach, the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding hotel-zone resorts, this restaurant/bar is a perfect place to eat, dance, and just relax under the stars. The best seats for dining are those outside on the patio or inside, next to the huge windows. There is also a barstool and table area on the side of the restaurant that faces the hotel strip, if you want to just hang out and have appetizers. Great atmosphere, very laid back and casual, with a seafood cuisine (although there are other non-fish items). There was a "gondola ride" available for all guests that went from the beach level up the hillside to the restaurant. Sort of like a cross between a ski-lift and a cable car. It was a quick trip up, free, and an interesting way to start your evening. They have a lobster buffet on Friday evenings, starting at 6pm, which includes a salad bar and a glass of wine for $37/per person. They have a few at-the-table-preparation dinner options, like the Caesar salad and steak for two. Reservations are suggested, but not required. This makes for an enjoyable meal with great views (especially around sunset) and friendly staff. It can be pricey, so don’t be fooled by the casual atmosphere. Recommended.
La Casa Que Canta Restaurant – La Casa Que Canta Hotel, Camino Escenico a Playa la Ropa Beach, Zihuatanejo, 755-555-7000, www.lacasaquecanta.com
Voted the World’s Best Hotel and Restaurant in Mexico and Central America by Leisure Travel magazine, this restaurant serves extremely fresh upscale Mexican food, and their menu changes seasonally (they buy only enough fish for that evening—what does that tell you?). The resort is secluded and romantic and a perfect place for a special evening, with top-of-the-line service and bats that fly overhead after dark (that was an experience). It’s a clifftop restaurant with alfresco-style dining with unbelievable views of the ocean, the waves that crash against the bluffs, and one of the hotel’s many infinity pools. Try to snag a prime oceanview table. The tables are black, wrought-iron, and everything is covered in white linens with lots of candles. There’s a very extensive, international wine list. Overall, it’s an expensive meal with reservations required and appropriate attire: no sandals, shorts, T-shirts, etc. The film When a Man Loves a Woman was shot here. Breakfast and lunch are served only to hotel guests, and no children under 16 are allowed at all. The staff members were falling over themselves to take care of us, and we never wanted for anything. All major credit cards are accepted, and there is free valet parking. Highly Recommended (especially at sunset).
The Restaurant at Villa del Sol – Playa la Ropa, Zihuatanejo, 755-554-2239, www.hotelvilladelsol.com Depending on whom you speak to, this restaurant serves a) Pacific-Mediterranean, b) International, and/or c) French cuisine. Whatever it is, it’s delicious, and the menu in general emphasizes local seafood. If you get there early enough, you can see the local fishermen catching the fish for the evening (right off the beach). They offer a Mexican fiesta (a large buffet) on Friday nights with live entertainment. The restaurant is all open but covered with a high wooden/thatched roof, lots of lights, and a large bar. I found it interesting that the restaurant was so large and the hotel was boutique-like. There are views of the beach and ocean, but they are far off and sort of blocked by tables, plants, and bushes. Villa del Sol does offer full-beach dining (meaning the same menu and same table setups that you would receive in the actual restaurant). Mariachi bands are available for that, as well. Beach dining here is a romantic choice, depending on the season, due to the fact that this area tends to get buggy during rainy season (which is during the fall in the U.S.). The kitchen will accommodate any special requests, provided they have a day’s notice. The staff was quick, friendly, and knowledgeable. All major credit cards are accepted. They serve all three meals (opens at 8:30am), and the dress is casual. The owner, Helmut Leins, oversees everything at the hotel and the restaurant. Reservations required. Pricey. Highly Recommended.
Kau-Kan – Carretera Escenica, Lote 7 en route to Playa la Ropa, Zihuatanejo, 755-554-8446 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This restaurant is sort of located off the beaten path, so I suggest taking a cab here. Its food was voted "Best Food in Town" by Bon Appetit magazine. Chef Ricardo Rodriguez has put together a predominantly seafood menu with a few choice selections (my non-seafood-eating husband was happy with the other choices). The menu varies due to the catch of the day, but everything is right out of the water fresh. Their signature dish is stingray in black butter sauce, and it’s excellent. The food was eclectic and imaginative, to say the least, with excellent service (there was a small language barrier) and an elegant atmosphere. There are "compliments of the chef" goodies throughout the meal, which I love. There’s rooftop seating with views of the bay and the city of Zihuatanejo. All tables near the water face that way, so your back is to the rest of the restaurant (this is another great place for sunset dining).
When you first walk in (to the main level), there is a big, open window that faces the bay with a large red "window-seat" in front of it. It’s a nice area to sit with a cocktail or while waiting for your cab. The stucco walls have large oil paintings hanging on them with a very homey Mexican feel. Meals here are pricey, and reservations are required because there is very limited seating (although they will that say reservations are not required—do yourself a favor). All major credit cards are accepted, and they’re open for lunch during high season only. There were no children while we were there, I’m guessing because of the cost of the food and the type of cuisine. The restaurant plays soft music in the background, and it’s a very quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Highly Recommended.
Written by Adi_belle on 04 Sep, 2005
The name of Zihuatanejo comes from the nahuatl word ‘Cihuatlan,’ which means "place of women," due to all the wives the king had. The king’s men constructed a great part of the rock reef in the area for the purpose of simulating a large pool…Read More
The name of Zihuatanejo comes from the nahuatl word ‘Cihuatlan,’ which means "place of women," due to all the wives the king had. The king’s men constructed a great part of the rock reef in the area for the purpose of simulating a large pool so his many wives could get into the water without any worries. Part of this construction is still found at Las Gatas beach. The idea behind the building of Ixtapa was to develop a first-class complement to the popular Zihuatanejo and make a small world-class resort for the tourists who do not like big cities or big destinations. The first hotel was built in 1971. To keep the tradition of naming Mexico’s new tourist destinations in native tongues, in honor to our ancestors, they chose the nahuatl word Ixtapa, which means "the white place," in reference to the white sands in the area. During the development stages, the local people referred to it as "The New Zihuatanejo." Once it got on the map, it took about a year for the townspeople to decide how to call the double destination... Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.
Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is like having your cake and eating it, too. Looking to while away your time at a friendly, picturesque fishing village? Or in the mood to unwind at an ultramodern resort? Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo has both. Few destinations offer visitors these two completely different options--each within minutes of the other, both with unique attractions. Ixtapa's coastline is filled with several world-class hotels, condominium developments, a marina and two golf courses. An impeccable, tree-lined boulevard divides the high-rise hotels on one side from a string of small-scale malls on the other. You can enjoy typical small-town life in neighboring Zihuatanejo, a once sleepy fishing village that began to attract visitors with its wonderful hilltop views and palm-strewn beaches, and now offers charming hotels, restaurants, and shops. Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo has become such a popular destination that on holidays or during the tourist season, it is hard to get hotel accommodations and airplane seats. U.S. and Canadian tourists who visit the dual resort are delighted by the fine climate, warm surf, and absolutely breathtaking sunsets. You can enjoy all types of activities, including snorkeling, water activities, and the wildlife, such as the crocodile and iguana reserve and swimming with dolphins. The average temperature is 82 degrees F, and it's almost always sunny, because even during the rainy season, showers are brief and usually in the late afternoon or evening.
Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is just a 3-hour drive from Acapulco, or about a 7-hour drive direct from Mexico City. By air, it is a scant 40-minute flight from the capital, and there are also direct flights from the U.S. If you enjoy travelling by land, you can grab a luxury bus from Mexico City or virtually any other city in Mexico to take you to Ixtapa. From Mexico City, it is only 9 hours by bus and extremely safe.
Because Ixtapa is not as popular a destination as Cancun, for example, it tends to get very pricy at times. You can easily get around in urban buses, and taxis can get very expensive. For 14 pesos (about 1 dollar), you can travel back and forth between Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. Dining is excellent in the area, although again, a bit expensive. You would think that seafood prices would not be as high, but after a few days, it does hit your wallet. Check my dining recommendations in this journal, which is pretty much fit for all budgets.
Written by NocRN on 06 Nov, 2002
You have to go to Ixtapa Island for snorkeling and fish tacos. You start by taking a bus to Playa Quieta, that you can catch anywhere in the hotel area. The fare is about 5 pesos each, or around 53-cents. When you get to Playa…Read More
You have to go to Ixtapa Island for snorkeling and fish tacos. You start by taking a bus to Playa Quieta, that you can catch anywhere in the hotel area. The fare is about 5 pesos each, or around 53-cents. When you get to Playa Quieta, you take a water taxi to Ixtapa Island-Coral Beach. The fare here is around 30 pesos per person, or about US$3.17, round-trip. After the water taxi lets you off, walk through all the lounge chairs to the other side of the island (just over the hill). You will see the coral area and probably snorkelers in the water. The reef goes out quite a ways and the fish are the most brilliant colors. Be careful, though, as some like to nip at your feet! We spent time snorkeling, laying in the sun, and eating. When you get hungry, order the fish tacos. They are wonderful! You get a platter with about 4 or so and all the condiments. Of course, they go great with cold Coronas! The water is warm and clear and the scenery is simply beautiful. We went early in the morning and stayed the whole day. The last water taxi leaves the island around 5:30pm. It is very quiet and peaceful here and the breeze under the palm umbrellas is relaxing. We went back there on our last day to spend one last day snorkeling and relaxing. Close
Written by datnurse on 06 Nov, 2000
Since we were shuttling in from Zihuatanejo we simply stayed on the shuttle until it arrived at Playa Linda. If you're staying in Ixtapa you can catch the shuttle too or simply hop in a cab and go about 10 km north. This…Read More
Since we were shuttling in from Zihuatanejo we simply stayed on the shuttle until it arrived at Playa Linda. If you're staying in Ixtapa you can catch the shuttle too or simply hop in a cab and go about 10 km north. This beach has both water-sport rentals available but, for me, the attraction is the horses for rent! For about $10 an hour you are led on a beachfront trailride. With the cool seabreeze blowing through your hair, especialy if you take this ride near sundown when the light plays subtle tricks on the imagination, you can let your imagination soar and live any fantasy you chose. Me? I was the Mexican maiden being led away to my captors villa. He was a young man of Spanish descent with smooth, brown skin, well-developed pectorals and a butt you could bounce a quarter off!
Playa Linda is important for one other reason. This is where you catch the launch to Isla Ixtapa and THAT's where the terrific snorkeling is found. Close