If hearing “let’s go to Mexico on our next vacation” brings to mind long buffet and drink lines at “all-inclusive resorts” in beach towns that have been Americanize to the point you could have just driven to a beach on the Texas coastline, you’re not alone.
Golden beaches line both sides of this beautiful country with sportfishing being one of the biggest tourist attractions. However, one of the best beach towns in Mexico is a little town on the Pacific coastline nestled around a true horseshoe bay, Zihuatanejo. Zee-what-a-knee-ho? Never heard of it? Most people haven’t but some have heard of the town three miles down the road, Ixtapa. The Zihuatanejo - Ixtapa area still has traditional Mexico charm.
You won’t find a Starbucks, Nautica or Senor Frogs in Zihuatanejo, or a Carlos and Charlie for that matter. If that is your thing, head on over to Ixtapa and if you don’t look closely you might pass by for one of the popular local establishments. What you will find in Zihuatanejo is over 100 local family owned restaurants, bars and shops. Let’s not forget the beaches which Zihuatanejo has four of the most amazing beaches on the Pacific Ocean in the entire world and Ixtapa has an island!
Eating out in Zihuatanejo as more options than just tacos and Corona. However, if you do eat tacos these are the real deal with every tortilla homemade that morning with fresh ground corn by a grandmother. Mexican cuisine is the most popular of course. Seafood is also very popular and being a fishing town, “catch of the day” really means caught that morning. Fresh fish is prepared sushi style, grilled, fried, sashimi and ceviche styled. Italian and Mediterranean food come from the early centuries of European influence in Mexico’s history. The fresh made pasta with rich sauces and home grown produce make for a dining experience. Ixtapa dining out is focused around Marina Ixtapa. Beautiful meals, amazing wine list and yachts as far as the eye can see. One thing to remember when dining out in Zihuatanejo Ixtapa, is almost all if it will be made fresh and won’t come from a box or bag.
Nightlife in Zihuatanejo is causal and laid back. If you are looking for a romantic bar overlooking the bay with an extensive wine list, margaritas on the beach or salsa with dancing with master mixology martinis you won’t be disappointed. If you are looking for the bigger venues or want something dressier like Senor Frogs or Carlos and Charlie’s or a casino just hop over to Ixtapa ten minutes down the road.
Shopping in Zihuatanejo is filled with a vast array of products and stores. The artist market features all types of wooden and ceramic wares had painted in the store by local artist. Wonderful linen clothing, Taxco silver jewelry, hand blown glass and Mexican coffee and vanilla are also plentiful in several boutiques. The best deals are in Zihuatanejo but that is because Ixtapa caters to higher end stores. It is worth noting some of the best swimsuit stores are in Ixtapa.
There are four beaches on Zihuatanejo Bay and Isle Ixtapa for fun in the sun. La Playa Principal, Playa La Madera and Playa la Ropa can be access by walking and car. Playa Las Gatas is accessed by water taxi from the pier located at La Playa Principal. Isle Ixtapa is access of course by boat being an island and all. You can charter a small boat from Zihuatanejo or take a water taxi from Ixtapa. All beaches feature restaurants, shopping and water activities.
When visiting Zihuatanejo Ixtapa accommodations range from luxury oceanfront private villas on Zihuatanejo Bay to all-inclusive hotels in Ixtapa. An important to note about private rentals, the best come fully staffed. Private villas offer an entirely different vacation experience than a hotel. Unlike vacation rentals in other countries, having a full staff is a game changer. No more laundry, cooking or dish duty…everyone is on VACATION! It is the privacy of a home with the services of a hotel.
Mexico is a wonderful country filled with rich culture and history and it is much more than tacos and Coronas. In fact, most don’t know Mexico is home to thirty-five World Heritage Sites and twenty-one tentative sites as of 2019, designated by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Zihuatanejo – Ixtapa still feels like old world Mexico and is a best kept secret among seasoned travelers of Mexico.
This is the first of a series of articles featuring Zihuatanejo – Ixtapa in my vacation destinations. Upcoming topics will feature restaurants, beaches, villa rentals, activities and travel tips and this post will be updated with links as those articles are written.