Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo

Perhaps best known outside Mexico as the beach where Andy Dufresne, the lead character in The Shawshank Redemption, escapes to at the end of the film, the sleepy seaside village of Zihuatanejo is actually a small, friendly resort town on a section of the Pacific coast known as the Costa Grande. Sitting on a well-protected bay, Zihuatanejo is popular with boats, both large (cruise ships) and small (private yachts). The protected harbour still shelters the local fishing fleet, and the town is a great place to try some local seafood. Head down to the waterfront walkway, the Paseo del Pescador (Fisherman’s Path), which is lined with restaurants offering seafood and many other dishes. Just north of the traditional charm of Zihuatanejo lies Ixtapa, a former coconut plantation. The local government began building hotels in the late 70s to create a Pacific Coast Cancun-style resort. Large, luxury all-inclusive resorts have sprung up along the lovely Ixtapa Beach, catering specifically to international holidaymakers.
Zihuanatejo & Ixtapa Location

Rest and Relaxation

Many of Ixtapa's resorts are a stone's throw from the shoreline so enjoy a choice of beach lounging or linger by the infinity pool with a cocktail, soaking up the sun and views. Nearby is Playa Linda, a narrow beach close to Ixtapa Island which provides a sheltered place to swim. Visit the eco-reserve to see crocodiles, iguanas, turtles and birds or stroll along the palm tree lined beachfront to shop the souvenir stalls. As the name suggests, Playa Quieta offers a more tranquil experience. Swim in the gentle waters near shore, or venture further out to sail, windsurf and snorkel. Zihuatanejo has a more laid back vibe where you can relax on small beaches lined with thatched roof shacks. Perhaps rent a hammock or find a masseuse for a massage in an open-air hut on the ocean front. Serene Playa Las Gatas has a man-made reef that borders the beach and protects it from strong waves, creating ideal conditions for corals and fish and therefore snorkelling. To get there, take the rocky footpath from Playa La Ropa or hire a water taxi.

 

 

Relaxing on beach at Ixtapa
Shutterstock

Activities and Sightseeing

There are endless activities and sights to see in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo including tennis, golf, swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, sportfishing, surfing, horseriding, birdwatching, jet skis, hobie craft rental, banana boat rides and parasailing. Take a water taxi out to Isla Ixtapa for great water sports, snorkelling and beach massages. Explore the beaches on an ATV tour, or visit Ixtapa’s aquarium, Delfiniti, a wonderful option for families. They have several programs for children and adults including a dolphin encounter, which may even involve a kiss. Visit Playa Las Gatas, by boat, where legend tells of a Tarascan king who built a reef so his daughters could swim safely. The beach is dotted with palm trees and the snorkelling provides the opportunity to spot sea turtles and rare species of fish. Experienced divers can venture to Los Morros de Potosi where white granite rocks protrud from the ocean and provide shelter for pelicans and seagulls. Beneath the surface, divers can explore a network of caves, vertical walls, arches and tunnels. Venture around 4 hours along the coast to Playa Maruata where you can see black turtles and a more relaxed beach town. 

 

Fishing in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo
Shutterstock

Shopping

For an authentic Mexican market, visit the bustling Mercado Central Zihuatanejo to find handmade tamales, tacos, fresh fish, clothes and souvenirs. The Mercado de Artensanias (crafts market) has 250 shops which sell a variety of crafts including local work done with seashells, coral and snail shells. Barter for a souvenir from a roving vendor or venture under a beach canopy for a massage or hair-braiding session. Delve into Zihuatanejo's winding streets of galleries and folk art shops, small boutique hotels and palapa-style seafood restaurants serving the catch of the day. 

Zihuatanejo Fans Market
Shutterstock

Sundown

Dance barefoot in the sand to live bands playing hits and classics in English and Spanish, admire the sunset aboard a romantic bay cruise, glam up for a posh club in Ixtapa's hotel zone or go casual at a relaxed bar on the shores of Zihuatanejo. Whatever tickles your fancy you'll find your scene in Ixtapa and Zihua. Start with Mexican happy hour. Walk along the Paseo del Pescador (fisherman’s path) in Zihuatanejo at sundown and you’ll have many local bar owners trying to tempt you in for Happy Hour with 2-for-1 Coronas. Head to Playa El Palmar or Zihuatanejo Bay, pull up a beach chair, order a cocktail and enjoy the sunset. Spend some time exploring Zihua’s thoroughfare, Calle Adelita, then choose a five-table humble family eatery or slow food specialties at La Gula, a mansion with terrace dining.

 

Ixtapa Sunset
Shutterstock

The Infinity Experience

Movie Fact
Parts of the movie 'Hot Pursuit' with John Cusack, Wendy Cazelle, Robert Loggia, Jerry Stiller and Ben Stiller (in his first starring role) were filmed in and around Ixtapa.