Ixtapa Zihuatanejo Travel Guide

Ixtapa Bay

Suzanne Barbezat

A lovely sheltered bay on the Pacific coast of Guerrero state was home to a small fishing village called Zihuatanejo. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, the name means "Bay of Women." This was a beautiful and quiet paradise. In 1970 FONATUR, a Mexican government tourism agency, chose the coastline just north west of this spot to develop as a tourist resort area. Like some other popular beach destinations in Mexico, such as Cancun, Los Cabos and Huatulco, Ixtapa was designed with tourists' convenience in mind. The lovely stretch of coastline was built up with a string of resorts, two golf courses and a marina were created, as well as a small commercial area to host shops and restaurants.

Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are only 4 miles apart, but they offer distinctly different vibes. Ixtapa has large hotels and all the modern conveniences, Zihautanejo remains a charming Mexican town, though it has now grown to a population of some 60,000 people. These towns are located along the Mexican Riviera some 460 miles south of Puerto Vallarta and 150 miles north of Acapulco.

This dual vacation destination is perfect for travelers interested in adventure vacations and outdoor recreation. Ixtapa Zihuatanejo is certified as a "Culture of Peace Community" in partnership with the United Nations. In 2010, the community constructed a Peace Pole Monument as a symbol of its commitment to strive for peace. In 2015 it was deemed Mexico's 4th most popular destination in the Tripadvisor Readers' Choice Awards.

What To Do in Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo:

Enjoy the beaches: Ixtapa's main beach, El Palmar, has received Blue Flag certification. Other beaches to check out include Playa Quieta and Playa Linda, as well as Zihuatanejo's Playa Principal and Playa La Ropa.

Bike along the ciclopista, a 5 mile path designed for cyclists, runners, and skaters. A large section of it goes through a forested area where you can see birds and other wildlife.

Practice your swing on either of Ixtapa's two 18-hole championship golf courses.

Release sea turtles: Beginning in July, sea turtles (mainly laúd, golfina y carey) start arriving on the beaches of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. The eggs are collected and placed in protected areas until they hatch, then they will be cared for and released into the ocean. 

Where To Eat:

Many of the hotels have excellent restaurants. If you would like to venture off the resort, you might like to try Nueva Zelanda on Ixtapa's Plaza Kiosko, which (despite its name) offers real Mexican food, good breakfasts and choices of fresh fruit juices. For dinner, check out the restaurants at the Ixtapa Marina, there are several nice restaurants with a romantic or fun ambiance, depending on what you're looking for. La Sirena Gorda in Zihuatanejo has delicious fish tacos, ceviche, and other local specialties.

Day Trips:

Go on a snorkeling excursion to Ixtapa Island. Just a ten minute boat ride from Ixtapa's Playa Linda takes you to a small forested island with four tranquil beaches and chances for spotting underwater life.

Visit Xihuacan archaeological site, (formerly called Soledad de Maciel), located just a 45 minute drive from Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.

Getting There:

Several airlines offer direct flights from the United States and Canada to the Zihuatanejo international airport (ZIH). Zihuatanejo is located 583 km from Mexico City, an easy 40 minute flight. Buses from Mexico City depart from the the Terminal Sureño (South Terminal). If driving along the coast, it's about three hours drive from Acapulco.

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