As in a competition to see “who” shines brighter, Mexican resorts continuously jockey for the tourist dollar and highlight what their respective places have to offer. There is no shortage of press releases, commercials, travel deals and Tweets offering packages to places far and wide. But there is one place along the Pacific which has been silent to the joy of some, and that is: Zihuatanejo.
Zihuatanejo (Zee-wah-tah-neh-ho) in the state of Guerrero, or “Zee-wa” as known by some, is often overlooked as a destination in favor of the glitz and glam of other areas, but it really does offer a unique and valuable get-away for those seeking a tranquil and rustic feel of the “old days”.
Sitting roughly 150 miles northwest of Acapulco, it shares its immediate coastline with its neighbor to the north, Ixtapa. But unlike Ixtapa, another one of FONATUR’s “planned” resort areas, Zihuatanejo carries itself in a way that needs no enhancement or embellishment and enjoys the gift of a natural shelter due to its bay. Because of this, the visitor will not find belting waves of surf here. Instead, the beaches offer calm waters that lazily lap to a different rhythm from that found elsewhere.
This is also a place that maintains that nostalgic feel for Mexican fishing villages of the past. If you wander around Paseo del Pescador (fisherman’s path) in the early morning, you can see the daily catch being brought in to be sold and consumed by locals and tourists alike. This ambience and old spirit can still be enjoyed in the absence of the huge resorts that often line other beach areas and shelter their ocean-front slivers from the masses.
With numerous beaches to choose from, the visitor can engage in varied activities from snorkeling, swimming & parasailing, to just kick-back lounging and people-scanning. The principal beach, Playa Municipal, sits at the edge of the downtown area near the pier. Not the ideal beach for swimming, but you can still take in the local fisherman vibe as you watch the pangas (small fishing boats) skip across the bay, back from a long day of trolling. This can be done from a relaxing perch of the many cafes, which line the area and offer a good sampling of seafood.
If you’re seeking an area more suitable for swimming, and with a longer stretch of sand, you can always head south to Playa La Ropa. It’s an easy 20 minutes south of Playa Municipal, but offers more activities including kayaking and parasailing. It is also considered by some, to be the best place to catch a magical Zihua sunset.
Rounding up one of Zihuatanejo’s ideal beaches is Playa Las Gatas , or simply “Cat Beach”. This is an area that’s reached by taking a quick ferry ride from the city pier at Playa Municipal. The only beach to have some amount of coral, it provides ample opportunities for families wishing to snorkel and frolic in its serene waters amongst the backdrop of palm-studded patches.
As you can see, this area of Mexico provides seclusion and a striking departure from other, more touristy hotspots. It is also slated to be the recipient of recently approved state and federal funding for infrastructure improvement. Some reports mention that upwards of 60 million pesos will be allocated for façade improvements, street upgrades, enhanced lighting in beach areas and new park equipment. With this, interesting times are sure to come to the area and hopefully have an impact without sacrificing what it has struggled to maintain for so long…its “old ways”!
By air: Serviced by Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport (ZIH)
By land: Coastal Highway 200 reaches the area from Acapulco to the south and Manzanillo to the north
By bus: Two bus terminals provide service in and out of the area. They are: Central de Autobuses Estrella Blanca and Estrella de Oro