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Zihuatanejo: A Place Among the Palm Groves

by planetnomad on July 29, 2010

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”!

Spending some time at Playa Las Gatas


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


Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Government Site

State of Guerrero

Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Tourism Site

Spanish article about future funding for improvements

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

ciki July 29, 2010 at 6:04 pm

oh yeah, in Malaysia there are many fishing villages that hold on fiercely to the old lifestyle. You can see the rest of the modern world passing them by but they are not even perturbed. It’s in these villages that one gets the freshest, cheapest seafood! All I can say is Zihuatanejo, don’t change! LOL 😉

planetnomad July 30, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Ciki, those Malaysian fishing villages sound great…especially if you can find “fresh & cheap” seafood. That’s music to my ears!! LOL “Progress” for a lot of smaller villages sometimes leads to a disruption of the “old way of life”, unfortunately…it’s a delicate dance for sure! Nice seeing you!

Cara Lopez Lee July 30, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Ahhhh, I see what you mean, Mark. I think it’s hard to get completely away from at least a little commercial tourism if you want a beach vacation these days… but it sounds, and looks, as if this comes pretty close. My husband and I went to Bucerias for our last couple of Mexican vacations, but though its relatively small and quiet, there’s a lot of construction noise these days, and it’s very close to the highway. We’ve been trying to think of someplace else, but everything seems so bustling with tourists. Maybe we’ll try Zihuatanejo. Thanks for the enticing info.

planetnomad July 31, 2010 at 10:53 am

Thanks for stopping by MU Cara! Great to see you here my friend! I agree there are so many “commercial” areas out there, especially the beaches, but Zihua really is special and still maintains that vibe as I’ve talked about here. It is definitely worth checking out and hey, you get to see a different place at the same time. It’s a win-win! Thanks again for the visit. Hope to see you here more often!

Jen Laceda August 1, 2010 at 9:03 am

I believe a few cruise ships dock at Zihua, although neighbouring Acapulco and Ixtapa are more popular with packaged vacationers. Zihua looks more like a place where locals go to vacation? I may be wrong.

planetnomad August 1, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Jen, Zihua does have its cruise stops, yet it maintains a whole different feel from other, bigger, more resort-oriented locations. That may be due to the lack of mega-resorts which end up swallowing large beach areas and making a place seem more impersonal and cold. And you’re right on the money with it being visited more by locals…I got that impression when I visited! It will be interesting to see what the future brings to the area. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the best. Thanks for your thoughts…always appreciate them!

kari September 12, 2010 at 5:31 pm

this is the town referenced in shawshank redemption, yes? love your site! hoping to make it down to mexico, currently touring the american west these last few months.

planetnomad September 13, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Kari, Thanks for stopping by MU! Yep, Zihua was featured in the movie, “Shawshank Redemption” and I believe “Playa La Ropa” (clothes beach) is the beach in the movie. Again, thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments….keep me posted on your travels to Mexico!

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