Mexican travelers include the neighboring beach towns of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, in the state of Guerrero, as favorite destinations, but that’s where their similarity ends. Visitors to this area will encounter two decidedly different vacation destinations just 6.5 km (4 miles apart).
Ixtapa, once a coconut plantation, boasts the high-rise hotels, all-inclusive resorts, air-conditioned restaurants and upscale shopping you associate with Mexican beach resorts and luxury travel.
Zihuatanejo, on the other hand, evolved from quaint fishing village to backpackers’ hotspot to today’s incarnation of winding streets of galleries and folk art shops, small boutique hotels and palapa-style seafood restaurants serving the catch of the day. Backpackers still holiday here, but share the experience with honeymooners, snorkelers, swimmers, and cultural travelers who appreciate “Zihua’s” laid-back vibe and postcard-worthy scenery of rocky cliffs, sand and sea.
Many of Ixtapa’s resorts stand steps away from the shoreline, so you can easily enjoy dips into the sea and your hotel’s pools. Pull up a chaise lounge by the infinity pool, order a margarita and basking in the pristine oceanfront beach views.
In Zihuatanejo, grabbing a prime beach spot simply involves choosing your restaurant for lunch. Sit at an outdoor table in the shade of a palapa or beach umbrella and dig your toes into the sand. Perhaps you’d like to rent a hammock and take in the myriad shades of turquoise while children play soccer in the sand. An occasional cruise ship makes its slow progress across the crescent-shaped bay as parasailers dip and dive overhead.
Ixtapa appeals to folks seeking adventure vacations and outdoor recreation. Outfitters and hotels offer tours to Isla Ixtapa, where seafood shacks share beach space with stands renting snorkeling equipment. Whether you play golf or tennis, prefer lap swimming or scuba diving, devote yourself to sport fishing or surfing, you will find your activity in Ixtapa. Enlist the services of a guide to take you further afield to ride horses on remote trails or go bird watching near lagoons.
Zihuatanejo has its own host of adventures, many of which take advantage of the town’s protected bays and, further out, powerful waves. Hire a guide to take you by boat to Playa Las Gatas where legend tells of a Tarascan king who built a reef so his daughters could swim safely. Dotted with palm trees and fish taco joints, the beach affords snorkelers the opportunity to spot sea turtles and rare species of fish, including one that looks like it has blue jewels on its fins, creating sparkling underwater reflections.
Experienced divers join excursions to Los Morros de Potosi where white granite rocks protruding from the ocean provide shelter for pelicans and seagulls. Beneath the surface, divers delight in a network of caves, vertical walls, arches and tunnels.
Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo offer their visitors the pleasure of all sorts of discoveries—such as finding that masseuse who offers a two-hour massage in an open-air hut a stone’s toss from the ocean. Or spending an hour exploring “Zihua’s” thoroughfare called Calle Adelita and then choosing between the five-table humble family eateries or the slow food specialties at La Gula, a mansion with terrace dining. At the Delfiniti Ixtapa water park your day concludes with a dolphin giving you a kiss.
These are but a few of the ways you can enjoy two vacations in one at Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo.