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Like Cancun, Ixtapa was developed by the Mexican government as a resort center about 30 years ago. Somewhat less crowded and more favored by Mexicans, Ixtapa still has everything the beach vacationer could want: great dining, fishing, golf, horseback riding, scuba diving, nightlife, and shopping. An added bonus is that half of the land on the site has been allotted for an ecological reserve. For these reasons, Ixtapa retains an atmosphere dominated by nature and solitude.
Four miles from Ixtapa is the fishing village of Zihuatanejo, and the two cities are often referred to Mexico's "Twin Resorts." Zihuatanejo is nothing like Ixtapa, however: it is much less crowded; less developed, and actually has an economy exclusive of tourism. The town also has small museums displaying local archeological finds dating back to the Olmecs.
With a year-round semi-tropical climate and average temperatures ranging from 73-93 degrees Fahrenheit, Zihuatanejo enjoys approximately 300 days of sun annually. The rainy season generally starts in June and carries on through the end of September or into October. The rains usually fall in the late afternoons or evenings and infuse the region with an intense greenness. Light and casual clothing is recommended - but remember to also bring a sweater or light jacket for evenings as the sea breeze at night can sometimes become unexpectedly chilly.
Average annual water temperature: 79F (26C). Winter average: 70F-73F (21-23C), Summer average: 80F-82F (27C-28C).
In Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, restaurants range from simple beach eateries to deluxe establishments with international chefs. Fresh fish and seafood -- such as shrimp, octopus, and oysters -- are the highlights of the regional cuisine.
Villas Caribe Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Restaurant Selections
Eclectic - $5 to $25. People-watchers like to settle in at the rope- and rigging-adorned bar of this Marina Ixtapa restaurant. You can eat on the terrace or in a reproduction galleon right on the water. The menu includes upscale Mexican and international fare. The tuna steak is outstanding, as are the pastas. But the signature dish is pollo galleón, medallions of chicken breast stuffed with lobster and bathed in a three-cheese sauce, served with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. AE, MC, V. Address: Plaza Marina Ixtapa, Ixtapa, Mexico.
Continental - $5 to $25. Eat at the horseshoe-shape bar -- especially if you happen to be by yourself -- on the covered patio, or out under the sky. Restored by owner Patricia Cumming's architect husband, Zihua's oldest house has a gorgeous patio open to the stars and surrounded by zillions of tiny white lights. The kitchen is consistent: try the roast pork loin, the sweet and zesty coconut shrimp, or one of the vegetarian offerings. Five different dessert coffees are prepared flaming at your table. In the evening a keyboarder or romantic duo playing bossa nova or jazz is sure to entertain. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed June-mid-Oct. Address: Pasaje Agustín Ramírez 1, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
Tamales Y Atoles Any:
Mexican – Under $5 to $10 (Highly Recommended). Six to eight different tamales are offered here each day, most savory, some sweet, all huge. A real treat is pozole: a delicious typical pork and hominy soup where you add your own condiments; even the "baby" size is huge. Everything about the place is typically Mexican -- crockery and coffee mugs, colorful striped table coverings, and local radio music in the background. The roof is thatched, and the walls are painted in vivid rural scenes. There's breakfast every day but Sunday. MC, V. Address: Calle Ejido 38, at Calle Vicente Guerrero, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
La Sirena Gorda:
Seafood – Under $5 to $25. Hundreds of model sailing vessels hang from the patio ceiling, and oil paintings depict the namesake "fat mermaid" at this small, friendly restaurant between the pier and the fish market. The setting is casual, with a dark, quaint, wraparound bar -- unfortunately often hot and still -- and two patios overlooking the town's lazy pedestrian walkway. The soundtrack of Latino tunes is at a volume that permits conversation. Specialties include seafood tacos, surf and turf, and octopus kebabs. The signature tacos al pastor are corn tortillas filled with fresh grilled tuna doctored with all kinds of condiments. The restaurant is open for breakfast as well. No credit cards. Closed Wed. Address: Paseo del Pescador 90, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
Mexican - $5 to $25. Hundreds of model sailing vessels hang from the patio ceiling, and oil paintings depict the namesake "fat mermaid" at this small, friendly restaurant between the pier and the fish market. The setting is casual, with a dark, quaint, wraparound bar -- unfortunately often hot and still -- and two patios overlooking the town's lazy pedestrian walkway. The soundtrack of Latino tunes is at a volume that permits conversation. Specialties include seafood tacos, surf and turf, and octopus kebabs. The signature tacos al pastor are corn tortillas filled with fresh grilled tuna doctored with all kinds of condiments. The restaurant is open for breakfast as well. No credit cards. Closed Wed. Address: Paseo del Pescador 90, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
American - $5 to $10. The delicious scent of grilling meats will entrance you from blocks away; as you approach your ears will detect the soft yet persistent sounds of Latin rhythms to which unhurried waiters tap their feet. Music from the jukebox is loud inside, and after sundown most clients dine at the white plastic tables on the grassy front yard. The charcoal-grilled burgers, which are made of top sirloin, and the french fries, deep-fried zucchini, and baked potatoes are delightful American treats. For dessert try the grilled bananas glazed with cinnamon and sugar and served with a dollop of fresh cream. No credit cards. Address: Centro Comercial Flamboyant, next to Bancomer bank, Blvd. Ixtapa s/n, Ixtapa, Mexico.
Phone: 755/553-0027 or 755/553-0358
Long before Columbus sailed to America, Zihuatanejo was a sacred sanctuary for indigenous nobility. Artifacts, figurines, ceramics, stone carvings and stelae are still being found in the area verifying the presence of civilizations dating as far back as the Olmecs (3,000 BC).
The original name, "Cihuatlán" means "place of women" in the Náhuatl language. It was apparently a matriarchal society where weaving was the dominant industry. This is evidenced by pre-Hispanic figurines, plentiful bobbins and other related artifacts found in the area. Close to a thousand pre-Hispanic pieces as well as murals and maps are on permanent display at the Museo Arqueológico.
In 1527, Spanish conquistadors launched a trade route from Zihuatanejo Bay to the Orient. Galleons returned with silks, spices and according to some historians, the first coconut palms to arrive in America where brought here from the Philippines.
The Spaniards did little colonizing here. A scout sent by conquistador Hernán Cortés reported back with his evaluations saying the place was nothing great, tagging the name Cihuatlán with the demeaning Spanish suffix "nejo", hence "Zihuatanejo".
While Zihuatanejo's roots are traced back centuries, Ixtapa's birth came about in the 1970's, conceived and developed by the Mexican government. As one of Mexico’s newest west coast resorts, Ixtapa has managed to coexist nicely with the charm of Zihuatanejo. Not many resorts deliver modern comfort, tropical beauty and village charm better than Ixtapa - Zihuatanejo.
In Ixtapa, the Club de Golf Ixtapa Palma Real (tel. 755/553-1062 or 755/553-1163), in front of the Sheraton Hotel, has an 18-hole course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. The greens fee is $75; caddies cost $19 for 18 holes, $13 for 9 holes; electric carts are $35; and clubs are $25. Tee times begin at 7am, but the course doesn't take reservations.
The Marina Ixtapa Golf Course (tel. 755/553-1410; fax 755/553-0825), designed by Robert von Hagge, has 18 challenging holes. The greens fee is $85 and includes a cart; caddies cost $22, club rental $30. The first tee time is 7am. Call for reservations 24 hours in advance. Both courses accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa.
In Ixtapa, the Club de Golf Ixtapa (tel. 755/553-1062 or 755/553-1163) and the Marina Ixtapa Golf Course (tel. 755/553-1410; fax 755/553-0825 or 755/553-1400) both have lighted public tennis courts, and both rent equipment. Fees are $6 to $20 an hour during the day, $9 to $30 at night. Call for reservations.
Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo is located on the Pacific coast of the State of Guerrero to the southwest of Mexico City. It is accessible via highway 200 from Acapulco the south (250 km or 156 miles) or from Lázaro Cardenas to the north (115 km or 72 miles). It is a mere 35 minute plane ride from Mexico City and is serviced through its international airport by a number of Mexican and international airlines.
Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Intl’ Airport
The Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo (ZIH) International Airport is located 13 miles (21 km) from Ixtapa and 8 miles (13 km) from Zihuatanejo. It is possible to find direct flights from Canada and the U.S. especially during the tourist season. (From November to April)
Airport Administration - Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo International Airport.
Tel. (755) 554-5408, 554-2070
Airlines Serving Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Intl’ Airport
Documents for Arrival at Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Intl’ Airport
A valid U.S. Passport is necessary to pass through customs at Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Intl' Airport. Your passport will also be used to acquire a tourist card, which must be obtained in order to enter Mexico.
Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Intl’ Airport Transfers
Renting a car is highly recommended in Ixtapa.
The concierge service that Villas Caribe offers is happy to arrange for car rental for you.
Should you choose not to rent a car, there are several other airport transfer options available:
Airport transportation into town is provided by Enlaces Terrestres Aeropuerto, Tel. 553-7030 and 553-6313. Approximate fares (Dec. 2005) - Note: Exact price depends on final destination. Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are about 5 kms. apart.
Private Taxi (sedan - up to 4 passenger’s w/bags).
Airport to Zihuatanejo, $225-$255 pesos
Airport to Ixtapa, 250-$285 pesos
Private Taxi (Suburban - up to 6 passengers w/bags)
Airport to Zihuatanejo or Ixtapa: from $400 to $495 pesos
Collective Taxi (shared service with per-person rates w/bags)
Airport to Zihuatanejo: $75-$85 pesos per person
Airport to Ixtapa: $85-$95 pesos per person
Regular taxi fare from Zihuatanejo to airport: $80-$120 pesos
Regular taxi fare from Ixtapa to airport: $120-$160 pesos.
Ixtapa Departure Tax
Airport Departure tax is currently $10.00 but is always subject to change.
Communication with friends and family in the United States or elsewhere should not be a problem from Ixtapa. All villas come quipped with phones, and many with internet connections and fax machines. Cell phone rentals and internet cafes are also readily available in-town as well.
Ixtapa Villas will come with their own phones.
This number will be given to you prior to your trip.
Long distance calls using any major credit card will usually be possible from these house phones.
If you want to be able to talk on the move in Mexico, you can rent a mobile phone for use in Mexico, or if you have a GSM (Global System for Mobile) phone, you can take yours with you to roam in Mexico - but beware - the GSM roaming charges are high.
Rent or buy a "pre-pay" cell phone BEFORE you travel to Mexico
To get the best rates for cellular calls when traveling in Mexico, buy or rent a GSM (Global System for Mobile) phone with a chip specially set up for low cost rates in Mexico before you go. You will know the cell phone's number before you travel so you can plan ahead. If you buy the phone, then it can become your 'overseas' phone in the longer term - the number will stay the same.
Once your phone is activated, you can "top up" the phone's credit using special pre-paid phone cards. As you make/receive calls, this credit is deducted from your account at the rates published by the cell phone provider. You can top up with more credit at any time. Although renting/buying a different phone is not nearly as convenient as using your own (home) cell phone, the call charges are vastly less expensive than roaming in Mexico with a foreign-based cell phone.
Outlets in Ixtapa are compatible with North American appliances
Zihuatanejo Bar-Net: High speed DSL internet. Nice ambiance. Fully equipped terminals. Drinks and snacks. Popular with tourists. Come and navigate in the best place in town. Address: Agustin Ramirez #2C, Ground floor Hotel. Zihuatanejo Centro (Downtown). Open Daily 9:00am – 11:00pm. Phone 755-554-3661.
Pesos are the standard currency. Major credit cards are acceptable in most places. Personnel checks are not accepted anywhere and traveler’s checks are recommended.
For a good selection of clubs, discos, hotel fiestas, special events, and fun watering holes with live music and dancing, head for Ixtapa. A good way to start an evening in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo is happy hour at one of the hotel bars. Most bars are informal, but discos have a dress code; you may be turned away if you're wearing shorts, tank tops, or tennis shoes. Just keep in mind that the shuttle bus stops at 11pm. During the off season (after Easter and before Christmas), hours vary: Some places open only on weekends, while others close completely. The most popular hangout for local residents and expats is Paccolo, around the corner from Amueblados Valle. It's the one place where you can find a lively crowd of locals almost every night.
The Clube & Music Scene--Many discos and dance clubs stay open until the last customers leave, so closing hours depend upon revelers. Most discos have a "ladies' night" at least once a week -- admission and drinks are free for women.
Carlos ‘n’ Charlies:
Dance Club. Next to the Best Western Posada Real, Carlos 'n' Charlie's attracts a teenage and twentysomething crowd with late-night dancing on a raised platform by the beach. Address: Blvd. Ixtapa s/n, Ixtapa, Mexico.
Dance Club. Christine, the area's most popular disco, has varied music and high-tech light shows. (Bogarts, the restaurant at Hotel Krystal, usually has piano music between 7:30-10:30 PM.) Address: Krystal Ixtapa hotel, Blvd. Ixtapa s/n, Ixtapa, Mexico.
Bar. Like others in the chain, Señor Frog's has innovative decorations, a wild youngish crowd, and several methods for getting patrons as drunk as possible. Address: Centro Comercial Ixtapa, across from Emporio Ixtapa hotel, Ixtapa, Mexico.
Music Club. There's salsa, Cuban, or romantic music at Bandidos Monday through Saturday in December and January, Friday and Saturday the rest of the year. It's smack in the middle of downtown and popular with middle-aged foreigners. In the afternoon and early evening you can get drinks, snacks, and full meals at the bar and outdoor patio. The TV is usually tuned to sports, though the volume is turned way down. Address: Calle Pedro Ascencio 2, at Calle Cinco de Mayo, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
Music Club. Head for Blue Mamou for live blues, swing, and more blues; open nightly except Sunday. The bar, which opens at 7 PM, sometimes hosts private events, so call ahead for the schedule. Soak up the booze with some grub: ribs, chicken, fish, sausage, yams, and cole slaw. Address: Paseo Playa La Ropa s/n, near Hotel Irma, Mexico.
Acquiring an Ixtapa car rental is highly recommended for all villa guests. If you're planning to explore the coastal region around Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo, then you can rent a car from the airport. If your plans involve staying in and around the Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo areas, then there is little point in renting a car as modestly priced, local transport options are available to take you where you want to go. Organized tours arrange all transportation for you.
Many major car rental companies have offices in the Ixtapa area and Ixtapa car rentals can be easily arranged for you by the Villas Caribe concierge service. A valid United States driver’s license is all the documentation needed in order to rent a car in Mexico and driving in Ixtapa is on the right side.
Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo Taxis are not metered, so agree your price before you get in. If you speak Spanish, you will have a distinct advantage and be able to negotiate a better price!
Driving is on the right side in Ixtapa.
An Ixtapa wedding is a wonderful way to celebrate the beginning of a new life together. Whether you seek a small ceremony on the beach or a lavish ceremony on the balcony of a luxurious villa, it is all possible with Ixtapa weddings. Many villas are happy to play host to weddings and accommodate larger wedding parties. The villa owners are also able to give invaluable advice on wedding planners, florists, and caterers for a Ixtapa wedding.
An Ixtapa wedding is sure to be just what the bride and groom have envisoned for their special day. There are certain Mexican regulations that must be adhered to in order to make a Ixtapa wedding legal, so it is highly advisable to contact the office of the Mexican Registrar to get up to date information on all necessary paperwork and other requirements. The most important thing to note is that in order to be recognized as legal, a civil ceremony is required. Religious ceremonies are common and in many cases encouraged by Mexican officials, but will not be recognized as legal unions.
Ixtapa's shopping is located principally in a series of small malls across the boulevard from the large beachfront hotels on Playa del Palmar and between the two golf courses. These malls go by name rather than address, and include La Puerta Mall, Plaza Las Fuentes, Plaza Ixpamar and Los Patios Mall. The Marina Plaza is another small mall located at the Ixtapa Marina.
These malls and nearby shops offer a huge variety of T-shirts, bathing suits and other beachwear, souvenirs, suntan lotions and blocks and arts and crafts.
The main shopping resources in Zihuatanejo are located within a 5 or 6 block grid in the center of town, bordered by Playa Principal (the Municipal beach), Calle Cinco de Mayo, where the stalls and booths of the Artisan's Market are located, Ave. Jose Ma. Morelos (a boulevard just beyond the Municipal Market, where the Electra store is located), and Blvd. Benito Juarez, which runs in front of the market itself. In this area you can find clothing and souvenirs, camera shops, paper supplies, jewelry, arts and crafts and numerous small stores offering basic food supplies and staples.
Ixtapa offers another variety of beaches. The first is Playa Vista Hermosa, a small cove which is actually the beach of the Westin Brisas. Ixtapa's main beach is Playa del Palmar, a 2-mile long, broad sandy stretch which is the location of the "Hotel Zone", a row of the resort's major 4- and 5-star beachfront hotels ending at the Marina Ixtapa.
Water sports facilities are available along the beach. Since this is essentially open sea, there is surf which at times can be quite strong. Most hotels will have a warning system, by flag color with explanation, at their beach entrance.
About ten minutes beyond the Ixtapa Hotel Zone is the long, pristine Playa Linda. At the edge of the beach is a handicraft mart, as well as a rock jetty from which covered skiffs (pangas) take passengers on a 10-minute ride to Ixtapa Island. The boats run continously (on demand) from early morning until 5 p.m. A round trip costs about $2-$3 (keep ticket stub to return). You can also go horseback riding here or view the crocodiles at this local reserve.
The Isla Ixtapa's most popular beach is Playa Cuachalalate named for an endemic tree whose bark has been used since ancient times as a remedy for kidney ailments. Like Las Gatas in Zihuatanejo, this beach is also lined with good seafood eateries.
At the north end of the beach, watersport rental equipment, instruction and dive excursions are available. A short walk across to the other side of the island takes you to a gorgeous, sandy beach called Playa Varadero, which faces the sunset. It is also lined with small restaurants, and there are water sports facilities. Just behind the restaurants is Playa Coral with crystal-clear water great for snorkeling. A fourth beach, Playa Carey, toward the south end of the island, is small and isolated. The pangas run between the small boat landings at both Cuachalalate and Varadero beaches and Playa Linda on the mainland. Make sure you don't miss that last run to the mainland or you might find yourself paying much more to get back, or actually sleeping over on the beach!