On a recent holiday weekend, the fam and I took a trip down to Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Known as “Zee-what” by visitors and expats, it’s a coastal town on the Pacific side of Mexico in the state of Guerrero. (It’s also the place where Andy, played by Tim Robbins, and Red, played by Morgan Freeman, meet up at the end of Shawshank Redemption. This is a clarifying tidbit for people my age who want to know why we went to such a strange-sounding place.)
Although Zihuatanejo has made strides to become a tourist destination, it’s far less popular than Cabo or Cancun. We spent an excellent three days there, drinking margaritas, playing on beaches, and reevaluating our opinions of child labor laws.
We got a screaming deal on a rental, and all six of us were able to stay in a penthouse villa, complete with full kitchen and private pool. After an easy nonstop flight from LAX on Alaska Airlines, we landed in town, got our rental car, and headed to our temporary home. We stayed at La Marea Beachfront Villas, a small but new resort with an attentive staff and gorgeous white sand beaches. They were apparently also courteous enough to warm the Pacific Ocean—not quite Hawaii hot but also not San Diego cold. Gotta appreciate the attention to detail.
Our villa was the top left half of the building
The view from our private deck-top pool
In addition to private pools, La Marea had two common-use, saltwater infinity pools. We kept to the one on our side, which is also the one with the bar. The pool was fantastic, and each time we went, we were the only ones in it. That alone made our resort time worthwhile. I mean, I’m sure it’s not great for business to have five rooms booked, but we had so much fun that we couldn’t care about their long-term business strategy.
¡Viva la piscina!
Our first dinner was in the town of Zihuantanejo. We found one of the many beachfront restaurants (enrramadas) and dug our toes in the sand. After which we were immediately accosted by an endless string of people selling gum, flowers, pork rinds, jewelry . . . everything you’ve ever dreamed of batting away while eating. Honest to blog, I was telling my mom that one of my favorite words in Spanish is “cacahuates,” or peanuts. AS I WAS SPEAKING THESE WORDS OUT LOUD, some kid came up and tried to sell me peanuts. Vendors who can read minds! A terrifying thought.
Dinner at an enrramada
After dinner, we headed back to the resort to explore their drink menu. The next day was Beach Day.
Drinks at the hotel during sunset. Each sunset was a work of art, hazy and pink and gold.
We drove out to Playa Linda, a popular resort beach in Ixtapa (who remembers Club Med?). It was packed. We literally gasped when we turned a corner and saw how many tour busses were lined up along the shore. And again, this was the low season! I truly cannot imagine enjoying a beach with twice as many people.
Low season at Playa Linda
We parked in an enrramada lot and were escorted down to the beach for food and drinks (nothing is free in life, friends, and especially not beach parking). All arounds us, families camped out in various states of undress, making food and playing in the sand. It was a fairly modest crowd—lots of people in shorts and t-shirts, with only the occasional bathing suit—but it was wonderful to see fathers playing with their sons, groups of women holding hands and jumping over waves, and teenagers pretending not to check each other out. With such a fun scene before us, we sat down and began to people watch.
It turns out we sat down in a whole world run by very young people. The waiters were eleven years old—and not as in, “oh I’m so old, my doctor looks eleven.” They were literally children with those half-aprons, running up and down the enrramadas, pouring drinks and selling beach supplies. It’s like watching bears ride unicycles in the circus: you know it’s wrong, but you can’t help being impressed.
Shout-out time to our man, Johan. This strapping eleven-year-old took great care of us—everything from taking our order to cutting up the fruit for our drinks. He helped us navigate the menu, directed us to our water taxi, and made sure that we were happy. He was an excellent server, proud of his job and took great care of his family. I won’t say that child labor is right, but I will say my American son has never cut up my fruit to make me a pineapple face. Lazy.
After our lunch with Johan, we snaked through the crowds on the beach to get to the water taxis. For 50 pesos per person ($2.50), you got roundtrip boat rides between Ixtapa to Ixtapa Island. In just a few minutes, we were dropped off at Coral Beach.
Entrance to the water taxi
The weather was too hot to sit anywhere without shade, and the only shade available was at yet another restaurant. Our waiter Herbie was very nice, but let’s be honest, he was no Johan. Coral Beach was beautiful—black rocks being licked by clear turquoise waters, and a dangerously strong rip tide. We hiked a bit around the island, but there’s not much to see. The best view was from the drone. We women bobbed around in the water while the men drank ice-cold beer. The last taxi left at 5:15; we got in line at 4:30 and waited a solid half hour before taking ours back to the mainland.
This is a long line. Avoid it.
The rest of our trip was spent either in the ocean, in our pool, or in another enrramada, enjoying easy kayaks, lazy strolls, long sunsets. In other words, exactly what you hoped a laid-back trip to Mexico would be.
Water taxis at Ixtapa are fast and plentiful but it still takes a while to empty the island before the last run of the day. Plan on arriving and leaving earlier in the day to avoid the long, hot line in the afternoon.
Warning about renting a car in ZIH (or maybe all of Mexico): the car rentals agents are very insistent on you buying insurance. It jacked the cost of the car up quite a bit but it was either that or “let the cops take you to jail while they decide if your regular insurance is enough.” In full disclosure, this was Hertz, who also charged us $35 US for a quarter tank of gas. A very sour note during an otherwise pleasant vacation.