Just 7km north of Zihuatanejo, IXTAPA could hardly be more different. Ixtapa is a computer-planned “paradise” resort, established by Fonatur in the 1970s, and even today, a fairly soulless place. Its single coastal drive (Paseo Ixtapa) runs past a series of concrete boxes of varying heights, making Zihuatanejo far more appealing. Ixtapa does, however, sport some excellent beaches, nightlife and activities, including plenty to keep children entertained.
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Hotels and condos completely cordon off Ixtapa’s lovely stretch of 2.5km beach – Playa de Palmar – from the road, forcing those who can’t afford the hotels’ inflated prices to squeeze through a couple of access points or use the hotels’ facilities. The beach is fine for volleyball or long walks, but often too rough for easy swimming, and plagued by jet skis.
Powered watersports are also in evidence at the inappropriately named Playa Quieta, some 5km north of Ixtapa, which is dominated by Club Med and seemingly perpetual clans of inebriated spring-breakers. The water here is wonderfully clear and the surrounding vegetation magnificent, but with the exception of Restaurant Neptuno, which predictably specializes in fresh seafood, you won’t get anything to eat or drink unless you pay handsomely to enter the confines of the three luxury resorts that dominate the beach.
Playa Linda is a huge sweep of greyish sand, with a cluster of enramadas at the pier end where the bus (M$8) drops you off. As well as the usual trinket vendors, you can hire horses or rent jet skis and surfboards at the shacks along the beach. To find all the space you need, keep walking away from the crowded pier end: the restaurants are supplanted by coconut groves, which in turn give way to small cliffs and an estuary with birdlife and reptiles.
Boats leave from the pier at Playa Linda for Isla Ixtapa, a small island a couple of kilometres offshore with two fine swimming beaches, a spot reserved for snorkelling and diving (you can easily walk between the three locations) and a few restaurants, but nowhere to stay.