Zihuatanejo, for all its growth in recent years, has at least retained something of the look and feel of the traditional fishing village it once was. In stark contrast to Ixtapa, what building there has been is small-scale, low-key and low-rise, and the town looks over an attractive bay, ringed by broad, sandy beaches excellent for swimming. This said, it is definitely a resort: taxi drivers are forever advertising for customers, trinket and tacky T-shirt shops are abundant and as likely as not there’ll be a cruise ship moored out in the bay. Despite the proliferation of luxury hotels, though, there are at least a fair number of small, reasonably priced places to stay as well as some inexpensive restaurants. For some, Zihuatanejo is the ideal compromise – quiet by night, yet with the more commercial excitements of Ixtapa nearby. The one real problem is its popularity – with strictly controlled development, rooms can be hard to find in the centre of Zihuatanejo, a region of barely ten small blocks hemmed in by the main roads into town, the yacht marina and the beach.Read More
Four main beaches surround the Bahía de Zihuatanejo. Playa Principal, in front of Zihuatanejo, is unspectacular, with muddy water, brown sand and persistent hawkers, but is an interesting place to people-watch – the fishermen haul in their catch here early in the morning, selling much of it on the spot. A narrow footpath heads east from the end of the beach across the normally dry outlet of a drainage canal, then winds around a rocky point to the calm waters of Playa la Madera, a broad, moderately clean strand of dark sand that shelves softly into the ocean, making it a good option for kids. There’s a handful of restaurants and hotels on the hill behind, as well as some expensive condos. Climb the steps between these to get to the road if you want to continue a kilometre or so over the headland, past the mirador with great views across the bay, to Playa la Ropa (bus M$5) which takes its name – “Clothes Beach” – from silks washed up here when one of the nao de China (trading ships from China) was wrecked offshore. This is Zihuatanejo’s finest road-accessible beach, palm-fringed for more than a kilometre, with a variety of beachfront restaurants and hotels. You can walk a further fifteen minutes beyond the end of Playa la Ropa to Playa las Gatas, named after the nurse sharks that used to populate the waters. Las Gatas is the last of the bay’s beaches, its crystalline blue water surrounded by a reef, giving it the enclosed feel of an ocean swimming pool. It’s safe for kids, though the sea bottom is mostly rocky and tough on feet. The clear waters are great for snorkelling – you can rent gear (M$50/day) from vendors among the rather pricey palapa restaurants. Las Gatas is directly opposite the town and, if the rocky walk doesn’t appeal, it is accessible by launches from the Zihuatanejo pier.
For absolute peace and quiet, the best thing you can do is to take a day trip out of Zihuatanejo to Barra de Potosí, a tiny community situated at the southern end of the expansive, postcard-perfect, golden sandy beaches of Playa Larga and Playa Blanca, which curve steeply round the bay and keep going as far as the eye can see. To get there, board a Petatlán-bound bus from the station on Calle Palmas and ask the driver to drop you off at the village of Los Achotes. From here, pick-up trucks leave when full to run the final bone-rattling twenty minutes to the beach: you’ll be dropped off at one end of the bay where a bunch of enramadas sell delicious seafood for half the price of the restaurants in town.