Are you planning to visit the stunning place that is the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo? Look no further! In this post, our friend Megan will tell us all about traveling to this mostly underrated Mexican beach destination, including what to do and practical tips.
Megan visited Ixtapa-Zihuatenjo a couple of years ago and spent five weeks in Zihuatanejo exploring the surrounding area and, naturally, she fell in love with the people, beaches, and food there.
She loved the laid-back lifestyle, the cheap delicious fish shacks, and spectacular scuba diving, among others and she’s going to share all about it in this post.
Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo was first brought to everyone’s attention by the famous Hollywood blockbuster Shawshank Redemption.
If you’ve seen the movie, you may remember the line, “Zihuatanejo. It’s a little place in Mexico on the Pacific Ocean. Do you know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific? They say it has no memory.”
Ixtapa-Zihuatanenjo is certainly worth daydreaming over and may also be the perfect escape. But there’s so much more to this region of Mexico.
Let’s talk about everything you need to know about Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo.
Where Is Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Located?
👉🏽 How Far Is Zihuantanejo From Ixtapa?
Zihuatanejo is approximately 6.5km (4 miles) from Ixtapa. These are two small fishing villages that share an airport and coastline.
You can easily travel between the two towns by car, bus, or taxi. It takes approximately 20 minutes to travel between the two villages.
What Is the Difference Between Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo?
Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo (often called Zihua) are two distinct towns on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.
While they are close to one another and have a lot in common, they also have completely different personalities.
Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa are known for their beautiful white sand beaches and friendly atmosphere. But that’s about where the similarities end.
Ixtapa is more of a luxurious resort destination, with a coastline lined with stunning beach resorts and high-end amenities.
Zihua, on the other hand, has retained more of an authentic, local Mexican vibe.
It’s a big fishing community with excellent seafood, quiet cobblestone streets, lively markets, and fewer vacation crowds.
How Safe Is Ixtapa-Zihuantanejo?
This little piece of paradise is generally considered very safe.
Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo has grown in popularity as a safe and welcoming substitution for Acapulco, which has had severe crime problems recently.
Acapulco and Ixtapa-Zihua are both in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, which is known for having relatively high crime rates.
Fortunately, Ixtapa and Zihua have stayed out of the limelight and still report low levels of crimes for locals and tourists.
Things to Do in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo
1. Relax at the Beaches
Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is right on the Pacific Coast, with incredible beaches with turquoise waters, warm weather year-round, and few crowds.
So, for obvious reasons, one of the best things to do in Zihuatanejo Ixtapa is enjoy some beaches.
Here are some of the most popular beaches in the area:
🌊 Playa Principal: This is the main beach right in downtown Zihuatanejo. It’s small but easy to access and has plenty of restaurant options.
🌊 Playa Madera: This beach is next to Playa Principal in downtown Zihua. It’s not the most beautiful beach, but it’s great for families or those staying nearby.
🌊 Playa La Ropa: This beach is outside downtown Zihua and can be easily reached on foot, by taxi, or by local bus. It’s known as a nicer, more upscale beach with beautiful water and long stretches of sand.
🌊 Playa Larga: This beach is right off the main exit leading into Zihua. It’s less crowded than the downtown beaches and offers picturesque views of the Pacific beyond.
There are a few other beaches and some you can only reach by boat. So, if you plan to spend a day (or a few days) relaxing on the warm sands, there are plenty of options.
2. Stroll at Paseo del Pescador
Paseo del Pescador, or Fishermen’s Walk in English, is a beautiful boardwalk along the Pacific Ocean.
The boardwalk stretches through all of Zihua and follows the curve of the bay.
The boardwalk also takes you through the main beaches in downtown Zihua, a few restaurants, and bars.
You’ll likely find fishermen along the boardwalk and fitness classes off to the side in the mornings and evenings.
This is a great place to stroll through while in Zihua. Not only does it lead to all the beaches, but it has beautiful views of the ocean and the surrounding town.
3. Biking at Ixtapa Bike Path
The bike path is one of the must-do Ixtapa activities.
Ixtapa is one of the few towns in Mexico with a well-traveled, safe, and maintained bike path.
The 9.5km (6 mile) bike path from the town of Ixtapa near the marina to Playa Linda.
You’ll pass through the jungle and stumble across regional wildlife, like alligators, iguanas, and coatis.
There are several places to rent a bike near the start of the bike path, including one shop right next to the marina.
This is a must-do for any nature enthusiasts, as the views along the stretch are beautiful, and you’ll likely encounter some unique wildlife.
At the end of the ride, stop in and grab some drinks at one of the local bars and restaurants.
4. Golf at Marina Ixtapa Nautica Golf Club
Club de Golf Marina Ixtapa is an 18-hole golf course in central Ixtapa, near Marina Ixtapa.
The golf course is perfect for all skill levels but leans on the more challenging side. This is one of the best Ixtapa Mexico things to do for golf enthusiasts.
The course contains an inlet of salt water, with water on 14 of 18 holes here. If you lose your ball in the water, don’t go after it.
There are a lot of crocodiles in this region, and you never know where one might be resting.
There’s not much shade on the course, either. So, try to go earlier in the day and bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.
It’s a very scenic course, with plenty of greenery and beautiful water views. If you’re into gold, this is the perfect way to spend a morning in Ixtapa.
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Xihuacan (pronounced she-wah-cahn) is an ancient Mayan ceremonial center and the only ruins in Zihuatanejo.
It’s unique because archeologists believe it was used by three cultures: the Tomiles, the Cuitatecos, and the Tepoztecas.
And there are remnants found from multiple other cultures. It’s possible Mayans traveled from all around Mesoamerican to gather here.
The ruins are only 40 minutes from Zihuatanejo, but getting there on your own is a bit complicated.
Unless you have a rental car, a guided tour from Zihua or Ixtapa is the easiest way to explore Xihuacan.
This Xihuacan Culture and Archaeology Tour picks up and arranges transportation from Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo.
The tour includes a local guide, lunch by a beautiful lagoon, and an entrance and guide through the museum.
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Ixtapa Island is a small island off Mexico’s Pacific Coast, near Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, and is a must-do for things to do in Ixtapa Mexico.
While no cars or roads are on the island, some restaurant options exist. One of the island’s specialties is pescado a las brasas, or grilled fresh fish, over a wood-fired stove.
The beaches on Ixtapa Island are the best in the state, with crystal clear waters and plenty of lively fish.
You can get to Ixtapa Island from Zihuatanejo with a quick water taxi. However, you can also hop on a guided tour to reach all the best spots on the island.
This guided snorkel tour to Ixtapa Island takes you to three beaches and the best snorkel spots. Snorkel equipment is even included.
7. Go Diving
Snorkeling in Ixtapa is excellent around Zihua, so it should be no surprise that scuba diving is even better.
When most people think of diving in Mexico, they think of places like Isla de Cozumel or Cabo. But Zihua has sites to rival them all.
There are a few excellent diving sites in Zihua. One of the best is known as “Solitary Rock.”
This singular rock goes 30m (100 feet) below sea level and is just teaming with colorful fish and other marine life.
There are tons of great wildlife here. You’ll have a chance to see some sea turtles, seahorses, starfish, and even whales during the right season.
Many of the dive shops in town offer certification courses. If you’re already certified, you’re good to go and enjoy the experience.
8. Whale Watching
The humpback whale season in Guerrero, Mexico, is from December to April, and the best time to see whales is from January to March.
You’ll have to take an organized boat tour to see the whales, as they don’t come too close to shore.
But it’s worth the time and money if you’re interested in getting up close and personal with these majestic beings.
Most whale-watching tours leave early in the morning and drive around until you spot a whale. Some tours even combine whale watching with a quick snorkeling trip.
9. Attend the Zihuantanejo Sailfest
Zihuatanejo’s Sailfest is the first week of February and lasts for five days. It’s a lively time to be in town.
Sailboats from around the world gather off the shore of Zihua for a fun time of sailboat and dinghy racing, seminars, concerts, street fairs, music concerts, and food tours.
The gathering raises funds for education or other children’s causes. It’s known as a great charity event in the region.
Even if you don’t sail, it’s a great time, with tons of people from all over the world and many different activities. This is another must for things to do in Zihuatanejo Ixtapa.
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A private city tour should be one of the first things you do upon landing in Ixtapa-Zihuantenjo because it gives you a unique look into the history and all the best sites and attractions for tourists.
Most city tours are organized by a local who knows all the hidden gems in town. They’ll guide you around, so you don’t have to worry about navigation or safety.
This is an excellent private city tour of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. The guide takes you to the best spots in each town.
Some spots include the crocodile reserve outside of Ixtapa, the viewpoint at “Mirador” and “Cerro del Vigia” with panoramic views of the region, and the pier and marketplace in Zihuatanejo.
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Turtles come onto the beach at Playa Blanca to lay eggs. A local sanctuary collects these eggs, helps them hatch, and ensures they cross the beach upon hatching.
This is the best turtle release experience near Playa Blanca. You are in charge of releasing one baby turtle, and you can watch it enter the ocean.
Doing these activities with a reputable tour company or guide is important, as you don’t want to encourage malpractice with these incredible sea creatures.
How to Get to Ixtapa-Zihuantanejo
The best way to get there is to catch some flights to Ixtapa Zihuatanejo Mexico, to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport.
The international airport is about 15 minutes south of Zihuatanejo and 25 minutes south of Ixtapa.
Currently, nine major airlines fly out of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, including all the major airlines like Aeromexico, United Airlines, American Airlines, and Volaris.
You can also take a bus to Ixtapa-Zihuatenjo from Acapulco. The bus is about 5 hours each way and runs regularly.
Getting Around Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo
The buses and microbuses between Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are affordable and easy to use.
The buses frequently run between the two and even stop at many of the main beaches along the way.
In Ixtapa, you can catch a bus from the main boulevard, where many hotels are located. In Zihua, you can hop on one of the buses from Avenue Morelos.
Peseras are vans that go to suburban areas and nearby towns outside Zihua and Ixtapa. The peseras have a colored strip with the name of the bus route on the outside of the van.
Taking a taxi is the easiest way to get around, and they are plentiful and affordable. You’ll likely find taxis cruising around all major areas and near beaches.
A taxi usually costs less than $5 USD between Ixtapa, Zihua, and other areas.
If you have your car, you’ll have no problems driving around these parts.
There are only a few main roads leading in and out of Zihua and Ixtapa, and there is rarely any traffic.
There’s also plenty of parking in downtown regions, at hotels, or other destinations you’re going to.
The streets are generally safe. You’ll likely see many police and the National Guard driving around and patrolling.
Is It Better to Stay In Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo?
Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are two different places. Both have their advantages.
Ixtapa is better if you’re looking for a resort town with more modern amenities.
Zihua is better if you’re looking for an authentic vibe with more opportunities to mingle with locals.
🏨 Where to Stay in Ixtapa
If you’ve decided to go with the resort vibe of Ixtapa, here are a few different Ixtapa Zihuatanejo hotels for every budget:
🛏 Budget: Casa Loma Flamingos Ixtapa is a great value and features a private pool and a beautiful garden.
🛏 Mid-range: Las Brisas Ixtapa is a beautiful hotel with a large infinity pool overlooking the water.
🛏 Luxury: Barceló Ixtapa is the best of the Ixtapa Zihuatanejo all-inclusive resorts with great amenities and beautiful views.
🏨 Where to Stay in Zihuatanejo
If you’ve decided to go with the more laid-back Mexican town of Zihuatanejo, here are a few Ixtapa Zihuatanejo hotels for every budget:
🛌 Budget: Hotel Casa de la Palma Bed & Breakfast is a simple hotel, centrally located with a small pool and garden.
🛌 Midrange: Hilton Grand Vacations Club Zihuatanejo is located right on Playa Ropa, one of the most central beaches in the area.
🛌 Luxury: Thompson Zihuatanejo is one of the most luxurious Ixtapa Zihuatanejo resorts, with great views and a large infinity pool over the Pacific Ocean.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo?
The best time to visit Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is between December and April.
The Ixtapa Zihuatanejo weather is much cooler during the winter and spring months.
In the summer, it gets hot, humid, and sticky. But the winter months are much more bearable and pleasant.
This is also whale season, so it’s the best time to get on a whale-watching excursion.
Tips for Traveling in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo
Traveling in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is pretty easy and safe, but here are a few tips for your trip:
📌 Wear lots of sunscreen
📌 Bring plenty of water with you when you go out for the day
📌 Watch for crocodiles
📌 Avoid swimming in the ocean when the waves are up
📌 Learn a little Spanish if possible
📌 Carry pesos/cash around with you to eat at local spots
📌 Make sure to try the fresh seafood if you’re a fan of seafood
📌 Plan for a more authentic experience
📌 Stay within the tourist areas
📌 Avoid walking around late at night
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it Safe to Travel to Ixtapa Zihuatanejo Right Now?
Yes, right now, it is safe to travel to Ixtapa Zihuatanejo.
However, Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa are in the state of Guerrero. The U.S. Department of State has a travel advisory and places Guerrero at “Level 4 – Do Not Travel”.
That being said, I always felt completely safe within Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa.
There’s a heavy police presence that aims to keep things under control in the tourist zones.
Is There a Bus From Ixtapa to Zihuatanejo?
Yes, there are frequent buses between Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo.
Why Is Zihuatanejo Famous?
Zihuatanejo became more widespread from the Hollywood film Shawshank Redemption.
One of the characters says, “Zihuatanejo. It’s a little place in Mexico on the Pacific Ocean. Do you know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific? They say it has no memory.”
Zihua is also famous for its incredible marine life, beautiful beaches, and authentic feel.
Is Zihuatanejo Walkable?
Zihuatanejo itself is very walkable. Everything, including beaches, markets, and restaurants, is within a 20-minute walk from everywhere.
It would be best if you stayed closer to the beach and boardwalk, as most activities and experiences are located.
Is Uber Available in Zihuantanejo?
No, there’s no Uber in Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa, or Guerrero.
Are There Cartels in Zihuantanejo?
Yes, there is a lot of cartel activity in Zihuatanejo.
However, the cartels generally do not interfere with tourists or travel. Any cartel violence is usually between rival cartels.
What Is Ixtapa Best Known For?
Ixtapa is known for being a popular resort destination on the Pacific Coast of Mexico.
There are endless miles of beautiful beaches, small islands nearby, and rows of swaying palm trees.
What Is the Rainy Season in Ixtapa?
The rainy season in Ixtapa is from June to October.
How Much Is a Taxi in Ixtapa?
A taxi in Ixtapa is around $5 USD or less, depending on where you’re going.
Where Do You Fly Into to Go to Ixtapa?
You fly into Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport to go to Ixtapa.
What Side of Mexico Is Ixtapa?
Ixtapa is on the west coast of Mexico, on the Pacific Ocean.
Is Ixtapa Close to Cancun?
Ixtapa is not close to Cancun. It’s approximately 2,000 km (1,250 miles) between the two beach destinations.
Are the Beaches in Ixtapa Swimmable?
Yes, the beaches in Ixtapa are swimmable. Sometimes, the currents get strong, or the waves get big, so watching the conditions is good.
Final Thoughts: Ixtapa Zihuatanejo
Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo are two beautiful towns on the west coast of Mexico, right on the Pacific Ocean. While these two towns are often bundled together, they offer different experiences.
Zihua is known as a more local, authentic experience. At the same time, Ixtapa consists more of luxury resorts and caters to tourists.
However, you should explore each area, as there’s so much to do and see around this area.
Hopefully, this complete Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo guide will help you navigate your way around to see the best of Guerrero!
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