Trip Report -- 8 days in paradise!

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Posted by Tawna on June 12, 2000 at 14:00:44:

JUNE 3-10, 2000
Our first visit to Zihuatanejo will definitely not be our last! A million thanks to everyone on this board who contributed ideas, answered questions, and helped us to embark on our journey armed with knowledge about our destination.

Despite a few lukewarm reviews of the place, we chose to stay at the Villa Mexicana on La Ropa beach. Suffice it to say, we were very pleasantly surprised by our accommodations.

For the record, hubby and I are 25 and 30 (respectively), young professionals who have traveled quite a bit and have run that gamut of hotels, from extravagant to “what-the-hell-just-crawled-up-my-leg.” We do a lot of camping, though when we DO chose to stay indoors, we tend to select practical and cheap over luxury hotels, opting to spend our trip money on other things.

With that in mind, our travel agent booked the lodging at Villa Mexicana through a wholesaler called Pacific Escapes. The package price for lodging was $279 TOTAL (not per-person) for 7 nights in a standard room with air conditioning and two double beds. The price included round-trip transfers to and from the airport, as well as $7 per person, per day food credit in the restaurant at Villa Mexicana. A little rudimentary math (subtracting approximately $20pp for the RT transfers, plus the value of the food credit) and our room came out to a little over $20 bucks a night for the two of us. Pretty unbelievable. We were warned beforehand that it could be too good to be true, and were relieved to find that was definitely not the case.

After turning down the first room we were shown (it was on the first floor, and the shower drained into the sleeping area!) a $10 tip got us a much nicer room on the second floor with a little balcony and a slightly-obscured ocean view. Perfect. The AC was heavenly, the space was ample, and the maid left crafty little floral arrangements on our bed every day.

Our room was NOT one of the remodeled ones, so there were a few cracked floor tiles and the toilet wouldn’t stop running one night. (Again, for $20 a night, we had no complaints!) We did peak into some of the remodeled rooms and were amazed at the quality of the finish work and the beauty of the rooms. (Pacific Escapes could have booked us one of these rooms for a bit more – I believe it was $404 for a garden-view suite with jacuzzi, and $494 for an ocean-view honeymoon suite. Same food credit and transfers with those rates). However, we were quite satisfied with our room for the price we were paying!

The $14 a day food credit couldn’t be used for breakfast or drinks, but generally speaking, it usually covered (or almost covered) one meal a day for us. The food was always delicious – when we caught a mahi-mahi and brought it in for preparation, they did heavenly things with caramelized garlic and scrumptious side dishes – and the service was wonderful.

Naturally, we were cautious about security. We never left money in the room, and we used duct tape to hide passports, etc. inside the light fixtures or under the sink. We never had any problems with things going missing. The staff was courteous, offering to bring us cushions for the lounge chairs or chasing away vendors when they crossed the “rope line” a few too many times. Overall, we were very happy with our choice in lodging and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone else.

We brought our own flippers and masks, and were eager to sample the snorkeling in the area. A $3 boat ride to Las Gatas yielded some of the best snorkeling we encountered. We noticed the water got cloudier as the day went on, but around 9a.m.-11:00 a.m. it was excellent. We also did a fishing trip ($130 for both of us) which included a trip to Playa Manazanillo and Isla Ixtapa. The sea was a bit rough that day (we both found ourselves upchucking over the edge of the boat) but we managed to catch 5 mahi-mahi and even saw a couple of giant sea turtles engaged in some romantic behavior in the middle of the ocean. The rough water made snorkeling at Manzanillo a bit difficult, so we regrettably didn’t get to enjoy much of that experience. Isla Ixtapa was great though, and we had a relaxing afternoon of snorkeling, sunbathing and dining on fabulous fresh fish.

On the days that we weren’t facedown in the water, we walked to town almost every day. We’d stroll along the beach until we got to Casa Que Canta, then walked up the hill and along the road into town. A nice 15-20 minute walk. We bargained for trinkets and gifts at the mercado, toured the town, and did our best to hit all the best-sounding restaurants on Rob’s list!

We had the foresight to print out Rob’s restaurant list beforehand, so we used this as our dining guide throughout the trip. We got hooked on Bananas for breakfast, so we had a number of our morning meals there. (Try as we may, the two of us could never finish an entire fruit plate! $1.50 for a mountain of the freshest fruit you've ever seen. Yum!) We also sampled some of the more extravagant establishments, taking in a superb dessert at Casa Que Canta (dinner prices seemed a bit high) and an unbelievable dinner at Kau Kan (we had to photograph the “stuffed potato” it was so spectacular!) Tamales y Atoles ANY was another favorite, with tamales the size of my forearm! And of course, daily meal at Villa Mexicana proved to be tasty and enjoyable every time…..there’s something to be said for strolling along the shore, clambering barefoot up 3 steps, and enjoying a delicious meal with the waves just a few feet from your table.

Our one disappointment was that the heat tended to decrease our appetites, meaning we weren’t nearly hungry enough to sample as many places as we’d hoped. And at the end of the trip, we passed Rob’s list along to another couple who was eager to make their way through it!

In general, we found the people to be warm and friendly, the prices to be reasonable, and the weather to be exactly what we’d hoped for. The threat of “rainy season” had us worried about the timing of the trip, but the few storms we experienced happened in the evening or the middle of the night. We actually welcomed the rains, both for the cooling effects and the fantastic electrical displays. Our days were sunny and hot, and I have to say I was relieved that we chose a hotel with AC.

Possibly because of the slow season, it seemed everyone was eager to please us. For instance, on our second night there, we really wanted to catch the final Trailblazer/Laker game. (We’re still seething about the outcome, but that’s beside the point. Two years ago, we were married at halftime in a center-court ceremony at a Blazer game, so as you can imagine, we’re big fans). We wandered to La Perla that morning and asked about the game. Francisco dug out the TV guide for us, figured out the game time, and proceeded to bring out two televisions and polish them up for the evening’s event. Several others gathered for the game that evening, and it was a unique experience, to say the least – drinking “coco loco” out of a coconut, snacking on fish tacos, and chatting with both locals and tourists about the merits of our favorite players.

The language barrier also proved to be a non- issue. My Spanish is quite good, but my husband doesn’t speak any Spanish at all. He worried beforehand that he’d have to rely on me as an interpreter the entire time. We were happy to find that most people spoke at least some English, so Steve didn’t have to fret about venturing out on his own to buy water or talk about fishing with the guides. In general, I noticed I got better prices for things when I spoke Spanish, but we encountered a number of tourists who got along just fine without any Spanish at all.

Overall, I have to say this vacation was everything we hoped for and more. We’re already making plans for a return trip! Thanks so much to everyone who gave us advice and answered our questions beforehand. This website proved to be an invaluable tool, and we’re eternally grateful to Rob for helping to make our second honeymoon unforgettable!