Posted by Rusty on October 23, 2000 at 22:49:23:
I've been back for 4 or 5 days and have had ample time to reflect on my first trip to Zihua. In a word, it was terrific. The place is beautiful, the people were delightful and the weather was perfect. I've been to Cabo, Cancun, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta about ten times (combined) and for my money Zihua beats them all. There is something for everyone - and asking questions on this board is probably the best way to find out what will suit your particular needs and desires. (Caveat: Occupancy rates are still low this time of year and those seeking nightlife of the kind found in Cabo, Cancun and Mazatlan will be disappointed. I imagine that changes during the high season, especially in Ixtapa.)
Before going any further in this report, I must say that the information provided on Rob's website and on this message board proved to be quite accurate. For that I am grateful. I had extremely high expectations for the trip because of what I read here and I would have been disappointed if it didn't measure up. Fortunately, it did. Easily!
For me and my wife, Playa la Ropa is the perfect venue - a beautiful, relaxing and uncrowded beach that is close to downtown Zihua with its charm and activity. We stayed at Villa del Sol and it is worth every peso. However, expensive accomodations are NOT necessary to fully enjoy what la Ropa has to offer. There are plenty of beach restaurants serving the same drinks and food as Villa del Sol at a lot lower prices. Don't get me wrong, it's a great hotel and we'll probably stay there again someday, but please don't feel like you're missing out on something if you stay elsewhere.
I won't bore you with all the details of our trip, but I will offer a few observations. The snorkeling is good, but not great. We saw lots of fish at both Playa Las Gatas and Isla Ixtapa, but didn't have much luck at Playa Contramar. (At least I think it was Playa Contramar - we kayaked over and I'm not completely sure where we were.) However, one should - and I in the future will - take care to avoid the rocks at Las Gatas where the sea urchins lurk. It is not hard to do - avoid the lurking sea urchins, that is - but I still have a couple of spines in my hand to remind me of the consequences of not paying attention.
I found the price of a taxi to be the same whether I asked the cost before getting in or after arriving at the destination. Also, the taxi drivers were extremely good sources of information and almost always attempted pleasant conversation.
It's been said here many times, knowing even the slightest bit of Spanish is a huge advantage. Most people you encounter will know a little English, but if you can say anything at all to them in Spanish they will try to go the extra mile to provide you with the information you seek. If I can figure out how to conjugate a verb or two, I'll own the place on my next trip!
I have a few thoughts on bargaining and tipping. Certainly there are places where bargaining is a must - most notably in the tourist market and when renting water toys. However, two thoughts kept me from taking it too far. One, the people I was bargaining with were just trying to make a living. And two, I was on vacation to get away from the stress of having to make the absolute best deal every time. I'm not suggesting that you pay more than you think a product or service is worth, but my policy was to determine and pay what I thought something was worth and then not worry if I left a little on the table. The same thing with tipping. In general, the service provided in restaurants is exceptional and should be rewarded appropriately - even if the food bill is outrageously low. I figured that my lax policy on bargaining and generous tipping cost me an extra ten bucks or so a day - max.
The food is great! We didn't have a bad meal. We were there four days, so we only sampled a few places. All of them were terrific. We had dinner one night at "Madera", which is a relatively new place right on Playa Madera. It was exceptional. Casa Elvira - on the pier side of the basketball court - was also very good. And we tried a local pizza joint - Pizza Locas, I believe - on our last night. The pie was great and the proprietor was an absolute delight. It's across and just up the street from JJ's. And of course, the tortilla chips are superior to anything we get in the States. If anyone can tell me how to import them, I'm all ears.
Finally, I want to thank Rob for doing what he does. This site and board are incredibly helpful to first timers like me. I hope Rob is making a living at this, because I'd hate to see it go away. I also hope that he and Mr. Coconut can resolve their differences. Despite the WWF appeal of their ongoing cage match, the bad vibe is definitely out of tune with natural rhythm of Zihua. Next time down I'll find the time to thank Rob in person. I hope it's sooner rather than later.