Posted by Randy and Linda on February 24, 2000 at 17:15:59:
Thanks again for your site that provides excellent information for the first time visitor.
Randy & Linda
Disclaimers & Advice:
This is offered as an account of experiences on our trip that may be helpful to a visitor seeking some basic how to/where to information.
Everyone has different expectations so a situation or experience I may find charming may be unacceptably primitive to others.
I have no financial interest in any business enterprise mentioned herein.
Get a phrase book and learn a few basic words and phrases. You will get a decidedly positive response if you at least try to speak the language.
Don't be in a hurry. Relax and adjust your velocity to the cadence of the area.
Protect yourself and valuables at all times. Be aware of your surroundings. If a situation doesn't feel right it probably isn't. I felt safe the entire time.
Pay attention to your beach site if you leave to go swimming. We had nothing stolen but it can happen if you are careless. Standard precautions should apply with valuables left at the hotel. Leave expensive jewelry at home.
Use credit cards for large charges and you will get a good exchange rate. Make sure to carry both pesos & dollars since sometimes one or the other may get you the better deal. I always make certain to retain some emergency money (at least enough for a beer and a taxi ride home) tucked away in a secure front pocket. I figure if a pickpocket goes probing in my front pocket, I would be certain to take notice enabling swift apprehension. And he better have a pretty good explanation of this obvious deliberate action at the inquest. I won't abide any toying with the front pockets. My experience is that your average pickpocket will investigate a butt pocket much quicker than a front pocket. Study this and deploy strategic assets in your front pockets.
Tip service providers appropriately.
"Your mileage may vary." I certainly can't guarantee your experience will be the same as indicated herein.
TAKE SUNSCREEN AND USE IT EVERY DAY AND REAPPLY SEVERAL TIMES DURING THE DAY!!!!!
The sun here is very strong and overexposure should be a constant concern. Even for those who tan easily, attention should be paid to exposure time. I wore long-sleeve shirts, a cap, and baggy
shorts each day. Do whatever feels good at night. A light colored cotton shirt is quite comfortable even in direct sun. We saw, as you will also see, many tourists who did not start a tan prior to
their trip. They put on a Speedo or bikini (as the case may be) and out they got for a day in the sun. After about an hour their skins show some pink. After another hour redness is evident.
After several hours a red glow develops and you just know they are going to have a ruined vacation because that will be their LAST DAY IN THE SUN FOR A WEEK. CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED!!!!
A word about your choice of swimwear: Please look at yourself in the mirror with you bathing suit on before you subject anyone else to this panorama. You may notice as I did that some folks have no taste when it comes to swimwear. Some men sporting the classic dicky-do body structure insist on wearing the same fig leaf style that perhaps gave cheerleaders the vapors while a high school track star. Guys: it ain't sexy. Can you imagine the ladies exclaiming, "Wow, look at that sexy beer gut dragging in the sand on that one!" At least try to be objective in this matter. I suggest that when a man is past the time in life of fastest running, that he embrace a looser
fitting swim wardrobe that effectively covers body areas negatively affected by gravity. It is generally refreshing to see anyone comfortable with their body but irrational exuberance in this matter is not a good thing.
On the airplane prior to arrival, you will be given an immigration form to complete. Upon arrival, have this form and your passport ready to present to customs agents. The form is two part, and you will be given the stamped bottom half of the form. Keep it with your passport. (The Alaska Airlines ticket agent took this form as we checked in on our return trip.) After
having your passport stamped, go to the baggage claim carousel and retrieve your bags. Proceed to the customs baggage inspection area. You will be
directed to press a button. If the light comes up green, you pass through without inspection. If you get a red light, you will need to put all your bags on the counter and make them ready for inspection.
Perhaps some of the larger hotels provide shuttle service at the airport but ours did not. Clear this up before you arrive so you will know whether to locate your shuttle or arrange you own transport. Directly outside the customs clearing area, there is a counter where transportation tickets for taxis are being sold. The rate will be according to the zone for your hotel. With ticket in hand, proceed to the outside pick up area and men working there will direct you to a vehicle.
This is the only hotel on La Playa Principal in Zihua. We made a decision to stay here since it offered the best compromise of price and location in Zihua. We wanted to have a beach view, be able to walk about in the evenings without getting a cab or having a long walk back to a hotel, and
position ourselves to experience some of the local flavor in generally safe surroundings. If you stay here make sure you ask for a room facing the beach. There was traffic noise even in our room so I can imagine it would be bothersome in rooms that front on the street. There is a restaurant located on the first floor, and sometimes the aroma from the restaurant was in the air. Not unpleasant to us but perhaps for some. In the early evenings, we could also hear music from the restaurant below. Not unpleasant and we had no complaint about it. Water pressure would go down during times of peak water use in the hotel. After waiting a few minutes, the pressure would return. The air conditioner was adequate and drowned out some nighttime noises. To reserve a room we had to send a no-refundable deposit via check for 3 nights stay. Idolina was very helpful and pleasant to deal with.
There is a basketball court on Juan N Alvarez street near the pier. We watched several spirited games in the early evenings.
There must be thousands of restaurants in the Zihua area. Linda, my 'amiga especial', was not gastronomically daring on this trip opting often for hamburguesa and pancakes at each opportunity. We found the food to be good
and usually high in carbohydrates. I enjoyed my sampling of the local seafood. Prices in the traditional restaurants are reasonable and the
portions generous. Following is a list of eating places I recommend. Other restaurants are honorably mentioned elsewhere in this report.
Street: Juan N Alvarez
Traditional Mexican fare
We ate several meals here. They serve an excellent breakfast and there is plenty of it at a reasonable price. Almost right across the street from Hotel Avila.
JJ's Bar & Grill
Street: Vicente Guerrero
Mostly American style
Good place for hamburguesa & such.
La Panaficadora Buengusto
Street: Vicente Guerrero
Very reasonable prices. Get a big bag of freshly baked items for a few pesos. Just up the street from the intersection of Juan N Alverez and
Vincente Guerrero streets. The sweet rolls from here had a morning calming affect on my amiga especial. I always like to keep a sweet roll handy
in reserve for a food emergency.
Playa La Ropa
An enjoyable walk from downtown Zihua. We found the best bloody marys at Elvira on the beach. I rate this mixture among the best bloody mary to be had anywhere. We spent an ejoyable day at La Dolce Vita. Good service, drinks & food. The waves were not large enough to body surf. No snorkeling on this beach. Good beach to kick back and enjoy a relaxing day.
Confessional: Sobriety was not on the agenda for the day. We perhaps should have stopped well short of the last margarita at La Dolce Vita. We had economized on the noon meal, opting for a coco loco. We did have it split and gouged out the meat with a spoon after soaking it with Buffalo Sauce. We washed that down with more margaritas.
We ate breakfast our last morning at Villa del Sol, an eating joint with class, good food, and not unreasonable prices on their morning menu.
Playa Las Gatas
A pleasant family beach with OK snorkeling. Catch the ferry at the Zihua pier. Round trip/person is 30 pesos. The last ferry leaves at 5pm so be sure
to be on the dock ready to leave by then. We spent the day at Chez Arnoldo. Good food but only one waiter so the service may have been a little
slow. Maybe an off day for them. There was a larger group that required a lot of his attention.
Isla Ixtapa, Playa Manzanillo Via tour by Hector Olea Snorkeling Tours
We found out about Hector from information on Zihu@Rob's website. We contacted him late one afternoon and arranged a snorkeling trip the next day. We left from the Zihua pier at 8am. We motored directly to Isla Ixtapa where we had
the best snorkeling of the trip. Hector put out a just-in-case trolling line but we didn't catch any fish. Beautiful views of Ixtapa and islands on the way. From Isla Ixtapa we motored to Playa Manzanillo where we enjoyed ceviche prepared by Hector the morning of the trip. After this delightful meal with cervezas & wine, we settled in for a siesta under the shade trees on the beach. Hector then led a snorkeling tour of the area. Next on our schedule was snorkeling Las Gatas but we opted out since we had done this
the day before. On the way in we stopped at La Playa Contramar for a quick snorkel dip. Hector conducts a pleasant and informative tour. The boat is small but covered and comfortable. It isn't a yacht but an excellent value and I don't think his customers will be disappointed. Go with a pleasant attitude and adventuresome spirit and you'll have a good trip with Hector. He is attentive to your safety and goes a step further than just pointing to an area and saying you have 'x' minutes to snorkel. He points out sea life of interest and may retrieve some interesting sea creatures for you to hold in your hand and examine up close. A pleasant day and good value. Hector put on a memorable tour & was tipped accordingly.
Barra de Potosi on the South End of Playa Larga/Playa Blanca
Hector did not have a trip planned for the next day and offered to guide us to a less frequented beach. We caught a bus from a couple of blocks from the Mercado in Zihua. I won't even try to tell you about how to find and catch a
bus. If you are able to hook up with Hector perhaps he can put you onto this if you ask him. We rode the bus on the main road to a place where we caught a ride in a pick-up truck minibus down to the beach. We had a pleasant day there and an excellent lunch. Hector ordered a seafood platter of abalone, oysters, shrimp, and fish garnished with guacamole and complete with hot tortillas. Good food and reasonable prices to be had here. An interesting ride home with 26 people in the pick-up minibus and a surreal trip in the large bus home. The bus was decorated inside and music blaring from multiple speakers. We arrived back in Zihua after much horn blowing and a few near
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A bus tour leaves the Ixtapa Palace Hotel at 11am on Thursday. The $12 US for the roundtrip air conditioned bus ride is a good deal. Gino, the host, gives an account of the local history and points of interest on the way. The beach was beautiful with excellent boogie boarding and body surfing waves. The bus put us at El Burro Borracho where we spent the day. I received by
far the poorest service here compared to all other restaurants/bars on the trip. I calls 'em as I sees 'em. The drinks were good but I had to hunt the waiter for each round and we cancelled our food order due to the slow service. If you take this tour order your food soon after your arrival and if you aren't getting reasonable service, alert Gino. I should have done this sooner. I didn't expect 4-star service but I did expect reasonable basic service. I would have had at least a few more rounds of drinks and
appetizers but they lost my business and any thought of a return there. In fairness my girlfriend hinted I looked like a rather rough hombre in my wrinkled shirt, biker cap, and 5 day beard. Guess I should have worn a tie: NOT!
Ixtapa - Playa El Palmar
Our final full day was spent in Ixtapa on Playa El Palmar. After a fine breakfast at Posada Real we spent the day on the beach boogie boarding.
We rented two boogie boards all day for 40 pesos. Perhaps we could have secured a better deal if we had waited them out but what the heck. The price started at 50 pesos each for one hour. Now I am just an old country boy who hails from Georgia via the last 23 years in Alaska, but when a hand gives you a price and smiles at you and says how much will you pay, he is obviously willing to negotiate. So I says to myself, "Self, there is a deal to be had here." Now I'll bet some of you probably only paid 10 pesos for a half dozen
boogie boards for a week, but don't tell me about it. I want to go to my grave with my reputation as a horse trader intact (at least in my mind). The waves here were enormous. After much discussion, thumb sighting, and bottom scrapings we officially categorized the waves in the 'Kahuna' class. Linda heard me exclaim more than once: "Bonzai!!" as I disappeared into the foam. Virtual walls of water followed by a rush of liquid that you better stay on till the wave washes out at the end of the wave. A strong sun accompanied by a pleasant breeze made our day pleasant.
Don't even think about renting a car. Taxis are plentiful and cheap. Always ask how much before getting in. After you are seated in the taxi the may bump the price 10 pesos or more. For the Zihua to Ixtapa run the posted fare is 30 pesos. If you inquire how much prior to getting in the car you will usually get the 30 pesos rate but if you inquire after in the car you may get the 40 peso rate. If you want to go to a distant destination check the price with several taxis first. Drivers will usually want to give you a card or their phone number so you can contact them. Rates from Hotel Avila to the airport varied from 70 to 90 pesos.
Bank Cash Machines:
This is the best way to get cash when you need it. Be aware though that if you wait till you run out of money before getting more, you may get in a cash squeeze if the machine happens not to be able to communicate with the network. This happened to me and I was lucky that a final attempt worked as it should and I got the necessary cash. There are several money dispensaries in El Centro Zihua. Many more are available in Ixtapa.
You MUST visit this in El Centro Zihua. A maze of small vendors selling about anything you can think of. You got your pork, you got your fish, you got your poultry, you got your produce, you got your prepared food, you got your hardware all under one roof. I can't imagine how meat spoilage due to not being refrigerated in the hot weather is managed. Here you can purchase poultry with or without the head attached. Maybe there is a use for the head of chicken such as chicken head soup or julienne of chicken beak but I claim
no culinary expertise and thus I plead ignorance in this attached chicken head business. But if you find yourself in a food preparation situation
specifically requiring an attached chicken head; go here is my recommendation. There may be other outlets but if I required a chicken with
head attached, I would go straightaway to the Mercado and make my best deal. It is difficult to imagine that there would be another location in the area with greater depth of chicken head inventory than on display at the Mercado.
ENJOY YOUR TRIP!!!