trip report

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Posted by mike t on January 22, 2001 at 16:09:04:

Just returned from a 5 day stay in Zihua and wanted to share some of our experiences. We are four 40-ish Canadians from the frozen farmlands of southern Ontario: myself, my wife Mary and our friends Paul and Peggy. 4th trip to the area for Mary and I but first time staying in Zihua.

Hotel Irma
It seems to me that many of the same things that would attract people to a town like Zihua would also attract people to a hotel like the Irma. Relaxed, uncrowded, informal with an authentic feel are some of the things that come to mind. The rooms were clean and all we needed.We were on the top (6th) floor so if you don't like stairs ask for one a little lower (about 70 steps up from the lobby). Late afternoons were spent socializing poolside with other guests and having beers from the bar (16-20 pesos, the most expensive of the trip). Sunsets were enjoyed from the balcony with a cooler that was replenished daily with a supply of beer and ice (about 90 pesos for a half case and ice) picked up from a small shop down the street. The view was quite spectacular; you could lie in bed at night and look out over the bay to the lights on the hills on the far side. Friendly staff, not all over you but usually around when you needed them. All in all a great place that we would definately return to.

One lesson we learned is that if you want to book a trip with one of the more well known guides such as Hector Olea, David Otero, Capt. Moro, et al, don't wait til you arrive like we did as they may be booked or difficult to contact. Having said that we had a great excursion. One night after supper we wandered down to the pier and were approached by a fellow who said that his brother had a boat available for trips (imagine the odds!). So this guy, 5'5" and chubby took us to his "brother", 6' and lean, and we soon cut a deal to go out for 6-7 hours the next day (about $120.00 U.S.). We fished for a couple of hours and landed several bonito as well as a big, beautiful dorado with fantastic colours that Paul brought to the boat after several magnificent leaps and a bulldog fight. One bonito was snatched of Peggy's line at boatside by a hungry dolphin. Peggy swears the thief lingered beside the boat for a moment and stuck it's tongue out at her before joining his compadres to cavort near our boat for several minutes. Along the way we also spotted several whales surfacing nearby, first time for all of us, quite a thrill.We soon moved on to Playa Manzanillo, a beautiful spot where we relaxed, snorkeled in the clear, warm water and sipped Coronas while our captain, Victor Arceniega (boat the Principe) cleaned the fish. At one point while Mary was swimming near the boat Victor spotted a very large eel swimming nearby. Now Mary is not at all fond of eels and their ilk and attemped to leave the water in great haste which was difficult to do since our boat was not equipped with a ladder. Much hilarity ensued until Mary was finally deposited, panting, on the deck. I'm sure the eel was harmless and probably more frightened of Mary than Mary was of it (this last point, by the way, in no way reflects Mary's appearance either above or below the water). On to Las Gatas where the fish was perfectly prepared a l'ajo (the dorado was the best fish of the trip) and enjoyed with an order of giant shrimp prepared al diablo and several more beers. Back to the pier by 2.

Playa Madera
Dark but clean sand, gentle surf and shallow a long way out. Two municipal drains flow into an area closer to Playa Municipal, not Madera as previously mentioned, and , yes, some of that flow does look a little nasty. I snorkeled several times near the rocks at the end of Madera by the Irma and was suprised to see a great number and variety of fish. Visibility not great but get close enough to the rocks and you'll see plenty.
Playa La Ropa
Easily walkable from the Irma it's post card pretty and the most popular beach around. A little busy a times, particularly on Sunday, the 14th, when La Perla was jammed with folks watching the football games. Especially heartbreaking were the legions of Minnesota fans mumbling into their drinks (things could be worse, you could be a Lion's fan). Later in the week I snorkeled from the far end of La Ropa to Las Gatas and back, about an hour. The snorkeling was quite good, especially closer to Las Gatas, and I had the whole area to myself.
Playa Municipal
Where the boats come in, not a beach where I would swim but a nice spot to soak in the local ambience.

La Barra de Potosi
Probably the highlight of a trip filled with highlights; many thanks to all of those who encouraged us to make this trip. We wanted a little more flexability so we hired a taxi for a round trip(350 pesos). A scenic ride through coconut plantations and along the water brought us to the tiny, rustic village of Barra de Potosi. Our taxi driver, a great guy, refused to take a deposit from us at that point but told us he would return promply at the appointed time, which he did. We set up at the first enramada restaurant that we came to and enjoyed the next 3 or 4 hours. The size and beauty of the beach is overwhelming. A wide soft sandy beach, extending forever, framed by mountains and a gentle surf with just enough action for some light bodysurfing. We were there on a Monday, almost deserted. The fellow who took care of us at his family's restaurant invited us into his kitchen to check out his cooler full of fresh seafood. We settled on 2 platters of shrimp and one of abalone with all the trimmings. Absolutely great! I won't indict Paul and I by divulging the number of beers that we consumed but suffice it to say that it was plenty. Much rum for the wives and at the end of the day the total bill for food and drinks was about $35.00 U.S. per couple; unbelieveable. We stopped on the ride back at a tiny tienda for a cold one and a coke for our driver. We learned a lot about our driver on the way back, as I said a great guy, his children, his family in the country, as much as we could. He was grinning from ear to ear when upon arrival back in Zihua in addition to his regular tip he received Paul's hockey jersey. His 20 year old son in teachers college would probably get a kick out of it.

Please forgive the length of this report, I'm going to try to speed it up.

We were maybe a bit more adventurous in this area than most. We tried several restaurants on Rob's list which were all excellent but also enjoyed many of the out of the way spots, enramadas, mom and pop joints and the like.
Some quick hits:
Bananas...good cheap place for breakfast, try the chilaquiles rojo.
La Carreta... a mom and pop place across from Bananas, light,delicious, hot tortillas.
j.j.s...nice spot, best guacamole of the trip.
La Cas Vieja...more touristy than our usual, food was good, margaritas huge. I had visions of Peggy's head becoming lodged in the glass (news flash,Canadian woman drowns in Zihuatanejo,details at 11)
Los Paisanos 1...dinner on the beach, under the stars, very tasty huachinango a la mexicana.
Chohilos...across from the navy yard, 2 blocks from the pier. Strictly locals in this place. Some navy guys at the next table reccommended the beef con salsa rojo, excellent. Serenaded there by 7, count 'em, 7 mariachis.
La Puesta del Sol (not sure on this name)...just up from the Irma, beautiful tableside preparation and presentation of beef flambe. Beautiful view, reasonable prices.
Rossy...near the end of La Ropa, a typical beach restaurant. Paul's seafood soup was visually startling: a large huachinango tail protruding from one side of the bowl, a sinister looking langostina head peering from the other with lots of good stuff in between. He claims it was delicious.
tamales y entertainment and good tamales, cheap prices.
Sanka doubt, the best tacos around, melt in your mouth steak slices, perfectly seasoned. Cheapest beer around( 7 pesos, we usally paid 10).

Language...I always attemped to converse in my fractured Spanish, more out of respect for the local people than in any great faith in my own abilities. Nothing to fear here, you'll always get by. Very little English spoken where we were in Barra, added to the charm, we thought.
Taxis...Drivers were friendly and helpful. You get what you give, though, be respectful and friendly and you'll do fine. Nobody's perfect, I left a pair of sandals in a taxi one day, didn't get the taxi number or the sandals back.

Many thanks to all who so kindly provided us with information that helped us plan our trip and especially to Rob for this great board.Rob, I enjoyed our brief chat at your office Thursday morning, next time I promise I'll see you later in the afternoon for a cold one.

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