Trip Report (sorry it's so long!)

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Posted by Bret in Portland on January 30, 2001 at 11:42:51:

Hi everyone,

Just got back from our three week honeymoon and thought I owed the board a trip report because of all the great advice we got from here before our trip. As you can probably guess, we had the most wonderful time.

I am 42 and have traveled quite a lot in Mexico and Central America; my new bride Rosaleen is 36 and, being from Ireland, has never been "south of the border" before. Our three weeks were very flexible, the only given was 7 days in an Ixtapa timeshare that we were given as a wedding present. Also, we were trying to stay on a tight budget of $50USD/$500pesos per day (excluding hotel and long-distance transportation), and we found we had no problem doing that on most days.
Average daily expenses: Breakfast of rolls and orange juice ($35 pesos), bus and boat fare ($70 pesos), lunch & soft drinks ($150 pesos), 4 margaritas at happy hour ($70 pesos), dinner for two ($125-200 pesos).

We flew into Guadalajara for a few days to start off the trip (we also visited the suburbs of Tlacapaque and Tonala) and then bused down to Ixtapa by way of Taxco. After our week in Ixtapa, we spent three more days in Zihua and then flew to Guadalajara and grabbed another bus up to Guanajuato for our last few days. (FYI: We saved 50% on our plane tickets by leaving from Lazaro Cardenes instead of Zihua, an easy two hours north by bus).
Since this is an Ixtapa/Zihua board, Iím not going to comment on the other towns (all of which we loved). Drop me a note if youíre interested in our impressions of those cities, Iíd be glad to talk to you.

We were very happy to meet Rob (who was very helpful and even helped us find a cheap hotel in Zihua for our last three days, $17 per night!) and his wife Lupita, who sells wonderful clothing. We also met "Travel" Judy, Marty and his wife, Bob & Cathy Koch, Robís mother Judith, Laura (out in Barra de Potosi), and Lucia (from IxtapaFans). We even went out of our way to meet Joe and had a nice chat with him over margaritas at Coconuts. This board will never be the same, now that I have faces and personalities (with a capitol "P" in some cases!) to put with some of the names.
But, as nice as it was to meet all the people from this forum, it was the Mexican people who made this a wonderful trip. Whether it was in Ixtapa (where almost everyone spoke English), Zihuatanejo (where a thriving Mexican town somehow co-exists alongside the tourism), or in Barra de Potosi or Petitlan (where you can get a sense of "real" Mexico), it is the people on the street who make you want to go back. Even my wife, who didnít speak a work of Spanish when we arrived, had no problem communicating with the patient locals. And as she picked up a word here and there, it became even easier.

Getting up at dawn to watch the fishermen come in and to watch the sun come up over the beautiful bay. Sunday festivities down by the basketball courts when it seems that the whole town is out. Having a drink at Walt & Willís and watching the boats settle in for the evening. Listening to a grandmother sing lullabies in Spanish while rocking a baby to sleep in a hammock out at Los Gatos. Siting at Danielís, drinking two-for-ones, and people watching. Walking on the beach in Ixtapa at sunrise. Sunset at Carlos & Charlieís with a couple of their giant margaritas. The calm of Barra de Potosi. And sitting all day at any of the beaches, reading and eating and watching the ocean and feeling that life just doesnít get any better than this.

Before I get to details, here is a usual day for us:
We get up just after dawn and walk along the beach in Ixtapa. Itís pretty quiet, the palapas are all empty but there are lotís of other people walking and jogging along the water. At the far end of the beach, we turn up the public access road behind Carlos ní Charlies (if you go much further, you canít get off the beach) and either walk over the marina for breakfast or over to the bakery to pick up a breakfast for the beach a little later. After stopping by the hotel to get our beach bags (towels, water, lotion, etc) we grab the minibus (and maybe a boat) to whichever beach we are headed for that day. We choose a fairly quiet place with good shade (donít want to get sunburned on your honeymoon!), a beach chair for me and a lounger for Rosaleen. We eat our rolls, read, and swim/snorkel for the first couple of hours (the people at the palapas donít mind, they know that youíll buy lunch or at least drinks later). Lunch is usually a seafood meal or perhaps a couple of antojitio plates, our tab is usually under $15USD for about 4 hours on the beach. We work our way home for a shower, siesta, and maybe a game or two of volleyball. Around 6pm we head out to watch the sunset somewhere with a couple of martgaritas, then walk around town until either the urge for dinner hits us or we meet some people who are heading somewhere that sounds interesting. We usually get back to the hotel around 9 or so, maybe have a dip in the pool, and then to bed to get up early and start all over again. Paradise.

Other than the taxi to and from the bus station (35 pesos I think), we relied completely on our feet and on the local buses. The minibuses were really easy to ride: their destinations were marked on the windshield and cost only 4 pesos from Ixtapa to Zihua. Grab any "Zihua" bus and get off at the large yellow "Electra" building in town, you are now about 4 or five blocks from everything. Drivers and other people on the buses were extremely nice and helpful, we never missed getting off at the stop we wanted. Grab any "Ixtapa" bus from across from the Electra to go home (some donít go all the way to the marina, so ask if you are going to that end of Ixtapa. Buses to La Ropa were only 3 pesos, I think. Boats to Isla Ixtapa and to Las Gatos were plentiful, you buy your tickets from a booth on the dock in town or out at Playa Linda (and yes, there is a bus to Playa Linda). The boats are only 30 pesos per person.

For those of you who havenít been there before, Ixtapa is basically one long beautiful beach lined with fairly large hotels. The waves here were a little rough while we were there, but still fun to play in (we didnít see a green or yellow flag meaning "safe swimming" the entire time). At the far end of the "strip" is the marina, which has some very lovely restaurants with tables right over the water. On the other side of the hotels, across a four lane tree-lined road (which was never very busy) are most of the shops, businesses, and restaurants. Behind the commercial area, across another road, are a few other hotels (including ours), condos, and golf-courses. We found Ixtapa to be quite clean, somewhat expensive, and kind of antiseptic. We were very glad to get into Zihua most days because it felt like a real, living, community.
We stayed at the Hotel Puerta del Mar timeshares. This is the yellow/orange building off to the right when you first come into Ixtapa (just after the Naval Hospital). Reception is an open-air palapa set out on the lovely grounds away from the main building. We loved the place: The rooms were large, with kitchen, dinning room, master bedroom, and two baths. The clients were about one half Mexican families and one half gringos. It was very relaxing, quiet, and had a nice shady pool area. The only drawback to the hotel is that it is a few blocks from the beach, which didnít bother us too much, but might be a big liability for some people. They do have a palapa area right down on the beach next to the Barcelo, but you had about a 10 minute walk to get there. I thought it was worth the tradeoff for the peace and quiet. If you need to be right on the beach, or if you need a lot of organized activities, this isnít the place for you.
In Ixtapa we ate at JJís (at the little restaurant on the back side, not the lobster place), Emilioís pizza, the great bakery next to Emilloís, (we found the German bakery to be overpriced and overcrowded), Carlos & Charlieís (the best place to watch the sunset), Sr. Frogs (horrible service and mediocre food), one of the restaurants at the marina (overpriced, but worth it for breakfast on the water), and we had drinks at El Faro (up on the cliff). Unfortunately, El Faro is situated where you canít actually see the sunset, but the tram ride up and the great view of Ixtapa and the surrounding mountains lit up by the sunset made it well worth it.
We also had a wonderful time at Isla Ixtapa. We took a minibus (they are easy and cheap) to Playa Linda and then grabbed the water-taxi to Isla Ixtapa.. We walked the 50 yards or so to the other side of the island and spent the day at Coral beach, which wasnít as developed as the other two beaches. The snorkeling was OK, not great, but the beach was very nice for lazing about reading, eating, and sipping cold drinks. As always, the service was pleasant and friendly. Highly recommended.

This is were we spent most of our time, we love this town! Especially the central area with itís shady cobblestone streets, wonderful open-air restaurants, and laid-back atmosphere. We moved into a little hotel in town as soon as our timeshare days were over and we will certainly stay either in Zihua or at Playa Madera (an easy walk from downtown) on our next trip.
In the center we ate at JJís (mostly to watch the Blazer games), Danielís (our pick of the waterfront eateries in town, especially anything off their tex-mex menuboard which is very good and cheaper than their regular menu), the little pink bakery next to Robís (great, plus fresh squeezed orange juice!), Tomales "Any"ís (you HAVE to have one of their 9 peso tomales), and any number of little places where the locals eat, which were all good and very cheap.
Outside the center, we ate at La Perla (great location, a little crowded), Casa Que Canta (a must see, but two margaritas and a guacamole cost us $21US), and several palapa restaurants on the various beaches (all about the same: good service, decent food, great location!)
Special finds: Will & Waltís place, over the marina bridge and about 100 yards to the left (really nice people, incredible view of the bay, great food, not cheap). EL Mirador & Puesta del Sol, between La Ropa and Playa Madera, on the same cliff as Casa Que Canta (same view, good food, half the price). Chiloloís, down by the marina bridge, next to the Hotel Ulysis (really cheap, really nice owner, good food).

Every beach we visited was wonderful in itís own way. The Municipal beach in town was a great place to watch the sunrise and mingle with the fishermen (donít think anyone swims there, though). La Madera, one of our favorites, especially on Sunday afternoon when it is packed with locals, is probably where we will stay next time (especially good for swimming). La Ropa is a long, beautiful beach, the waves are a little larger than Madera, but fun, La Perla restaurant sits right in the middle of it. Los Gatos was my personal favorite, I thought the snorkeling was superior to Isla Ixtapa and itís pretty quiet once you get away from the bathing beach next to the dock. (The walk from La Ropa to Los Gatos isnít nearly as bad as we were led to believe, but the boat is more fun).

We took the bus and truck out to Barra de Potosi and had a wonderful time. The town is incredibly quiet and calm, just two streets of houses and little stores, and a strip of palapa restaurants (mostly completely empty on a weekday). Walking around town and talking to the fishermen who were sitting on their front stoops and repairing their nets was one of the highlights of our trip. We also met the wonderful Laura, who gave us a tour of her place and a rundown on all her plans for the future. We also had the best meal of our entire trip at the palapa restaurant at the end on the far right, nearest the water, I think it is called La Condesa. Fresh caught red snapper for two for 50 pesos, we tried it again and again after that, but it was never quite as good. The waves were very rough that day, although still fun to play in if you are careful, Laura said that it was usually much calmer. We will absolutely stay in Barra for a day or two next trip!
We also took the bus (same bus as to Barra) to Petitlan. We went on a Sunday especially to go to mass in their church, which was a great experience although the church in Zihua actually seems as nice to me. We also shopped a little in the silver shops around the church. The town is very Mexican, which is interesting, but I personally donít think it was worth the trip (especially if you are only going to be in Zihua for a week or so).

Well, thatís about the best I can do, let me know if I missed something or if you have any questions you think we might be able to answer.
Thanks to everyone who helped us in our planning of this trip, you know who you are.
Weíll be back, we are already planning our next visit.
Bret & Rosaleen
Portland, Oregon

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