Trip Report


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Posted by Phil and Kristi from Minnesota on December 16, 2000 at 16:02:55:

We just returned from 10 days in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. We've seen many people give "trip reports," which were helpful to us, so we thought we'd do the same. The information we give below is all based on our own experiences, and we hope it is helpful to anyone who may be interested:

Hotel

We stayed at the Westin Brisas, and it was absolutely fabulous! The grounds are extensive, with winding paths and stairways through lush vegetation. There are four pools with cascading water. One pool is designated as "Adults Only," and is quite removed from the other pools. We enjoyed the solitude there. Also, the Westin does not allow people to "reserve" lounge chairs at any pool or at the beach palapas, so we never had a problem finding a great place to relax. In addition, there is no "blasting" pool/beach music at the Westin, which other people we met on vacation said was a problem at their Playa del Palmar hotels. In short, if you are looking for solitude and privacy at the pools and beach, the Westin is a great place!

Also, we can't say enough about the pleasant and extremely helpful staff at the hotel. One waiter at the Lobby Bar was especially nice--his name is Ramundo, and he is always "happy, happy," (which is a favorite expression of his). The Lobby Bar has a great 2-for-1 Happy Hour from 6:00 to 7:00 every night, and the sunsets are fabulous.

The rooms are very nice, with huge balconies. Request a room on an upper floor for the best views of the bay. The staff is constantly cleaning the rooms and providing new towels. They also leave pretty little flowers on your bed each day!

Both check-in and check-out was done very quickly, professionally, and without incident. Incidentally, the Westin is changing its name on December 1, 2000. It will now be the "Las Brisas Ixtapa" hotel. Our information from the hotel staff is that the new ownership has no changes planned for the hotel. We think that's good, because our stay there was perfect!

Activities

1. Golf:

We golfed both the Palma Real Course and the Marina Course and by far preferred the Palma Real Course. No tee time is needed at either course. Check with your hotels for discounts. Ours (the Westin Las Brisas) offered 20% discount coupons for both courses. The Marina Course is a
little more expensive and doesn't have any shade trees to speak of. It is rather flat for the most part and some of it appears to be built on reclaimed swamp, thus it is quite hot. It is, nevertheless, a beautiful tropical and very challenging course with numerous forced carries and is also heavily bunkered.

The Palma Real Course is the older course, designed by Robert Trent Jones. There are hundreds of large palm and other native trees for shade. It is extremely scenic, especially the view from the tee box on #15! You'll know what we mean when you get there. Stop and enjoy the view for awhile. By the way, look out for the prehistoric beasts swimming in the lagoon between #15 and 16. We also saw a giant iguana on #17 that was about 3 feet long! We only mention the shade trees because it gets quite hot after the sun comes up, so try to get out as early as possible.

Both courses open at 7:00 a.m., and are very well maintained and have ample opportunities to buy water (or other liquid refreshments) from the carts traveling around the course.

We'd like to tell you that we shot well, but it is difficult to concentrate on shot-making when you are surrounded with such beauty. By all means play both courses and enjoy them for all they're worth.

2. Snorkeling:

Our favorite snorkeling spot was Playa Las Gatas. There are rocks that protect the beach, and provide a great reef for many different kinds of fish. We took a panga boat from Zihuatanejo's marina. You buy a ticket that costs 30 pesos per person/round trip. The beach itself is lined with small palapa restaurants that provide you with lounge chairs, tables, chairs and any refreshments you may desire. We set up camp at a great place called "Arnoldo's." We were served by a young man named Daniel, who was extremely nice and helpful. We arrived early, around 8:30
a.m., and he made us homemade breakfast (although not on the menu), including scrambled eggs and fresh tortillas with a spicy homemade peanut sauce. We would recommend Arnoldo's to anyone. It is about the third or fourth restaurant from the dock on Las Gatas. By the way, if you are snorkeling at Las Gatas, it is best to be on the end of the beach nearest the dock because the best snorkeling is around the end of the rocks nearest the land (great people watching, too). The other end is too shallow to snorkel around, and there are many sharp rocks.

One of the more delightful experiences we had at Arnoldo's was when the Mexican family sitting next to us hired a mariachi band so that their little boy (about age 6) could sing with them. He was absolutely adorable and so serious!! Everyone around clapped heartily.

Finally, wherever you snorkel, the best time to go is in the morning, sometime between 8:00 a.m. to 10:00-11:00 a.m. After that, it is low tide, which means that the water gets quite cloudy. There are also very few people who snorkel early in the day, which, for us, meant we had the entire beach and reef at Las Gatas to ourselves for a couple hours!

We also snorkeled at Isla Ixtapa, which has a set-up similar to Playa Las Gatas, i.e. palapa huts with lounge chairs and tables. The snorkeling beach on the island is called Playa Coral, and is located on the opposite side of the island from the dock. (It's just a very short walk across the
island to the beach). You reach the island via panga boat from Playa Linda. You buy a ticket that costs 25 pesos per person/round trip. There is a very good reef for snorkeling at Playa Coral. Be careful, however, as the beach has a lot of little rocks and sharp coral. We thought Isla Ixtapa was definitely worthwhile, but preferred Playa Las Gatas--the beach is smoother and the surf a little weaker. Again, snorkeling was best in the morning at high tide and before all the people got there.

Restaurants

1. Las Brisas II-Westin Brisas Hotel: Our dinner at Las Brisas II was, without a doubt, the most romantic dinner we have ever had. The restaurant is set just above Playa Hermosa and consists of three levels of curving stone terraces with beautiful marble and wrought-iron tables. It is surrounded by lush vegetation, and the trees are hung with subtle white lights. Our "dinner music" was the sound of the waves crashing on the beach just below us. As for the food, it was fantastic--both in presentation and taste. We had shrimp and lobster tail flambéed for us at our table by two excellent waiters. Both the shrimp and lobster tail were huge and flavored perfectly. The side dishes of a variety of vegetables were cut into various shapes and sizes and were actually more like artwork than food! Finally, the service was superb.

We have not seen much information on Las Brisas II on the web, or on this message board, which is shocking given how fabulous it was! Our guess is that people overlook it because it is in a large resort. However, we would recommend this restaurant to anyone interested in fantastic food, outstanding service and an unbelievable setting! For those of you who have eaten at "Edith's" in Cabo San Lucas, the Las Brisas II beats it hands down.

2. Kau Kan: This was an excellent restaurant located on the hill between Playa Madera and Playa La Ropa in Zihuatanejo. The restaurant has a beautiful view of the bay and the Municipal Beach in Zihua. The service was excellent, as was the food. My husband had "Stingray in Blackened Butter," which is a house specialty and which he loved. Our best surprise came when we ordered "Mexican coffee" after dinner. While there is coffee in this treat, it's like no other coffee we've ever had! In fact, it contains tequila, kahlua, coffee and cream, which is prepared table side. The glass is first moistened on an orange, dipped in sugar, and then flamed to melt the sugar on to the glass. This is followed by flaming tequila, in a fantastic 10 minute show. It's difficult to describe, but it was really fun to watch, and quite tasty, too!

3. La Casa Que Canta: Much has been written by others about this upscale restaurant located on the hill between Playa Madera and Playa La Ropa in Zihuatanejo, and we would agree that this is a great restaurant. Again, the food and service was great. We would recommend making a reservation for dinner here because there are several tables located back away from the edge of the deck overlooking the bay, where you don't get as good of a view. We had an after-dinner drink at the palapa bar, which is very picturesque.

4. Villa de la Selva: This restaurant is located in Ixtapa, just south of the Westin hotel, and is in the former residence of a Mexican president. It was beautiful and had a magnificent view of the ocean. Like the other restaurants, the food and service were great. However, during
our dinner, the restaurant played very loud music, including Ricky Martin! The music, obviously, detracted from what would have otherwise been a wonderful dinner. If you have a limited budget and/or limited time for dinner at one of these restaurants, we would not recommend Villa de la Selva. If you do go there, however, make a reservation for one of the tables located at the edge of the deck, which give you the best view.


5. We also dined at Bucanero's and Beccofino's at the Marina in Ixtapa. Bucanero's serves a variety of dishes, with an emphasis on seafood, while Beccofino's focuses on Italian fare. Both restaurants were very good, and were worth the trip. After dinner at Beccofino's, we went up into the "lighthouse" at the Marina, which has a bar called "El Faro" at the top. (Keep in mind, this is not the "El Faro" that is located on the hill overlooking Playa del Palmar and that is reachable via cable-car). The lighthouse "El Faro" seemed a little "gimmicky," and there was nobody there. However, they made killer "Russo Negras."

6. Breakfasts were excellent at both the Hacienda restaurant and Café Salsa in Ixtapa. The menu selections were diverse and delicious, and the prices were very reasonable.

Of course, there are many other things to do and places to eat. We hope that this information, based on our own experiences, is helpful to you. Whatever you do, we wish you a wonderful vacation!


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