Posted by Jean in Oregon on April 01, 2001 at 12:04:14:
We spent 8 nights, March 20-28, at Bungalows Sotelo on La Madera in Zihua and had a great time. I had practically lived on this message board for the preceeding 3 months, gathering and printing tons of useful information, and had a lot of deja vu when we got here.
However, I hadn't been able to find anything on Bungalows Sotelo, so I'll go into some detail about that. We choose it because it sounded like the location of Playa Madera would be good for us, and because I really couldn't find any place else that had the space I wanted. My husband and I were there with our 18 and 20-year-old sons and their 17-year-old friend, and we really wanted comfortable sleeping arrangements and space to just hang around. We booked a three-bedroom bungalow, number 4, for $160 US per night (there was no additional charge for taxes or anything), which seemed a bit steep from what other people have been quoting, but it was absolutely perfect for us. We did it all by email and really didn't know how rustic it might be. The rooms turned out to be huge. Each bedroom had a king size bed (consisting of two twins conjoined and which could be separated) which we all thought were very comfortable. Firm without being boardlike or lumpy. Each bedroom had its own large bathroom with shower. There were not openable windows in the bathrooms, but we didn't find that to be a problem at all. There were noisy, in-wall air conditioners, once of which didn't work very well.
The living room was large and had two couches (not new, I might add) cable TV, end and coffee tables and such, and a round dining table and chairs. There were an amazing number of light switches, and of course fans in every room. There was a kitchenette with a refrigerator,and a long counter with a four-burner gas stove top, a sink, and a few pots and dishes. Our bedroom and the living room opened out onto a very large patio, with another table and chairs and plenty of patio furniture. We had a beautiful view of the beach and the bay, and assorted palm trees. All of the floors, including the patio, were shiny white tile, which was mopped every day. The walls were stucco in freshly painted bright pastels.
The hot water takes a while to come, but it always came. We were temporarily out of water for mysterious reasons twice, and once it came right back on and once it took a while. As for drinking water, they kept us with a large (5 gallon maybe?) bottle of water in a dispenser, so that wasn't a problem.
All of the "bungalows" in the area are really attached units, only the first of which (number 10 in this case) is right on the beach. The others snake up the hillside. This was fine with us. The narrow passage at the front of the units was a public access to the beach, but that wasn't a problem. Except once, two of us left our sandy sandels on our front steps and they were gone when we went to get them later. Typically, though, Luis was out front. He was sort of a security guy, handyman, all purpose helper wonderful guy.
The location was quiet except for the wonderful crashing of the waves, and we spent quality time relaxing almost everywhere around there. I was really glad we had a big space and could all be together without being too cozy. It was a very good choice for us.
We liked being where we were. We would eat breakfast together, usually at La Casa Cafe which was close (there was a place across the street from La Casa, I think Isabel's, which was closed when we were there and seemed to open the last day, which looked good), take a brief three-block walk downtown, walk around together for a while, split up as we felt like it, run into each other occasionally, and then meet in the evening for dinner at a different place every night.
We had dinner at the Bay Club the first night. We thought it would have live music, but they didn't that night, and the place was empty, as were many places that we went. The people were very nice and the food was very good. The cook came out and conferred with our vegetarian son about what was available for him (quite a lot, and they would change anything any way to suit him) and we all had a great meal, with a wonderful view of the bay. Our last night we ate at La Puesta del Sol, just below the Bay Club. We had walked past it several days when we walked to La Ropa and finally went there. Everyone should go there. They do these great tableside flambe don't try this at home kind of presentations. The bananas Kahlua dessert was great, and my husband had a pepper beef medallion flambe that was also great theatre and great food too. The view is also spectacular.
We enjoyed Rick's Bar, and besides the above mentioned restaurants, we also ate at MJ & Richies (don't get the paella, but the fish fajita, whole red snapper with garlic, and chicken (something, taco, maybe) were all good) on Playa Madera, La Perla at LaRopa, Casa Elvira downtown overlooking the Municipal beach, Banditos (saw a great band that played Andean music), Tamales Atole et Any (I had the pozole, which was great, but get the smallest "childlike" portion), and Casa Vieja. Every meal wasn't outstanding, but at least one of our meals at each restaurant was outstanding and none of them were bad.
EXCURSIONS, OR WHAT DID YOU DO ALL DAY?
We went snorkeling at Playa Manzanilla with Hector and saw two whales, close by, on our way there. That was a really great experience.
We took the bus to Petetlan on Sunday, and enjoyed seeing the church and the markets. The bus trip was 10 pesos each, one way. A word of advice. . . on your way back to Zihua, don't get on a bus that has the word " D A N G E R" , in English, in one-foot high letters with flames around them, across the top half of the windshield. This may seem self-evident, she says in retrospect. The driver was clearly on a thankfully unsuccessful suicide mission, or had no grasp at all of the laws of probability, but I don't know how many times you can pass uphill on a blind curve and live to tell the tale.
We went to Ixtapa one day and couldn't figure out what to do there. Several hotels wouldn't let us go through them to get to the beach and the shopping/restaurant areas seemed bland. If we ever came with my mom, who wouldn't enjoy walking up and down all the steps and hill we did, we would stay at La Ropa, where you could just walk out to the beach on a flat surface, or Ixtapa, and we would take more taxis. I had been concerned that the kids might have preferred the social aspects of being somewhere like Ixtapa, but after our brief visit they thought it would be fun to stay in Ixtapa but were especially pleased that, at least this time, we were in "a real Mexican town" as they said.
We walked all over, all the time, when we weren't lounging around reading. The kids would jog up the steep hill, down to LaRopa, run back and forth on that beach a few times, commune with the crocodilos, go swimming, and buy a soda.
We walked over there a few times, and once took a cab home but the rest of the time we walked. We loved the Central Mercado, complete with piles of wonderful fruits and vegetables and rows of dead chickens. We found great coconut candy everywhere, and the dulce de leche is so much better than the caramel we get here. The kids brought back bagsfull of candy and they each bought a hammock (so practical here in Oregon).
My husband didn't buy a guitar, but Rick at Rick's Bar lets anyone come in and play anytime that someone isn't actually booked, so that worked out.
TRAVELING WITH MINOR CHILD
Alaska Airlines assured us we couldn't travel to Mexico without notarized consent letters from both parents of a minor child. We obtained them from the parents of our son's friend, and of course no one asked for them. He will be 18 in a few months and has his own passport, so maybe if he had been younger they would have paid attention to it.
IN CONCLUSION (Finally, they say)
We had a great trip. We did enough things that we felt we'd been to a distant land, and we sat around enough to feel like we'd been on vacation. Everything went smoothly. Thanks for all the input from this board.