Trip report--spring break.

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Posted by Shawn on April 30, 2001 at 04:17:25:

I just returned from my week in Zihua and must say that it was one of the more relaxing vacations I've had in a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the town and the beautiful beaches. I'd go back in a heartbeat, though in reality I'll have to scrimp for a few months to get the $$ up for airfare.

Part of the allure of Zihua is the fact that there is (and take this the way it's intended) not a whole lot to do while there. By that I mean that when I'm on vacation, I usually feel like I have to do this on one day, do that on the next, then visit tourist-trap-o-rama on the third day, and on, and on. In Zihua, my agenda was: lounge on the beach, dive (more on this later), lounge on the beach, dive, lounge on the beach. Oh, yeah, and read, read, read--something I don't get a chance to do much.

I stayed at the Casa Dos Amigos on the centro end of Playa Madera. It is a four-room, cozy, posada--nothing luxurious, but relaxing and welcoming. Itís great for a budget trip like mine. Maria and Hubert--the manager and owner were nothing but friendly and helpful, pointing out the places to eat, where to shop, and generally making sure I knew what was going on (BTW, Maria, if you read this, I never got a chance to do Posole on Thursday--I'll have to catch it next time around!). The rooms at Casa Dos Amigos are small, but the atmosphere is definitely a nice trade off.

I spent the week walking around town, hanging out on the beach (Playa la Ropa is the nicest in Zihua, IMO), and diving. Playa la Ropa is great. Bring a towel and sunscreen with you and buy breakfast or lunch at one of the nice restaurants there. Take a palapa along the beach and spend the rest of the day hanging out. I took a book along and read while I sat by the beach. A couple of whales--a baby and its mama--made their appearance out in the bay the week I was there. Beautiful creatures, those are. It was fun watching them frolic in the water (if you can call what a 100 ton animal does ďfrolicking.Ē) We also saw them on the way out to one of our dives, but the boat drivers didnít want to get close enough to the whales to disturb them--the right decision, IMO.

Speaking of diving, I managed to get out twice during the week. The first day, I went with the Zihuatanejo Scuba Center, which is located at Hotel Paraiso Real on Playa La Ropa. The diving was uneventful, with visibilities on first dive of about 30-45 feet. I donít have my dive log right at hand, but I know it was a decent, though not spectacular dive. The second dive, however, was not that great. The vis was about 20 feet at most. We even lost our divemaster at one point, though she quickly picked us up again. Not to worry--Iím an experienced diver and two of the other three in the group were instructors, so we werenít in any danger at any time. I thought the ZSC staff was pretty good overall, though we had to swim from the beach out to the dive boat, dragging our gear along--a new experience for me.

I booked with Ixtapa Divers the second day. Diving was better than first day. Vis was in the 40-50 ft range. The diving was pretty good--wildlife was fairly abundant. We saw a whole school of manta rays on our first ascent--why do all the good things happen on the way up, anyway? Second dive was less spectacular, but pretty good anyway. Overall, the diving was comparable to California, both in wildlife and in visibility. Water temps were 66-72į--cool enough to require a full 3 or 4 mm wetsuit. If I were diving more than two days, Iíd probably bring my full 7 mm suit--more comfortable that way. Diving in the Caribbean or South Florida is better, but this isnít bad--and the rest of the vacation made up for the less-than-spectacular diving.

I spent a day in Ixtapa. Ixtapa is newer and cleaner than Zihua, but it reminded me quite a bit of South Floridaís developed areas--hotels on the beach, etc. I must say that Playa Palmar in Ixtapa is very pretty and much bigger than the beaches in Zihua, but the atmosphere (including stern looking guards at the beach-side entrances to the hotels) left something to be desired. There are only three public accesses to Playa Palmar, spaced a half-mile or more apart. They are the only way to get to/from the beach unless youíre in a hotel there. I suppose you could just cut through the hotels to get to the beach, but I didnít check that premise out--I wasnít going to argue with the scowling protectors of the realm.

The walk down the main strip in Ixtapa is, in a word, disappointing--hotels on one side, not much on the other. IMO, if youíre not into the whole high-rise hotel/club/exclusive resort scene, Zihua is much more of a vacation place than Ixtapa. One thing I'm glad about is the fact that Ixtapa isn't the college spring break destination that Cancun or Acapulco are. The beaches were clean, relatively quiet, and easy to lounge on. That's a definite plus, IMO.

The shops in Ixtapa were more upscale than Zihua, but they were pricey and fairly pretentious, IMO.

Eating was a pleasure in Zihua. Food is plentiful and cheap. The variety of food is great also. I didnít eat in the same place twice during the week I was there, and that included lunch and dinner. Best places I ate were probably on Playa La Ropa--La Perla, Restaurante Elvira, and Cocodriloís at Hotel Paraiso Real. The food at these places was good, but the ambience (sitting under the palapas, watching the pelicans go fish) was outstanding. JJís in town was pretty good also, while Rubenís and Mama Norma and Deborahís in Ixtapa fit the bill in that town. Rubenís, btw, makes a great burger and fries basket for about 40 pesos. The only place I ate that I was kind of disappointed in was El Manglar, on the waterfront right next to the museum. The sliced steak I had there was a bit...well-aged, I guess. It was edible, but wasnít very flavorful. In its defense, it was the only beef I had while I was in Zihua--I probably ate more fish while there than I do in a normal month.

Overall, the trip was perfect--exactly what I needed at the time. I have to admit that I got to Zihua on a free flight, one I got from America West by getting bumped off an earlier flight. Iím not sure Iíd have come originally if I had to pay the airfare. However, the guidebooks all said this is the one Pacific Coast destination to hit, so I did. Iíll be back, even if I have to pay the big $$ to get there. Itíll be worth the trip. I never got to Playa Las Gatas or to Troncones or Barra di Potosi. I never got to the Posole night on Thursday. I guess thatíll give me something to do the next time Iím in Zihua.

BTW... I also met Rob at his office. Nice guy. We chatted for probably over an hour about this and that. It was nice to meet the force behind this board. So, on that note, thanks, Rob, for all the work you do in getting the info out to everyone. The fact that I could research my trip ahead of time made it much easier to get around. It was fun and I just might at some point take you up on the idea of teaching in Mexico.

Have fun, all--Zihua is a great destination. I will be back, rest assured.

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