Trip Report

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Posted by Camille on May 14, 2001 at 00:12:25:

We just returned on 5/8 from our first trip to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and had a fantastic time. It was our 9 and 10 year old sons' first trip to Mexico (besides Tijuana, which is not an ideal example of Mexico) and they loved it. We stayed at the Continental Plaza in Ixtapa (located between the Krystal and the Radisson) which was very nice, but we knew after our first day trip to Zihuat that we would definitely stay there on our next visit. Ixtapa is a beautiful resort town with lots of shops and restaurants within walking distance, but it just does not "feel" like a town to us the way Zihuat did. The people, both locals and tourists, in Zihuat seemed more friendly and the prices for food and other items were more reasonable. Here's a rundown of our trip, including some tips we got from this message board that were invaluable.

Day 1: Left Seattle at 7:00 am. Our 10 year old was very nervous about flying, but he used a product called "Earplanes" which are little corkscrew-shaped plastic earplugs that help reduce ear pressure during takeoff and landing. They worked great, and he had no problems. We had a brief stopover in Los Angeles that was extended by an hour, so we got out of LA a bit later than originally scheduled. Flying into Ixtapa/Zihuat was gorgeous, and we could even pick out our hotel from up in the air. Customs went smoothly, although we were so excited that it seemed to take forever. The taxi ride into town gave us a great preview of the area, and we arrived at our hotel around 5:45 pm. We rented a one bedroom, two bath condo with kitchen at the Continental Plaza. It was beautiful and quite spacious. There was a small balcony off the living area and balcony off the bedroom, with a spectacular view of the ocean. I can still hear the waves crashing on the beach and smell the fires burning in the hills. . . Anyway, we checked out the beach and pool and then went for a quick swim in the pool before dinner. We walked to Ixtapa and were "roped in" at the Lobster House/Prime Rib House on the main corner, which had excellent food but was fairly expensive. We spent about $80 US for the four of us, which was the most we spent for dinner the whole trip. My husband had a delicious chicken tamale there and he tried again and again on the trip to find tamales at other restaurants, but most that we went to didn't seem to have them. Perhaps it's not a regional dish?

Day 2: My 9 year old and I woke up very early and walked the beach. El Palmar beach in front of the Ixtapa hotel strip is absolutely beautiful. It is a long, wide beach with many different hotels and condos along it, and the open sea with several rocky islands just off the coast. As noted in this website though, the surf is very strong. My son and I are not strong swimmers, so I only allowed him to walk out up to his knees and reminded him to never turn his back on the sea. These morning walks became a daily ritual for us, and they were so relaxing. After returning to the hotel and waking my husband and other son, we headed out for breakfast at a place just north of Senor Frogs, I think it was called L'Enfer y Gloria (???something like that). Breakfast was delicious, and the decor of the place was fantastic. They even had a skeleton band in sombreros mounted up near the ceiling, which the kids loved. We all marveled at how many of the restaurants and even our hotel's lobby are wide open to the outdoors, frequently without doors or windows, just shutters or bars to secure the establishment at night. After breakfast we picked up a couple large bottles of water for drinking, then hit the pool for sunning and swimming. As other folks have said on this website before, DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE SUN. We all put waterproof 45 SPF sunscreen on repeatedly during the day, even dragging our kids out of the pool several times for new applications (despite their protests!), and the kids still got sunburns on their shoulders and under their eyes. Thankfully it did not ruin our trip, it just resulted in some creative scheduling (I hate to use the word scheduling when talking about a vacation, but there you go) to avoid the high sun times. On Days 3 - 7 we did most of our pool time in the mornings and late afternoons/early evenings and had the kids wear t-shirts to protect their shoulders (along with sunscreen). For dinner we took a taxi into Zihuat and ate at Pizza Locos, which was delicious. My husband and I had chicken enchiladas and the kids had BBQ ribs. The gentleman who waited on us was very friendly and the prices were reasonable. We went to the bakery across the street and bought some goodies for breakfast (very inexpensive!) Then we walked out to the Municipal Pier to find out about a half-day fishing trip for my husband and 9 year old and quickly found someone who was willing to do a half day for around $120 US. Since my son has never deep-sea fished before we thought a half-day, in shore trip might be more fun for him. After working out the trip details, we hit the tourist market for some silver jewelry for our niece's birthday, then a taxi ride back to Ixtapa. We picked up some food for breakfast, lunch and snacks at the Supermercado in Ixtapa, which had a fairly good selection. Since my 9 year old and I are the family early birds and my husband and 10 year old are both night owls who like to sleep in late, we figured that mornings would go more smoothly if we had food available to eat when we want without having to coordinate everyone's wake-up times. This worked out very well for us and also ended up saving us some money. We also found that our appetites were not real big due to the heat and humidity, so many days we had breakfast in the condo, nachos, fries and cervezas and pop poolside for lunch, then an early dinner. This also allowed the kids more evening swim time, since we were often done with dinner by 6:00 and the pool didn't close until 8:00.

Day 3: Early morning beach walk again with my son, then back to the condo to make coffee and enjoy the delicious pastries, along with some juice and cereal. Pool and sun time, snacks and cervezas for lunch, then into Zihuat for an early dinner. Let me also point out that taxis are everywhere in both Ixtapa and Zihuat, and we never had to wait more than a minute for one. They were very reasonable, and we always confirmed the cost before getting in. It was 30 pesos to Zihuat, although we always tipped an extra 10 pesos. We had dinner at Daniel's on the Beach, garlic shrimp with rice and vegies, spaghetti for the kids. Yummy! Prices were reasonable and the beachfront location was a great picture-taking opportunity. Hit the tourist market again, this time buying lots of the beautiful hand-painted ceramic and wood plates and bowls. One son bought a colorful wood mask and the other a cobalt-blue colored wood jar. I have to confess that we did not barter much here although I know it's expected. The pieces were so elaborate and well-made and the cost was so reasonable that we just did not have our hearts in it to barter. To save $2 on a plate that only costs $12 seems ridiculous, when you consider that the small price difference means a lot to the artisan and not a whole lot to us. We're certainly not wealthy people, but we feel that way when we know how little money many people in Mexico make each day. I know I may get some grief for having that opinion, but it's just my opinion, take it or leave it. Took a taxi back in to Ixtapa, swam in the evening, then walked to a nearby ice cream stand for an evening treat. Had my first mango ice cream, which was very good. Picked up some more jugs of water to replenish our supply. Our kids each wore fanny packs at all times that had built-in water bottles, so they always had something to drink. The heat and humidity were both very high, so we just kept our pace slow when we were sight-seeing or on the beach and drank lots of water.

Day 4: Lazy, lazy day. Morning beach walk, breakfast in condo, morning swim time, nachos and cervezas by the pool, late lunch of hamburguesas and fries along with thick fruit shakes at a place across the street from our condo. We wanted to try La Soleiado for dinner, but they weren't open when we stopped by. Afternoon out under the palapas in front of our condo. Ordered in pizza in the evening, then early bedtime in preparation for the next morning's fishing trip.

Day 5: My husband and 9 year old were picked up at 7:30 for their fishing trip. They fished in front of El Palmar beach and caught several mackerel and one tuna. My son caught the tuna, which the crew filleted and wrapped up for him to keep. While they were fishing my other son and I sat on the beach, he under a palapa while playing with some plastic figures he brought with him and me catching some rays. After an early afternoon siesta for everyone we headed back into Zihuat to try one of the restaurant's on Rob's list (I can't recall the name right now), but it was closed for a week. Instead we tried JJ's Tacos, which we all loved. It turned out to be our favorite. They had BBQ wings, quesadillas, fajitas, and 4 beef tacos for $320 pesos. Very reasonable and the decor was fun too. We hit the tourist market again for more hand-painted ceramic and wood pieces, hit the Supermercado in Ixtapa for more food supplies, then back to the condo.

Day 6: My husband and I woke up early and walked the beach while the kids slept. Breakfast in the condo, swim and sun by the pool, then back into to Zihuat for a late lunch at JJ's Tacos. More swim and sun by the pool. Dinner at Casa Morelos in Ixtapa, which is just south of Senor Frogs. The food was excellent, and the prices were a little higher than our last few meals but still not bad. Back to the condo to carefully pack up all our newly-acquired breakable possessions, including several bottles of tequila, mezcal and vanilla.

Day 7: Last day. Where did the time go? Luckily our flight didn't leave until 4:30, leaving most of the day to relax still. Morning beach walk, breakfast, swimming in the pool. Final packing completed, we checked our bags at the front desk then headed into Zihuat to check out the farmer's market. The kids were amazed at the chickens on display with heads still attached and we noticed how many of the small children were in the market while their moms (or dads) worked. A group of about 5 kids was having a great time blowing bubbles from a big styrofoam cup full of soapy water, using just a bent piece of wire to blow the bubbles from. I finally found the place that sells whole bean coffees, which is called "Cafe Costa del Sol." I believe it was on Avenida Benito Juarez, just north of the main market. The coffee is delicious; it brings me back to Mexico every morning, and gives me strength to make it through my day at work (only 342 days till our next trip!) Found our way to JJ's Tacos for a last meal there, then to the tourist market so our sons could buy straw hats. Yet another superhuman Zihuat taxi driver read our minds and was right there just as my husband said "Shall we get a taxi?" Those guys are great! Back to the condo to pick up our bags, then on to the airport. Due to overbooking, had an opportunity to receive free round-trip airline tickets, extra night's hotel, etc., but couldn't take advantage of it due to work responsibilities. Decided that next time we'll make sure we have an extra day built in to the end of our trip, just in case!

Here's a couple tips we got from this message board that really worked well for us:

Bring ziplock plastic bags; we used them to keep those pesky tiny ants out of opened food, protected our camera from sand, put exposed film and finished disposable cameras in one, kept a "traveler's kit" with stuff (Earplanes, cold medicine, chewing gum) for our nervous flyer son in one, etc.

Drink lots of water; 'nuff said. Dehydration is not fun.

Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen.

Take lots of pictures.

Looking back on the "activities" of the trip it feels like we didn't do a whole lot. We planned to go to either Las Gatas Beach or Ixtapa Island, but just never quite got around to it. In fact, we never went to any of the Zihuat beaches, only Playa El Palmar in Ixtapa, which still visits me in my dreams! The beauty of this is that when we go next year it will practically be like a whole different trip. Last year our family did a 3 day whirlwind Disneyland trip that left all of us exhausted, so we knew that we did not want to duplicate that experience. We have no regrets that we didn't do more this time; only regrets that we can't go back sooner than a year from now. The magic of Mexico is already calling us back. Some memories, from all my senses:

The smell of the smoke from the fires in the hills; the feel of the warm ocean water; the smooth, hot sand under my feet; the damp, cool smell of the morning air; the warm, spicy smell of the air at dinnertime; the bright, hot pink bougainvillea flowers against cracked, yellow stucco walls; all the many colors of the plants and the buildings, and the smiles of the people.

We'll be back soon.

Cammie, Spencer, Dennis & Josh

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