trip report


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Posted by Lisa from 200.65.89.31 (dup-200-65-89-31.prodigy.net.mx) on lunes, septiembre 02, 2002 at 14:56:46 :

My partner & I spent the week before last in Zihua and, with many thanks for the many tips & ideas we gleaned from this board, I thought I'd offer some of our experiences and impressions of our lovely trip. Zihua grew on us as the week went by. At first it seemed a bit more ramshackle than we expected; it was truly low season, lots of the hotels were doing repairs and clean-up, many of them and many restaurants sparsely populated (and consequently the sales pitches a bit intense at first), and Playa Madera and the town beach were a bit garbage-strewn. We stayed at the Brisas del Mar and it was a little metaphor for the place. On the one hand, our room was lovely: full of character, beautiful tile floors and tile & adobe bathroom, veranda overlooking the bay, quiet excellent airconditioner (which we found very important in the hot afternons and muggy evenings), good fridge & coffeemaker, big bed with great mattress & pillows. And the hotel building itself was charming, too: Lots of extra touches and care for detail everywhere: tiling, fountains, statuary, tropical birds, drinking water provided on every floor, etc. The terrace restaurant downstairs was very pleasant for our daily breakfast (we didn't try it for other meals). But: there was no hot water for our first few days, until the fuel truck arrived one evening and the hot water heater could function. Good thing it was so hot that cool showers felt good in the evening. The pool was a bit worn-down and the water in the pool was unpleasantly hot, and dirty dishes from the restaurant remained on tables in the pool area for several days. The beach area was, weirdly, unkempt, with a beached sailboat full of fetid water in the midst of a crowded collection of beachchairs in various stages of disintegration and two or three sad-looking palapas. Get rid of the mosquito-breeding boat, the rusty and broken chairs, pick up some of the trash that seemed to be left not by guests but by locals, and it could be really lovely...but as it stood, we spent our beach time elsewhere. This was just as well, because Zihua/Ixtapa are full of more spectacular beaches than Madera could ever be, but just a little more of the same care and attention to detail here as in the hotel proper and it could have been much lovelier and more inviting to spend time there. We adored our room and the hotel staff--politely reserved at first--became warmer and more accomodating as our week went on. And we liked the hotel's setting on Madera since we could walk to town and back most nights for dinner, and had a nice hilly walk to La Ropa one day and, on our last evening, to the Kau-Kan restaurant nearby. Our evening strolls (not to mention those into town many mornings) were a nice way to take the pulse of the place from day to day, whether we went via the beach or the street. We'd always pass young couples romancing each other, men fishing, children swimming.... We also liked watching the daily soccer game going on on Madera every afternoon around 5-6 from our balcony.
I don't have time for a day-by-day report but we most enjoyed: taking in La Ropa from the bar of the Villa del Sol, which seemed like the place to go if you had a few more dollars to spend than we did: elegant yet understated in a beautifully manicured, perfect setting; Playa Las Gatas--a heavenly snorkeling beach (rocky floor in some areas for swimming) with turquoise water and gentle lapping waves (but beware of the bees when you order sweet drinks!); the wonderful scuba-diving refresher course and expedition we took to Caleta de Chon care of Zihua's excellent Nautilus Scuba Center and its gracious, graceful and consummately mellow instructor Carlos (on our way to the cove we accompanied a pod of leaping dolphins--what a thrill! I also enjoyed holding an octopus and a sea slug spewing some purple substance); watching sea turtle hatchlings escorted to sea one evening by the naval forces, to the cheers of local children; renting a mo-ped and driving to Ixtapa where we discovered Playa Quieta, the public access end of which leads to a truly heavenly, truly quiet beach with strong surf, soft sand, beautiful views, and no-one selling anything (there's a little restaurant at the top of the access road vending cold drinks); the extremely helpful waiter at Tamales Any who made the fine suggestion that we try the pozole, which was the culinary highlight of our trip (we also enjoyed Casa Elvira's enormous fisherman's platter, Porto de Mare's way-above-par lobster ravioli, and the red snapper we had our very first night at a restaurant the name of which i can't recall--it was the first restaurant beyond the basketball court I believe) and the food and setting at Kau-Kan was just as delicious and romantic as advertised. Coconuts was closed for the season so we couldn't try it.
We enjoyed being among the very few Americans in Zihua/Ixtapa this time of year and being instead among lots of Mexicans--local and out-of-towners--enjoying themselves in this beautiful spot. People weren't friendly in the way they are when they are paid to be by a corporate resort hotel; they were polite, helpful, reserved, and appreciated it and smiled back when you admired and smiled at their children. Zihua grew on us because it and its people felt real; though the economy may function around tourism, Zihua has not sold its soul, and its beauty never feels like you're simply in a postcard. There's more to the place than the view--though the view is pretty spectacular.
We went to Ixtapa one day and promptly got fooled into attending a timeshare pitch at the Restaurant El Faro, which is owned by the timeshare folk. The pitch was: free breakfast at this wonderful restaurant, because they are trying to create great word-of-mouth instead of spending advertising dollars. We figured out only later that, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Once there we made clear in short order that we were not timeshare-purchasing candidates and got a free breakfast out of the deal and, after a tip, a ride down to the beach where we hung out for the afternoon and enjoyed the great surf and some beach chairs. Otherwise Ixtapa seemed like a resort strip without much else to recommend it.
Answers to questions posed often on this board: it was very hot in late August and got especially humid at night, and we were very grateful for our airconditioning. The mosquitoes were not a problem at all; I brought a mosquito coil for nightimes on the veranda and found it unnecessary. Bees were everywhere though and can be bothersome when eating or drinking outside. Purified water and ice seem de riguer and we didn't suffer any discomfort on that score (though we avoided raw vegetables). The sun was very strong; be careful & use sunscreen if you are fairskinned like my honey is. The artisans market was 90% forgettable, both in Zihua and Ixtapa, but there are some lovely stores-full of more interesting ceramics and artwork in the town proper. We never could figure out how to dial out on our cellphones but did receive incoming calls. Electrical current is kind to laptops--but after one day, we were enjoying ourselves way too much ever to use them. There are internet cafes sprouting up everywhere if you get the urge.
Guess that's it for the moment. Zihua is truly a special place and we feel lucky we got to experience it. Thanks again everyone for participating in this message board; it really gave us a great orientation for our trip.
And now, alas, back to reality.......
Lisa



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