Exploring Ixtapa & Zihuatanejo with Bruce Whipperman

1. Tell us a little about Mexico’s South Seas resort duo: Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. What makes this region renowned worldwide?

Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, separated by an easy five-mile drive or bus ride, offer the best of both worlds: fashionable Ixtapa, set on a creamy golden strand, blooms with high-rise luxury, while Zihuatanejo, nestling on a gorgeous half-moon bay, still resembles the rustic fishing village that seekers of paradise on earth discovered a generation ago.

2. What is the climate like in this part of Mexico?

Tropical, with warm summer (75-88 °F highs) with showers; cooler, but balmy and dryer autumn (70-85 °F); delightfully balmy, temperate dry (65-80 °F) winter, warming to a sometimes hot, dry (March-April-May, 80-95 °F) spring.

3. When is the best time of year to visit?

If you prefer lower hotel prices and balmy (not hot) temperatures, choose the less crowded season from October–December 20th and January 6-20th. On the other hand, if you want lots of company and plenty of merrymaking, choose the pre-Christmas to New Year holiday and Semana Santa, the week before and including Easter Sunday (in the latter case, make your hotel reservations six months in advance).

4. What are a few of the various cost-effective accommodation options? Are there all-inclusive resorts available? Do you have recommendations for budget vacation rentals or can’t-miss campsites?

For an extensive choice of budget ($30-40 double low season, September-December 15th and Janurary 6-20th) accommodations, stay in Zihuatanejo. Reserve in advance, by e-mail, especially for weekends. Ixtapa has a number of all-inclusive resorts (such as Hotel Krystal Ixtapa) that offer “packages” (paquetes) ($100 per person, kids half price), especially during low season. Campers use the beachfront (RV or tent) Ixtapa Trailer Park campground, at Playa Linda, north of Ixtapa. A pair of rustic beachfront campgrounds, with parking for RVs and tent spaces, are also available at the south end of Playa La Ropa on Zihuatanejo Bay.

5. What are your best recommendations for free sightseeing or entertainment?

Don’t miss the crocodiles, turtles, and the flock of cream-colored herons, egrets, and pink roseate spoonbills at Playa Linda. While you’re there, enjoy the boat ride for some sun and sand at the intimate beaches of Isla Grande, all a fifteen-minute car or bus ride north of Ixtapa. You can also rent a bike (or ride a your own) via the ciclopista (bike trail) from Ixtapa to the sights and beach at Playa Linda. In Zihuatanejo, be sure to catch a shuttle boat across the bay, to car-free South Playa Las Gatas, for beachfront snorkeling, maybe a scuba lesson, surfing, or a restful afternoon snoozing beneath the palms.

6. Where can someone purchase authentic handcrafted items?

Zihuatanejo’s the place. Follow the self-guided handicrafts tour to Artesanias Tonala, Arte Nopal, Alberto’s silver shop, Galeria Cihuacoatl, Huipiles Mary Kay, El Arte y Tradicion, Ceramicas Tonala, and many more.

7. What are your tips for eating well while on a budget?

Food stalls, open from about 2 p.m., on the east side of downtown, serve the best super budget ($2-3) meals. For scrumptious Mexican style country cuisine go to downtown Zihuatanejo’s best, Tamales y Atoles Any, or budget Cocina Economica Dona Licha.

8. How much time do you need to get a good sense for Mexico’s South Seas?

Whatever time you have, don’t try to do too much so that you return home in need of a vacation. Three or four days, minimum; a week or ten days to let the balmy breeze and the swish of the swaying palms release you from everyday cares.

9. What destinations would you recommend for first-time travelers?

Zihuatanejo for sleeping, food and nightlife, Ixtapa for nightlife and upscale shopping, Playa Linda and Isla Grande for day trips, and maybe Troncones and Barra de Potosi for one-or-two night excursions.