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Before embarking on my South Pacific trip, I decided to visit Zihuatanejo, Mexico, to visit my dad and brother. I had not visited the small town in almost two years, and although the feel and charm of the town remained just as magical, the town changed in many ways, and all for the better.

I remember thinking that, although the town of Zihuatanejo was charming in it’s own way, it was by no means beautiful; in fact, the town itself used to be a little chaotic, disorganized, and (to put it bluntly), a little ugly.

Well, rest assured that the town of Zihuatanejo has taken a step in the right direction. The entire downtown area has been refurbished, and Zihuatanejo now not only feels like a charming town; it IS a charming town.

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All the sidewalks in the downtown area have been covered with visually appealing tiled roofs, and the buildings in the entire area have been painted with varying shades of earthy colours: ochres, oranges, yellows, browns and reds in different tones. The once chaotic electric lines have now been buried underground, out of sight.

The pedestrian streets in the downtown core have also gotten a rejuvenating makeover, with cobblestones tiling the entire area, and small palm trees planted where large, wild trees once crowded the way. In addition, life-sized bronze statues depicting people wearing different typical attire from different areas of the state of Guerrero (where Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is) have been placed all over the city.

A clean layer of white paint now covers stone and metal benches, bridges, and posts that had not been painted in years, succumbing to wear and tear from time, the elements, and vandalism.

I am a huge fan of the changes made to the town of Zihuatanejo, and I’m sure the makeover will better visually portray the charm that the town already had. I truly believe Zihuatanejo town is now deserving of the beautiful natural setting it was built on.

In our last day in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Mexico, Patrick and I visited Ixtapa.

Ixtapa is the resort-heavy, Americanized area built near the town of Zihuatanejo, on the Pacific side of Mexico. Although overly developed, and lacking much of the charm of the original town of Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa is home to a number of fantastic restaurants, bars and nightclubs. I much prefer the (more Mexican) atmosphere of Zihuatanejo; however, I do enjoy visiting Ixtapa during my Zihuatanejo holidays, and there are a couple of great, unique spots well-worth the visit.

Marina Ixtapa:
This was the first time I have ever visited the Marina, and I must say I was quite impressed by it’s beauty. Built off the main boulevard of the hotel zone, the marina is surrounded by a number of beautiful, modern apartment building and hotel complexes.

A wooden walkway along the entire marina leads yacht owners to their piers, and allows other visitors (who like me do not own multiple-million boats) to walk around, and enjoy the views. A set of unique restaurants along the walkway offer scenic vistas and good eats, at slightly higher than average prices.

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Ixtapa Island:
I have visited Ixtapa Island three times now, and it never ceases to amaze me with it’s beauty. Ixtapa Island can be reached from the mainland by a 5 minute boat ride (MEX$40 per person, return) from Playa Linda in Ixtapa. Before walking down the pier and hopping into the boat, make sure to visit the crocodile reserve, where a number of crocodiles, iguanas, and turtles, live peacefully in their natural environment.

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The island is small enough that one can walk around the entire area in about 30 minutes. The walk provides great views of the rugged rock island, it’s beaches, and it’s unusual desert-like flora.
As with all beaches in the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo area, a number of small restaurants line the beach, lending guests comfortable seating areas and beach beds for consumption of their food and beverages. The restaurants are not only well priced, but also offer delicious Mexican and seafood options that are well worth trying.

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Ixtapa Island is great as a day visit for swimming and relaxing on the sandy beaches facing the mainland, and it also offers fantastic snorkeling on the reef in front of the coral beach on the opposite side, looking towards the open sea. Patrick and I enjoyed snorkeling among schools of different colorful fish for about half an hour, spending the remainder of the afternoon suntanning, eating and drinking Micheladas, and walking around the island.

Although we came prepared with snorkeling equipment, visitors who don’t have any can rent it out in location.

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On one of our days in Zihuatanejo, Mexico,  Patrick and I went over with my dad to Barra de Potosi, a river delta located about 40 minutes driving from the town of Zihuatanejo, and 50 minutes from Ixtapa (or about 30 minutes away from the airport).

In (and after) the rain season, a river flows right into the ocean; at this time, it is possible to float down the river and into the ocean, with the gentle current guiding you. Visiting in April, towards the end of the dry season, the river was quite dry, so we weren’t able to do this. However, when I visited Zihuatanejo in December in 2006, the higher flow allowed us to go in and float around.

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Despite not being able to go in the river, the beach itself in Barra de Potosi is quite beautiful. The beach extends all the way close to the airport (if you are willing to walk for 4 to 5 hours per direction!). Although various small hotels and private properties are located by the beach, the walk is quite calming and very private, due to it’s large size.

Near the public parking area, a number of small restaurants provide you with beautiful views of the seemingly never-ending beach, and the ocean. The small restaurants are built of unworked wood posts, covered with dry palm tree branches. Under the branches, plastic chairs and tables provide a nice break in the shade from the sun, and allow guests to enjoy delicious Mexican and seafood specialties, as well as drinks. Hanging from each set of posts, hammocks are perfect for a nap after a long walk on the beach and a nice meal.

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On the day we visited, we were lucky enough to see a humpback whale from the restaurant we visited. The whale, far in the ocean but close enough to be clearly seen from the beach, pushed its top half up and down multiple times, and then raised and lowered its tail again and again, providing an amazing opportunity for whale watching, for a span of about 15 minutes!

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I’m currently enjoying some amazing quality time with my family in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, before I embark on my New Zealand and Australia adventure -Sort of an “en-route” which isn’t really on the way.

Zihuatanejo, what once was a small fishing village on the Pacific side of Mexico, is quickly growing in size, as well as popularity in the North American market. The resort town of Ixtapa was built on the coastline near to the small village to provide much needed accommodation space for the growing tourism. Although Ixtapa is great for a visit -with many stores, restaurants and bars, as well as great nightclubs- I much prefer the atmosphere and the beaches right in Zihuatanejo.

To keep Zihuatanejo’s small-town charm, building restrictions ensure that buildings are no taller than four stories in the town, while condo buildings and resorts are built into the hill; highrises are reserved only for the resort of Ixtapa, about 15 minutes by car from Zihuatanejo.
The bay of Zihuatanejo is blessed with having four beaches, all with amazing views of the hills surrounding the bay.

1.Playa Principal
The beach right in downtown Zihuatanejo has a fish market where you can buy fresh fish every morning. A walkway along the beach, known as “Paseo del Pescador” (Fisherman’s Pathway), has an array of great restaurants (including favorites like “El Mediterraneo” and the fish taco haven “La Sirena Gorda”), as well as multiple souvenir stores.
The “Paseo del Pescador” leads to a pier, where you can take a boat across the bay to “Playa Las Gatas,” the fourth beach in the bay.
The area surrounding the beach is beautiful, but the beach is a little dirty (from the fish market and the many boats making the trip to “Las Gatas.”

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2.Playa Madera
This second beach is slightly nicer than the first, and has a few restaurants right in the beach. The highlight of this beach is the sea wall that runs from the end of Playa Principal all the way through Playa Madera.
This beach is popular with visitors staying in the downtown core because it is an easy (and scenic) 15-minute walk on the sea-side walkway.

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3.Playa la Ropa
An iconic beach, “Playa la Ropa” is a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike. The beach is not only the longest of them all, but is also beautiful. Tens of beachfront restaurants allow you to grab a chair and enjoy full service kitchen and bar.
The beach has two main landmarks: a small rock formation, which is now topped by a flag of Mexico, and the architecturally pleasant “Casablanca que Canta” hotel.
This beach is accessible from downtown in a 25 minute walk, along the sea walkway through Playa Madera, and then through climbing (and then descending) a large cobble stone hill.

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4.Playa las Gatas
Today, Patrick (the friend I am traveling with) and I took a small boat to a small beach called “Las Gatas.” this beach is the last of the four beaches in the bay of Zihuatanejo; despite being on the mainland, this beach can only be reached by boat (departing from Playa Principal for a MX$40 round trip fee), or through an arduous hike, as there is no road leading to the area.
The sand in the beach at Las Gatas is a little lighter than that of the other beaches on the bay, although parts of it are full of coral remains; still, Las Gatas may just be Zihuatanejo’s most beautiful beach.

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Zihuatanejo Bay

After a week in Colonial Mexico, it was time to go to the coast and get some sun.

Zihuatanejo is the small (original) town near to what is now the increasingly popular Ixtapa, on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. When we go visit we actually stay in Zihuatanejo, but we go to the nightclubs in Ixtapa – the two cities are only 10 minutes apart.

My brother had been living in Zihuatanejo for about 4 years, so it wasn’t my first time in the beautiful coastal town; I had been there twice before, but this was the first time that Justin went.

The town is not exactly pretty. Again though, it is such a charming place that people want to go back over and over again. The beaches are beautiful too, which helps!

Along a walkboard near the town centre, there are many restaurants that serve amazing gourmet dishes at very inexpensive prices. One of my favourites is El Mediterraneo, where you can get an amazing seared tuna fillet that is truly to die for. Another great place is La Sirena Gorda (The Fat mermaid), a fish taco restaurant where you can get very innovative creations of fish and octopus tacos cooked in various Mexican styles.

Exploring Ixtapa Island

This visit to Zihuatanejo / Ixtapa also included a visit to Ixtapa Island, a little island that is about 10 minutes away by boat from the mainland – What is great about this island is that it is full of restaurants and it has great reefs for snorkeling. Unfortunatelly this time around, being right after Holly Week when hundreds of people visit the area, the water in Ixtapa Island was murky and pretty dirty, so snorkeling was not as enjoyable. To compensate, we sat on the beach, enjoying the sound of the waves while sipping on a couple of Micheladas.

And of course we needed to do the traditional Mexican Bar Hopping with our local friend Astrid. We went to one of the newer nightclubs, XO, a very minimalistic nightclub which is comprised of white walls, white railings, white doors, and white furniture, which are only brought to life by the spectacular lazer rays and colourful lights.  At XO we shared two vodka bottles amongst our party.
Afterwards we went to Christine, one of the oldest nightclubs int he city, which was packed to the top.
After a couple of cocktails and some more dancing, we headed to Veruna, the outside after-hours lounge, where we drank pitchers of Red Bull and Vodka.

The Beach in Zihuatanejo

After an intense night of drinking and perhaps a little too much Red Bull, Justin and i fell into what we now call a Mexicoma (As in the Sex and the City movie), as we were not able to get up for a good 24 hours.

Aside from partying and good food, most of our week in Zihuatanejo consisted of Justin and i laying on the beach soaking up the sun, drinking Micheladas (beer with salt and lime juice) and eating seafood. It was a nice relaxing break and a good source of sun to last us once we got back until the summer days!

I truly love Zihuatanejo.

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