Located side by side about 158 miles northwest of Acapulco, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are the odd couple of twin beach resorts. Ixtapa (Eex-tah -pah) is a model of modern infrastructure, services, and luxury resorts, while Zihuatanejo (See-wah-tah-neh -hoh, or just Zihua) is the quintessential rustic Mexican beach village and, oddly, the place where cruise ships pull in. Only a couple of cruise lines stop here, which is too bad, as it feels much less touristy than some of the other ports of call in this region.
Beaches, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, and golf are the area’s chief draws. The heart of Zihuatanejo is the Paseo del Pescador, a brick waterfront walkway bordering the Municipal Beach with many shops and calm, casual restaurants. A good highway connects Zihua to Ixtapa, where tall hotels line the wide Playa Palmar beach, and resorts offers golf courses and sophisticated restaurants.
Top beach South of Zihuatanejo, Playa La Ropa is a mile-long sweep of sand with calm waters and a great view of the sunset. Palm groves edge the shoreline, and some lovely small hotels and restaurants nestle in the hills.
Local color Zihuatanejo is a decent place to buy crafts, folk art, and jewelry. The artisans’ market on Calle Cinco de Mayo is a good place to start; specialty shops spread inland from the waterfront. Produce and crafts are also sold at the large municipal market sprawling over several blocks off Avenida Benito Juarez (about 5 blocks inland from the waterfront).
Off the beaten track Book a ride aboard a trimaran and sail to Manzanillo Beach, one of the best snorkeling spots on the bay, where you’ll drop anchor for direct access to the water.