WINNIPEG, MB - Arriving at Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo is like discovering two different worlds in one.
Tourists may enjoy the more luxurious side of Ixtapa by going to the resort founded by Fonatur (a Spanish acronym roughly corresponding to "National Tourism Development Fund) in the early seventies. Once a coconut plantation, it is now a world class destination with a beautiful hotel strip of four and five star accommodations, complete with excellent golf courses! The beautiful two-mile long beach in Ixtapa, El Palmar, is loved by locals and tourists alike - and is a favourite place for a morning or afternoon stroll or a power walk.
The water sports offer a little bit more excitement. The water sports operation located in front of the Krystal and Tesoro Hotels is owned and operated by my husband, Armando Torres, a native of Zihuatanejo. Armando has been there for 37 years. He believes in pleasing the tourists with a beautiful parachute ride over the bay, and safety is always his first priority. You can also rent jet skis and explore the shoreline from the ocean for yourself.
For a relaxing hour or so, one of my favourite things to do is to head down the beach to enjoy a relaxing massage while listening to the waves crashing on the shore. It's very reasonable at around ten dollars.
In the evening you can enjoy dinner at your all-inclusive or check out the wonderful restaurants on the strip; there is everything from fine dining to a little taco stand. At Casa Morelos you can enjoy your favourite seafood along with a wide range of fine wines and tequilas. My favourite is their Spanish coffee prepared right in front of you. Delicious! After dinner, just a stone's throw away, you can party it up at SF Shakers Club.
For a more romantic evening, head down to the marina and enjoy Italian food at Beccofino's, looking out over a hundred yachts. It's like a taste of Monte Carlo. For the more casual, take a stroll around the boutiques in Ixtapa, and enjoy an ice cream or cappuccino. To completely relax, take in a movie at Cinema Flamingo.
Now that you've had all the enjoyment of Ixtapa, it's time to explore the colourful sights and sounds of authentic Zihuatanejo!
Zihuatanejo means "land of women" because according to legend the Cuitlatecas, the civilization here when the Spanish arrived, was a matriarchal society. Zihuatanejo was an important port during the first years of the colony. One stand-out historical event is the trip between America and the Philippines in 1527, by the fleet commanded by Alvaro de Saavedra y Cerón. This expedition, which is said to be responsible for the discovery of the Molucas Islands today known as the Philippines, was very risky. Among other things, the captain died. This was the second marine expedition that had sailed all the way to the Philippines on boats manufactured on the coasts of New Spain.
Due to its seclusion, pirates that roamed the coasts, found Zihuatanejo Bay a handy spot to hide out as they watched for likely targets. The bay was also a refuge from strong storms. On one occasion, a galleon carrying a shipment of fine Oriental silks shipwrecked in front of Zihuatanejo Bay. The garments were dragged by the tide up to one of the beaches and from that from that day forward, the beach became known as Playa La Ropa, Clothes Beach.
The fishing village of Zihuatanejo was made famous by the movie, Shawshank Redemption (Columbia Pictures 1994), starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. One of the luxurious hotels in Zihua Bay is where they filmed When a Man Loves a Woman (Touchstone Pictures 1994), starring Meg Ryan and Andy García.
Zihuatanejo is a typical fishing village dripping with charm and warm and friendly people. Many of the buildings are preserved in traditional style - a quaint paradise of your dreams for all ages! In this cozy village, there are many little boutiques, cafes, restaurants and bars to discover. You will encounter many friendly faces and will make new friends that will welcome you back year after year. The lowest rates for hotels can be found in Zihuatanejo; for as little as $25 CDN the budget-minded can find small, family-friendly, locally owned and operated accommodation.
Zihuatanejo also boasts some of the best 100 luxury boutique hotels in the world which range in price to $2,000 a night. Set on cliffs overlooking the ocean, the views will blow your mind.
Zihuatanejo has six beautiful beaches in its bay. There is so much to discover, from boating over to Las Gatas (Catshark) for snorkeling or just relaxing enjoying your margarita by the ocean.
Go sailing on the bay in front of Playa La Ropa, which also offers an array of water sports. If you're an early riser, you might enjoy a coffee on Paseo Del Pescador while watching the fisherman bring in the catch of the day. Buy some for yourself to cook up. If you like to fish this is the place. Ask for Big Ben, he's the man! This is one of the best three places in the world for big game fish and success rates rival the highest compared to anywhere else. Sailfish, black marlin, blue marlin, yellow knife tuna, barracuda mahi-mahi and the list goes on. The International Sailfish Tournament is held here annually. This coming year it is being held May 1 to 3. A lot of tourists plan their trip around the International Guitar Fest which is a favourite with my brother and his friends.
The highlight of your trip could be a sunset cruise on The Picante, an ultramodern sailing catamaran. It will take you on a beautiful sail around the coast of Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa Bays. Add drinks and eats and you have a party.
Zihuatanejo is a foodies' paradise, with over 200 restaurants offering local cuisine to fine dining and everything in between, including all the fresh seafood you can eat and abundance of cervezas, tequilas, cocktails and wines. Just remember where your hotel is. For the price of one beer in Canada, you can get five here!
A favourite with locals and tourists in Zihua is Banditos Sports Bar serving delicious Mexican cuisine and great drinks. It is located across from The Artisan's market. Enjoy dancing to live Cuban and Mexican music curated by a DJ. Sports fanatics can enjoy their favourite sporting events. When you feel a little more laid back, head over to Portena's on Paseo Del Pescador for some delicious lasagna, pizza, ribs and more. For the sweet tooth, there is a great tiramisu and flan as well.
After the children have enjoyed the beach you can head over to the Zocalo for some free local activities.
In November, many Canadians escape the cold and rent condos or homes, then stay till the end of April when the charters commence. It's the ultimate winter holiday for any Canadian escaping our deep freeze. With over 300 days of sunshine and average temperatures at 28 C, you wake up in paradise every morning! Isn't that every Canadian's dream?
I've been coming here for over 30 years and now have made it my second home. Zihuatanejo casts a magical spell over you and draws you back year after year. We now have built our dream home here on the cliff overlooking the magical Bay of Zihuatanejo.
Come and experience paradise for yourselves, it will not disappoint.
By Judy Torres