Ixtapa the Mexican gem lost in time

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“Ixtapa is a heaven for everyone, a place where you can enjoy the different colors in the sky, with the most beautiful animal species, making it a fairy tale city that was lost in time”

Mexico was and is the home to several advanced Amerindian civilizations; including the Olmec, Toltec, Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Maya, and Aztec. The country was conquered and colonized by Spain. Mexico achieved independence in 1821, and formally declared itself a country shortly after.

Sunset view from el Faro Restaurant
Sunset view from el Faro Restaurant

The Aztec country is popular due to its immense natural and cultural richness as it is a megadiverse country. Its population has the reputation of being friendly and kind to tourists.

Mexico is located in North America, and shares borders with Belize 276 km; Guatemala 958 km; and the US 3,155 km. The country also borders the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and the United States, and also with the North Pacific Ocean, between Guatemala and the United States.

Location of Ixtapa
Location of Ixtapa
Ixtapa, Tourist Destination

Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is a beach town with resorts located in the municipality of Zihuatanejo of Azueta, in the state of Guerrero. Formally, Ixtapa is located 5 km northwest of Zihuatanejo.

Beach view from Porto Villas
Beach view from Porto Villas

Due to the touristic popularity that Zihuatanejo attracted in the 1960s, and therefore the need to increase the offer of accommodations; the Mexican Government decided to create Ixtapa.

In 1968, the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (FONATUR, in Spanish), was in charge of the planning phase of the project which had funds from the Mexican Bank. Those funds came from the special fund for the creation of coast destinies for tourism.

Currently, in 2020, Ixtapa received first place in the World Travel Awards 2020. Ixtapa also received a distinction as a top destiny in Mexico. The reason is that Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo offers a wide range of activities that will make any tourist fall in love.

From extensive walks through a quaint beach town with cobblestone streets, to the different restaurants which offer exquisite seafood, mixed with a view on one side of the sea, and on the other, an incomparable mountain landscape.

Ixtapa gives you the opportunity to contemplate the sea for hours without getting bored, delight yourself with the soothing sound of the waves, wake up early to walk and see all the scenery it offers you, and to be able to admire the golden sunrises and the colorful sunsets worthy of thousands of photographs.

Sunset View of the Coast of Ixtapa
Sunset View of the Coast of Ixtapa

Keep an eye out for birds and other exotic species that live in Ixtapa, which are part of the attractiveness of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, besides its multiple beaches of smooth white sand. The tourists can also delve into the rich history of the town, which dates back to King Caltzontzin and whose historical legacy is kept in the Archaeological Museum of the Costa Grande.

Overview of Zihuatanejo’s History:

The original name of Zihuatanejo is Cihuatlan, which means “Land of Women” in Nahuatl. It received that name because the Tarascans, who lived in Cihuatlan, had an organization based on matriarchy, and the nobility chose it as a Sanctuary.

Zihuatanejo has a rich history that caused the creation of Ixtapa
Zihuatanejo has a rich history that caused the creation of Ixtapa

King Caltzontzin chose the bay of Zihuatanejo as his resting place and private paradise. There, Caltzontzin ordered a seawall to protect what was his private beach. Tourists can see this seawall on the beach where it was built, now known as Las Gatas Beach. 

With the arrival of the Spanish, Cortés sent men to explore the area, who considered that those lands weren´t of much interest, so they added the suffix -nejo. Nejo means insignificant, and that’s the reason why today is Zihuatanejo. 

King Caltzontzin's favorite vacation destination was Zihuatanejo
King Caltzontzin’s favorite vacation destination was Zihuatanejo

During the colonization, Zihuatanejo was very popular with pirates. In 1920, Zihuatanejo attracted more attention as a wood exporter. That is why Playa La Madera received its name because the Spanish loaded the trucks there. 

After the tourist popularity increase of Acapulco, Zihuatanejo only received tourists who ventured to see the tropical paradises that the Guerrero Coast offered. 4 years after the planning phase of the project started, the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (FONATUR, in Spanish) formally starts the construction of Ixtapa.

Different points of interest in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo

Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is not only well known for its beaches (Playa Linda, Playa Quieta, Troncones, Playa la Ropa, Playa la Madera, Playa las Gatas, la Saladita, and Playa Coral, for example).

Marina of the Porto Complex
Marina of the Porto Complex

It is also a strong recommendation for tourists to visit the Island of Ixtapa, the town of Zihuatanejo, and the Archeology Museum of Costa Grande. The Museum houses pieces of the Teotihuacán culture from the classic period 200-650 A.D and has also a collection on the life of the first inhabitants of Costa Grande.

Go to discover Barra de Potosí, or ride your bike on the bike path that goes through a mangrove swamp. To have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo offers several options for many tastes, like domino´s pizza, or more traditional like Emilio´s Pizza y Ruben’s Hamburgers.

These three options mentioned above are located in the main square of Ixtapa, and the square also has clothing stores, bike stores, and supermarkets. You are more than invited to visit our other recommendations of restaurants, like Tequila y Salsa Brava, Ata Sushi Bar, el Faro, el Tiburón de la Costa, Bistro Soleiado, Portofino, The General’s Sports Bar, and Restaurant, el Galeón, Fishers, Simplicio’s Ixtapa, Condimento Ixtapa y el Marlin “La Isla”.

If you want to enjoy the nightlife of Ixtapa, you can go to one of the most famous discos in the area, which is El Señor Frogs or go to another disco, like Kopado´s, and Zorros Bar Ixtapa. In terms of history, you can also visit the Archaeological Zone “Xihuacan” Soledad de Maciel.

Ideal dates to plan your trip

The temperature in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo varies from 19 °C to 32 °C and likewise, it almost never drops below 17 °C or rises above 33 °C. This indicates that tourists can visit Ixtapa at any stage of the year as it maintains ideal weather throughout it. 

Ixtapa, Zijuatanejo
Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo

To be able to enjoy the activities to the maximum, the recommended time to visit Ixtapa is from mid-November to mid-May.

For example, several agencies offer an activity to watch whales from December to March, the turtle release activity, on the other hand, starts in July and ends in March. The rest of the activities are available for tourists all year, except in extreme cases, like a hurricane.

What to do in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo?

Ixtapa offers a wide range of activities adapted to every liking. For example, you can take cruises or sailboats at sunset to enjoy the views of the Zihuatanejo coast. The tourists can also be part of the excursion to the island of Ixtapa; in which people can snorkel, sunbathe, walk and swim.

Tour of Snorkel in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo
Tour of Snorkel in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo

Golf lovers can visit the courses, to play either half (9 holes) or the 18 holes, or enjoy a meal sitting in the Marina, watching the sunset, the yachts and boats, where you can rent some of them to set sail.

If you like to do kayak or snorkeling you can do so in the bay of Zihuatanejo, and likewise, you have the opportunity to take a horseback ride along the long beach in Ixtapa, participate in the release of sea turtles; an excursion to Las Gatas beach, a boat ride, and a horse ride through the Potosí lagoon.

Tourists can hire a boat for a tour around the Coast
Tourists can hire a boat for a tour around the Coast

You can also hire a tour to attempt to see a whale; ATV tours; adventure tours; guided tours; diving; and excursion to the “Xihuacan” Soledad de Maciel Archaeological Zone. Another of the tours that visitors can take is kayaking in the Potosí Lagoon; which includes horseback riding along the long beach.

If you only want to rest on the beach, sunbathe, or enjoy the pool you can do so as well. As mentioned before; regardless if you stay in a hotel or in an apartment you will have many options to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to complete your experience so you can enjoy it the maximum. 

Wildlife in Ixtapa

Tourists visiting Ixtapa can also fish if they wish since the area has tuna; sailfish; marlin; dorado; red snapper; and horse mackerel. This tour is both around the bay or in the open sea, and you can choose from a panga to a modern yacht.

The Coati is part of the wildlife of Ixtapa
The Coati is part of the wildlife of Ixtapa

The town has a reputation for its fishing tournaments such as the International Sailfish Fishing Tournament; which officially begins on the first weekend of May and where around 300 boats compete for three days.

Be on the lookout for the 320 registered species; almost the third part of the country. This is why Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is one of the most biodiverse places in the country. 

Amongst the most common birds that tourists can observe in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, there are grackles; the magpie; the brown spring; the picuyo; the aura; the green heron; the cormorant; chachalacas; parakeets; brown booby; golden foot egret; and the cardinal.

Tourists and citizens can participate in the turtle releases
Tourists and citizens can participate in the turtle releases

Less common but also present in Ixtapa are the white pelican; the blue heron; the roseate spoonbill; the American ninga; the dipper heron; and the stork. There are three places where visitors can go to contemplate them: Parque Aztlán Ecological Reserve; El Paseo a crocodrilario in Playa Linda; and the mangrove swamp of Barra de Potosí.

Hire a tour to attempt to see the whales
Hire a tour to attempt to see the whales

If you like mountain biking, within the Parque Aztlán Ecological Reserve, you will find a fun 6km-long mountain trail. Many of the beaches in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo are known for their waves, such as Playa Linda, La Saladita, Las Escolleras, Troncones, Playa El Rancho, Barrio Nuevo, and Playa Las Gatas.

Ways to reach Ixtapa

There are several ways to reach Ixtapa, if you are already in the country you can take a flight from Mexico City; because Ixtapa has an international airport, or you can also get to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo by road.

One of the ways to reach Ixtapa is through its airport
One of the ways to reach Ixtapa is through its airport

If you come from the US, you can take a direct flight from  Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco.

The airport also has direct flights from Canada, from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. If you come from another country though, and you don’t wish to drive, take a flight from Mexico City.

Where can you stay?

Visitors have multiple options to choose from to stay for the duration of their stay. There are options for those who prefer to stay in a hotel that belongs to one of the big chains such as Holiday Inn or Meliá.

There are also hotels like the Krystal; the Emporio; Gamma; Ixtapa Palace; Tesoro Ixtapa Hotel; las Brisas; Pacifica; Porto; and the Hotel Ixzi Plus.

Hotel Emporio in Ixtapa is one of the many options to choose
Hotel Emporio in Ixtapa is one of the many options to choose

Similarly, if you prefer to stay in a smaller hotel; Ixtapa offers boutique hotels, such as the Hotel Cala de Mar, and several that are located in Barra Potosí. Finally, tourists also have the Airbnb modality available.

Visitors have the opportunity to choose an apartment, or a house, anywhere in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo; since Porto, in addition to being a hotel, has villas and houses in its lands where people can stay.

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