Planning a Trip
Getting There & Departing
By Plane -- These destinations tend to be even more seasonal than most resorts in Mexico. Flights are available year-round from U.S. gateways, but they operate less frequently in the summer. AeroMéxico and Click Mexicana fly daily from Mexico City; InterJet flies daily from neighboring Toluca (about an hour from Mexico City). Here are the local numbers of some carriers: AeroMéxico (tel. 755/554-2018 or -2019), Alaska Airlines (tel. 755/554-8457), Continental (tel. 755/554-4219), Click Mexicana (tel. 01-800/112-5425 toll-free in Mexico), InterJet (tel. 01-800/011-2345 toll-free in Mexico), and US Airways (tel. 755/554-8634). Ask your travel agent about charter flights and packages.
The Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo airport (tel. 755/554-2070) is about 11km (6 3/4 miles) and 15 minutes south of Zihuatanejo. Taxi fares to the Ixtapa hotel zone are $32 and to Zihuatanejo $28. Transportes Terrestres (tel. 755/554-3298) colectivos (minivans) transport travelers to hotels in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo for about $12 and can be purchased just outside the baggage-claim area. Car-rental agencies with booths in the airport include Hertz (tel. 800/654-3131 in the U.S., or 755/554-2952) and Budget (tel. 800/527-0700 in the U.S., or 755/553-0397).
By Car -- From Mexico City (about 8-9 hrs.), you can take Hwy. 15 to Toluca, then Hwy. 130/134 the rest of the way. On the latter road, highway gas stations are few. Another route is the four-lane Hwy. 95D to Iguala, then Hwy. 51 west to Hwy. 134. A new toll road, Hwy. 37 from Morelia to Ixtapa, cuts about an hour off the total trip time.
From Acapulco (3-4 hr.) or Manzanillo (9 hr.), the only choice is the coastal Hwy. 200. The ocean views along the winding, mountain-edged drive from Manzanillo can be spectacular, although there are many speed bumps along the way that make for slow going. Warning: You should not drive this route at night, both because it is dark and curvy and because there are ongoing problems with drug-related crime through the state of Michoacán in particular, where you will encounter numerous military checkpoints.
Motorist Advisory -- Motorists planning to follow Hwy. 200 northwest up the coast from Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo toward Lázaro Cárdenas and Manzanillo should be aware of reports of car and bus hijackings on that route, especially around Playa Azul, with bus holdups more common than car holdups. Before heading in that direction, ask locals and the tourism office about the status of the route. Don't drive at night. Police and military patrols of the highway have increased, and the number of incidents has dropped dramatically.
By Bus -- Zihuatanejo has two bus terminals: the Central de Autobuses Estrella Blanca (tel. 755/554-3477), Paseo Zihuatanejo at Paseo la Boquita, opposite the Pemex station and IMSS Hospital, from which most lines operate; and the Estrella de Oro station (tel. 755/554-2175), a block away. At the Central de Autobuses, several companies offer daily service to and from Acapulco, Puerto Escondido, Huatulco, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, and other cities. At the other station, first-class Estrella de Oro buses run daily to Acapulco.
The trip from Mexico City to Zihuatanejo (bypassing Acapulco) takes 9 hours; from Acapulco, it's 4 to 5 hours. From Zihuatanejo, it's 9 or 10 hours to Manzanillo, and it's an additional 6 hours to Puerto Vallarta.
Visitor Information -- The Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo Tourism Office (tel. 755/554-2001) sits on the main square at Av. Zihuatanejo Poniente 21; it's open Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm and provides basic tourist information. The Convention and Visitor's Bureau is another source of information; it's in Ixtapa at Paseo de Las Gaviotas 12 (tel. 755/553-1270) and open Monday through Friday from 9am to 2pm and 4pm to 7pm. There's also a tourist kiosk in front of the Plaza las Fuentes in Ixtapa, which is open daily from 10am to 6pm.
City Layout -- The fishing village and resort of Zihuatanejo spreads out around the beautiful Bay of Zihuatanejo, framed by downtown to the north and a beautiful long beach and the Sierra foothills to the east. The heart of Zihuatanejo is the waterfront walkway Paseo del Pescador (also called the malecón), bordering the Municipal Beach. Rather than a plaza, as in most Mexican villages, the town centerpiece is a basketball court, which fronts the beach. It's a point of reference for directions. The main thoroughfare for cars is Juan Alvarez, a block behind the malecón. Sections of several of the main streets are designated zona peatonal (pedestrian zone).
A cement-and-sand walkway runs from the malecón in downtown Zihuatanejo along the water to Playa Madera. The walkway is lit at night. Access to Playa La Ropa (Clothing Beach) is by the main road, Camino a Playa La Ropa. Playa La Ropa and Playa Las Gatas (Cats Beach) are connected only by boat.
A good highway connects Zihua to Ixtapa, 6km (4 miles) northwest. The 18-hole Ixtapa Golf Club marks the beginning of the inland side of Ixtapa. Tall hotels line Ixtapa's wide beach, Playa Palmar, against a backdrop of lush palm groves and mountains. Access is by the main street, Bulevar Ixtapa. On the opposite side of the main boulevard lies a large expanse of small shopping plazas (many with air-conditioned shops) and restaurants. At the far end of Bulevar Ixtapa, Marina Ixtapa has excellent restaurants, private yacht slips, and an 18-hole golf course. Condominiums and private homes surround the marina and golf course, and additional exclusive residential areas are rising in the hillsides past the marina on the road to Playa Quieta and Playa Linda. Ixtapa also has a paved bicycle track that begins at the marina and continues around the golf course and on toward Playa Linda.
Taxi fares are reasonable, but from midnight to 5am, rates increase by 50%. The average fare between Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo is $7. Within Zihua, the fare runs about $3; within Ixtapa, it averages $3 to $5. Radio cabs are available by calling tel. 755/554-3680 or -3311; however, taxis are available from most hotels. A shuttle bus (70¢) runs between Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa every 15 or 20 minutes from 5am to 11pm daily but is almost always very crowded with commuting workers. In Zihuatanejo, it stops near the corner of Morelos/Paseo Zihuatanejo and Juárez, about 3 blocks north of the market. In Ixtapa, it makes numerous stops along Bulevar Ixtapa.
Note: The road from Zihuatanejo to Ixtapa is a broad, four-lane highway, which makes driving between the towns easier and faster than ever. Street signs are becoming more common in Zihuatanejo, and good signs lead in and out of both towns. However, both locations have an area called the Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone), so if you're trying to reach Ixtapa's Hotel Zone, signs in Zihuatanejo pointing to that village's Hotel Zone may be confusing.