Just because you can’t pronounce Zihuatanejo (zee-wha-tanay-ho) doesn’t mean you can’t travel there. Sandwiched between the Sierra Madres and the Pacific, the sleepy town’s lush landscapes cater to beach worshipers, nature lovers, and those in search of authenticity.
Built into the craggy cliffs above Playa Bonita, the young Capella Ixtapa feels more like a quiet, breezy inn than a resort. Ixtapa’s just five miles north of Zihuatanejo and has (thankfully) matured from its Girls Gone Wild days. For a boutique experience, head to La Casa Que Canta, a 33-room hideaway tucked into the rocks above downtown Zihuatanejo, where the smallest room is a sprawling 689 square feet. Thirty minutes south of Zihuatanjeo, 6-month-old Playa Viva is part ecological reserve (it’s run on solar power), part Robinson Crusoe adventure (stay in an ecoluxe casita made from bamboo) with yoga, excursions to the turtle sanctuary, beer, and three square meals a day included in the price.
A Zihuatanejo staple, Coconuts is an oldie but a goody. Dine alfresco or grab a seat at the bar; either way, chef David Dawson’s snapper is a must. Though rooms at the tiny, tropical-chic Amuleto are tough to score, sunset tables at the hotel bar are not — and there’s no better place to nurse a michelada and gaze at Zihuatanejo Bay. The Tides’s La Marea offers feet-in-sand candlelight dining and upscale Mediterranean fare. For more casual, beachside grub, locals and visitors converge at La Gaviota on Playa la Ropa with fresh-off-the-boat seafood and ice-cold Coronitas (Playa la Ropa; +52-755-554-3816).
Shopping is all about indoor/outdoor markets; take your bargaining skills. At Artisans Market (Calle 5 de Mayo), those willing to sort through tourist kitsch will find beautiful, handcrafted black clay pottery and silver jewelry. Pick up ornate, hand-embroidered napkins, runners, and tablecloths for friends and family at Casa Marina (21 Juan North Alvarez) or follow the locals to Mercado Municipal (Avenida Benito Juarez), where fresh produce, meats, and spices abound — don’t miss the organic coffee and Mexican vanilla.
Zihua is home to adrenaline junkies and the Zenned out alike. At Carlo Scuba, one of the more established family-run outfitters, take beginner to advanced diving courses — and get certified — from a PADI-certified (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) diver. Paddle through a mangrove preserve and wildlife sanctuary near the Barra de Potosi fishing village with Zoe Kayak Tours, a company specializing in small group runs. Many area hotels offer on-site yoga, but locals favor Paty’s Yoga Studio for ohm time on the Playa la Ropa (+52-755-55-4221).
Photos: Geraldine Campbell