Beautiful villas line Zihuatanejo's shore.
Pangas on Playa Principal (Principal Beach)
Dinghy valet service.
Z-town has a waterfront walking district.
There are hundreds of outdoor eateries.
Palms sway in the sand on Playa Principal.
The waterfront park got a bandstand...
...and in no time it was finished.
Plants and brick pavers were ready to go....
...and suddenly a garden sprouted.
Fishermen sell their fish from coolers.
Fresh caught fish ready for the skillet.
Hundreds of waste bins are lined up to be assembled
and distributed around town.
Looking down on Las Gatas from a beautiful
restaurant on the hilltop.
Toddlers love the beach.
Walking onto Playa La Ropa,
The views are beautiful at every turn.
Each resort and villa is unique.
Looking down at the Zihuatanejo anchorage.
New sculptures have been placed
all around town.
Zihua has its touristy side
on the waterfront...
Local kids have a happy hour all their own.
What a toilet!
Fresh fruits and veggies at the large central market.
Fresh chicken presented differently than we are used to.
Christmas piñatas were a hot selling item, and this
gal made them right there.
Rafa's Bar, before the rowdy cruisers showed up on
Mike paddles his dinghy, a bright red canoe, past his
trimaran "Spirit of Adventure."
Zihuatanejo, Mexico (1)
Late December, 2010 - Finally saturated with playing on the beach
and in the water at Isla Ixtapa, we motored ten short miles to
Zihuatanejo. This once sleepy fishing village is now a tourist town
with a charming waterfront walking district. A hippy hangout some
years back, Zihua still retains its laid back pace.
Despite being right next door to the very sophisticated and built up
town of Ixtapa, and despite playing host to the occasional cruise
ship, Zihuatanejo is enchanting.
Arriving in the harbor during the late afternoon, we anchored in
front of a string of beautiful villas. A fleet of pangas lined the
shore, and as we landed the dinghy a man came running towards
us shouting "I help you I help you!" It turned out that a group of
enterprising young men have created an informal dinghy valet
service here in Z-town. Working for tips, they help the cruisers
drag their dinks high enough onto the beach to avoid floating away
at high tide. They keep an eye on the boats while the owners go
off into town and then help drag the dink back into the water when
the owners return, even if they don't return until well after dark.
This service is not entirely needed, as all the cruisers can
handle their dinghies on this short beach without assistance.
But it does make for a friendly welcome into town, and it is
nice to know that someone is keeping an eye on your dinghy
while you go about your business on shore.
What a surprise greeted us when we took our first walk in this
town. We had read a lot about Zihuatanejo in years past, and
knew it was a favorite cruiser hangout. But other than its
frequent descriptions as "friendly," "charming" and "a little
quirky," we didn't know what to expect.
What we discovered is that this town is an eclectic cross
between San Diego's upscale Seaport Village and a classic,
bustling, dusty Mexican town. It has a wonderful air of cute
trendiness but has managed not to lose its authentic feeling of
The brick sidewalks, open store fronts and countless
sidewalk eateries stretched lazily before us while we strolled
The town is currently undergoing an extensive renovation, and all the streets along the waterfront have been converted to a
walking area where cars are not allowed. Meticulous attention to detail has been lavished on every storefront and building.
Posts and pillars supporting western style storefront walkways were wrapped with decorative rope, and all the walking areas
were covered with patterns of brick pavers.
A small park along the middle of the beach features a basketball court and bandstand, both of which came to life while we
were there. The workers sweated steadily from before dawn until many hours after sundown, working under floodlights in the
dark, to make sure the park renovation was finished and ready for the holidays. During our stay a garden of hibiscus flowers
and palms sprouted up, fully formed and blooming, at one end of the park. The garden featured wonderful sculptures of
crocodiles, cormorants and iguanas, each standing in very realistic poses.
Along the beachfront there is an open air fish market where fresh
caught fish is sold out of coolers that have just been unloaded from
the fishing pangas. Fish of all shapes and sizes are laid out on
display or kept on ice in the coolers.
One afternoon the park was suddenly filled with rows and rows
of not-yet-assembled trash cans. To one side were three brand
new garbage trucks. The money that the government had
given Zihuatanejo for their facelift was being well spent, and we
heard a rumor that on New Year's Day the governor of the state
of Guerrero was going to come to town to check it all out.
Tourism is the lifeblood of this little town, and in this neck of the
woods that means there are lots of timeshares and timeshare
presentations. Walking up the very steep hill between Madera
Beach and La Ropa Beach, a van stopped next to us and a kid
hopped out and asked if we wanted a ride to the top. Sure! It
was a steep hill, and we and our friends were all sweating
bullets. The air conditioned van ride to the top was great, but
we discovered what they were really after was for us to tour a
new condo timeshare development in exchange for breakfast at
a posh hilltop restaurant. We took a few photos from this
breathtaking spot, but after much discussion with the
saleswoman and the sales manager, we decided against the tour.
Back down on Playa La Ropa ("Clothes Beach," so
named because a long ago shipwreck deposited lots of
clothes on the beach), we joined the vacationers playing
in the sun.
The beach was filled with parasailors, catamarans, kids making sand castles and couples
strolling hand-in-hand. Everyone was enjoying Christmas vacation.
We wandered up and over the steep hill separating Playa
La Ropa from Playa Madera and got a glimpse of the
anchorage from high up.
Zihuatanejo has a large ex-
pat community, and one of
the favorite hangouts is
Zorro's, a bar run by a
Canadian couple. The table
next to ours was filled with
local kids playing at being
Mexico is known for
ceramics, but Mark
and I were both
very surprised when
we ducked into the restrooms
at one establishment. We
passed the camera back and
forth between the mens room
and ladies room to get pictures
of the fancy toilets!
Behind all the bright and
colorful tourist come-ons in the
waterfront walking district,
Zihuatanejo reveals its true
Mexican soul in the central
public market just a few streets
back from the
up a full city block, this crowded and cramped series of indoor
walkways and shops offers everything imaginable for sale.
Fruit stalls, poultry stalls, meat sellers and spice sellers are all lined up
in impossibly tight spacing, along with straw hat sellers, dime store junk
sellers and bootleg DVD vendors. Turning sideways to pass other
shoppers, we gaped as we passed a display of whole chickens splayed
on their backs, heads lolling off the edge of the table and feet sticking
up in the air.
It seemed we were in the "real" Mexico. Women stood
patiently in line at each stall, waiting to fill their sacks with the
makings of a large family Christmas dinner.
Christmas piñatas were on display
too, and we passed a woman
making them from scratch. Each
one was built around a ceramic
pot that would later be cracked
open by blindfolded kids wielding
Besides the lively, touristy waterfront and the gritty, rich-smelling public market, what
made Zihuatanejo special for us was the spontaneous friendships we formed. New
friends we met on the beach invited us to spend Christmas at their condo overlooking
Ixtapa's fabulous beach. What a delight to spend such an intimate holiday with new-
A whole community of friendships sprang up between the boats anchored in the bay
during the days leading up to Christmas. We had heard that there was usually a
cruisers net on the VHF radio every morning in the wintertime. After not hearing
anything on the radio for a few mornings, I jumped in and got it started.
This gave everyone a forum to meet each other, and in no time we had
organized a Christmas Eve gathering at Rafa's Bar, a restaurant
traditionally patronized by the cruisers back when it was owned by a
guy named Rick. Rafa was thrilled when the entire cruising community
showed up in his bar in the early afternoon of Christmas Eve and
stayed until dark. It was no surprise that they did, as Mark had talked
him into offering 10 peso beers (80 cents) to the cruisers all afternoon.
Most of the cruisers are folks like ourselves, graying a bit around the
edges and living a life they have dreamed of and planned on for years.
The boats have been carefully chosen and are well equipped, with an
emphasis on comfort -- at least as much comfort as can be had in a
small space wobbling around on the ocean.
Our cruising friend Mike, however, is different. Just 25 years old, he
lives on an older trimaran that doesn't have a working engine. "I'm
living on a loaf of bread and a huge hunk of cheese," he told me. We
first met him when he was drifting down the coast about 50 miles north
of Manzanillo. Arriving two days after us ("No wind, man!"), he was
triumphant to have broken away from the grind and gone sailing,
despite parents who wanted him to come home and get a real job.
Referring to his fellow cruisers (many of whom are older than his
parents) as "bro" and "dude," and wearing his baseball cap backwards
over his long locks, he is living a life many of us dreamed of at 25 but
didn't quite have the guts to try.
Zihuatanejo welcomed 2011 with fireworks on both beaches, and a
few days later the group of cruisers began to disperse. About half
were headed south towards Central America, but our course would
keep us in Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa for another few weeks.
Find Zihuatanejo on Mexico Maps