Zihuatanejo – Vacationland

Playa Las Gatas, Las Gatas Beach, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Playa Las Gatas

Zihuatanejo Bay lighthouse, Guerrero, Mexico

Zihuatanejo Bay's lighthouse,

now off-limits.

Playa Las Gatas, Las Gatas Beach, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Cruisers enjoy a pool party...

Picante catamaran charter, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

...charterboaters enjoy a pool party too.

Picante catamaran charter, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

"Picante" hosts spinnaker rides.

Banana boats, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Banana babes.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Suzanne and Tony share the cruising life as a happily married couple

sailing separate boats, both painted the same bright blue.

Parasailing Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

A parasailor enjoys the sunset,

towed by a boat that still has

plenty of gas.

Sunset Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Cheeseburger in paradise.

Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico

Beatlemania in Ixtapa.

Ixtapa, Guerrero, Mexico

Dance festival rehearsal, Ixtapa.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

View from our cockpit.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

"The Parthenon"

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico Playa Madera, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico Playa Principal, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Looking out to the anchorage from Playa Principal.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico Playa Principal, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Playa Principal.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Table for two at La Palmera.

Cruise ship Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Cruise ship leaves for an overnight sail to Acapulco.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Mexican Navy ship stands guard just behind

the cruise ship.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Stunning sunsets were common.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Oops - look what's in the dinghy.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

When the water was clear, we can see hundreds

of fish by the side of the boat.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

A little school surfaces as one.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

A four toed candlestick


Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Zihua's first people

came over Alaska's

Bearing Strait from Asia.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Noemi's cruiser wall.

Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

We enjoy an afternoon of snacking while painting

on the wall.

Isla Grande - Isla Ixtapa - Isla de Ixtapa, Melia Resort, Guerrero, Mexico

Isla Ixtapa is all about fun in the sun. Babes get tans...

Isla Grande - Isla Ixtapa - Isla de Ixtapa, Melia Resort, Guerrero, Mexico

...while boys jump off...

Isla Grande - Isla Ixtapa - Isla de Ixtapa, Melia Resort, Guerrero, Mexico

...and do flips in the air.

Isla Grande - Isla Ixtapa - Isla de Ixtapa, Melia Resort, Guerrero, Mexico

Watertoys of all kinds are available for rent at Isla Ixtapa.

Isla Grande - Isla Ixtapa - Isla de Ixtapa, Melia Resort, Guerrero, Mexico

Zihuatanejo, Mexico (2)

January, 2011 - Zihuatanejo enchanted us, and we stayed firmly

planted in the anchorage with no thoughts of going elsewhere.  The

bay is several miles across and is encircled by four beaches ("playas").

Playa Principal, the main beach, runs alongside the pretty little walking

streets of the town.  From there, a boardwalk wanders in and out along

the curvy shoreline to a small beach, Playa Madera.  Then you hike up

and over a steep hill to get to the long, wide, serious vacation beach,

Playa La Ropa.  The same long ago shipwreck that deposited clothes

("la ropa") on this long beach deposited wood from the ship ("madera")

on the smaller beach, giving them each their names.

Across the bay, accessible only

by boat, is Playa Las Gatas,

beach of the whiskered sharks.

We didn't see any sharks, but could definitely see the remains of the stone breakwater

believed to have been built by a Tarascan emperor to create a calm bathing area.  We

had heard you could walk to the lighthouse on the other side of the hill from the beach,

and we stopped in at Amado's beachside bar to ask where the path started.  Sadly,

Amado told us the land has been purchased for commercial development and he

advised us that it was dangerous to go there because it was heavily guarded.

Well, lighthouses are visible from the sea, by definition, so even if we couldn't see it up

close on land, we were able to take the dinghy to get a glimpse of it from the water.

Back on Las Gatas beach,

the cruisers had several

in-water happy hour

afternoons.  For these

events you pack your

dinghy with assorted

beverages and snacks and a swimming noodle or tube or other

toy that will help you float even as the world gets buzzy around

you.  A few dinghies throw out an anchor, and the rest raft up

alongside, and everyone jumps overboard, drink in hand, and

parties away the afternoon half-submerged.

It turned out that we weren't the only folks that enjoyed this kind of thing.

Every afternoon the huge charter catamaran Picante would boogie through

the anchorage, blasting a really fun Mexican Mariachi tune.  They would

drop the hook, and many of the folks -- beer in hand -- would leap over the

side.  We loved the tune so much we ended up singing it for a friend in town

and asking him what it was.  He made us a wonderful CD with that tune (El

Mariachi Loco - the Crazy Mariachi) and many other Mariachi tunes.

If the wind was up when Picante dropped their

anchor, they would hoist the spinnaker and give

people rides off the bow.

Hanging out in our cockpit watching all the happy and crazy

vacationers was great fun.  There were so many hot babes in bikinis,

Mark's head kept whipping around, and he always seemed to have the

camera with the long lens in hand.

One afternoon a para-sailor was making the rounds when we noticed

the girl in the air was dipping lower and lower.  As they passed our

boat, the line barely missed the top of our mast.  Suddenly, the tow

boat stopped dead in its tracks and the girl crashed down into the

water.  A neighboring cruiser roared over to her in his dinghy and

quickly untangled her from the para-sail and hauled her out of the

water.  It turned out that the para-sailing tow boat had run out of gas

The community of cruisers is tight-

knit and there was always chatter on the radio as pairs and trios of boats arranged

gatherings ashore and on each other's boats for happy hour.  Most are from the US western

coastal states and Canadian provinces, so there is a uniformity among us all.  One pair

stood out as being very special, however.  Tony from England and Suzanne from Germany

had each set out to sail solo around the world from their respective countries nearly two

decades ago.  They met each other for the first time halfway around the world in New

Zealand where they soon fell in love.  They were married in Samoa and they have sailed in

tandem for fifteen years since then.

For two years they sailed together aboard

her boat and for two years they sailed

together aboard his boat.  But two captains

on one boat will tend to run into conflicts.  So they settled on continuing their singlehanding lifestyle in tandem.  She sails "So

Long," a 1950's era wooden Rhodes 41, and he is aboard "Galaneia," a similarly aged 27' plywood boat.  Both are painted a

bright shade of blue.  Her boat is faster, so they don't really sail together.  She likes to leave port after him but is still able

to get to their destinations first.  She can check out the shoreside situation and give him tips on where to anchor when he

finally arrives.  "Port captains are used to seeing married couples with two last names on one boat, but they are always

surprised to see a married couple with one name on two boats," she laughed.  They are now mid-way through their second

circumnavigation together, headed towards the Mediterranean.

They are such seasoned sailors that they shrugged when I

commented that their plan to sail all the way from Z-town to Panama

non-stop seemed like quite long a passage, especially for his 27

footer.  What about the nasty weather in the Tehuantepec a few

hundred miles south of here, I asked, where the so-called

"Tehuantepecker" winds can howl at 60 knots or more and the

waves can reach 50 feet?  Wouldn't they want to stop and wait for a

weather window of light breezes and gentle waves to glide across

that treacherous area?  "Awww... the Tehuantepec is overrated,"

she said with a serene smile.  "We'll just go when we're ready and

deal with the weather as it comes, and we certainly won't sneak

along the coast half a mile offshore as all the guidebooks suggest."

I was amazed.  There was nothing about her quiet demeanor that

suggested she possessed such a fearless and brave heart.

A new friend of ours who has also sailed around the world with her children and now singlehands her 46' steel sloop had been

telling us how there are four types of cruising couples: the "A" group where both husband and wife are totally into the cruising

lifestyle and love it, the "B" group where one spouse is into it and the other is being dragged along against his or her will, the

"C" group of families with children aboard, and the "D" of the singlehanders.  I guess Tony and Suzanne fit into an "E" group of

married couples who sail on separate boats.

Back on shore, we got a cheeseburger in paradise at a little cart that sets up

shop every evening at 6 pm and serves burgers stacked with ham slices, two

types of cheese, onions, avocado, and tomato on grilled buns until the town

shuts down at two in the morning.  Run by an uncle and nephew team who do

a bang-up business for Gringos who are in need of a quickie American food


Over in Ixtapa, Mark got another

kind of fix.  Yet again we happened

upon a bar where the Beatles rein

supreme.  We had found

Beatlemania alive and well in Cabo

and here it was again in Ixtapa.

Before leaving Z-town we would

bump into it in one more time at a

tiny bar called "Fast Beer" that was

unfortunately closed each time we stopped by.

We were in Ixtapa to sort out our problems with our Telcel USB modem account for

our laptop.  Telcel's founder Carlos Slim was the richest man in the world in 2010,

beating out all the Saudi princes and middle eastern oil barrons.  Yet a simple

account that would take five minutes to set up in at a kiosk in an American mall had

taken us twelve hours of standing in lines in TelCel offices.  These offices resemble

the Department of Motor Vehicles, complete with numbered booths, numbered

tickets, long lines, challenging paperwork, hassles and frustration.  The difference is that (being Gringos) business is

conducted in broken English and even more broken Spanish.  Understanding the

plans available, the prices, the promotions, the hardware and software installations

and methods of payment are extremely difficult, especially since there are no

brochures or written documentation.  The employees are extremely well meaning,

and they try very hard, but you can feel the stress they are under.  If they make a

mistake and a customer is due a refund because of their negligence, the money

comes out directly of their salary.  What's worse, despite being a national company,

the nine regional divisions are totally independent and accounts established in one

region can barely be serviced in another.  Not only could the supervisor in Cabo not

reach the supervisor in Ensenada, but the General Manager in Ixtapa had been given

a list of phone numbers for the General Managers in other regions that was so

erroneous that we watched

in amazement as he dialed

first a kindergarten, then a

restaurant and finally a hotel

rather than the fellow TelCel

managers he was trying to

reach on our behalf.

So it was a delight to step outside (after slowly crumpling into a

shivering ball of misery in the overly air-conditioned TelCel office) to

see a group of young Mexican dancers rehearsing on a stage next

door.  An international dance festival was getting under way, and

these kids were a bundle of energy, gyrating to the pulsing music with

great enthusiasm.

In the anchorage, just off our stern, a cluster of lovely villas hung

out over the water, their thatched roofs giving them a decidedly

tropical air.  Set above them, looking very regal and totally out of

place, was a building Mark dubbed the Lincoln Memorial but is

locally known as The Parthenon.  Built years ago by Z-town's chief

of police, it became something of a monument to his corrupt ways.

Legend has it that he constructed the building with a secret

passageway that led down to the beach.  He must have known that

his ill-gotten prosperity wouldn't last and he might need an escape

route.  The getaway passage came in very handy when troops

arrived to arrest him for corruption, and he slipped away into the

nighttime waves never to be seen again.

Zihuatanejo is a scenic town, and we took many long walks

along the beaches and up and over the steep hillsides.

Banana trees grow in front yards, roosters strut about, and

dusty dogs sleep soundly in the middle of the back streets.

During our month-long stay three cruise ships

came to town.  Each had an unique itinerary.

One started in Los Angeles and was headed

along the Central American coast to pass

through the Panama Canal and then through the

Caribbean to Ft. Lauderdale.  Another had

started in the Bahamas and was en route to

Acapulco (their last night aboard was celebrated

in Z-town, complete with a huge party with a live

band on the back deck).  The third was doing a

loop through the major Mexican Pacific port

towns, originating and ending in California.

Each time a cruise ship came to town, there was

a Mexican Navy ship posted nearby.

They would come in and anchor just off the stern of the cruise ship,

and while one or two sailors stood watch the others whiled away the

hours fishing.  There was a Navy presence in town at these times too,

along with the usual State Police and Municipal Police presence.

Zihuatanejo is a precious tourist destination for Mexico that is an

important source of

revenue.  I suspect

all hell would break

loose if anything

untoward ever

happened to a


Not as well protected,

a little fish almost met his demise in our

dinghy.  A series of large waves swept

under the dink, and this little guy must have jumped at

the wrong moment and wound up in the boat.  You

could almost feel his panic and relief as he scurried

away when Mark tossed him back in the water.

Late every afternoon we would watch huge boiling

schools of fish moving about the bay.  These guys

would dapple the surface of the water and then

suddenly jump as a group, creating a noisy woosh of white spray.

Sadly, the water was murky 90% of the

time, as one red tide (or "algal bloom")

swept through the bay after another.  We

had seen these blooms on the way into Isla

Ixtapa from Manzanillo, and we watched

them engulf the boat time and again while

en route between the island and Z-town,

and again once we anchored in Z-town's

bay.  Algal blooms have happened since

the dawn of recorded

human history, but it

is possible they are

more prevalent now,

caused by an over-

richness of nutrients in the water created by rainwater runoff from

land.  Nitrogen used to fertilize farmland winds up in the water and

the algae suddenly thrives.  We saw pale yellow-brown blooms, rich

burgundy blooms and one that was a dark forest green.  At these

times there would be foam on the water, and the tiny bubbles would

be encircled in the color of the bloom.  Visibility in the water would

diminish to the point where you could barely see the hull of the boat

through your mask when floating alongside and touching it with your


On the rare clear day, visibility in the water was easily 15 to 20 feet, and suddenly the huge school of fish that took up

residence under our boat was in plain view.  There were two different types of fish living there, and each morning two or three

pangas would motor alongside our boat and throw hand-lines over the side to try to catch these guys to use as bait for bigger

fish further out.  Our boat bottom grew barnacles at an alarming rate, and after just 10 days our propellor looked like it was

made of three pieces of concrete.  A little reef system of tiny one-inch striped fish and crabs had taken up residence on the top

of our rudder as well.  So we had something to keep us occupied as we dove over the side to cool off, as now we dove in

holding scrapers and scotch brite pads.

Back ashore we paid a visit to the Museo Arquaeologico de la Costa

Grande.  There is evidence that indigenous people were active around

Zihuatanejo at the same time the Ancient Greeks were putting Athens on

the map in the Mediterranean.  Charming tiny ceramic relics of all kinds

were on display at the museum, but the explanations of each artifact were

given only in Spanish.  The four toed candlestick holder caught my

attention, reminding me of the four fingered petroglyphs we had seen in

Utah.  Why did the ancients drop a digit when creating their artwork?

Surely anyone capable of such delicate handiwork could count.

For truly local Mexican food, we were told

to visit Noemi's, just one street in from the

beach.  Here we were served three

burritos and two cokes for 35 pesos, about

$3 US. No wonder the place is always

loaded with locals.  Not quite as yummy as

our favorite tacos in Ensenada at Las

Brisas, we were drawn to Noemi's not just

for her good cheap food but also because of her cruiser's wall.  She

makes available a set of paints for all cruisers that would like to

decorate her wall with the name of their boat.  We happily munched

away on our lunch and painted away on her wall, leaving a groovy

impression behind.

It was hard to tear ourselves away from Zihuatanejo, especially as all

departing boats were headed south towards Acapulco, and the recent chill

in the air and water made us want to go south too.  But we were meeting

my mom in Manzanillo, so we began the 200 mile trek back north.  A few

overnights in Isla Ixtapa gave us a last round of waterplay.

We snugged the

boat up to the rocks

on the western end

of the more popular

anchorage and

watched in delight as

the cove came alive

everyday at noon.

Ten or twelve 50' to 90' charter power yachts would

arrive from Ixtapa Marina, families and friends on board

sipping umbrella drinks and jumping over the sides.  The

captains and their crew would work hard all day, keeping

their guests as pampered as possible.  Meanwhile, as the

crew passed out drinks and took on specially ordered

meals from the restaurants ashore, the bikini clad girls

took in as much sun as possible and the energetic boys

dove into the water.

By 6 pm the boats would all be gone, and we would be left alone

in the anchorage.  The waves would explode on the rocks while

the pelicans materialized out of nowhere and spent the last hour

of twilight fishing.  The boiling schools of fish would move about

the water, swooshing this way and that, while the pelicans

coasted just above the water, lowering their beaks an inch for a

shallow dive, occasionally tipping their heads back with a big

gulp.  Meanwhile the trees would begin to sing a racous jungle

song, birds of every kind filling their branches in the gathering

dark, singing their hearts out -- or maybe bickering among

themselves about favored night perches and discussing who

could sleep next to whom for the night.

Tiptoeing out of the anchorage at oh-dark-thirty, we left

Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo for a new destination, Bahía Santiago.

Find Zihuatanejo on Mexico Maps

Visit Anchorages on Mexico's Southern Pacific Coast

to see more cruising posts from this area!