Zihuatanejo – A Fun Town

Sail blog post - Pulling into the fabled anchorage in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, we fell in love with the lively, colorful, friendly and funky atmosphere.

Beautiful villas line Zihuatanejo's shore.

La Ropa Beach, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico La Ropa Beach, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico La Ropa Beach, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Pangas on Playa Principal (Principal Beach)

La Ropa Beach, Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Dinghy valet service.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Z-town has a waterfront walking district.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

There are hundreds of outdoor eateries.

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

Palms sway in the sand on Playa Principal.

Town square, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

The waterfront park got a bandstand...

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

...and in no time it was finished.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Plants and brick pavers were ready to go....

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

...and suddenly a garden sprouted.

Beach fish market, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Fishermen sell their fish from coolers.

Beach fish market, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Fresh caught fish ready for the skillet.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Hundreds of waste bins are lined up to be assembled

and distributed around town.

Zihuatanejo Bay, Guerrero, Mexico

Looking down on Las Gatas from a beautiful

restaurant on the hilltop.

Playa La Ropa anchorage, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Toddlers love the beach.

Playa La Ropa anchorage, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Walking onto Playa La Ropa,

"Cothes Beach."

Playa La Ropa anchorage, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

The views are beautiful at every turn.

Parasailing, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico Parasailing, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Each resort and villa is unique.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico Zihuatanejo anchorage, Guerrero, Mexico

Looking down at the Zihuatanejo anchorage.

Playa Madera, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

New sculptures have been placed

all around town.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Zihua has its touristy side

on the waterfront...

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Local kids have a happy hour all their own.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

What a toilet!

Centro Mercado Publico, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Fresh fruits and veggies at the large central market.

Centro Mercado Publico, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Fresh chicken presented differently than we are used to.

Centro Mercado Publico, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico Centro Mercado Publico, Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Christmas piñatas were a hot selling item, and this

gal made them right there.

Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico


Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

Rafa's Bar, before the rowdy cruisers showed up on

Christmas Eve.

Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico

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

lovely painted

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

beach.  Taking

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

baseball bats.

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-

found friends.

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

Visit Anchorages on Mexico's Southern Pacific Coast

to see more cruising posts from this area!