These two very different destinations, flowing together along a gorgeous stretch of the Mayan Riviera, make up one of the most attractive ports of call on the Mexican Riviera. Zihuatanejo, or "Zihua," is still a quaint fishing village, though growing into a small city. Its stunning shore has been occupied since pre-Columbian times, and the entire town retains an authentic Mexican feel, with traditional markets, regional seafood recipes, and a relaxed atmosphere.
Ixtapa, on the other hand, is a planned resort town, perhaps a bit sterile but perfect for vacationers who are looking for convenient, family-friendly access to truly beautiful beaches, a picturesque marina, and a wide selection of comfortable hotels. The two towns are only three miles apart, so day-trippers can easily explore both.
How to Get to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo
You'll arrive in the tender port of Zihuatanejo, which most day-trippers prefer to resort-lined Ixtapa. Most of Zihua's attractions, mainly beaches, shops, and restaurants, are walking distance from the pier. Boat taxis can take you to prettier, more pristine beaches, including those of Isla Ixtapa. It's a three-mile walk or inexpensive cab ride to Ixtapa proper, with more upscale shopping, a fine marina, and other appealing beaches. Seasoned travelers who speak a bit of Spanish will have no problem using cheap public buses that connect the two towns.
One Day in Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo
There are nice beaches, shops, and even an archaeological museum close to the wharf. Most can be reached on foot along Zihuatanejo's malecón, Paseo del Pescador (Fisherman's Walk), lined with thatch-roofed seafood restaurants and handicraft stands selling the region's attractive rugs, hammocks, shell art, pottery, and other artesanías.
Better beaches are accessible by boat, including Ixtapa Island, with four unspoiled stretches of white sand and coral reefs just perfect for snorkeling; and popular, palm-lined Playa Las Gatas, with calm, sapphire water protected by a reef that explored by snorkel and diving outfits set up onshore. Other activities include horseback riding, surfing, wildlife watching, golfing, sportfishing, zip-line canopy tours, and much more.