Zihuatanejo, Gro. - Mexico
Random Impressions and Experiences of the Zihuatanejo Region
Some Background Info.
Zihuatanejo is a Pacific vacation spot located about 2 hours north of the more famous resort of Acapulco. This sleepy little fishing village gained a bit of notoriety in the movie 'Shawshank Redemption' and has grown into a fine winter destination. Located in Guerrero State, southwest of Mexico City, it is full of pre-Columbian history, good food, fantastic beaches, and friendly people. Zihuatanejo is between 17 and 18 degrees north latitude, which is further south than most familiar holiday locations in Mexico - in fact, at the same latitude as the Central American nation of Guatemala. The skies are sunny in Winter and Spring and the ocean warm year round.
The sister resort of Ixtapa was created just a few kilometers north of Zihua in the early 1970s by Fonatur, an arm of the Mexican tourism ministry. Zihua lacks Ixtapa's high rise beachfront hotels and manicured boulevards, retaining its rustic fishing village character, which is exactly what makes it more attractive, in my opinion. If you crave all-inclusive resorts, pizza joints, hanging out in tourist traps, and mall style shopping experiences, then avoid Zihua.
Tourists in Zihua tend to be a real mix of people: norteamericanos from Canada & the US, Mexicans from the Interior, and some Europeans. Any effort to speak Spanish is greeted with an informal conversation on a wide variety of topics - fishing, Cuban politics, soccer, food, and families. The pace is a bit slow here but things do get done, sooner or later.
Zihua is the perfect size for walking around - although trekking during mid-day might be a challenge due to the heat. There are a wide variety of good restaurants, craft shops, things to do, community events, parades, religious processions, and some great jaunts to the surrounding area. You won't need to use a rented car to get around - use taxis, VW combi passenger vans, or the local bus lines whenever it's too far (or too hot) to walk.
Walking through the neighbourhoods surrounding the central part of the town can be very interesting. You're quite likely to stumble across a tortilla stand, shoe repair business, beauty salon, corner store, free range hogs or chickens, or a well-maintained shrine to the patron saint of that particular street corner. We have never felt unsafe exploring these areas during the daytime as we make our way to the Commercial Mexicana supermarket or to restaurants on the north side of town.
A fun thing to do on a Sunday evening is to wander down to the Cancha (main plaza/basketball court) along the waterfront to check out the homegrown talent performing there. Food vendors set up stalls selling hot corn, freshly made banana or potato chips, drinks, tacos, etc. between the court and street. There is a very popular hamburger guy on the street, if that's what you need. Lots of locals show up and watch dancers, singers, clowns, and other entertainers in a sort of amateur hour format. No English is spoken as this is strictly a local event. You'll see lots of gringos sitting there enjoying the performances.
In short, Zihua is an easy town to get around and explore. It's big enough to have a good variety of authentic Mexican experiences yet not too big that you feel hemmed in by a large city with its traffic issues.