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By Ray Chatelin
(For Travel Writers Tales)

Midway down the west coast of Mexico are two destinations you can visit for the price of one. In fact, the only extra charge you can expect is an 11-peso bus fare.

For while Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are marketed as a single destination, each has its own character, history and culture and each place appeals to a distinctly different vacation personality.

Located about 200 kilometres (125mi) north of Acapulco, the two communities are like two brothers or sisters who decided to go their separate ways, but who live just down the block from one another and whose life styles are complementary.

Photo 1 View of the harbour from Playa la Ropa

Zihuatanejo is that picture-perfect, quiet fishing village many hope to find when visiting Mexico, with small hotels along a gentle beach thatís protected by a semi-circular harbor and where the pace is slow.

An easy local bus trip north of 11km (7mi) that costs 11 pesos, lies the brasher Ixtapa where a 13.2km (8.2mi) long series of interconnected beaches with roaring surf fronts high rise hotels. Immediately behind the hotels are street-lined boutiques having designer fashions, trendy restaurants, and golf courses.

If you want nightlife, you go to Ixtapa where you can dance away the night at the areas many discos, clubs & larger bars. By contrast, Zihuatanejo has a gentler tone and while you can find lively night entertainment, the style is less energetic. So, within a short space you have a combination of the old and the new, traditional, and contemporary life styles. And itís very easy to stay in one place, yet experience fully the character of the other.

Photo 4 One of the quiet boutique hotels in Zihuatanejo

While Ixtapa has many of those elements that youíll find at major international resort destinations, itís Zihuatanejo that claims the hearts and the minds of many who visit the region. For this centuries-old fishing village has retained its charm, its ancient traditions, its congeniality, and its sociability while at the same time catering to the needs and standards of travelers seeking quality.

The secluded bay was originally used by the Spaniards who arrived in the early 1500s in the hope they would find gold. They didnít find the glittering metal, but used the port to explore the west coast and as a departure point for Asia, though that adventure wasnít too successful with only one of the two ships setting sail in 1527 making it to the Philippines, their original destination.

Photo 2 A tough day on the Zihuatanejo beach

The town fronts three beaches which, by comparison to those found at Ixtapa, are more compact. The main beach area, the 2km (1.6mi) long Playa la Ropa, still seems unspoiled even with a variety of low-rise hotels beachside while larger hotels are on the bluffs above the beach Ė many of which offer magnificent views of the surrounding area from their restaurants and lounges.

The main part of town clings to its old-fashioned character with narrow streets made of paving-stones and where most people still walk to get around.

One block from the waterfront the Mercado de ArtensanŪas (Crafts Market) has about 250 shops where you can buy a variety of crafts including silver jewelry and housewares made with Mexico's finest silver. Youíll also find a wide variety of handicrafts, t-shirts, folk apparel and souvenirs, a result of a 1990 Guerrero State Law that removed vendors from the beach. Bargaining is expected.

Photo 3 Bluff situated hotels on Playa la Ropa in Zihuatanejo

Small public buses run continuously between Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa and for 11 pesos you can ride between two solitudes. Along Ixtapa`s main road behind the high-rise hotel chains facing spectacular two-mile long El Palmar beach are mini-plazas with their clothing and jewelry boutiques. And, like, Zihuatanejo, there`s a large crafts market housing 150 permanent stands selling handicrafts and souvenirs.

At the end of the main road is La Marina de Ixtapa, with capacity for more than 100 yachts, luxury condominiums, charming restaurants, and a 6793-yard golf course with meandering canals, 12 bridges, and a dunes-style topography.

Ixtapa`s other 18-hole championship course is the Robert Trent Jones Jr. 6,898-yard Palma Real Golf Course located on a former coconut plantation with a scenic layout of natural lakes, lagoons, and lush tropical vegetation alongside the Pacific. Tennis courts are in both communities and fishing, deep sea diving, and water sports of all kinds are available through any hotel in either community.

You`ll never go hungry with restaurants ranging from simple beach eateries to deluxe establishments. Seafood is pre-eminent and fresh with regional seafood favorites.

So, take your pick. Itís a winter destination to fit any temperament and expectation.



Mexican Tourism Office Information -

Golf Courses -

Hotels Ė Several Booking Agencies including;;; and

Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa Tourism -

PHOTOS by Toshi

1. View of the harbour from Playa la Ropa
2. A tough day on the Zihuatanejo beach
3. Bluff situated hotels on Playa la Ropa in Zihuatanejo
4. One of the quiet boutique hotels in Zihuatanejo

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