Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo: a Double Dose of Mexico Vacation Magic



About 15 years ago, my husband and I discovered Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Somewhat remote (from the East coast) and naturally beautiful, the area became one of our favorite vacation places, with or without kids.

Without kids in tow, no question, our resort of choice is La Casa Que Canta in Zihua. It’s incredibly private and sexy with its cliffside perch and no-holds-barred romantic ambiance, and its rooms “sing” with Mexican charm, each one fittingly named for a Spanish song. Besides its striking terraced architecture and beautiful crafts and landscaping, there’s a fresh-water infinity pool that cascades towards Playa la Ropa, and a second pool located in a private alcove further down the hill. The Luz de Luna tequila bar overlooking Zihuatanejo Bay is a must for sunset, as are the resort’s incredible lime pancakes for breakfast.

Photos: La Casa Que Canta, Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

"Downtown” Zihuatanejo -- a small, authentic fishing village -- has restaurants that serve up fish tacos that couldn’t be fresher. Try La Sirena Gorda along the water, no matter how long the wait. A few blocks away, the arts market sells masks from Guerrero and other colorful Mexican crafts including hammocks, wooden items and hand-painted sculptures. You can barter, if you like, but the prices are already very reasonable.

But, when the kids “decided” it was time to vacation with us, Ixtapa was the better location for fun in the sun. We loved our family vacation at Club Med. The rooms were remodeled not long ago, adding bright colors, tech touches, and locks, while the beach and programming stayed as wonderful as ever. Club Med Ixtapa Pacific has something for everyone, whether it’s a baby club or a teen program, day and night activities on the beach, a fabulous tennis center, or the trapeze, which quite a few of us (myself included) tried again and again. And the best part is that it’s all-inclusive, meaning that you only pay for the extra excursions that you decide to take; all meals, all snacks, and even the ultra-smooth reposados are included in the price. Request a room that’s not too close to the beach for a bit more quiet. If you have little kids, there are accommodations close to their activities that will make your life even easier. Do remember to schedule a dinner for the adults at La Luna Azul, a separate restaurant with waiter service, set in the middle of the garden. Incredibly indulgent.

Ixtapa itself has a series of beaches, tucked into coves; a marina; a Dolphin Encounter where you can swim with these amazing creatures; architecturally striking hotels; and condos and beach houses should you decide that you’d rather have more space at a more reasonable price. It’s not small-village authentic like Zihua, but it’s definitely a Mexican experience. Try some of the smaller, local restaurants as a change of pace from the all-you-can-eat Club Med buffets.

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