After 15 vacations in Cozumel, we finally gave in to a friends request to try IXT/ZIH with them. They have always enjoyed Coz, but kept saying that they like the beaches and weather in IXT/ZIH better…especially in January. I was hesitant and felt I’d miss out on the things I love about Cozumel, but we booked the Dorado Pacifico and landed January 30th.
Even from the plane, my first impression was that the geography of Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa was beautiful. The hills, ridges and valleys covered in green, leading down to those great beaches and coves is hard to describe. The 20 minute bus ride to the hotel wound its way up and down a scenic highway, past coconut groves, the outer limits of Zih and finally descended down into the valley to “downtown” Ixtapa. The hotels in Ixtapa line a LONG stretch of picture-perfect, gently sloping, sandy beach. Each hotel has its own style of amenities for just about any traveler and all share their own stretch of that picturesque beach.
We stayed at Dorado Pacifico. The hotel was clean and all of the staff was friendly and helpful. Our stay included $15.00 a day for anything BUT breakfast. The $15 bucks a day went for drinks around the pool and under the beach palapas. We would casually sneak a few of our own drinks here and there between ordering them from the waiters, but a few dollars tip at the start and finish of our “lounging time” each day was enough to pacify the waiters and bartenders and nobody gave us grief about bringing our own drinks in. At the end of the week, our bar-tab was only $11.00 US. Overall, the prices for drinks were very reasonable when you figure the 15 a day ends up making them half-priced, all day. We never ate at the restaurant at DP so I can’t comment on that. Our breakfasts were all from places around Ixtapa. One place that we found (FONDA LA PALAPA) was very inexpensive and served good portions of tasty local food. I’m partial to Chorizo and eggs with a glass of fresh squeezed OJ and coffee. I could get it for about 55 pesos there. I can’t remember the names of all the places we ate in Ixtapa, but only one was a disappointment. The four of us thought the portions, taste and service was lacking….and are pretty sure there was some funky math on our bill. I thought tax was supposed to be included in the prices posted on the menu? We didn’t raise a stink….we just paid our bill, tipped accordingly and didn’t go back. Rueben’s hamburgers were a tasty one day when we felt we wanted something less “Mexican” towards the end of the week. Overall, we felt Ixtapa has plenty of fun places to eat or enjoy drinks. I found a “juice-joint” and had them make me about a quart of fresh OJ and ½ qt. Pineapple juice for 55 pesos. The juice went in the room fridge and made great drinks for my travel mug!
We explored Zihuatanejo 5 or six times, afternoon and evenings. The city was always exciting and obviously in a beautiful setting. We walked the shore from the marina to Playa La Ropa several times and stopped here and there for food and drinks. The “downtown area” was filled with great places to spend your day shopping, eating, drinking or just relaxing. We spent one afternoon exploring the hotels and condos in the vicinity of hotel Irma overlooking the bay. There are SO many quaint hotels on the hillside that I’d have a tough time finding one I wouldn’t stay at. The views overlooking Zih bay are fantastic. We ate several lunches and 4 or 5 dinners at various places in Zih. ALL were great, but again…I can’t remember the names. The “Blue place” with pastor tacos and baked potatoes was CHEAP and tasty! I know Acadia (on the beach) was one spot where we were very impressed with the cheese-stuffed-bacon-wrapped shrimp (120 pesos) and we had to go back TWICE to eat them again. It was also the place I tried a whole, deep-fried red-snapper smothered in garlic and butter. Oh MAN was that tasty! We found tacos al pastore everywhere in Zih as well as four or five places in Ixt, so I was happy to get my “fix” every day….even if it was just a couple “to go” on our way back to the DP before bed. We were never at a loss to find great food and drinks at reasonable prices anywhere we went in Zih or Ixt.
One of the things that really impressed me was the ease of transportation between Ixt and Zih. 8 peso bus rides and 55 peso cabs made it easy and convenient to go back and forth. Sometimes more than once a day. Cozumel’s “taxi cartel” could learn a LOT from the transportation model used in Zih/Ixt. We heeded the warnings and stayed off the buses after dark…just in case…..but really felt it would have probably been fine. There wasn’t a moment during the trip that we felt “unsafe”. The locals always returned our smile and “hola” and we struck up conversations with several who seemed genuinely happy that we were there enjoying ourselves…… and spending money.
So in the end…..I learned that Cozumel isn’t the only place I can enjoy myself immensely. The landscape and predictable, great weather of Ixtapa in January was a huge contributing variable as I continued making comparisons between destinations. Coz can be cool (Nortes) and sometimes rainy in January. Both places have great food, great people and lots to see and do. The beach in Ixtapa is superior to just about anything remaining on Cozumel, since hurricane Wilma. The lack of biting bugs in Ixtapa (unless maybe I just got lucky) was another bonus that Cozumel can NOT boast. I’ve concluded that Ixt/Zih is only missing TWO things that I LOVE about Cozumel. The friends that I’ve made there over the years who I like to visit……and that clear blue, turquoise, and various shades of blue/green water that Coz is famous for.
So…I’ll be back to Ixt/Zih. I’ll be back for sure… to explore what I missed in the short week that I was there and hopefully meet locals and “winter” people that I can put down as more reasons to return. Maybe I’ll stay somewhere in Zih next time? Some place up in the hills? Hmmm……decisions, decisions…
But first…..Cozumel in about 4 weeks.