Travel Guide: Zihuatanejo, Mexico
February 15, 2020
All the tips and tricks for a perfect beach vacation in Zihuatanejo!
Back to Zihuatanejo for mine and Kelsey’s 3rd visit and my son, Matt’s, first to see their grandparents and escape the snow! My father has been travelling to the same spot, Playa La Ropa, in Zihuatanejo for over 30 years! By now, we joke he’s the “Mayor” as nearly everyone on the beach stops to talk with him as he sits under his palapa. Zihua (as it’s referred to by the locals) is situated on the Pacific side of the country, right outside of Ixtapa. Made famous as the ending scene locale for Shawshank Redemption, Zihua is famous to Studio Brunstrum as the location that inspired Susan to create our Julie Dasher custom rug line, Elements.
This year’s trip was a relaxing seven days filled with great food, fun activities, and the best company! Below we tell you everything you need to know to make your stay on the beach even better – we’re already excited for our next trip back!
Lodging: We’re fortunate enough to bunk with family when we visit at Los Mangos residences located a block from Playa La Ropa beach. Since most of the residences are regular visitors, like our grandparents, there aren’t many Air BnBs available during the winter season. Great alternatives (and ones that are Grandpa tested and approved):
• Villas Ema
• Villas Carolina
• The Thompson (Susan approved)
• Embarc (Susan approved)
Activities: Zihua is the whole package for fun in the sun – even if you just want to sit on the beach and read a book (more Kelsey’s forte) or if you want to include more energetic maritime activities. Our favorites:
• Sit at Paty’s Marimar and read a book! Paty’s is the best spot on the beach and always serves as our home base during the daytime (we usually eat breakfast and lunch there as well!). With plenty of tables and seats right on the water, it’s the perfect place to set up shop for the day. Bonus: the water in Zihua is always the perfect temperature!
• Go for a guided sail with Ramon and his brothers. Ramon is a Zihua native and has learned everything there is to know about the ocean from a young age. He and his brothers sit at Paty’s and offer 4-seater 2-hour sails around the bay and surrounding sea, paddle boards, kayaks and snorkel gear. Every year, I take at least 2 sails with Ramon – he’s the best captain I’ve ever met! In fact, it was from Ramon’s sail that I took the photos that inspired my rug line!
• Get a massage (or one a day!). The massages at La Perla are the best on the beach (and the most private). You can walk in to book appointments from 9AM to 5PM (they do accept walk-ins but only if they’re not completely booked, which they usually are). Don’t fall for the other merchants on the beach that don’t give private or licensed massages. The masseuses at La Perla are certified and utilize both cupping and hot rocks techniques if needed. For the price, we each got one every day we were there – which is still less expensive than one regular massage in Chicago.
• Go fishing. Matt and I went deep sea fishing for the first time this year – and loved it! We were guided by my dad’s family friend, Ben Peterson and his co-captain Ramiro. The early wake-up call (6AM) was well worth the successful day at sea – we caught 2.5 sailfish (one made it to the boat and then escaped our clutches)!
• Explore the town. The market in town is fascinating and well worth the $2 ride to get there. The merchants sell their wares – everything from rugs to bags to shoes to food and more – almost all day! My favorite part – seeing all the fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, meat, fish, spices, cocoa, and vanilla!
Food: One of the best aspects of the trip (besides the family time) is the food! Zihua has some amazing restaurants and sneaky hidden gems:
• El Manglar – further down Playa la Ropa situated next to the estuary filled with birds and alligators, “El Mangalar” translates to “The Alligator”. The open-air restaurant has a great view of the beach sunset and is known for their fresh fish.
o Recommended Dish: Tuna with Coconut. (Pro tip: order the coconut sauce on the side)
• El Mediterraneo – located in the heart of downtown Zihua, El Mediterraneo is some of the best Italian food on the island. (Yes, Italian food in Mexico – what can we say, Italians can’t go that long without Italian food). The main dining room of the restaurant is situated in a very quaint courtyard with no more than ten tables. The best part? Live music at night!
o Recommended Dish(es): Seafood linguine al ajo y vino blanco, Caesar salad, and calamari.
• Paty’s Marimar – our go-to spot on the beach for breakfast and lunch! By now, I think we’ve tried the entire menu at Paty’s and there’s nothing we haven’t liked.
o Recommended Dish(es): Tortilla soup, Guacamole (or DIY Avocado toast), French Toast, Smoothie #5
• El Suspiro – located on a hill on the southern side of the bay, El Suspiro is one of the higher-end restaurants in Zihua. With gorgeous views overlooking the bay, make sure you book a reservation on the rail in time to catch the sunset.
o Recommended Dish(es): The Caesar salad (tossed tableside) and the parmesan and shrimp risotto.
• Papa Loca – a local favorite, Papa Loca is only open for dinner, but stays open until 4AM! When we went, the place was so packed we could hardly find a table! A true Mexican restaurant, Papa Loca was some of the most delicious and authentic food we had during our trip.
o Recommended Dish(es): Guacamole, any of the papas (potatoes – even the plain papa with crema is delicious), and tacos el pastor (Kelsey’s absolute favorite of the trip).
• Los Braseros – situated in the center of town, Los Braseros has a very traditional Mexican menu and is known for its impeccable tacos.
o Recommended Dish: Shrimp tacos
• Espuma – located on the Eastern side of the bay, Espuma has one of the best views of the water (especially at sunset)
o Recommended Dish: Mahi Mahi
• Letty’s – a must-try, Letty’s is infamous for its coconut shrimp baskets. Slightly off the beaten path, the trek to the restaurant is well worth it!
o Recommended Dish: Coconut Shrimp (it’s big enough to split between two people).