Ixtapa: An Excellent Choice in Mexican Resorts
Can’t decide between a beach getaway and a cultural experience? Have your cake and eat it too. Open-jaw flights and a super new highway pave the way for vacations combining cultural Morelia, scenic Lake Pátzcuaro, and the beautiful beaches of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo.
Occupied by the Olmecs as far back as 3,000 BC, Ixtapa today is a resort planned in the 1970s by FONATUR, Mexico’s tourism development bureau. The main hotel zone is dense and diminutive, just like the orange-flowered ixora hedges that line its single road. The overall effect here is planned and plotted out, yet tropical and luxurious in a small-time way.
Ixtapa’s hotels aren’t as fancy, and there aren’t nearly as many, as those of other Mexican resorts like Cancun and Los Cabos. Ixtapa’s official Visitors’ Bureau
website (http://www.ixtapa-zihuatanejo.triangulodelsol.travel) lists fewer than two dozen hotels in Ixtapa, including some boutique properties. The bigger brand names are Intercontinental (formerly Presidente), Melía, Las Brisas, and Club Med.
Occupying its own beautiful beach away from the main hotel strip, the Club Med Ixtapa Pacific was totally renovated in 2007. The all-inclusive pioneer has a new, beach-facing spa and modern guest rooms with plasma TV and upgraded toiletries. Buffet restaurants offer five distinct cuisines, including French food and steaks.
Las Brisas (formerly a Westin hotel) was designed by Ricardo Legorreta, a disciple of pioneering Mexican architect Luis Barragán. Las Brisas has a modern design that incorporates regional building materials in interesting ways. The hotel here is rather lonesome, however. It perches above Playa Vista Hermosa (“Beach of the Beautiful View”), which is accessible by elevator. But aside from a few romantic restaurants, most other diversions are a bus or cab ride away, in Ixtapa’s main hotel zone, or in Zihuatanejo.
The pre-Hispanic town of Zihuatanejo is just four miles north of Ixtapa, which means Ixtapa’s visitors can explore a real town and some of the lovely beaches that line its horseshoe-shaped bay, making this a true “two-fer”: two destinations in one.
In addition to miles of beautiful beaches, Ixtapa-Zihua offer golf courses, a dolphin encounter and water park, bike paths, sportfishing and water sports, and bird watching. There are fun and funky bars and restaurants---and a few more elegant choices---in both destinations.
Not as flashy and chic as competing beach resorts, Ixtapa also isn’t nearly as expensive. About halfway between Manzanillo and Acapulco, Ixtapa has had a hard time getting direct flights from major American and Canadian cities. Just seven international airlines currently serve the destination. Flights into the airport (code: ZIH) are in many cases seasonal, and some fly only once or several times per week. Although this distresses local business owners, it benefits travelers by yielding lower prices for a tropical Mexican resort.
One alternative to flying round trip into Ixtapa/Zihua is combining a visit to the colonial cities of Mexico City, Morelia, and/or Pátzcuaro with your beach vacation. Capital of Michoacán state, Morelia has an international airport and offers excellent folk art, good hotels, and other amenities. Highway 37 now connects Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa with Morelia via Pátzcuaro and the lake cities. (The old, longer road connects via Acapulco.) And it’s less than two hours (traffic permitting) between Morelia and Mexico City.
See http://www.ixtapa-zihuatanejo.com for a map of the area.