One of Mexico’s pearls on the Pacific, Zihuatanejo (or ‘Zi-wa’ as many locals affectionately call it) is a chilled-out seaside paradise that still manages to fly a bit under the tourist radar. Well, with one huge notable exception, but we will get to that a little bit later on. I spent a few weeks there once, and ever since, I’ve been telling people they should zoom to Zihuatanejo for themselves. Why did I like it there so much? Well, I came up with six reasons and since the internet likes lists, that works out perfectly.
Obviously, all coastal locales are going to have some sort of beach, but the quality of the beach can sometimes get called into question. Not in Zihuatanejo, though. All the beaches here are home to powdery stretches and ideal swimming conditions. The town’s main beach, Playa Municipal, is home to a spacious strip of golden sand, along with a daily parade of fishermen and their catch that creates a truly authentic atmosphere. The nearby Playa La Ropa is the most popular beach in town, as it is home to a curvaceous and especially gorgeous stretch of sand set under swaying palms that faces fantastic sunset views.
The most fun-to-reach beach is Playa Las Gatas, which can only be accessed by a budget-friendly local boat, and as a result is an oasis of extra clear and calm water perfect for scuba diving, suntanning, and swimming.
The Laid Back Atmosphere
Zihuatanejo feels different from other Mexican beach resorts from the moment you arrive, and I like that. Cancun, it assuredly is not. Sure, Zihuatanejo has all the benefits of being a resort town, but it still has the relaxed friendliness and personality of a village where everyone knows everyone else and they are willing to help people out. Speaking of that …
We arrived in Zihuatanejo on an overnight bus from Mexico City, and we came out of the bus station in an absolute stupor of confusion. We were wandering the streets completely lost, when a local man stopped to help us out of the kindness of his heart. Not only did he know where the hotel we were trying to find was, he knew the owners. He told us to hop in his truck, and he took us over to the hotel. As we exited the truck and said our “gracias”, I knew we were in a special place. This was the rule during my time here, not an exception.
The Fishin’ Hole
Nope, not the local spot where folks reel in live ones, this is a little open-air corner bar in the center of Zihuatanejo, which was my favorite place to grab a drink in town. It’s definitely a dive, but in a really good way, popular among snowbirds and locals alike. The breezy Fishin’ Hole specializes in ice cold beer and margaritas, but they even whip up tasty chargrilled burgers and tacos, too.
Barra De Potosi
Not technically in Zihuatanejo proper, but just a short hop down the coast, is a tiny village that feels like it’s stepped back in time. Home to a wide beach and some wild waves, the village is also home to a set of beachside seafood shacks, which serve up the daily fresh catch. And if you get thirsty, you can’t go wrong with a Coco Loco – a coconut filled with a boozy concoction of juices and spirits.
Okay, You Knew This Was Coming: The Shawshank Factor
Confession: I hadn’t seen The Shawshank Redemption when we booked our tickets for Zihuatanejo. I know, I know, it was a crime. It wasn’t long before everyone I knew was telling me about the connection the town has to this iconic movie, and so I just had to watch it and see for myself. While apparently the last scene of the movie wasn’t actually shot here, it doesn’t stop you from posing for a picture on the beach polishing a boat like my boy Eric did, and for the rest of your life you get to tell people you’ve been to Andy & Red’s special place.