What are the best things to do with kids in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo?

Derrik Chinn
  • Derrik Chinn

  • Correspondent

  • Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Your kids will be enchanted by the endless wildlife and nature in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, from sea turtles and iguanas to amazing waterfalls and rainforests. Any of Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best things to see and do with kids are sure to keep them happily entertained:
 
1. Surrogate a sea turtle. From May through October, sea turtles come ashore to nest on beachfront hotel property, and staff and trained volunteers proudly take on the role of foster parents by moving the eggs to incubation corrals until they hatch. The newborns go into holding tanks until they're ready to be released into the ocean, and hotel guests and passersby alike are welcome to lend a hand in sending the little guys off into the waves.
 
2. Croc out. After play time at Playa Linda, stop by nearby Popoyote Lagoon, home to a wild enclave of crocodiles, some of which measure up to 20 feet in length. No need to worry about accidentally stepping on someone's tail; fences safely separate their turf from yours.
 
3. Frolic in a pre-Hispanic pool. Catch the ferry at Playa Municipal out to Playa Las Gatas, where an ancient underwater wall in the ocean commissioned by a Purépecha chief smoothes what would otherwise be rather choppy waves and keeps sea life from invading your swimming fun.
 
4. Swim under a waterfall. Bio La Escollera Park, located on Playa Las Gatas scenic route 26-A, is a well-protected wonderland of some 100 varieties of plants, flowers and fruit trees, all of which are crawling with iguanas, tarantulas, snakes, scorpions and other specimens of jungle life most kids see only in glass terrariums back home. But the main attraction is without a doubt the 120-foot waterfall, so bring your swimsuit.
 
5. Go for a bike ride. Take a tour de flora and rent bikes for a ride along either the 5-mile trail that starts at the Ixtapa marina and passes Parque Aztlan eco-reserve or the 2.5-mile path that connects Ixtapa and Zihua through the rainforest.

  • On July 2, 2013
    Amanda Arnold answered the question: Amanda Arnold

    What is the best thing to bring home from Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo?

    It might be tough to pull yourself away from your hotel’s amazing, cliff-side, infinity-edge pool, but at some point during your stay, you really should visit the artisans market in downtown Zihuatanejo, as you're sure to come away with a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Items sold here are handmade by Guerrero locals (many of them come in from the surrounding mountains), and in some cases you can even watch the artists at work. Colorful, elaborately-painted wooden plates and bowls, traditional Mexican-style clothes for both children and adults, colorful jewelry, and hand-woven blankets are just a few of the items available at this quaint street market. It’s customary to bargain a bit with the vendors — though prices are generally already very low, especially when you consider the fact that pieces are handmade. And they do take American dollars, if you’ve run out of pesos. While you’re in the area, take a quick peek into the Zihuatanejo church across the street — it's a lovely and charming little structure. 
  • On July 1, 2013
    Amanda Arnold answered the question: Amanda Arnold

    What are the five best Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo food experiences?

    Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo’s cuisine is truly delicious. Generally, you should steer toward the seafood dishes — after all, this is a seaside town — and be sure to devour all the chips, salsa and guacamole you can get your fingers on. But here are a few favorite dishes and drinks from the area:

    1. Pozole. In Mexico, this soup dish is traditionally eaten on Thursdays and includes pork and corn — but at La Casa Que Canta, it’s a seafood affair that you can order any day of the week. A waiter will bring you a bowl full of tasty wild shrimp, baby calamari and clams and then pour a hot, spicy broth over the seafood from a pitcher (adding a bit of zest to the food presentation). For a bit more spice, you can sprinkle on some Serrano peppers.

    2. Hibiscus water. Many of the hotels serve this refreshing beverage to incoming guests — perfect to cool you off on a hot Mexico day. The concoction involves hibiscus flowers fused with water and lime, which is steeped for three hours, strained and then mixed with sugar. Yum. 

    3. Mezcal. A cousin of tequila, this quintessentially Mexican distilled spirit — meant to be sipped from an attractive shot glass — has a lovely smoky flavor. At La Casa Que Canta, we were instructed to sip the mezcal, and then bite into an orange slice that had been dipped in sea salt — an altogether delicious combination. And the fried grasshoppers served alongside the mezcal turned out to be surprisingly complimentary.

    4. Chilaquiles. This popular Mexican breakfast dish involves warm fried tortillas drenched in either a spicy green or red sauce and topped with chopped onions, cheese and an egg (or two). It’s a hearty and decidedly Mexican way to begin your day.

    5. Mango … anything. Mango farms are scattered all around Zihuatanejo — as a result, the fruit simply tastes better here. At La Casa Que Canta, they might just leave one on a plate in your room during turndown. We advise you to dig in — ASAP. And at La Marea Restaurant at Viceroy Zihuatanejo, dessert includes a crispy mango cheesecake taco with a side of custard ice cream that's absolutely divine.

    6. Fresh seafood. Like we said, this is a coastal town, so local seafood is really the way to go wherever you eat. At Capella Ixtapa, for example, Las Rocas Seafood Market, a cliffside restaurant overlooking the ocean, offers local seafood caught that very day. You should definitely take advantage of the fresh deliciousness and the unparalleled views. 
  • On June 28, 2013
    Amanda Arnold answered the question: Amanda Arnold

    What are the five best Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo food experiences?

    Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo’s cuisine is truly delicious. Generally, you should steer toward the seafood dishes — after all, this is a seaside town — and be sure to devour all the chips, salsa and guacamole you can get your fingers on. But here are a few favorite dishes and drinks from the area:

    1. Pozole. In Mexico, this soup dish is traditionally eaten on Thursdays and includes pork and corn — but at La Casa Que Canta, it’s a seafood affair that you can order any day of the week. A waiter will bring you a bowl full of tasty wild shrimp, baby calamari and clams and then pour a hot, spicy broth over the seafood from a pitcher (adding a bit of zest to the food presentation). For a bit more spice, you can sprinkle on some Serrano peppers.

    2. Hibiscus water. Many of the hotels serve this refreshing beverage to incoming guests — perfect to cool you off on a hot Mexico day. The concoction involves hibiscus flowers fused with water and lime, which is steeped for three hours, strained and then mixed with sugar. Yum. 

    3. Mezcal. A cousin of tequila, this quintessentially Mexican distilled spirit — meant to be sipped from an attractive shot glass — has a lovely smoky flavor. At La Casa Que Canta, we were instructed to sip the mezcal, and then bite into an orange slice that had been dipped in sea salt — an altogether delicious combination. And the fried grasshoppers served alongside the mezcal turned out to be surpsingly complimentary — like beer with beer nuts.

    4. Chilaquiles. This popular Mexican breakfast dish involves warm fried tortillas drenched in either a spicy green or red sauce and topped with chopped onions, cheese and an egg (or two). It’s a hearty and decidedly Mexican way to begin your day.

    5. Mango … anything. Mango farms are scattered all around Zihuatanejo — as a result, the fruit simply tastes better here. At La Casa Que Canta, they might just leave one on a plate in your room during turndown. We advise you to dig in — ASAP. And at La Marea Restaurant at Viceroy Zihuatanejo, dessert includes a crispy mango cheesecake taco with a side of custard ice cream that's absolutely divine.

    6. Fresh seafood. Like we said, this is a coastal town, so local seafood is really the way to go wherever you eat. At Capella Ixtapa, for example, Las Rocas Seafood Market, a cliffside restaurant overlooking the ocean, offers local seafood caught that very day. You should definitely take advantage of the fresh deliciousness and the unparalleled views. 
  • On June 26, 2013
    Amanda Arnold answered the question: Amanda Arnold

    Where are the best places to stay in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo?

    Though Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa are just 10 minutes apart by car, they're actually very different. Ixtapa is much newer, an insulated area developed specifically to accommodate resorts and tourists — think one long road lined with large, luxury hotels offering sleek guest rooms and sweeping ocean views. Zihuatanejo is the Old Town — its boutique properties, marked by signature Mexican service and design, hug the coastline so tight they've practically become one with the natural surroundings. There are plenty of luxury hotels to choose from in either area, but here are five particularly appealing options:

    La Casa Que Canta. The name translates to “The House That Sings” — appropriate, since the spacious suites at this adobe hotel, which is built into a Zihuatanejo cliff, are always filled with the song of ocean waves crashing against the rocks below. There are no glass windows — just screened windows with indoor shutters that can be closed should you want to turn on the air conditioning. As a result, the space has a lovely indoor-outdoor feel. Many of the suites come with private lap pools and enormous terraces that overlook a picturesque view of the bay. Service is exceptionally warm and thoughtful — housekeeping leaves a lovely flower-petal design on your bed each night, and candles are lit in the bathroom and on your terrace. Perfect for a romantic getaway.  

    Casa del Arbol. This tiny boutique Zihuatanejo property — just up the road from La Casa Que Canta — has room for just 12 guests, so if you’re planning a trip with a large group of friends or family, you’ll have the entire place to yourselves. The property consists of one historic home converted into guest rooms and another unique open-air structure (reflective of the “treehouse” name) surrounded by fountains and tropical plants, with a veranda that stretches out to an infinity pool overlooking the bay, and bedrooms that feature quaint loft spaces and outdoor hammocks. Breakfast and an open bar are included in the room rate.

    Capella Ixtapa. While the structure is adobe, the general feel of this cliff-side, 59-room Ixtapa hotel is clean and contemporary. Infinity pools and restaurants serving amazing modern Mexican cuisine overlook a flawless view of the ocean. Sign up for the hotel’s tequila tasting or margarita making class, or grab a bike and go for a ride along Ixtapa’s bike path. Or better yet, sit in a cabana (they’re complimentary) and do absolutely nothing.

    Viceroy Zihuatanejo. If you’d like easy access to the beach in Zihuatanejo, select the Viceroy, which sits on Playa La Ropa, one of the prettiest and most popular beaches in the area. The grounds are much larger and flatter than the previously mentioned hotels (no quaint, cliff-side stairs to climb here), and there are even tennis courts. The hotel’s La Marea restaurant sits at the edge of the sand, with a lovely view of the beach and the water.

    Hotel Las Palmas. A bit more remote, this newly constructed Zihuatanejo hotel sits on a 9-mile stretch of mostly undeveloped beach facing a gorgeous rock formation on the horizon. The property was designed by the same architect who built the Viceroy and is constructed with local materials — adobe and Brazilwood among them. Suites — just 20 of them — have private beaches, plunge pools, terraces, hammocks and kitchens, depending on which one you choose. The outdoor space is particularly well designed, with narrow, blue-tiled pools in various shapes, rocked-lined walkways, paved areas with lounge chairs, and grassy patches with palm trees — more rock garden than pool area. 
  • On June 26, 2013
    Amanda Arnold answered the question: Amanda Arnold

    Where are the best places to stay in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo?

    Though Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa are just 10 minutes apart by car, they're actually very different. Ixtapa is much newer, an insulated area developed specifically to accommodate resorts and tourists — think one long road lined with large, luxury hotels offering sleek guest rooms and sweeping ocean views. Zihuatanejo is the Old Town — its boutique properties, marked by signature Mexican service and design, hug the coastline so tight they've practically become one with the natural surroundings. There are plenty of luxury hotels to choose from in either area, but here are five particularly appealing options:

    La Casa Que Canta. The name translates to “The House That Sings” — appropriate, since the spacious suites at this adobe hotel, which is built into a Zihuatanejo cliff, are always filled with the song of ocean waves crashing against the rocks below. There are no glass windows — just screened windows with indoor shutters that can be closed should you want to turn on the air conditioning. As a result, the space has a lovely indoor-outdoor feel. Many of the suites come with private lap pools and enormous terraces that overlook a picturesque view of the bay. Service is exceptionally warm and thoughtful — housekeeping leaves a lovely flower-petal design on your bed each night, and candles are lit in the bathroom and on your terrace. Perfect for a romantic getaway.  

    Casa del Arbol. This tiny boutique Zihuatanejo property — just up the road from Las Casa Que Canta — has room for just 12 guests, so if you’re planning a trip with a large group of friends or family, you’ll have the entire place to yourselves. The property consists of one historic home converted into guest rooms and another unique open-air structure (reflective of the “treehouse” name) surrounded by fountains and tropical plants, with a veranda that stretches out to an infinity pool overlooking the bay, and bedrooms that feature quaint loft spaces and outdoor hammocks. Breakfast and an open bar are included in the room rate.

    Capella Ixtapa. While the structure is adobe, the general feel of this cliff-side, 59-room Ixtapa hotel is clean and contemporary. Infinity pools and restaurants serving amazing modern Mexican cuisine overlook a flawless view of the ocean. Sign up for the hotel’s tequila tasting or margarita making class, or grab a bike and go for a ride along Ixtapa’s bike path. Or better yet, sit in a cabana (they’re complimentary) and do absolutely nothing.

    Viceroy Zihuatanejo. If you’d like easy access to the beach in Zihuatanejo, select the Viceroy, which sits on Playa La Ropa, one of the prettiest and most popular beaches in the area. The grounds are much larger and flatter than the previously mentioned hotels (no quaint, cliff-side stairs to climb here), and there are even tennis courts. The hotel’s La Marea restaurant sits at the edge of the sand, with a lovely view of the beach and the water.

    Hotel Las Palmas. A bit more remote, this newly constructed Zihuatanejo hotel sits on a 9-mile stretch of mostly undeveloped beach facing a gorgeous rock formation on the horizon. The property was designed by the same architect who built the Viceroy and is constructed with local materials — adobe and Brazilwood among them. Suites — just 20 of them — have private beaches, plunge pools, terraces, hammocks and kitchens, depending on which one you choose. The outdoor space is particularly well designed, with narrow, blue-tiled pools in various shapes, rocked-lined walkways, paved areas with lounge chairs, and grassy patches with palm trees — more rock garden than pool area. 
  • On September 19, 2012
    Derrik Chinn answered the question: Derrik Chinn

    Where is the best ocean swimming in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo?

    Before you answer, "Where can't I swim in the ocean?" be aware that the currents off the coast of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo are often worthy of perpetual red flags, which makes many of its beaches good for sunning only. Use extreme caution when swimming at any beach that opens directly to the Pacific, or play it safe and opt for coves like those at Playa La Madera, Playa del Puerto or Playa Manzanillo. The underwater stone wall at Playa Las Gatas works as a barrier to lessen the ocean's pull, making it safe for swimmers and snorkelers, too.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Derrik Chinn answered the question: Derrik Chinn

    What is the best thing to bring home from Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo?

    If you're unable to find someone who can freeze-dry a few pounds of the Jurassic-looking marlin you caught yourself, Taxco silver comes in as the runner-up souvenir to bring home from Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, say our Forbes Travel Guide editors. Vendors sell the stuff in either Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo's mercados de artesanias or any of the boutiques in the towns. Just be sure it's legit silver, not alpaca, which is basically pricey nickel. Also of local relevance are the intricately lacquered wooden boxes from Olinalá, a remote town in the Guerrero highlands known as the most important center for lacquer production in the country.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Derrik Chinn answered the question: Derrik Chinn

    What are the five best Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo food experiences?

    In a fisherman's paradise like Guerrero, where hefty catches often yield more than you know what to do with, it's no surprise that Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo’s most memorable food experiences all involve fresh seafood. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ five picks for the best dishes Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo has to offer:
     
    1. Marisco huts. To get a taste of just how fresh it is, sink your teeth into the morning's catch at one of the marisco huts along Paseo del Pescador. Be sure to try tiritas de pescado (literal translation: little strips of fish), a locals’ creation that involves minimal ingredients: finely sliced fresh fish, strips of onion, Creole pepper, a little salt and lime juice that cooks the fish sans flame.
     
    2. Marlin or mahi mahi. Hang near the docks for the first weekend in May for the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Sailfish Tournament, and keep an eye out for excess amounts of marlin or mahi mahi. When they weigh up to 500 pounds, there's bound to be plenty to share.
     
    3. Food and Wine Festival. Late March brings the Food and Wine Festival in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, a weekend of classes, star chef sightings, house tours and catamaran rides past nearby fishing villages.
     
    4. Mexican cooking classes. If you have a few hours to spare, swing by the Zihuatanejo Cooking School near Playa La Ropa for a crash course in the complexities of Mexican culinary basics like chiles rellenos, quesadillas and black bean soup.
     
    5. Caldo de Cuatete and Guintatán. No matter how high the mercury in the thermometer, be sure to try caldo de cuatete and guintatán — blue sea catfish soup and dried fish simmered in coconut milk, respectively — Guerrero specialties that you’ll find in most any Ma-and-Pa eatery in town.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Derrik Chinn answered the question: Derrik Chinn

    Where is the best nightlife in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo?

    If Ixtapa after dark is a slingback stiletto, with its large discos full of party-hardy tourists, primped Mexicans in miniskirts and their popped-collared boyfriends, Zihuatanejo nightlife is more on par with a flip-flop — which really should be taken as a compliment in so much that you're able to dip into the best of both worlds in one evening, if you care to do so. Large night clubs or anthros in Ixtapa's Zona Hotelera like Le Rouge, LV Disco Club, Mentiritas and Christine are where you'll sweat to electro-house, hip-hop and reggaeton until sun-up. Meanwhile, over in Zihuatanejo, the sounds of live bands, karaoke showdowns and the occasional bikini contest spill out of cantinas along downtown's main drag like Bandidos, El Canto de la Sirena and Coconuts. Zihuatanejo is more intimate and puts up less of a front, but most places turn in for the evening around midnight — if you're looking to keep the party going, it’s your cue to hop in a cab and deadhead to Ixtapa.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Derrik Chinn answered the question: Derrik Chinn

    What’s the best way to see Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo in one day?

    For the best way to see Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo in one day, Forbes Travel Guide’s editors recommend starting with breakfast at one of the stands at Mercado Central in downtown Zihuatanejo — either birria tacos or chilaquiles should set you back no more than three or four bucks. Then rent a bike for the day, starting with a lap or two around a few blocks in the city center before heading onto the paved, 2.5-mile bike path that cuts through the rainforest, eventually arriving at Ixtapa. Once you're there, reward yourself with a swim in the ocean and a siesta on the beach (all of which are public according to federal law, despite the fact that they're seemingly claimed by the surrounding high-rise resorts).
     
    Have lunch at Nueva Zelanda (in the strip mall Manzana 2), a Mexican spin on the roadside diner that serves up tortas (sandwiches) and licuados (fruit smoothies). Then make a pit-stop at Ixtapa's Mercado de Artesanias afterward while you digest a bit — but begin your return trek to Zihua before all the mosquitos commence attack at dusk. Turn in your wheels and head back to your hotel for a shower and a change before hitting the streets again for dinner, followed by beers at Barracuda's, a friendly seashell-clad dive downtown on Pedro Ascencio. Upsize to a caguama, Mexico's version of a forty. You've earned it.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Derrik Chinn answered the question: Derrik Chinn

    Where is the best shopping in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo?

    Finding the best shopping in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is a subjective experience. For instance, both Ixtapa and Zihua have mercados de artesanías — on Boulevard Ixtapa and Calle Cinco de Mayo, respectively — that sell everything that anyone who's ever traveled in Mexico before has already seen: loudly colored blankets, inflatable water toys, oversized T-shirts depicting cartoon frogs in various states of intoxication and hammocks. At more than 250 vendors, Zihua's installment is the larger of the two, which ups your chances of finding a better selection of silver from Taxco, a mining town on the eastern edge of Guerrero, as well as Guerrero-style ceramics.
     
    However, for a more authentic shopping experience, Forbes Travel Guide’s editors recommend heading over to Zihua's Mercado Central on Avenida Benito Juárez between avenidas Nava and González, where locals go for meats, produce and spices. Pick up some fruit for the hotel room and some sea salt for home.
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