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Figuring out where to stay in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo depends on what sort of accommodations you prefer. Think of Ixtapa as a showboat fleet of modern resorts with regional flair, perfect for the traveler who prefers to stay put and enjoy the linens (not to mention the multimillion-dollar cliff-top views from the infinity pool). Meanwhile, over in Zihuatanejo, stylish boutique hotels offer a more individualistic, stylishly playful take on home away from home in a quaint village setting. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ five top picks to help you choose where to stay in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo:
1. Capella Ixtapa. Sink ever so swankily off the grid at this 59-room hotel and spa stacked into the remote cliffs overlooking the ocean just north of Ixtapa. Stone stairways descend the hillside to the pool and multiple restaurants all the way down to a small beach, but the rocky cove means ocean swims aren't really an option. Golf, scuba, snorkeling, sailing, horseback riding, cycling on the resort’s own seven-mile track, hikes through the surrounding jungle and xochilt-flower pamper fests at the spa, however, are — and should definitely be taken advantage of.
2. Amuleto. You’ll find not a single alarm clock nor TV in sight at this cluster of bungalow suites on Camino Escenico 9 headed toward Playa La Ropa in Zihuatanejo. But private patios with hammocks and plunge pools make it all too easy to not even notice.
3. La Casa Que Canta. A multi-tiered adobe structure perched on a hill overlooking Zihuatanejo Bay, “The House that Sings” on Camino Escenico headed to Playa la Ropa makes up for its distance from the Pacific by filling one of its two pools with salt water. But if you’re looking for a more secluded concrete pond experience, nearly half of this hotel’s 25 suites are equipped with private pools. If you’re planning on splurging, this would be the place to do it.
4. Villa Guadalupe. On Camino Escenico headed to Playa La Ropa in Zihuatanejo, this luxurious hotel features infinity pools and lush landscaping while adhering more to traditional design that plays off Zihuatanejo’s fishing-town heritage, with palapas and kitschy-cool Mexican revolutionary themes.
5. Viceroy Zihuatanejo. Its location in the middle of a crescent-shaped bay with 1,000 feet of private beach, the beach suites with private plunge pools and its three pools — including an infinity pool — win this hotel high marks with picky travelers. Rent a swinging bed palapa for the day to chill out right by the water.
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.