Everything you need to know for that perfect Mexican getaway in Ixtapa
Talk about Mexico and you inevitably conjure up thoughts of lively salsa music, flavorful cuisine, warm and loving folks, historic sites, and of course quick tropical getaways from the harsh North American winter.
Indeed, if there is anything Mexico is rightly known for, it is the warm and clear turquoise waters that surround its spectacular beaches. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that many people have made Mexico their go-to place for their fix of much-needed fun under the sun.
One of the most renowned beach resorts where you can unwind and enjoy year-round tropical climate is Ixtapa. Situated in the municipality of Zihuatanejo de Azueta in the southern state of Guerrero, Ixtapa is known across the globe as the sun-drenched paradise where the characters in the 1994 American movie “Shawshank Redemption” vowed to go to in the end.
This town also served as the backdrop for the hit worldwide phenomenon “Marimar,” which introduced Mexican soaps to audiences across the globe and launched the career of actress-singer Thalia. These pop culture references only serve to underscore the inherent beauty and allure of the place.
Conception of a resort town
The creation and subsequent development of the resort town of Ixtapa was funded via a loan from the World Bank in the late 1960s. It was conceived and planned as part of a government initiative to shore up tourism along the country’s coastlines. Initial planning of the site was conducted by the architects Enrique and Agustin Landa Verdugo. Thereafter, a select group of architects was tapped to design and build the town up from scratch. Along with the now equally popular resort town of Cancun in the state of Quintana Roo, Ixtapa has since established itself as one of the veritable gems of the Mexican tourism industry.
While a popular destination by itself, Ixtapa is often promoted as part of a package along with its neighbor, Zihuatanejo, which is a 15-minute ride away by taxi and 20 by bus. Together they form what marketers call a twin destination. With its beachfront resorts and modern tourism facilities, Ixtapa stands in stark contrast to the traditional Mexican small town feel of Zihua, the affectionate term of locals and guests for Zihuatanejo. This combination has proven successful, if annual visitor arrivals are any indication. Today, this twin destination ranks as the third most frequently visited site in all of Mexico, ranking next to Cancun and Puerto Villarta.
Ixtapa Weather – Tropical savanna
Key to Ixtapa’s popularity is its tropical savanna climate. This means that throughout the year, this resort town enjoys warm temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to high 80s. The period between November to May represents the months with the least expected amount of rainfall. Incidentally, this is also considered the peak season owing to the volume of guests flying in from snow-drenched communities up north. The rest of the year experiences an average of six to 14 days of rain per month.
For guests who feel the need to escape the chilly winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, Ixtapa definitely comes as a popular choice. Its outstanding location by the Pacific offers a picturesque respite of azure skies, sandy shores, a plethora of recreational and cultural activities, rich culinary choices, and a relaxing vibe. All these serve to provide the resort town’s guests a perfect tropical break.
Before packing your bags and flying out, though, it would be great to get yourself familiarized with basic information about your destination. For example, time. There are three time zones in Mexico, but the state of Guerrero, where Ixtapa is located, follows Zona Centro, which is equivalent to the Central Standard Time in Canada and the US. During summer, Daylight Saving Time is observed.
The principal language across Mexico is Spanish, but the use of English is fine since the language is universally understood anyway.
Meanwhile, the official currency is the Mexican peso. If you have US dollars with you, it would be a good idea to have them exchanged to pesos. There used to be a time in the past when US dollars can be used to purchase goods and services in Mexico, but new legislation has since curbed this practice. In 2010, the country issued new regulations regarding the use of US dollars in the market as an attempt at preventing money laundering and the inflow of money from organized crimes. Most importantly, take note that new banking regulations in the country has set $1,500 as the maximum amount of US dollars that can be exchanged to pesos in a month.
Ixtapa Telecommunication and Electricity
Much of the telecommunication facilities in Mexico are owned and controlled by Telefonos de Mexico or Telmex. If you are going to make local calls within Ixtapa or within Mexico only, buying a local SIM card is a much better option. Note, however, that when calling cellphone numbers, the caller is the one who pays for the minutes used. If you have an existing phone line from another carrier in a different country, make sure to have international roaming activated to avoid exorbitant fees. And if you must bring your gadgets, keep in mind that similar to Canada and the US, Mexico uses the 110 volts AC electrical system.
Getting to Ixtapa
Ixtapa is served by the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport where flights from various Mexican cities and key destinations in Canada and the United States are regularly mounted. These include Mexico City, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Vancouver, Edmonton, Minneapolis, and Chicago, among others. Located along the coast of Pacific Ocean, the facility is owned and operated by the Grupo Aeroportuario Centro Norte. Among the airline companies that regularly hold flights to this airport are Aeromexico, Frontier Airlines, West Jet, Aeromar, Alaska Airlines, Interjet, and United Airlines. Seasonal flights are similarly offered by Air Canada, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways. In addition, chartered flight services are also provided by various companies, such as MLT Vacations, Ryan International, Funjet Vacations, Champion Air, and Sunwing Vacations.
Foreign visitors – Ixtapa Customs and Passport info
For foreign visitors, getting in to Mexico should be a breeze, especially for permanent residents of the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, and member states of the European Union. Guests coming from these places just need to present their passports upon entry to Mexico. This is also applicable for guests who hold valid US visas upon their arrival, as well as guests coming in from countries with visa-free arrangements with Mexico, such as Brazil, Australia, and Argentina, among many others. Check out the website of Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Migracion for the complete list. Except for crew members of aircrafts and marine vessels, the rest of the guests coming in from other countries who intend to stay for no more than 180 days would need to obtain a visitor visa from any of Mexico’s consulates all over the world prior to their arrival by land, water, or air.
Getting Around Ixtapa
For greater ease and convenience, the best way to reach your accommodation upon arrival at the airport is by prebooking private land transfers. This should not present any problem at all since there are a number of transportation companies anyway that offer transfer services in the area. It would actually do well for you to set your transportation arrangements beforehand. Doing so will help you avoid unnecessary haggling at the arrival area along with all its attendant hassles. Some of the more reputable companies that offer private transfers are Mexico First Class, Discovery Mundo Transfers, City Discovery, and Amstar DMC.
Another way to get to Ixtapa is by land transportation. The time of travel depends on where you are coming from. From Mexico City, for example, travel time takes about six hours if you take the newly built Maxipista Siglo XXI highway via Morelia. Ixtapa-Zohuatarejo is also 150 miles northwest of Acapulco, another popular destination. From here, you can take the Carretera Nacional 200 highway where you will eventually wind up in the northern section of Zihuatanejo. You can either rent a car, hire a private transfer, or go by bus. There are a host of bus companies plying this route. Among them are Primera Plus, Estrella de Oro, La Linea Plus, Costa Line, Autovias, Estrella Blanca, Tap, and Parhikuni.
Lazing around by the beach
To maximize your time and make the most out of your trip to Ixtapa, it is so much better to plan ahead. Having an itinerary will help you focus on the things that you actually want to do without having to make last-minute or impulsive decisions. Plus, given the variety of things to do in this region, it is not at all difficult to choose the activities that you want to spend time on. From lazing around by the beach to satisfying your gustatory cravings, all the way to indulging in water sports and satiating your thirst for culture, Ixtapa has it all and more.
Ixtapa wouldn’t be what it is now if it weren’t for its gorgeous beaches. So put on your swimming attire and apply sunblock as you catch the very best this resort town has to offer.
Begin by being a beach bum. There are a couple of beaches to choose from in this part of the Pacific. Among them are Playa las Gatas, Playa la Ropa, Playa Cuachalalate, Playa del Palmar, Playa Principal, Playa Quieta, and Playa la Madera.
The main beach in Ixtapa is the two-mile long Playa del Palmar. There are many beachfront hotels in this area. Take a walk along its gold-colored sand and you’ll meet a number of enterprising locals offering anything from horseback riding to a soothing massage by the shore.
If you are looking for a nice place to have a golden tan, Playa las Gatas or Cats Beach is your best bet. About 10 minutes by small boat from the town pier, this beach is bustling with action and affords a spectacular view of Sierra Madre del Sur. Walk the entire sandy stretch and take part in the goings-on around you: cool down with refreshing drinks, have some ice cream, and lend support to the local arts and crafts scene. Or better yet, dip in the clear and warm waters of the beach together with your family and friends.
Water-based recreational activities
Take your trip to this resort town a notch higher by engaging in fun-filled water-based recreational activities. Snorkel your way around and marvel at the area’s rich underwater marine ecosystem. If exploring deeper is your thing, sport your fins and diving suit and prepare to explore the depths of the Pacific. One of the more reputable companies with PADI-certified divers and instructors is Ixtapa Divers It is worth noting that despite its popularity among tourists, Ixtapa’s marine flora and fauna are still something worth seeing.
Another popular beach is the Playa la Ropa or Clothing Beach. The beach derived its name from an accident many years ago when a ship carrying textiles spilled all its contents into the sea, with much of it ending up getting awashed to the shore. Five minutes away from town, this beach is host to a number of recreational activities, including riding a jetski, parasailing, and of course, swimming. Should you feel like grabbing a bite from all these activities, there are restaurants available in the area to fill your grub.
Ixtapa is never bereft of cultural offerings to make your trip more enriching and memorable. Learn more about the area’s history and heritage through a visit at the El Museo de Arquelogia de la Costa Grande. Open throughout the week except on Mondays, this museum is host to a permanent exhibit showcasing pre-Columbian relics and memorabilia from the town’s earliest settlers
There are also a number of tours that aim to let visitors know about the ecological condition and economic activities in the area. This being a coastal town, fishing is an important source of livelihood for many local families. In the nearby town of Zihuatajero, there are guided fishing tours available for those who want to see traditional fishing methods and take part in fishing sports. Another kind of tour, this time around Ixtapa, is the Ecological and Adventure Kayak Tours by Zoe Kayak Tours. Here, you paddle around local communities while observing their day to day lives, as well as the rich flora and fauna ecosystem in the area.
Enjoy your time in Ixtapa!