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Oceanside Escapes in Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa

La Casa Que Canta

You might argue that a true escapist destination isn’t served by an airport, but when it comes to Zihuatanejo, think again. The once-sleepy fishing village may be grown up, but it still retains a laid-back vibe—a place where you can leave your watch behind, forget the time and day and make your own footprints in the sand.

In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne dreams of a postprison life in Zihuatanejo, where he wants to open a resort for tourists and fix up an old fishing boat, on which he’d take guests out on the ocean in the evenings. “You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?” he says wistfully. “They say it has no memory. That's where I want to live the rest of my life.”

Whether that’s true about the Pacific Ocean or not, Zihuatanejo and its sophisticated sister city, Ixtapa, are ideal escapes for many. Offering the best of both worlds—relaxed retreat and resorts loaded with activities—the region ensures that even if the Pacific holds no memory, you’ll come away with plenty of them.

On the shores of Zihuatanejo Bay next to Playa La Ropa, the long-beloved boutique hotel La Casa Que Canta (“the house that sings”) has recently emerged from a four-year renovation and modernization that included a complete redesign of all 25 suites, the refurbishment of thatched-roof terrace restaurant Mar Y Cielo and refreshed seaside landscapes with exotic tropical florals.

If it’s possible to lose yourself under one roof, two special spots claim my mental escape. In Zihuatanejo, LOOT is a place where all arts converge and it seems as if anything is possible. A café/restaurant and bar/architecture and branding company/art gallery/music venue, it’s the alluring siren song that has influenced many on vacation to put down roots and never leave. In Ixtapa, La Raíz de la Tierra is a plant-based restaurant that’s the side project of Rodrigo Sanchez of the instrumental rock guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. Aside from the incredible food that even appeals to carnivores, there’s a retail space with albums and books, cooking lessons, yoga classes and musical events.

Beyond the ample availability of fresh, delicious seafood—a result of being on the Pacific coast—foodies can find heaven in a handful of ways, from the unique tradition of Jueves Pozolero (Pozole Thursday) to the popular Mexican breakfast dish chilaquiles. But you don’t have to wait for Thursday to enjoy pozole (a hearty stew with hominy). At Teosintle, it’s served both Thursday and Saturday. Zihuatanejo keeps close ties to its history as a fishing village, and the freshest catch is on display each morning on the beach by Paseo del Pescador.

Talking about beaches: Strands of sand run for hours in both directions, from quiet Playa Coral on the back side of Isla Ixtapa to popular Playa La Ropa at the sheltered inner edge of Zihuatanejo Bay to secluded Playa Tortuga near Barra de Potosi—a short drive south. Whatever your whim, one (or more) of the many beaches of the region is perfectly suited to match it.

Accessible only by foot from Playa Blanca, Playa Tortuga is my version of Andy Dufresne’s dream escape—but if you’re in search of a beach for everyone, head to Playa Las Gatas (“beach of cats”). Open ocean swells curl around a nearby rocky point, palm-thatched seafood eateries are scattered across the sand and families, sunbathers, snorkelers and surfers find ample space to enjoy the sun.

It’s almost enough to consider living the rest of your life here.

Where to Stay:

At the recently renovated La Casa Que Canta in Zihuatanejo, you’ll find a secluded sanctuary with dramatic views from each terrace and an interior rich with Mexican décor, tempting guests to spend their every moment on the property. For a more modern experience, the new Thompson Zihuatanejo on Playa La Ropa offers a stylish but laid-back stay.

Where to Fish:

Head out on a daylong charter to test your mettle against the creatures of the sea—barracuda, mahi-mahi, sailfish, marlin, wahoo and yellowfin tuna. Most boats practice conservation and ecology ideals by employing catch and release practices, with some exceptions for trophies or meal preparation. Zihuatanejo Sportfishing Charters is a good place to start. 

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