A Mexico Getaway That’s The Stuff Of Dreams

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Zihuatanejo may get its fame from Shawshank Redemption, but the real place is even better.

Remember in Shawshank Redemption when Tim Robbins talked about his fantasy of escaping to Zihuatanejo? Ever since, this hamlet in southern Mexico has been known as the town Morgan Freeman couldn’t pronounce, but still would have been happy to run off to.

It turns out that the real Zihuatanejo is within reach and is even better than the fantasy. It’s rich in experiences, easy to access, and brimming with some truly outstanding food. There’s plenty to do, both on the water and in town. And unlike its heavily tourist-filled counterparts in Cancun, Cabo, and Mexico City, Zihuatanejo still feels like an authentic Mexican small town.

Eight airlines, including United and American, fly directly into Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport. From there, it’s a 19-minute drive to the center of town and hub of activity. If you prefer to head directly to the beach, you’ll be there in just 15 minutes. Public taxis are not allowed on airport grounds; instead, find the taxis labeled Transporte Terrestre just outside Arrivals. A private taxi will run you about $32 into town. Or, check with your hotel – many offer airport shuttles as part of your stay

Where to Stay in Zihuatanejo

Do you want to be part of the action or are you looking to sip margaritas beachside?

You manage to get both on a strip of sand largely recognized as the best beach in Zihua, where you’ll find Thompson Zihuatanejo. Situated on the popular Playa La Ropa, this luxurious but unstuffy resort offers a little something for everyone. You can choose a private lagoon suite with its own plunge pool, a swim-up suite where you can take a refreshing dip right off your patio, or a garden suite that feels like you are in the middle of a jungle. Each room offers an outdoor shower in that jungle, something you don’t want to miss.

The Thompson’s food is so good and so diverse that if you never left the resort, you’d stay a week before duplicating a meal. Special events like beach barbecues take it to the next level with freshly caught snapper grilled in banana leaves and the most succulent lobster tails you’ll ever taste. There’s live music on the beach each night, tables set right there in the sand, and dangling lights that reflect off the waves.

If you prefer your own place a bit away from it tall, rent designer Betsey Johnson’s Airbnb. Betseyvilla is a 4-bedroom estate that can house your family, your friends, or just you in spacious, colorful surroundings. Grand arches, massive doors, and the color, color, color Johnson is known for make this stay entirely unique. A self-contained getaway, the estate features a fitness center, infinity pool, an on-call kitchen staff that can whip you up a gourmet dinner, a private beach, and even a Jeep Commander, in case you ever want to leave the manse.

What to Do in Zihuatanejo

On Playa La Ropa, a stroll down the beach opens up bars and restaurants serving up authentic Mexican food. This town is iconic for its pozole – and the quirk that goes along with it. Zihua only serves this popular traditional stew on Thursdays. Why? No one knows, but you better believe it sells out quickly on that special day every week of the year. The locals flock to Pozolería Santa Prisca for their weekly fix, so get there early!

The beach also offers endless activities – volleyball, paddleboarding, kayaking, and parasailing. If you prefer to catch a tan, you’ll be entertained by the fisherman collecting clams and oysters to take home for dinner.

On the fishing pier downtown, you can easily hire a boat to take you out on the water for the day. Fishing, snorkeling, and even seasonal whale-watching (December through March) are popular pursuits here. Look for Dive Zihuatanejo for snorkeling and scuba excursions, or charter a day of fishing with Zihua Tours. Or just sit back and relax aboard a Picante Sailing Catamaran that takes you to the coral reef of Playa Manzanillo, where you’ll see sea turtles and manta rays. With an open bar and lunch served on deck, your day is complete.

Zihua is an ideal spot for bird watching, and one of the best vantage points is on a kayak on the lagoon. From here, you can paddle right up to parakeets, buntings, and flycatchers. For a little more adventure, go horseback riding on Playa Larga Beach. The waves here are too rocky for swimming, but they make a beautiful backdrop from your seat in the saddle. Or delve into history at La Chole archeological site. Much mystery surrounds this estimated 3,000-year-old site that is still being excavated. Visit the pyramid here that was likely a ceremonial site and the museum that explores the history that is emerging as more of the structure is uncovered.

Then there is the town itself. Shops, margaritas, festivals, margaritas, museum, margaritas – that’s pretty much the best way to spend a day in town. The Paseo del Pescador is the perfect pathway to stroll, with gorgeous views of the bay on one side and the charming town on the other. Shopping is mighty fine at Mario’s Leather Shop, Fruity Keiko, and of course Tequila ¡Por Favor!, The Costa Grande Archeological Museum will provide a little culture, but people-watching in this fishing village is entertainment enough.

Travel tip: Bringing home a wet swimsuit, smelly workout clothes, and dirty laundry? Slip everything into a Stnky Bag, a new washable sports bag that keeps dirties away from clean, locks in odors, and takes up no room in your suitcase. I tried mine on my last beach vacation, and it was a lifesaver.

Source: Forbes