When I was seven months pregnant and living in Nigeria, my husband and I were invited to join my sister-in-law and brother-in-law for a two-week road trip from Puerto Vallarta all the way to Acapulco. I know, it probably sounds a little crazy for a seven-month pregnant woman to go road tripping on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, but it seemed perfectly fine to me. I lived in West Africa, after all.. this was a piece of cake! We landed in P.V., picked up our Suburban and made our way south.
I won't go into the details of the trip, as this is an article about Zihatanejo, but for almost two weeks, we relied on my beautiful sister-in-law to guide us from one "stunning" destination to the next, and I use quotes around the word "stunning" because the guide book she so confidently used usually brought us to a very colorful and at times, less than desired destination... we're talking concrete floors and corrugated roofs. Super glam!
The wonderful thing is we all have a good sense of humor, but by the time we reached Zihuatanejo, we were really ready for some pampering. Zihua didn't dissappoint. Upon arrival we were advised by a local real estate agent that we absolutely needed to have dinner at the Amuleto Hotel. We'd already checked ourselves into a cute little place close to La Ropa beach, but when we walked into the Amuleto for dinner we knew we needed to change locale immediately. It was truly an oasis.
In fact, the next day we asked to see some property for sale and within the next four days we became proud owners of a plot of land on a hill in Zihuatanejo. That's how we roll. The journey would begin here and I explain this all because I feel like after building a home in Zihuatanejo and living there for four years, I have a little bit of knowledge about the place! Trust me! It's a beautiful gem and it's worth a visit, which is why I planned my husband's 50th birthday celebration, back in the house we built on the hill named Casa Cielo.
Planning a 50th birthday celebration can be a large task when it's done in your hometown, and can even be more of a puzzle when you try to organize a party abroad. Luckily, because of some incredible friends, we were able to pull off a six day extravaganza of fun, sun, food, laughter and love. I credit this to my friend, Jennifer Jaimes who runs Viajes America out of Zihuatanejo. She is a gem, and handled all of my requests from transportation for 26 of our guests, boat rides, dinners on the beach, hotel reservations, and most of all, the logistics of planning a party for eighty people. Casa Cielo is also run by people who can help with all your needs. We feel incredibly fortunate to even have the opportunity to return to the home we built, but to see it being loved, well-maintained, and run by a staff who also loves the property is a gift to my soul. We will always have Casa Cielo in our hearts, and to have the opportunity to rent it back, with the people we love the most makes me want to pinch myself!
Our trip was filled with a lot of pool and beach time, special dinners, and some downtown exploring and there are a million other things we could have done, but just didn't have enough time. If you ever get the chance to visit Zihuatanejo, here are a few suggestions for you:
La Ropa Beach is the main attraction in Zihuatanejo. The half mile stretch has plenty to offer sun worshipers, water sport enthusiasts, or for those who simply like to take in the beauty of the sea. There are a few other beach options that are worth checking out if you're feeling a bit adventurous. From the jetty in town, you can pay for a seat on a passenger boat that will take you over to Playa Las Gatas. Named for the "Cat Fish" that once swam in the waters there, it's a stunning little alternative to the larger beach. Grab a table at Arnoldo's, order the tuna tartar, a margarita, and soak it all in. Fish is fresh daily, and you can often witness the fishermen delivering right to the kitchen. It's a little rustic, but it's steps from the turquoise water so who cares? You can rent floaties, fins, snorkels and masks, or join a group with a guide and hit the sea for some pretty spectacular snorkeling. The water is crystal clear and the surf is calm in due part to the natural barrier formed of coral and rocks.
For the adventurers there are a few places outside of the town of Zihuatanejo, and if you feel like getting out and seeing more of the surroundings, a trip to Troncones is worth the 30 minute drive. It's more of a surf village, but has grown increasingly more popular in the last decade. The beach stretches about three miles and is populated mostly by private homes. There are a fewplaces to spend the night or grab lunch, or even go for a yoga retreat or massage. The first on my list is Hacienda Eden on Manzanillo Bay. The hotel is just 6 rooms, but the location is gorgeous, right on the water, and on Sundays they offer a barbecue lunch that doesn't dissappoint. My other favorite escape in Troncones is the beautiful boutique hotel and yoga retreat at Present Moment. At Present Moment guests can enjoy yoga by the sea, meditation, spa treatments, and even dance classes. They also offer surf lessons, surf yoga, eco tours, hiking, kayaking and horseback riding. Their restaurant offers helthy cuisine as well as smoothies and elixirs. You can dine right on the sand or by their bar which boasts a tequila menu with more than 50 different types of tequila.
A couple of other places worth noting include Playa Blanca, Playa Larga, and Playa Linda. They are all beautiful small resort areas with beautiful hotels, long stretches of beaches, and cute little local restaurants. It's an endless choice of tropical destinations within your tropical destination.
If you're looking for restaurants in Zihua, I definitely have my favorites and they range from local haunts to gourmet spots run by professionally trained chefs. If you're looking for amazing food, incredible views and the coolest vibe, you have to try the Amuleto. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and their menu changes every few weeks. If you're lucky to be there when the owners, Neglia and Ricardo, are there, you might get a chance to taste their vast collection of Mezcal. The restaurant is small and intimate, and the cuisine is creative while honoring the local ingredients. Make sure you call ahead and make reservations because they fill up quickly. They're hotel is consistently voted as one of the top boutique hotels in Mexico, so you can imagine the draw it has.
Another of my favorites is Tentaciones. In my opinion it's one of the best views in town and one of the best places to go for a sundowner. If you'd like to stay for dinner, they offer a five course, Prix Fixe, with a menu that changes every week. The property is stunning and if you would prefer to stay there, it's also a hotel. Just saying! No kids though.. This is a place that is meant for pure relaxation.
You also can never go wrong by dining or staying at the Villa Del Sol. You'll find this gem right on Playa La Ropa, where you can walk out of your room onto the beautiful beach or into the gardens surrounded by man-made ponds, waterfalls, and rivers. This property was built by our dear friend, Helmut Leins, and if you're lucky, you might run into him while dining in their beach front restaurant, or walking the property throught the maze of palm trees and water fixtures. He is legendary in this little town, and was one of the men who put Zihuatanejo on the map as a tourist destination.
A fairly new spot that has become a popular spot among the younger hip crowd is the concept store and bar called Loot. It was designed and is owned by local architect, Andres Saavedra. The space is clean, the design is modern, and the vibe is chill. Andres has curated fabulous art as well as creating a space for live music, and a place for local artists to exhibit. It's described as a surf and lifestyle store, but also offers all day dining. You can choose between brunch, local fare, or go for a little something more and take dinner on the rooftop. If you'd just prefer to hang out and enjoy drinks with friends, Loot is known for it's hand crafted cocktails and their cucumber and jalapeño margarita doesn't disappoint.
If you're down for some local fare, Los Braseros on Ejido 14, Centro, 40890 Zihuatanejo, Gro., Mexico is one of our favorites. Order the tacos al pastor to start and move on to their fish tacos. The batter is a secret recipe they've been sworn never to share (and trust me we asked), and the fish is fresh daily. They are the best I've ever had! Honestly, and they're menu is huge, but the fish tacos are the big draw for me. Get a big michelada to keep your thirst at bay. Los Braseros is a must try!
Another favorite for local fare is Bandidos. This is one of the more popular spots in the downtown area, known as a sports bar that transforms into a salsa dance club on the weekends. The atmosphere is electric, the music is great, and they have some very special menu items. If you so wish, you can order salsa and guacamole to be made right at your table. This way you can customize the heat to your liking. I highly recommend trying any of the options they have from their Molcajete selections. If you don't know what a molcajete is, it's a Mexican version of a mortar and pestle, but it's made from basalt stone. Normally it's used to grind and crush spices or food, but at Bandidos, they create meat dishes of either chicken, beef, or fish in a tomato base, with local vegetables topped with cheese and cooked in a brick oven. The result is a fiery hot stone bowl filled with a meat dish bubbling over with melted cheese, veggies, and a flavorful sauce. So good.
We lived in Zihuatanejo for four years and even after we moved back to the states, we've tried to return as much as we can. There is so much charm and beauty in this little Mexican oasis, and it will forever hold a huge place in our hearts. It is a magical little town with a layed back personality, and it's definitely a destination for travelers who love places that are a little off the beaten path. We feel so lucky to have had this opportunity to celebrate here again. I think Zihuatanejo has a few more fans, and we've already begun plotting our return. It will always and forever be considered our home. Gracias por todo!!!