Contributed by Greg in Alberta
Best if Viewed at 800 x 600 DPI
(Preface: When I started to write this I intended for it to be very brief. But when I start talking about Zihua/Ixtapa I just can't shut up. Somebody slap me!!)
I think it was our 12th no maybe 13th - or was it 11th time to Ixtapa/Zihua? No matter the count, the charm and beauty and magnetism hasn't diminished one little bit.
The trip began in Calgary on February 7th. There would be eight of us for the first week this year. Shirley and I, our son Cory, his new bride Tamara, and our daughter Kelsey, (all returning for their 3rd visit) as well as first timers Trevor (Kelsey's boyfriend), Penny - a.k.a. Peso (Tamara's mom) and our friend Mona.
This year for the first time we traveled with WestJet. In my opinion it is a first rate airline with great service (except the boxed lunch) and wonderful employees. The flight left on schedule but arrived about 20 minutes late due to headwinds. Due to the delay we arrived about the same time as 3 other aircraft. I have never seen such a large lineup at the customs counters. Despite the huge crowd, the excessive amount of baggage, and one red light, we managed to get through the airport and into a taxi in a little over an hour. Normally from the time the wheels hit the ground it's about 30 minutes until we are sipping our first cold one on the way to the hotel. We caught a cab to Ixtapa it was $450 (pesos) for a suburban that held all eight of us as well as our luggage.
The Dorado Pacifico
Once again (11th, 12th, 13th? time) we chose to stay at the Dorado Pacifico. And once again it was like coming home. Familiar faces hugs and handshakes made everyone feel extremely welcome. And we received exactly the rooms we requested. Cory and Tamara received the free upgrade to a suite, as this was actually their honeymoon trip (despite having the whole fam damly along).
As in past years there continues to be upgrades and improvements being made on the property. The two most notable this year are a new activity hut by the pool near the Coco-La Palm restaurant, and the addition of Motita (sp) to the hotel staff. Motita is a very friendly little cat who has free reign of the property. Her job is to discourage those pesky blackbirds from stealing your nachos when you're not looking. Although she is sorely outnumbered she is having some effect. It was great to see all our old friends again Salvador, Gersain, Saul, Felipe, Edgar, Roberto, Juany, Jorge (the best bartender in Mexico!), Simon, Vickie (the best concierge in Mexico), Alexandro, Huber, and all the others I have forgotten to mention. The hotel was running at 90-100% occupancy this year busier than usual - especially the first two days as it was end of a Mexican holiday (Flag Day) and many Mexican families were enjoying a weekend at the beach.
Clouds. What the heck are they doing here? We experienced more "cloudiness" this year than in all the previous trips put together. However only one morning was close to being what I would call truly overcast. In all cases by late morning or early afternoon the clouds or haze burned away. The second week was pretty well sunny and blue everyday. Ahhh Ixtapa!!
Looking North Along El Palmar
On several days you had to make sure your feet were wet or you had sandals on before making the mad dash to the ocean or walking on the concrete around the pool.
It was somewhat humorous while sitting under a palapa to watch the uninitiated venture out from the hotel onto the beach. They would make it about half way to the wet sand before they started doing the "hot potato dance" or break into a mad dash all the while uttering "yikes", "yaooo", "holy sh$*#!t" and various other explicatives. Several would stop half way trying to decide whether it would be quicker to retreat or "go for it"! Can you tell it doesn't take much to amuse one in paradise?
My Office at the Dorado Pacifico
The daytime temperatures were 29C to 32C everyday, but the evenings felt somewhat cooler than normal. Could this be the onset of old age? Naw I was probably just short one margarita!
Another oddity was the wave action for the first 2-3 days. It was much calmer than usual almost safe. However it did return to normal and most nights we fell asleep listening to the surf pounding on the beach. It's scary to watch some people (young and old alike) who have no idea of the power of the surf, play in the waves. Two years ago a young man ended his holiday - and his life - while playing in the surf in front of the Krystal. Fortunately we didn't see any catastrophes or injuries this year. They are fun to play in -but you have to pay attention and have a healthy respect for the power they wield. Never go in alone.
Ixtapa & Zihua are a diner's paradise. Two weeks just isn't enough time to visit all the great restaurants. Once again we never had a bad meal. But we did have one bad experience. Read on. Some of the places we visited were:
Buccaneros at the Marina great food, awesome atmosphere, but a little pricey.
Dinner at Buccanero's
This was followed by a nightcap or two up in the El Faro lighthouse bar listening to some great tunes while gazing at the multi-million dollar yachts bobbing in the marina (where do those people get their money?)
Mamma Normas and Deborahs good food good variety, fantastic homemade desserts, great people, reasonable prices.
Waiters at Mama Norma & Deborah's
Franks good food, lively atmosphere. Frank is? a fellow Canadian who has a good thing going. Now if he can just get some better ventilation for the smoke from the barbecue.
Coconuts fine dining, a special atmosphere, great food but pricey.
Daniel's a great spot on "fisherman's walk". Dined with our feet in the sand great coconut shrimp. Reasonably priced. They wouldn't give us a table on the beach for a drink during the evening "rush hour" one night said it was for meals only despite the fact it wasn't completely full.
Casa Bahia twice. A great restaurant with a beautiful view of the bay. Will is a colorful and entertaining host. Great tuna and Dorado steaks. Live music one night. Good prices. On our first visit we noticed an eirie glow behind the hill across the bay. Slowly it became brighter and brighter. And then the moon - almost in it's full phase - crept above the hill illuminating the bay as if to stay welcome back.
Casa Bahia - From the Bay
Puerto Mio (Villa Vera) one of the most spectacular settings anywhere for a restaurant. Nestled in the shelter of a tiny little bay where you can watch the surf and listen to the rocks roll up and down the beach. Good seafood, great deserts. On the pricey side.
Golden Cookie Shop A great place for breakfast and lunch located upstairs in the Los Patios shopping center.
Rueben's Hamburgers great spot for a burger at lunch. They have a variety of mesquite char-grilled burgers, and good fries. The dish of pickled carrots and peppers they bring to the table is good too but watch out - they are spicy! Very affordable.
Otilas at Las Gatas we spent a very enjoyable day here being pampered by our host Franco. Upon our arrival he promptly showed us the washrooms, the kitchen, the snorkel gear and introduced us to the owner. He claimed to make the best Pina Coladas in Mexico he does and we have the pictures to prove it!
Franco's World Famous Piña Coladas
Then there was lunch wow. It was a platter (two actually) that had a little bit of everything. (Franco there are 8 people not 80!!) Highly recommended.
Looking Towards Owen's, From Otila's
El Faro at the Pacifica Resort In all the years we've been coming to Ixtapa we had never eaten here don't know why. This was the year to give it a try. We took a cab and arrived just before sunset. The view of Ixtapa from here truly is the best around. The food was very good although this was the most expensive meal we had (mostly because yours truly ordered the $550 try everything meal). Six courses and it was all very good. Shirley had the Lasagna and it too was excellent.
Night View From El Faro
La Casa Que Canta the bad experience. We have dined here many times in the past. It truly is a spectacular setting and has always had good food. It is very pricey. This year we wanted to make it our special night out for the honeymooners and the newcomers to Zihua. However we were unable to get reservations on any of the three nights remaining before they had to head home. We were however able to get a reservation for drinks at their bar prior to heading to Villa Vera for supper. So we loaded into two cabs for our 7:30 reservation. Upon arrival, we were told that we would not be allowed into the restaurant due to their dress code. Not even for a photo! The ladies were all nicely dressed in skirts and dresses. I wore a dress shirt, pants and a pair of Reebok sandals. Trevor and Cory were wearing dress shirts and dress shorts primarily due to the fact that Trevor was sporting a cast due to a broken ankle and pants don't work well with a cast. We were told no shorts, no sandals. They claimed they told our concierge this, but that wasn't so. Not only that, last year I wore almost the exact same clothes (with sandals) and my friend was wearing dress shorts no problem! Now I don't have a problem with a dress code. But if you're going to have one you need to be consistent. As we argued our case with them a couple strolled out of the restaurant the man was wearing shorts and running shoes!! Also I think they should consider the fact that most visitors come to Zihua to escape the cold and enjoy the warmth. It's hard enough to put on a pair of pants let alone socks and shoes! Perhaps they should choose more appropriate standards for this type of climate (pants or dress shorts, shirt with a collar, shoes or clean sandals whatever). I think we were rejected because they are much busier this year and can be picky about who they let in. Of course by now our cabs had left so there we were standing out on the street waiting for new cabs. There was no offer from the restaurant to get us back into town! One thing we made very clear to them before we left was that they wouldn't have to worry about letting us in again as they had seen the last of my pesos. Once that statement was made the tone changed and they wanted us to come in too late amigo! So beware if you are planning a trip to this restaurant wear shoes or paint your feet the same color as your sandals, and don't show up in cast!
We don't do as much of the nightlife as we used to. This year having all the young pups along I expected to do more. Well, I gotta tell ya the old folks outdid the youngsters this year.
A couple of nights were spent sipping some cold ones and taking in the view of bay on the beach at several of the small restaurants along "fisherman's walk".
Sunday nights we spent at the basketball court watching the family festivities. Then it was over to Bandido's Grill and Bar for a cerveza or two.
Tried out the new bar called Kopados in Ixtapa a unique little bar perched above the new restaurant next to Senior Frogs a neat spot if you ignore the noise from Senor'Frogs.
And then there was the "runaway". It all began when all eight of us decided it was time to visit Senor' Frogs. It was as rowdy and raucous as ever. Drinks and dancing and people watching. Then the youngsters decided to order these large blue concoctions that many were drinking. I think that's what finished them they all went back to the hotel early. At any rate that left the 3 ladies and I alone at Frogs dangerous! My wife said she learned two things on our trip this year. Two weeks isn't long enough, and she can't drink rum and coke. Now I can agree on the two-week thing - but the rum and coke - I think that's what got the women going. Dance, dance dance jeez I didn't know she had all those moves. So after we stayed there late it was back to the hotel or so I thought! On the way there Mona heard live music coming from a bar called Armando's just across from the Dorado. Good music Santanna, The Doors and Stepenwolf. Detour!!. After another hour of dancing and grooving the band called it quits awe time to go home or so I thought! Now it was Penny's (Peso's) turn to have an inspiration "hey I bet Carlos and Charlie's is still open"! Detour!! And yes it was for a few minutes. Time to order one drink and then what's this they are putting chairs up on the table. Oh my God I've actually seen C & C's close now that's a first for me! A leisurely somewhat crooked stroll down beach finally landed us back at our hotel. It is still warm out at 4AM. Wait till the kids hear this!
The first week went by all too quickly and before we new it - it was time for most of our group to head home. I knew this would be a sad day and that my wife would get all melancholy and shed a few tears but it was more like Niagara Falls. If we could have had our choice in the matter we would have had them come for the second week not the first. Once we knew everyone was safely home her tears subsided, and we settled into our routine again (except for the rum and coke).
This year we took our first day trip to Troncones. It was a great day. In the interest of time we opted to take a cab rather than bus it. Shirley is scared to death of most of the cab rides (avoid cab # 492 if you like living) so I asked Vickie, our concierge, to arrange a ride with someone who didn't think they were in the Indy 500 and whose English was better than my Spanish. Enter "Charlie Brown". What a character! He is fluent in English, very informative and a really nice guy. Charlie picked us up at the hotel at 9:00 and we had a very leisurely and informative ride to Troncones for $300 ($250 + a $50 tip). On the road into Troncones from the highway a small local cab whizzed by us at a very high speed Shirley elbowed me. Yes dear I'll be sure not to get cab # 05 for the return trip. Charlie let us off at the Topic of Cancer Beach Club where we said our good-byes. The place was still quiet so we decided to walk to the south end of the beach. We were impressed with the unspoiled nature of the area and the spectacular homes and inns.
House on the South End of Troncones Beach
There was activity at El Burro Borracho but we didn't venture in next time. Upon returning to the Tropic of Cancer (ToC) we met Anita who owns the property. She told us the bar, pool and restaurant didn't open until 11AM and that we were welcome to use the facilities and would be well looked after. As it was only 10:30 we decided to walk to the north end of the beach to The Inn at Manzanillo Bay for lunch and then return to ToC. Also, we had an invitation to stop in and meet fellow Canadians Cam & Bev Gessy who own Regalo del Mar. Well I have to tell you it is a long walk on the beach and it was a very hot day. By the time we got to Regalo del Mar my radiator was overheating and the cold cerveza Cam mentioned in his e-mail was looking better and better. Along the way we met a couple on the beach who were staying at the Inn at Manzanillo Bay and they told us the food there was nothing like it was "cracked up to be", and that walking there to eat wasn't worth it. I've read lots of reports saying the food there is good, but we never did make it that far. Upon reaching Regalo del Mar we were promptly welcomed and offered water and a cold beer. Cam and Bev are very gracious hosts and gave unselfishly of their time. We had a very nice and very informative visit with them. Regalo del Mar is a unique and spectacular little inn with tons of character. Business is booming for them.
The Pool at Regalo del Mar
We also met Mike - another "Tronconian" - (is that a word?) who was over visiting Bev and Cam. He is very nice young fellow who gives surfing lessons in Troncones. He was waiting for the arrival of a group of 10 dentists from Canada who were coming for a week of surf lessons.
After a long visit we decided to head back to the ToC rather than carry on to Manzanillo Bay. Bev and Cam very kindly gave us a ride back to ToC. Hope to see them again next year. Once back at the ToC we ordered some food and a few beers and just sat back taking in the view.
My Office at the Tropic of Cancer Beach Club
Our waiter ran up at one point and directed our attention to a whale doing back flips just off the coast spectacular. When it was time to return to Ixtapa I asked our waiter (Luis?) if he could round up a slow cab driver for us. No problem amigo! Within minutes a cab arrived to Shirley's relief it wasn't cab #05. The driver of cab #01 (I think his name was Martin) promised a slow ride and he was true to his word despite the fact that I think it was stressing him out to go that slow. All in all a day well spent and we will definitely return.
Things That Were New & Other Stuff
The old Aristos Hotel is now gone and construction is underway on the Bay View Grand a spectacular luxury condominium and hotel. Is this a good thing? I'm not sure. Aristos was looking pretty sorry, but the new place will mean more visitors - which will be good for the local economy - but it may take away from Ixtapa's personality of not being an overcrowded resort. All you'll need is between USD $147,000 and $1,250,000 to own a piece of this real estate!!
The long abandoned and unfinished structure towards the north end of the beach has been given a face-lift of sorts. It is now draped in a fabric, which has a monstrous picture of Marina Ixtapa and the Fonatur logo on it.
Building Shroud on El Palmar
It's kind of unique and easier to look at than the unfinished building. One thing that has always puzzled me about Ixtapa and Zihua is the large number of half-finished and abandoned construction projects. Can anyone enlighten me on this? What happens that causes these projects to be abandoned part way through construction? Is it poor planning, lack of funding, failure to meet standards, changes in government approvals or what?
The look of La Ropa has definitely changed with the large Intra-West project being built next to the Sotavento/Catalina. Not sure if I like that either.
We rented a golf cart for an hour and took a spin out to Playa Linda to see the crocs and iguanas.
Crocs and an Iguana at Playa Linda
It was $250 for an hour. They will hold 4 people, but it was good thing there was only two of us. The steering was a little funky, and the old girl was lacking power and speed. Had there been 4 of us on the cart, 2 would have been pushing on the hills to Playa Linda. As it was I didn't think we were going to make a couple of them. Good thing we headed there first as it took almost the entire hour to drive there and back. It was a fun way to see local fauna and flora.
Had a great time shopping El Centro and the artesian market in Zihua. I found Robertos! Supervisors chair as well as another vantage point at Banditos Bar where I could "oversee the shopping activities and keep an eye on everyone". Thanks Roberto! I like shopping now.
The night we dined at El Faro we were given a look at one of their new condos beautiful. In a weak moment I actually volunteered to come back for the time share tour. We had never done this before but knew what to expect more or less. I made it very clear at the outset that I only wanted some information and wasn't prepared to make any decisions about purchasing while I was on vacation. This of course fell on deaf ears. A pleasant young lady accompanied us to the free breakfast, took down some basic information and gave us a more in-depth tour. She then turned us over to her "boss" Francesco. Now comes the sales pitch. Francesco was pleasant enough not too pushy. But when I told him I wanted to see the units that they were renovating that supposedly had a great view despite the fact they were near the bottom of the hill, the tone changed a little. He then brought out his boss. When I told him that I was there for information only and would not be purchasing anything that day the guy went ballistic and became very rude. He told us that his company didn't need our money and didn't care if they got it. He also said the only people he respected were the ones below us enjoying their time-share. If I did have any inclination of purchasing a time-share that ended it for good!
Alas the day finally came when we had to leave. Neither of us was ready but no one had called to say we won the lottery so reluctantly we packed our bags. Took a cab to the airport to beat the rush. Once again I was struck by how busy it was. The return flight was a little late getting away but the trip was uneventful and smooth as glass. The customs agent in Calgary noticed the wood on the hammock chair I had purchased. This resulted in a trip to the "luggage check" and having the cardboard used to protect some paintings being removed due to the possibility of "bugs" living in the corrugations. Nothing more was said about the wood? Go figure. The weather was good upon arrival only minus 3C. Still a shock after enjoying +32C just five hours earlier.
So now we settle into our routines and start dreaming about next year's trip. God willing we will be back for 3 weeks maybe??