On the Pacific coast, Ixtapa provides an appealing alternative to Mexico’s more tourist-trafficked spots.
Ixtapa is probably not the first place you think of when picturing a luxurious oceanfront Mexican getaway. One reason for this is that it’s significantly smaller than more well-known destinations like Cancún, Acapulco, and Puerto Vallarta. While that’s cause for some people to steer clear, those who are looking for a less-crowded yet more authentic travel experience—while not giving up any of the luxury—will find much about Ixtapa to enjoy.
Situated on the Pacific coast, Ixtapa is attracting visitors who like the option of a casual jaunt between the luxury resort community and its laid-back neighbor, Zihuatanejo, just 10 minutes away. Despite its smaller scale, Ixtapa isn’t totally off the radar; astute buyers and developers have been building tasteful villas and vacation homes here for years, with new development continuing today. The more striking examples sit on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Pacific just south of the resort strip, affording stellar sunset views while situated just minutes from two world-class golf courses—Palma Real is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course, while the Robert von Hagge-designed Marina Ixtapa Golf Club overlooks the marina—along with miles-long beaches and great restaurants.
Unlike other popular Mexican tourist destinations where souvenirs and “local” handicrafts are actually made in China, the ceramics, paintings, and colorful tapestries on display in the Mercado de Artesanias in Ixtapa and the Mercado Central in Zihuatanejo are handmade by local villagers.
Sportfishing buffs discovered the bounty of the waters off Ixtapa years ago—it’s one of the world’s premier spots for saltwater sportfishing—but scuba and snorkeling aficionados have also been flocking to Ixtapa given its variety of underwater life—even sunken ships. Playa la Ropa has been called one of the most beautiful beaches on Mexico’s Pacific coast and is about as authentic as you get. At open-air restaurants on the beach, you’ll dine on fresh grilled fish served on paper plates while your feet dig into the sand.
While Ixtapa will never grow to be as large as Cancún or Puerto Vallarta—it’s not on the radar for spring breakers, either—it’s safe to say that this fact suits locals and visitors-in-the-know just fine.
Where to Stay
Each of the 59 suites at Capella Ixtapa faces the sea, providing stunning vistas from its cliffside perch. Paseo Playa Linda, Ixtapa 40880; 877-296-8889; capellahotels.com/ixtapa. Amuleto is a small luxury boutique hotel with only six hilltop suites; each room has a bird’s-eye view of the Pacific. Calle Escenica 9, Playa La Ropa, Zihuatanejo 40880; 213-280-1037.
Where to Eat
La Laguna Restaurant offers a mix of Mexican and Italian cuisine and is centrally located at the marina, making for an easy post-dinner stroll along the waterfront. Plaza Marina, Ixtapa 48880; 755-553-1103.
Regulars don’t like word to get out that Villa de la Selva is the most romantic place to dine in Ixtapa, but the food, views, and setting are so good that we have no choice but to pass it along. Paseo de la Roca Lote-D, Ixtapa 40884; 755-553-0362.
What To Do
El Refugio de Potosi is a center for wildlife conservation and environmental education, where you can get up close and personal with a variety of owls, iguanas, and other critters. Lote 74, Colonia Playa Blanca, Zihuatanejo 40880; 775-100-0743.