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  • Writer's pictureAlan Travers

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Ixtapa | Mexico

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

Mexico's lands are vast and hugely diverse, there is literally something here for everyone! With hidden gems, tropical destinations, beach towns and bustling cities, it can be hard for someone to choose only one place amongst all of the great locations!

I have been living in Mexico for almost a year now and have had the good fortune to travel around its beautiful lands, I have the seen the beach towns, bustling cities, ancient ruins and small colonial towns, and I am always in awe with how amazing some of the places are.

It's crazy because the country has gotten such a bad rep over the years, but from my personal experience of living and travelling here, It never ceases to amaze me how fantastic this place actually is, I'm constantly surprised, by almost everything!

This is a travel guide for those of you planning a trip to the beautiful city of Ixtapa, I'm sharing with you the best things to do and how to make the most of your time in the beautiful resort town of Ixtapa, Mexico.

Ixtapa, Mexico

Ixtapa is a coastal town that is located in the northwestern region of the State of Guerrero and is the neighbouring city of Zihuatanejo. The two towns are often marketed together, but in truth, they are quite different from one another, thus the reason I am writing about them separately.

Ixtapa is a tropical destination that is set against the picturesque backdrop of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains and has been gaining more and more popularity with every year. The likes of Cancun, Los Cabos and Playa del Carmen seem to be overrun by tourists nowadays, the tourists that are looking for a relaxing getaway in the sun now often choose smaller beach towns like Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo or Puerto Vallarta.

This small town is a relatively new destination and was only created in the '70s when the Mexican National Fund for Tourism Development (FONATUR) approved the area for development, with the hopes of increasing tourism to the country.

Throughout the development area, there is a total of 17 miles of coastline, all of which provides magical sandy beaches, quiet lagoons, scalloped coves, and small offshore islands.

Because the city was developed with tourism in mind, you can pretty much expect to find tons of high-end resorts scattered all along the beachfront, Ixtapa is definitely on the higher end of the spectrum of Mexican beach towns.

Getting To Ixtapa, Mexico

By Plane

This is by far the safest and most reliable way of travelling to the area. Ixtapa is roughly a 25-minute drive away from the small Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport. Flights are quite scarce to the area, so make sure to plan months ahead to be sure of getting flights.

The neighbouring city of Zihuatanejo is only a 15-minute drive from the airport and only 10-minutes from Ixtapa, you are more likely to find some real tradition, culture & heritage in the city of Zihuatanejo, at the very least it's worth a stop off on the way to Ixtapa!

By Bus

Mexico has invested billions into the country's bus network, there are very few other countries out there where you can travel in such style, and luxury, not only is it an amazing experience to travel first class, but the buses here provide an incredibly convenient way to travel throughout the country.

From Mexico City to Ixtapa, you can expect the journey to be somewhere around the 9-hour mark.

It can be quite daunting to know that you are going to be stuck on a bus for 9-hours or more, but the truth is that the time flies by, and most of the coaches are truly impressive.

By Car

This is not something that I can recommend anyone to do, even if you are familiar with the area, at this moment in time, the state of Guerrero has proven itself to be wildly unstable, there is too much trouble between the Mexican government, Drug Cartels and Paramilitary Groups right now.

There are always stories popping up of people being robbed and even attacked by gangs and paramilitary groups, these criminals are known to set up roadblocks in some regions of Guerrero, it is just too unpredictable and definitely not worth the risk of driving through.

I even have concerns about travelling by bus, but there have been no reported incidents of any attacks or robberies of this nature, I also suspect that if bus companies feared of such things they would cease operations to the area for quite some time, which would drastically impact the state in a negative way.

Best Things To Do In Ixtapa

There are a ton of amazing things for you to see, do and experience in the beautiful beach town of Ixtapa, sadly most of the people visiting here don't really get to experience much outside of the resort they are staying in.

A high percentage of the tourists choose just to stay in the resort and never leave, whether it be for safety concerns, language barriers or just plain ignorance, it's hard to understand why you would want to visit a beautiful beach town and not explore it!

I understand that the resorts have plenty of things going on, and they do a great job of keeping the guests occupied with various activities and parties, but there is just so much more that you are going to miss out on if you don't get out and explore!

Here are some of my favourite things to do in Ixtapa!

Swimming With Dolphins

This is easily one of the most enjoyable activities in Ixtapa, it's also something that everyone can get involved with, so if you are taking a family vacation it's something the kids will surely love, or even If you are a couple on a romantic getaway, this is one activity not to be missed!

There are a ton of different ways that you can get involved with the dolphins, some of the activities include swimming with dolphins, dolphin therapy and dolphin-marriage.

It really is one of the most memorable things a person can do! And what better place to do it than in a tropical Mexican resort town.

You can usually book such activities through the resort that you are staying with, but if you want to book it directly yourself you can do so here

Throw Back Some Mojitos On Las Gatas Beach

Las Gatas Beach is by far the most beautiful beach in the entire area, the easiest way for you to get there is by water taxi, which will roughly run you about $50 Pesos.

One of my favourite things to do anywhere! Is to do nothing but swallow back cocktails and beers one after the other like there is no tomorrow! And what better place to do it than on a beautiful tropical beach with some of the most incredible turquoise waters.

If you are a fan of seafood you are in luck, Las Gatas has some of the most delicious food to be found anywhere in Ixtapa right along the beachfront, there are so many traditional restaurants all on the same level as one and other, and it can be hard to choose, you'd be better of flipping a coin or choosing the least busiest.

Make sure to pack the alcohol beforehand as it might prove challenging to find any near the beach, especially on a Sunday afternoon.

Go Snorkeling On Isla Ixtapa

Isla Ixtapa is a small beautiful tropical island near the fishing town of Zihuatanejo, and one of the highlights of the island is it's different snorkelling activities.

The island itself is only a 15-minute water taxi ride away, I highly recommend visiting in the early hours as come the afternoon the island becomes plagued with tourists, it definitely makes the experience less enjoyable.

The island itself is home to a wildlife reserve, numerous restaurants and wonderful beaches, but the real attraction is the different water sports/activities that take place here.

The highlights of Isla Ixtapa include its coral beaches as well as it's coral reefs, calm turquoise waters, stunning scenery and also it's beautiful wildlife reserve.

Explore Downtown Ixtapa

This beautiful resort town was only recently developed in the '70s with tourism in mind! It would be a shame for you to visit this small paradise and not see what it has to offer.

Although the downtown area is small, you will find tons of local restaurants and cafes serving up delicious Mexican cuisine, you can also find some fantastic street vendors and small shops selling traditional Mexican nik-naks and gifts.

The beautiful streets have even attracted the film crowd's over the years as there have been numerous films and shows shot here ever since the cities arrival in the '70s.

Cycle Along Ciclopista De Ixtapa

This may not be for everyone, but I do love a good cycle every now and again, If you choose to indulge yourself with such an activity, you are guaranteed to see a different side to the city!

Throughout the entire pathway of Ciclopista de Ixtapa, you can find a beautifully well-preserved nature trail, once you find yourself coming to the end of the trail, you will be pleasantly surprised to find a crocodile area (not so surprised anymore), which is known by the name of 'Cocodrilo Charmer' and is a tourist attraction in of itself.

Visit The Ruins Of Xihuacan

One of my favourite things to do in Mexico is to visit the different ancient civilizations that the country has kept amazingly well preserved.

Near the resort town of Ixtapa, you can find the ancient ruins and archaeological site of Xihuacan, it's roughly a 30-minute bus or taxi ride from the town.

Incredibly some of the structures found here date back to 3,000 years ago. With the main attraction/structure being the pyramid "Soledad de Marciel". There is also a free museum which is home to national relics and excavated finds like ceramics, tools, weapons and other ancient items.

Restaurants In Ixtapa

You are never far from great food anywhere in Mexico! The country is renowned for its famous culinary dishes.

While vacationing here you should be eating like a king, there really is no excuse for you not to eat well during your vacation time, especially in Mexico.

Because of Ixtapa is a coastal town and also being situated next to the famous fishing village of Zihuatanejo, these two tourist hotspots have some of the freshest fish that's available anywhere in the country.

It could be considered a sin not to eat any seafood in Ixtapa! There are some restaurants here that serve up some of the most delicious seafood you will eat in your entire life!

Pretty much all of the traditional Mexican restaurants in Ixtapa serve up great mouth-watering food, it would prove hard for you to choose wrong here, but I suppose we can kick things of here by mentioning some of the better seafood restaurants.

Las Rocas Seafood Market

If I could sum up the what it is like to dine at the Seafood Market, located at the Capella resort in as few words as possible, they would be, 'a magical experience never to be forgotten!'.

At the Capella, you have a few different options when considering where you should eat, there are various restaurants all located on the property that will all provide you with a uniquely different experience.

You can choose from fine dining to bar food (up-class), and even a beautiful terrace restaurant, but the standout for me was the Seafood Market, there is nothing quite like having a meal and watching the sunset over the Pacific ocean.

It is not cheap! I had to get that out of the way, unlike most of the places to eat Mexican food, all of the restaurants at this resort are a little more on the higher end, price-wise. Unless you are swimming in cash, you won't be eating here every day, but it's good for a romantic date night or as a one of treat.

El Tiburón De La Costa

With two restaurants, one in Ixtapa and the other in Zihuatanejo, they must be doing something right! The seafood is excellent, and with the restaurant having more reasonable prices, this place is not to be missed.

Since visiting I have read a couple of bad reviews online, I can say this was not the case for me at all! The food was simply delicious, the lobster was cooked perfectly, and it went down a treat.

There is however one thing that I did see online which is very disappointing if it is true, they have two menus, one in English and the other in Spanish, with the prices supposedly being more expensive on the English menu, I don't condone such shady business practices, and if you do happen to notice that this is the case, I suggest you leave.

If I find this information to be accurate myself, I will be soon removing it as a recommendation. If someone could please take pictures and upload them online, they would be doing a great service to the people visiting Ixtapa.

Cafe Nueva Zelanda

This cafe is ideally situated and can be found right in front of the kiosk in Ixtapa, it is the place to be to get that perfect Mexican breakfast! The menu is vast and diverse; you can get anything from cakes to hamburgers all the way to Mexican classics.

It seems to be the hotspot for tourists during breakfast, and lunch hours, the cafe is relatively large and spacey with plenty of room for a lot of people, so you should not have a problem finding a place to sit down.

This is also one of the cheaper breakfasts in the entire city, I highly recommend the multi-flavoured chilaquiles, which you can get in salsa Rojo and Verde!

Rubens Hamburgers

Okay, I know how it looks! I'm recommending you visit a hamburger joint in a Mexican fishing town, it's not as bad as it seems, everyone likes that comfort food every now and again, you'd be pretty fed up if you just ate fish all week!

And besides, they serve up the best burgers in town! It's much better than that crappy buffet food all of the resorts serve up everyday! The food is all reasonably priced, and the atmosphere is excellent, definitely a place worth considering.

Where To Stay In Ixtapa

Ixtapa is a resort town, so you can expect to find some pretty high-end places to choose from, all of the resorts here tend to be more on the higher end of the spectrum with a few charming mid-range hotels/resorts and even fewer low-end options.

Here is my recommendation on two reasonably priced mid-range hotels/resorts and one higher-end resort.

Las Brisas Ixtapa

This hotel is perfect! It's nicely located just outside of central Ixtapa, it's only a short walking distance to the town centre or a $55 Peso taxi ride if you prefer.

The area is stunningly beautiful with some amazing terrain, the hotel itself is surrounded by tall trees and green mountains.

The views are spectacular, no matter where you are in the hotel you will always find amazing views of the pacific! All of the bedrooms, restaurants and bars face the ocean making for a memorable visit.

The hotel also has its own private beach which is much less crowded and more relaxing than the public beach that is located along the front of Ixtapa town.

The bedrooms are nothing to shout home about, but they are perfectly fine, especially considering the hotel only costs $65 USD ($1250 Pesos) per night, it's by far the best value choice I have found.

Emporio Ixtapa

This hotel is located right in the heart of the city, you can find it along the beautiful beachfront of Playa El Palmar. This is another reasonably priced option that costs right around $75 USD ($1400 Pesos) per night.

The hotel has a nice bar, and an on-site restaurant that are both reasonably priced, however, I do think that there are better, more affordable options out on the town.

The hotel provides guests with the option to join in on different in house activities and water sports, because of the various activities available, the modern rooms, and the cost of the entire package, I can recommend this hotel over other options at this price point.

Cala De Mar

You could probably have guessed this was going to be my high-end choice, with everything the hotel provides, it just makes for an outstanding experience, there is literally no way I could fault this resort in any way.

The rooms are spectacular! Each room is equipped with a small terrace that has its own plunge pool and sun loungers, the bedroom also looks out onto the pacific ocean, which really makes for a romantic setting.

Throughout the resort, you can find different restaurants and bars, all of which can not be faulted, each and every one is unique and special in its own way!

You can also find and in house spa and two infinity pools on the property, they have really designed the place so that you do not have to leave! This five-star resort is terrific in all sense of the word, but, it does come at a cost!

Rooms here cost around $250 USD ($5000 Pesos) per night, which is not extremely high if you have a U.S or first world salary, unfortunately, most Mexicans on a Mexican salary will never get to experience such luxury.

To Finish

I hope you found this guide to Ixtapa, Mexico, helpful! Feel free to let me know what you think or share your experiences with me either through Pinterest, Instagram or reach out to me here directly on the site.


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