Zihuatanejo is That Kinda Place

Aside from visiting my brother Don in San Miguel de Allende over New Years, I had two other “agenda items” on this trip to Mexico. One was to visit some place I had not yet been before, and the other was to go to the beach! I could kill both birds with one stone by visiting one of Don’s favorite spots along the Pacific coast, Zihuatanejo.

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Overlooking the pool at the Catalina Hotel

Overlooking the pool at the Catalina Hotel

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Located about a third of the way up between Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta, it might be more well known by its airport name of Ixtapa, just to the north where all the high rise hotels and golf courses are located. “Zihua” as it’s fondly known, is a lot more low key. No “Señor Frogs” here, just laid back beach resorts and sunset bars. In short, Zihau is the “Goldilocks” of beach resorts. I’m not a fan of big air conditioned hundred-room hotels along a “Hotel Zone.” Anytime I have to get in an elevator to get to the beach, I’m in the wrong place. But I have also written before about my need for “infrastructure.” I need a few conveniences available like local restaurants and a place to have a sunset margarita. Zihua is that kinda place.

Note the fashionable elbow bandage I am sporting. "Gauze is the new black..."

Note the fashionable elbow bandage I am sporting. “Gauze is the new black…”

Playa Ropa where we stayed is just one large hillside of sunset viewing spots...

Playa La Ropa where we stayed is just one large hillside of sunset viewing spots…

Many of those sunset spots offer "Hora Feliz!" or 2x1 Happy Hour.

Many of those sunset spots offer “Hora Feliz!” or 2×1 Happy Hour.

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I also like the “Goldilocks” of oceans as well. I enjoy riding the gentle waves, feeling the lift as the wave crests and sets my feet back down on the ocean floor. But if the waves are so rough that I risk getting knocked down, I’m no longer at ease. If those gentle waves are calm enough to allow me to do a bit of floating, then I am really happy. Zihua is that kinda place.

Makeshift diving board

Makeshift diving board

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In the Centro, shopping comes to you. Everyone needs at least one hammock...I own three. ;-)

In the Centro, shopping comes to you. Everyone needs at least one hammock…I own three. ;-)

Wait long enough, and music will also come to you. ;-)

Wait long enough, and music will also come to you.

Sitting in a beach chair all day can get a little boring. My ideal beach destination offers some form of activity, either a wide stretch of beach for walking, or some form of exercise. Playa la Ropa, where we stayed for a week is about a 20 minute walk into town (downhill) and takes about twice the time to climb back up the hill from the beach. Taxis are cheap, but I prefer to walk it, because I like a place where I am forced into some form of exercise, otherwise I get lazy. Zihua is that kinda place.

Fishing boats are in abundance.

Fishing boats are in abundance.

One of the shuttles that goes back and forth across the bay for around $2.50US RT.

One of the shuttles that goes back and forth across the bay for around $2.50US RT.

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Tempting…

Being at the beach can often times make me wish I was out on the water. Zihua has a plethora of opportunities for water sports, but those are often times not worth the cost, or a little too “spring-breakish” for my taste. Though I am intrigued by watching a person being flung through the air at the end of a spinnaker line, I can’t help but think of the ramifications, the equivalent no doubt to whiplash from being T-boned in a car accident. No, sometimes, I just want a nice boat ride across the bay. It’s possible to catch a boat shuttle over to Las Gatas beach, which runs across the bay for the full extent of Playa la Ropa, for 50 pesos round trip, or $2.50US. Sometimes, I just want a nice, serene boat ride to smell the ocean and feel the cooling breezes blowing through my hair. Zihua is that kinda place.

Note this flying spinnaker, or yellow downwind sail. Where the two lower lines intersect is a flying human.

Note this flying spinnaker, or yellow downwind sail. Where the two lower lines intersect is a flying human.

Two parasailers crossing paths.

Two para-sailers crossing paths.

This is Los Gatos Beach across the bay. Don't go on a Sunday! Sunday is typically "family day" in Mexico when everyone goes to the beach for a picnic.

This is Las Gatas Beach across the bay. Don’t go on a Sunday! Sunday is typically “family day” in Mexico when everyone goes to the beach for a picnic.

Good snorkeling here...just DON'T GO ON A SUNDAY!

Good snorkeling here…just DON’T GO ON A SUNDAY!

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Las Gatas beach is fun for people-watching, but stick to the beer, and wait until you are back in Playa la Ropa or in town to eat.

I like a variety of food options. It’s nice to have supermarkets within walking distance, or only a $2 US cab ride away, but I also enjoy eating out. And not just fish tacos on the beach, but some fine dining options as well. Five bucks will get you a huge plate of guacamole with pico de gallo, a margarita, and with that comes a chair and umbrella rental for the day. But one can only eat guacamole so many days in a row. But just down the hill parallel to the canal is Calle Adelitas in La Madera, Zihua’s restaurant row. Check the Top 10 Restaurants on Trip Advisor, and you will find half of them along this street. Fabulous fusion selections of seafood prepared Mexican style with an Asian twist, all for reasonable prices. If you like fresh seafood, family run establishments, and reasonable prices, Zihua is that kinda place.

Mariscos Yolanda, "The Cathedral of Seafood."

Mariscos Yolanda in the historic old town, “The Cathedral of Seafood.”

Take no prisoners!

Take no prisoners!

Sport fishing in Zihua is a big draw.

Sport fishing in Zihua is a big draw.

Turtle hatchlings are released on the beach at sunset.

Turtle hatchlings are released on the beach at sunset.

I can usually tell within a couple of days whether I am going to feel at home in a place. Sometimes, it takes me a while to adapt. But when the time comes to leave, if I feel a lump in my throat and start to tear up, then I know, I’ve found that kinda place….my kinda place!

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

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Amor por Morelia

I’ve written about the merits of Morelia before.   It’s a great city that offers an abundance of options for many.  But Morelia gets a bit of a bad rap as a tourist destination with “guilt by association,” being the capital of the state of Michoacan where cartel activity has been reported in the surrounding countryside. Even the scariest piece of non-fiction you will ever read, the US State Department travel warning excludes the city of Morelia from its state-wide Michoacan warning.  So worrying about being targeted as a tourist by cartels in the historic centro is like my worrying about getting tetanus from a scraped elbow. Could it happen?  Yes. But not likely. Continue reading

Getting the Shot in Guanajuat-Oh!

Just about an hour drive west of San Miguel de Allende is another UNESCO World Heritage town, Guanajuato.  But unique from every other town you will find in Mexico, Guanajato is more “European” than Mexican.   The town was originally founded all the way back in the 1500’s.  Having been built around the silver mining trade, the town still has some active mines.  These mines lie buried within the steep hills, flanking the main thoroughfare.  If you’re looking for a destination to stay fit, this is it!   Most of the roads Continue reading

Closing Doors

In years past, San Miguel de Allende has been a regular destination for National Geographic’s week-long photography workshops. While buildings in the main section of historic “Centro” in San Miguel are restricted by the Regulation of Construction to shades of ocre and earth tones, vivid accent colors abound in the form of bougainvillea, hibiscus, and greenery planted in brightly colored pottery. But no accent is more intriguing than the doors of San Miguel. There’s even a book of photography featuring only photos of the ornately carved doors. Continue reading

Waltz Across Texas

The Winnie traveled across ten different states in 2016, the last being the least desirable. No offense to my family, athough Texas is my birthplace, anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan for many reasons. If my Mom and niece would only relocate, I’d be like Thelma and Louise, driving across the four contiguous states just to avoid driving through it.

It’s 500 miles from the state line to the family farm, every one of them Continue reading

Soaks, Snow, and a Sea of Sand

The US Dept of Interior recently posted on Facebook, “Moonlight brightens snowy dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. Experience the park after dark by stargazing, listening for owls along the foothills or going for a full moon walk on the dunes. Cold temperatures are the norm in winter, so bundle up with warm clothing and sturdy footwear for an unforgettable nighttime adventure.”

I find this an odd promotion, considering the park is miles from nowhere, and they have closed the one and only campground within the park.  Continue reading

The Roads to Chaco

I’ll admit I’d never even heard of Chaco Culture National Historic Park until I visited Mesa Verde National Park in 2015 when a Ranger on one of the guided tours said “If you think this is something, you should visit Chaco Canyon!”    So to learn that it was once considered the center of all ancestral Puebloan culture came as quite a surprise.   How could this ancient hub of civilization, just one state over from my childhood home, be a complete unknown to me?  After all the road trips of my youth across the great southwest, Continue reading

If A Tree Falls in the Forest…

NOTE:  Thanks for all your wonderful comments and support on my “Dear Mr. President” post.   I’ll get back to life in Mexico soon, but first, I have a few posts to catch up on, lest I forget the last days of my southerly winter migration…

If a tree falls in the forest and I can’t remember seeing it, does it still count?  If I visited a national park but can’t remember a thing about it, does it still count?

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a national park junkie.   I have lofty aspirations to visit all 59 with the official “Park” status. Continue reading

Dear Mr. President…Come Take a Ride with Me

For the past month, I’ve been traveling across Mexico, hitting a few places I’ve never been. Riding on Mexican buses is one of my favorite pastimes of Mexico, particularly the “in country” buses. They defy all stereotypes of the Latin American “chicken bus.” Instead they are luxury buses with reclining seats, elevating footrests, AC power ports, seat-back video screens showing movies, documentaries, and video games. The one I rode yesterday was a giant double-decker with three seats across – one on the left and two on the right. It even had suede leather seats, cup holders, and wood grain accents. Less than thirty bucks will get you a ride between most cities, including a ham and cheese croissant and a coke. Continue reading