Two Weeks on Mexico’s Pacific Coast

Mexico’s Pacific Coast is where Mexican beach tourism began. Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán-- the names hark back to bygone eras of mid-Century Hollywood royalty and the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. The allure of Mexico’s Pacific Coast has not vanished. Old town Mazatlán overlooking the beach, Sayulita surfing and fish tacos, fun-loving Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco in all its cliff-diving glory--these magical places and more await the visitor to Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

Highlights
32 Del Mar
Mexico is full of beach tourism destination and well-known surf spots. Mazatlan is not particularly well known for either of these (it’s known as more of a cultural destination) but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist there. The city of Mazatlan itself has several breaks with consistent waves (check out this list of breaks: http://www.mazatlansurfcenter.com/surf-news/surf-news-where.html) in the city, and tons more if you don’t mind driving a bit. Since Mazatlan isn’t a huge surf destination the waves are rarely crowded, which is great if, like me, you’d rather spend your day on good waves instead of sitting in lineups for great ones.
La Quebrada, Acapulco de Juárez, Gro., Mexico
There are several of these cliff-diving shows a day (unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the cove, but say ‘cliff divers’ in Acapulco and everyone knows what you’re talking about). To call them ‘shows’ is a bit belittling, though. They dive into the water from where you’re standing and then scale the cliff-side from the water up. A few of them prayed at a little make-shift church on the top before diving. It was interesting to see them analyze each coming wave, and time their dives accordingly.
Carretera Ecenica Sn, Playa la Ropa, 40895 Zihuatanejo, Gro., Mexico
Guests who lounge too long on the Viceroy Zihuatanejo’s La Ropa beach can find instant relief at the resort’s six-room spa, which features a sunburn-soothing treatment of freshly picked aloe vera, Baja lavender, and organic chamomile. Nearby, the eco-conscious Playa Viva resort offers poolside yoga, healthy cooking classes, and body scrubs made with locally harvested sea salt. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
Paseo del Pescador
We strolled into town from our hotel (La Casa Que Canta) by walking down the hill and along Paseo Pescador, which connects Playa Madera and Playa Principal. There is no shortage of restauranteurs offering you the “best” fish tacos and “coldest” beers in town. Prices range around the same and you probably can’t make a mistake if you stick with beverages. Continue walking along the Paseo and you’ll encounter creative community service announcements, a copper sculpture vaguely reminiscent of the mermaid in Copenhagen, and this fisherman’s grove. Shaded in coconut palms, the colors, sounds, and smells of this unexpected stumble upon keep wanting to bring me back. If you find yourself in Zihua, this is a stroll worth doing.
Camino Escénico a Playa la Ropa S/N, Playa La Ropa, Playa la Ropa, 40880 Zihuatanejo, Gro., Mexico
When we decided to spend a long weekend in “Zihua” we wanted a hotel with great views, conveniently located near a beach, and within walking distance of town. Casa Que Canta delivered these in addition to a tasty good restaurant with helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly service. The hotel sits on a hill overlooking the bay and is a 1 min walk to Playa Ropa where you can hang on the beach. We stayed in #11 and the photo captures part of our view. The rooms are spacious and comfortable. The floral arrangements that are left every eve are thoughtful. Overall, this hotel combines comfort and personal touches that make the experience feel like luxury and t-shirt/flip-flops go hand in hand. Definitely worth staying here when you come to Zihuatanejo.
Latin America
Los Osuna is an award-winning blue agave distillery that’s more than 100 years old. It’s located in the hills outside of Mazatlan. It has old wooden buildings, displays of traditional tequila-making processes, and has a quaint little bar under the canopy of an enormous tree. The tour shows both traditional and modern tequila-making techniques and, of course, ends with a drink of the distillery’s finest in the shade. Definitely a pleasant way to pass an afternoon.
Playa las Gatas, Zihuatanejo, Gro., Mexico
We hiked along a rocky trail starting at Playa La Ropa to get to Playa Las Gatas. You can make it in sandals although it’s not a walk in the park. Once we arrived we were met with a crowd of locals enjoying their weekend. As you stroll the beach you’ll be greeted by many who want you to sit at their tables. If you can resist the cold beer and fun atmosphere at first try to make it to the end of the beach where there is an old hostel and a small grove of mangroves. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the sign: “Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but pictures. Kill nothing but time.” A wonderful daily reminder. Now you can have that icy cold beer and ponder why you don’t come to Mexico more often.
Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico
Guadalajara visitors craving an escape from the city should know that the ocean breeze isn’t far away. The bohemian beach town of Sayulita is about a four-hour drive, and even closer by plane. Popular in the 1960s among American and Canadian surfers, the sleepy fishing village has more recently become known for its laid-back vibe and impressive food scene. If you’re looking to get even farther off the grid, the surrounding area is filled with beautiful bays that are less trafficked by tourists than the main town.
4455 Av Costera Miguel Aleman
Acclaimed Mexican artist/painter Diego Rivera (a.k.a. Mr. Frida Kahlo) created these Aztec mosaic murals, which continue to the left, on the outside walls of this house in the old tourist center of Acapulco. He stayed in this house, which belonged to his final lover Dolores Olmedo, while recovering from cancer, and eventually died here in 1957. The mural is titled Exekatlkalli (House of the Winds).
Av Ernesto Coppel Campaña 201, Zona Nuevo, 82110 Mazatlán, Sin., Mexico
I’m not a big spa person, but I’ve never seen anything like this. The men’s spa in the Emerald Bay Resort is one of the most beautifully designed and aesthetically pleasing rooms I’ve ever been in. There are several different kinds of showers to clean you from every different angle, two pools of different temperatures, plush robes, and one of the most relaxing ambiences I’ve experienced.
Malecón, Zona Romántica, Amapas, 48399 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico
Puerto Vallarta’s “Zona Romantica,” or “Romantic Zone” has all the elements that make the neighborhood name a fitting one: cobblestone streets, proximity to the beach and its stunning sunsets, and plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars, some with live music. One of the most picturesque sights is the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Instead of a cross-topped steeple, the church impresses with its filigree crown. Walking without a destination is just fine in this safe part of the city, full of lovely views.
Paseo Punta Ixtapa S/N, Zona Hotelera II, 40880 Ixtapa, Gro., Mexico
Built into the side of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Capella Ixtapa is a luxurious resort hotel with 59 rooms, all suites with ocean-facing views. As might be expected, accommodations are generous in size, with each guestroom featuring a master bedroom, a living room, and a private terrace with its own plunge pool. Decor features tiled floors, dark wood furniture, and local handwoven crafts as accents. Included in the room fee is a range of personal services and amenities, from standards like Wi-Fi and nightly turndown service to more coveted benefits such as a personal assistant who provides individualized concierge services. There are lots of common spaces in the hotel for guests to enjoy, among them an open-air lobby and a library, where drinks and snacks are served nightly. Two pools, an award-winning spa, and three restaurants round out what’s on offer here.
Barra de Potosí, Gro., Mexico
Barra de Potosi, near Zihuatanejo, is a small coastal village at the mouth of a lagoon. The lagoon, together with long stretches of adjoining beach, are home to over 200 species of birds, endangered butterflies, rare mammals and reptiles, nesting sea turtles, coral reefs and breeding whales. It is the real Mexico.
Michoacán, Mexico
Michoacan can claim only a small stretch of Pacific coastline in comparison with neighboring states, but what it has is lovely and blessedly lacking in tourist overdevelopment. Playa Maruata is the most beautiful of Michoacan’s beaches and the perfect place to get away from it all. Actually three beaches nestled between mountains and coves, the easternmost stretch of sand is perfect for snorkeling and wading and sunbathing. The beaches are located next to a small village where you can find a grocery store and a tiny restaurant or two. You can camp on the beach for a small fee, or you can spend the night in a rustic cabin for a bit more. If comfort is important to you, you can splurge on a room at the Centro Ecoturistico Maruata, situated on a hillside above the coast.
Fuerza Aerea Mexicana 17, Pie de la Cuesta, Acapulco, Gro., Mexico
If you’re going to Acapulco, you might want to consider staying in Pie de la Cuesta, 10km to the north. It offers relaxation and tranquility that are hard to come by in Acapulco but is still close enough so that you can take a taxi into the resort town if the mood strikes to party all night. During the day, however, Pie de la Cuesta can’t be beat. It has a pretty beach to the west with spectacular sunsets; a lagoon to the east with its own bird sanctuary; several nice beachside hotels, and the best huachinango al mojo de ajo (garlic red snapper) you will ever eat at the beachside Restaurant Tres Marias.
Av. Reforma 2013, Tellería, 82149 Mazatlán, Sin., Mexico
Mazatlán is going through a renaissance. “The Pearl of the Pacific” saw its original heyday along with Acapulco during the glamorous 50s and 60s, when Hollywood stars mixed with Mexico’s elite for sun and fun and cocktails. By the 90s, however, Mazatlán was worn around the edges and run down, a forgotten tourist relic while the Caribbean coast’s Cancún rose to world fame. Well, Mazatlán is back, baby-- back to its former glory and more. If your hotel is in the touristy souvenir-filled “Zona Dorada” (Golden Zone), be sure to spend your days in the Pueblo Viejo (Old Town) and its charming, fully renovated historic center steps away from the beach. The cultural scene here is vibrant--live theater and dance performances, tasty eateries, unique boutiques, and several interesting museums. Of course, getting out in the sea and sun will also be a priority. Surfing, sportfishing and horseback riding are all popular here, but the real don’t-miss activity is a whale or dolphin-watching expedition. Onca Explorations (www.oncaexplorations.com) offers popular daily ecotours to observe marine mammals. At the end of the day, a drink at a beachside bar is in order. As you people watch and enjoy the dramatic Pacific sunset, you can ponder whether you’re in the mood for watching a concert at the Teatro Angela Peralta or dancing the night away at one of Mazatlán’s many Zona Dorada nightclubs.
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