If you’re looking for a beautiful and exotic destination to visit, look no further than Ixtapa, Mexico! This stunning location offers everything from incredible golf courses to pristine beaches and lush jungles.
This resort destination in the Mexican state of Guerrero is stocked with high-rise hotels, resorts, restaurants, and world-class golf courses. Just southeast of Ixtapa is the city of Zihuatanejo, known for its pristine beaches and coves that branch off from the bay.
Together, these 2 towns (and all the other little towns in between them) offer visitors an off-the-beaten-path getaway with plenty of options for relaxation and adventure!
What’s more, the weather is perfect all year round so you can enjoy everything that Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo have to offer any time you like!
If you’re not familiar with this region of Mexico, I’m here to help shed some light and show you some of the best things to do in Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. Let’s get into it!
This post may contain affiliate links. In the event of a sale, you won’t be paying a cent more for any of the services mentioned, but I’ll receive a small commission that’ll help keep this free content coming to you. Thanks!
Where is Ixtapa, Mexico?
Ixtapa is located on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the state of Guerrero. It is also roughly 200 miles (322 km) southwest of Mexico City.
It’s just a short 15-minute drive from the other city of Zihuatanejo, also filled with things to do, making it the perfect place to enjoy a day trip or extend as part of a longer vacation.
What are Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo Known For?
Ixtapa is known for its incredible beaches, high-rises, golf courses, and luxury resorts.
Like its Caribbean sister resort town of Cancun, Ixtapa was also transformed in the 1970s from being just an undeveloped strand of golden sand and turquoise waters into a resort hotspot for sun worshippers. But the wonderful thing is, it’s still relatively undiscovered (especially when compared to Cancun).
Ixtapa is also home to the internationally renowned fish strips, better known as tiritas de pescado. You need to try this at least once! In addition to this dish, you can find many restaurants, bars, and shopping in town!
Zihuatanejo, on the other hand, offers the atmosphere and character of a more traditional Mexico. It’s less touristy, meaning you’ll be able to experience a more authentic version of Mexico.
Despite the slower and calmer lifestyle in Zihua, it is also host to some very nice resorts/hotels. There are 4 beaches, several piers, lots of shopping opportunities, and an abundance of restaurants in Zihua.
Because these two cities are just 15 minutes apart, experiencing both on the same trip is totally possible! Travelers can enjoy plenty of activities such as swimming, sunbathing, fishing, surfing, and more.
Is Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Worth Visiting?
There are plenty of reasons to visit Ixtapa! The area is full of natural beauty and there are plenty of activities to keep you busy. And the best part? Not very many people know about this destination yet.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a tranquil solo reteat, or an action-packed vacation, Ixtapa has something for everyone.
How To Get To Ixtapa, Mexico From The US
There are many major airports that offer direct flights to Ixtapa, including Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Miami (MIA), and Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW).
To get to Ixtapa, you can fly into the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Airport. The flight time from these cities is between five and seven hours, so you can be enjoying the sun and sand of Ixtapa in no time!
If there are no direct flights from where you are, you can fly directly into Mexico City and then take another flight on a domestic airline (such as Volaris) to get to Ixtapa.
Once you’ve arrived at the airport, there are plenty of taxis available to take you into town. Or, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider taking the bus.
During my last stay in Ixtapa, we arranged private transportation to and from our hotel. While this is the most convenient option, it will also likely be the most expensive option, too!
Getting to your hotel/accommodation from the airport is a breeze–the transportation method you choose will ultimately depend on your budget and how adventurous your travel partners are.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa, Mexico?
Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa enjoy temperatures in the 80°F range year-round, which is why so many US travelers tend to visit during the winter. As such, this region’s high season is from October to June.
In my opinion, the best time to visit Ixtapa is between December and April when the weather is most pleasant.
If you’re looking for the best deal with regards to hotel prices, there is no real ‘best time’. Because the weather is pretty consistent throughout the year, hotel prices don’t change that dramatically. Unless you travel during holidays and festival weekends, you’ll be paying a fair price for rooms.
However, if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, then you can also enjoy all that this destination has to offer during the shoulder seasons of May to June and October to November.
July to September is the rainy season, with September being the wettest month of the year. If you travel during this time, keep in mind that you’ll be faced with hotter temperatures, rainfall, and humidity.
Best Things To Do In Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Mexico
There are plenty of activities and attractions to keep you busy during your stay in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. Fun things to do in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo with the whole family include snorkeling, scuba diving, whale watching, kayaking, golfing, mountain biking, and even crocodile gazing!
Below are a few of the best things to do in Ixtapa in detail.
1. Enjoy all the beachfront seafood restaurants
To really get to know a culture and a community, you have to eat their food, and in Ixtapa, seafood reigns supreme.
There are so many little fishing villages dotted along the coast, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that doesn’t sell seafood at an affordable price!
We had dinner one night at Restaurant Las Palmas in a small, small area called Loma Bonita where beachfront restaurants were plentiful. And these were very casual, thatched roof type of restaurants, not upscale ones that charge an arm and a leg for the sunset views!
We enjoyed a whole plethora of seafood, including abalone, mariscada (a humongous mixed seafood plate for 4-6 people that was just $40 USD), and lobster! So delicious and the seclusion made it a million times better of an experience.
2. Witness a baby sea turtle release
One of the most memorable things I did during my time in Ixtapa was attending a baby sea turtle release.
We were able to help a local volunteer sea turtle rescue group release over 300 turtles back into the ocean and it was an incredible experience that’ll be burned into my mind forever!
Want to melt your heart and soul into smithereens? All you need to do is to spend 5 seconds watching the little baby turtles wading into the water. You cannot help but to smile!
We learned all about the volunteer conservation efforts, how to tell the difference between males and females, what happens throughout a sea turtle’s life span, and what their #1 danger/threat is–human exploitation (taking them home as pets, eating them, taking their shells–all so wrong!).
If you’re looking for a unique activity that will create lifetime memories, this is it! And I hope once you experience this activity, you will also spread the word about sea turtle conservation and keeping wildlife wild.
3. Go on an immersive cultural adventure tour
If you’re looking for a break from the resort life and want to truly immerse yourself in the local culture, spend a day away from the coast and in the valley and mountains instead.
We did our tour with Johnny Adventures and the entire day was a total blast. The day started out with a visit to a local coconut candy-making factory followed by an ATV trek up into the mountains to la Familia Gutierrez, a fully self-sustainable local family that lived near the top of a mountain.
The views getting up there were breathtaking!
Once we had arrived, we got to experience how they lived, heard their life stories, tried their homemade chocolates and coffee, explored around the farm, and even cooked a meal with them.
They even had a pet boar! The first time I’d ever seen a wild boar acting like a pet dog!
On the way down, we stopped by a small town known for its salt production and picked up a few bags to bring home.
After having met the Gutierrez family and learning so much about the area and its significance in eco-tourism, we were all so thankful to Johnny for providing us with this experience! So for anyone who’s interested in being immersed in local culture, I’d highly recommend taking this tour.
4. Relax and snorkel at Ixtapa Island
Ixtapa Island is a small island full of fun near Zihuatanejo. It’s an ecological reserve located north of Ixtapa, just about 10 minutes from the hotel area. Ixtapa Island was founded in 1967 by a fisherman responsible for caring of the land after 1975 when tourism began to arrive.
It has four beaches characterized by a fairly calm swell, making it the ideal place to snorkel, ride jet skis, and kayak! Playa Coral is an especially popular one to snorkel at due to, you guessed it, its coral formations!
If you decide to go to the island, you can go with a tour or on your own. To get there, head to Linda Beach, where you’ll have to travel by a little fishing boat/water taxi to reach the island. You’ll purchase your tickets at the ticket booth (about $80 pesos per person, $4 USD) and hop aboard the water taxi to get over.
Once you’re there, you can rent snorkeling equipment from any of the palapas and enjoy exploring the island at your own leisure.
5. Take a surfing lesson
Ixtapa is a great place to learn how to surf! There are several surf schools located on the beach, where you can take lessons and rent equipment. The waves here are perfect for beginners, so it’s the perfect place to give surfing a try.
6. Have some quiet beach time at Playa Quieta
Located six miles from Ixtapa Zihuatanejo and just across from Isla Ixtapa, Playa Quieta is touted as the best swimming area in the region featuring snorkeling, sailing and windsurfing.
Most of the length of Playa Quieta is taken by Club Med resort, though the beach is public. The benefit of this is that the beach will be very well-maintained at all times.
In terms of amenities, you’ll have to bring everything you want for your beach day–towels, chairs, food, etc. There is a massage hut there as well as a mini weekend market. Looking for a place to refuel? Try the Neptuno Restaurant by the entrance of the beach.
7. Go whale watching
Because Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo sit on the Pacific Coast, this region (much like California) is blessed by frequent humpback whale sightings.
This area of Mexico is located directly in the humpback whale the migration line, meaning as they make their way down from the colder Canadian waters to give birth in warmer waters, they’ll pass by here!
If you happen to be traveling during the months of December to March, you’ll be able to go on a whale-watching tour (whale sightings are quite common).
8. Go scuba diving
The area of Zihuatanejo is great for scuba diving, even if you don’t have much experience! Due to the gentle currents that flow over the coral, coves, and around the cliffs of Zihua, the conditions are ideal for novices.
If you’re traveling between the months of November through May, you’re in luck! This is when you’ll find the best diving conditions, with water temperatures ranging from 80 degrees Fahrenheit all year.
The winter months are especially great because this is when you’ll be able to see ample amounts of turtles, manta rays, dolphins, whales, and other fantastic marine life.
9. Ride a bike through the rainforest
If you’re looking for a little adventure during your time in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, why not try your hand at cycling through a rainforest?
The Ciclopista de Ixtapa (Ixtapa Bicycle Path) begins in the Vaso de Miraflores neighborhood at the far northern edge of Zihuatanejo, passes through the Playa Palmar area in Ixtapa, and continues over the mountains to Playa Linda.
The Path is divided into two large sections of more than 7 miles. Along this path, you will find a variety of flora and fauna that may look new to you. The path passes the Parque Aztlán Ecological Reserve, where you can see caimans, parrots, and groups of coati, an exotic tree mammal from Mexico and Central America.
Riding this path and exploring the park is definitely one of the best things to do in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo to enjoy nature. Without a doubt, you will enjoy this ride through nature surrounded by trees, wonderful animals, and beautiful landscapes.
To rent a bike, you can look for a bike shop near the path.
10. Go horseback riding through a coconut plantation
Imagine yourself on vacation, on horseback, traversing through drop-dead gorgeous landscape. Do you have that picture in your mind yet?
This horseback-riding adventure takes you through the beach of Playa Larga, expansive coconut plantations, and mangrove trees in the Ixtapa Zihuatanejo area.
Along the way, you’ll pass sprawling landscapes of mountain ranges, a lagoon, and the ocean. The tour is suitable for both beginner riders and the more experienced alike. Round-trip transport from your hotel in Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, or the cruise ship terminal is included.
Ultimately if you’re looking for an adventure that suits the whole family (other than hitting the beach), this is a great activity for just that!
11. Xihuacan Archaeological Site
A 3,000-year-old archaeological site, the Xihuacan Archaeological Site is one of the most important and well-preserved archaeological sites in Mexico. The site was once a thriving city that was home to over 20,000 people. Xihuacan was once a ceremonial center used by pre-Columbian tribes including the Aztecs.
A 3,000-year-old archaeological site, Xihuacan was once a ceremonial center used by pre-Columbian tribes including the Aztecs. Get an insider’s peek at the fascinating ancient ruins, which only opened to the public in 2013.
Today, visitors can explore the ancient ruins and learn about the culture and history of this once great city.
Don’t want to deal with the logistics yourself? This half-day Xihuacan Culture and Archaeology Tour is totally worth going on, as you’ll be able to get an insider’s peek at the fascinating ancient ruins, which only opened to the public in 2013. The tour includes hotel pick-up/drop-off, as well as a tasty local lunch and a dip in a natural lagoon!
12. Relax at Playa El Palmar
If you’re looking for a beach area that has all the creature comforts like all-inclusive resorts with swimming pools and buffets, Ixtapa’s Playa Palmar area is the place to visit.
Located in Ixtapa’s main zone, Playa Palmar is the main beach that visitors visit if their hotel is located here.
The beach is wide and expansive, meaning endless waves that make for some good bodyboarding. You can expect soft sand both above and below the water level which is always a plus!
If you need a refreshing dip in the water, you could participate in watersports such as kayaking and parasailing. There are lots of massage huts available too if you’d like to elevate your beach experience with an outdoor massage. And from November to April you might see humpback and gray whales swimming close to the shore!
Once you’re done beaching, take a quick walk around the area. Restaurants, bars, and small shops are clustered behind the row of hotels along the beach.
Pro Tip: Sunsets are amazing at this beach, perfect for post-dinner strolling.
13. Play a round of world-class golf
Ixtapa has two golf world-class courses: the Palma Real Golf Club and the Ixtapa Marina Golf Club.
Both have 18 holes and lovely scenery, with ocean views and tall palm trees. The golf courses are so unique in that they are also home to a lot of native wildlife like birds, iguanas, and crocodiles which can be a lot of fun to see while playing.
If you love golf, you should add Marina Ixtapa Golf Club to your bucket list. In fact, Golf Digest magazine has previously rated it as one of the best courses in Mexico!
As the largest marina in Mexico, this golf course is massive. The terrain covers 136 acres, with extensive sand traps and water obstacles protecting 14 of the 18 holes. It’s also renowned for its exceptional caddy service!
14. Day trip to Zihuatanejo
While in Zihuatanejo, enjoy a leisurely walk along Paseo del Pescador (the Fisherman’s Path). This walk boasts great views of Zihuatanejo Bay and passes by many artisanal shops, seafood restaurants, and international eateries serving up any cuisine you can think of.
Eventually, you’ll naturally end up in the downtown / Mercado Municipal area, where you’ll find food stalls, a colorful basketball court overlooking the bay, and a wonderful labyrinth of shops and stalls to peruse.
After you’ve worked up an appetite from all that exploring, go into town to try a ‘crazy potato’ at Papa Loca Zihua. Go crazy with it–fill your baked potato with whatever you want (meats, seafood, sour cream, veggies).
15. Get a bowl of pozole in Zihuatanejo
While we’re on the topic of food… there is one thing you should keep in mind when planning a day trip to Zihua, and that’s Pozole Thursday.
Every Thursday from about 2pm to 5pm, people line up at the city’s pozolerias – restaurants that serve bowls of green pozole, a Mexican soup made with hominy and chicken. (Fun fact: while most pozole is typically red, the state of Guerrero’s is green.)
Can’t make it here on a Thursday? No problem, you should still be able to find pozole on the menu at various restaurants throughout town.
During our visit, we went to Restaurantes Mexicanos Any on a regular day and the pozole was absolutely delightful! All the fixings made the soup taste that much better!
16. Explore the beautiful Playa La Ropa
Playa La Ropa is one of the most beautiful beaches in Zihuatanejo. It’s well known for its dramatic cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and extra soft sand. Visitors can enjoy plenty of activities such as swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and more.
Small waves make swimming here popular not to mention, you can also parasail here if you’re up for it!
There are also several restaurants and bars located nearby, making it the perfect place to spend a day in the sun.
17. Snorkel in the crystal clear waters of Playa Las Gatas
Although Playa La Ropa is the biggest and most well-known beach in the area, there’s another smaller, more intimate beach that I personally love more.
Playa Las Gatas, or “Cat Beach,” is a white-sand beach cove, famous for its colorful coral life and gorgeous turquoise waters. This place is postcard perfection at its best.
Playa Las Gatas also has some of the best snorkeling in the area. Besides its famous corals, you will witness starfish, sea cucumbers, tropical fish, and endless sea urchins. The best part? There’s a larger-than-life statue of Jesus Christ erected under the water!
If you’re looking for the ultimate day of fun in the sun, then consider taking a day trip here. On top of the amazing snorkeling opportunities, you can also go on a kayaking adventure.
While it is possible to walk to Playa Las Gatas all the way from Playa La Ropa, the faster and more scenic way is to take a boat from town.
There are tours you could join that take care of all your transportation and activities such as this one: Las Gatas Kayaking and Snorkeling Tour.
Otherwise, from sunup to sundown, you will find boats located at the far east end of Playa Principal. These boats go back and forth all day long, so it’s easy to catch one coming back to town when you’re ready to leave.
Once you’re there, you can rent snorkel equipment and eat at several decent restaurants along the beach.
18. Go scuba diving at Los Morros de Potosi
Scuba diving at Los Morros de Potosi is an adventure you won’t soon forget. The area is teeming with marine life, and there are plenty of dive sites to explore!
Above water you’ll just see granite rocky islets, but under the sea is a mesmerizing world of caverns, coral, valleys, and depths of up to 100ft. Even the shallow waters surrounding the islands of Morros de Potosi are full of coral reefs, schools of fish, sea turtles, and other aquatic life.
The best time to go scuba diving at Los Morros de Potosi is between December and April, when the water is at its clearest. The average depth of the dive sites here is about 30 meters, but there are some shallower areas where you can find reefs and other marine life.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, there are tour experiences that are right for everyone. Dive Zihua is a popular tour company that should have all your needs!
19. See crocodiles in the Playa Linda Cocodrilario
On a small peninsula directly to the south of Playa Linda is the cocodrilario (crocodile reserve).
Here, you’ll find dozens of the huge crocs floating in the water or lounging in the mud while big turtles, iguanas, and birds live among them. If you’re concerned for safety, not to worry–there is a well-fenced wooden viewing platform to keep you separated from the crocodiles.
It’s a small site, but there’s no fee to enter which is always nice.
Nearby is a market selling local handicrafts as well as a few restaurants you could check out. And if you have more time, do spend some time walking around Playa Linda! This is one of the more peaceful things to do in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, especially when you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the resort area.
Where To Stay In Ixtapa / Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Where To Stay In Ixtapa
Looking for a resort in the Ixtapa area?
Las Brisas Ixtapa, the unmissable orange-colored resort, will provide you with a very comfortable stay. You can even play tennis at the resort!
Looking for all-inclusive instead?
I’ve found that Azul Ixtapa Grand All Inclusive Suites provides the best accommodations that are both elegant and tasteful. The restaurants offer Mexican specialties, Asian cuisine, Italian cuisine and an international buffet. There are also 3 pool bars, one of which has a waterfall.
Barceló Ixtapa is another popular all-inclusive option as well.
Where To Stay In Zihuatanejo
Of the many beaches that dot this region, Playa La Ropa is the only one with beachfront hotels.
Looking for a beachfront stay?
The best by far is the Thompson Zihuatanejo. Aesthetics, comfort, retreat vibes, you name it–you got it at the Thompson. Another plus of staying here? Baby turtle releases occur on the beach right in front of the hotel!
We also love La Casa Que Canta, featuring an oceanfront saltwater pool surrounded by natural rock formations, an onsite restaurant, and adorable rooms decorated in traditional Mexican décor.
If those are not in your budget, check out Hotel Aura del Mar–its budget-friendly, colorful, charming, and beachfront!
During our last trip, we stayed at Casa MUSA, a boutique beachfront hotel that was actually still being developed. Because it was located far away from both the main towns of Ixtapa and Zihua, we felt like we were on a remote island quite far away from civilization!
Is Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo safe?
Because Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is an area frequented by tourists, I’d say that it’s relatively safe. At no point during our stay did we ever feel uncomfortable or threatened in any way. We personally never witnessed crime within the areas we traveled to.
However, it is important to note that these cities are located in the Mexican state of Guerrero, which has had a reputation for having more crime and violence than other Mexican states.
As with any other tourist-centric destination, the biggest concern you really need to worry about is potentially being a target for theft. I’d recommend not wearing flashy jewelry or other valuable items that may draw attention to you. if you need to pull out your wallet, stop walking, move to the side, and do so discretely.
These are general rules I follow whenever I travel!
As you can see, there are many more things to do in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo than go to the beach.
No matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find plenty of activities to enjoy during your stay in Ixtapa, Mexico! So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out some of these other blog posts for more amazing places to visit in Mexico!
- 15 Magical Things To Do In La Ribera and The East Cape, Baja California Sur Mexico
- The Ultimate Baja California Sur Road Trip Guide
- 20 Magical Things To Do In Todos Santos, Mexico
- 27 Best Things To Do In Playa Del Carmen For An Unforgettable Vacation
- 25+ Exciting Things To Do In Cancun To Make Your Trip Unforgettable
- 30+ Travel Essentials for Hot Weather and Tropical Climates