No No to FOMO: Best Things to Do in Zihuatanejo - Ixtapa, Mexico | Nomadicated (2024)

Is Zihuatanejo Worth Visiting?

Although not as well-known as some other big-name Mexican beach towns like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, orAcapulco, Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa captivate visitors with their own local charm. Prepare to indulge on delicious seafood, stroll through beautiful shades of terracotta-painted buildings, and relax in their laid-back vibe.

These charming interconnected towns are a worthwhile place to just chill for a few days or be that tourist who finds some adventurous things to do in Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa. Here, let me help you out with the latter.

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Ixtapa vs. Zihuatanejo

To quell any confusion,Zihuatanejoand its neighbor Ixtapa are separate Pacific coast towns in the Mexican state of Guerrero. They are 7 miles and one peninsula slab of land from one another. Their names may often be interchangeable on tourist brochures and hotels, so make sure you know which town you are heading to.

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Top Things to Do in Zihuatanejo – Ixtapa

Soak in the Sun at Zihua’s Beautiful Beaches

Relax under the sun enjoying all the usual beach activities: lounging, snorkeling, pooling, reading, floating, eating, massaging, and the list goes on. A calm stretch of beach within Zihuatanejo Bay includes Playa Principal (Main Beach), Playa La Ropa (Clothing Beach), and Playa Las Gatas beach.

Can you swim in Zihuatanejo Mexico?

Largely protected from the rough swells of the Pacific Ocean, these beaches bring relatively calm waters for people to snorkel and chill in. Once sunburnt and pampered, check out these other best things to do in Zihuatanejo – Ixtapa, on land and in the water.

Feed Crackers to Fish in La Isla Ixtapa

Carve out time for a day trip to La Isla Ixtapa Island, just a short water taxi ride away from another beautiful beach, Playa Linda. But don’t go empty-handed. Bring small packs of saltines with you to the island, not for when you want a snack but to feed the colorful fish. Crush them up and watch the local marine life swarm you to nibble from your hand on Coral Beach.

Not just to relax, snorkel the small islands’ coral reefs or jump on the chance to do some water sports on the main beach.

La Isla Ixtapa Island requires you to take a 40 minute bus to Playa Linda first (also recommended), then a 10 minute boat ride across.

Related Post:For the specifics, here’s a more detailed guide on how to have aPerfect Beach Day at La Isla Ixtapa Zihuatanejo

👉Skip the line: Book a half-day snorkel tour around the bays of La Isla Ixtapa

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Find Crocodiles in the Playa Linda Cocodrilario

If you’ve never seen crocodiles before, or even if you have, visit Playa Linda’s Cocodrilario, a protected crocodile sanctuary. Even better, it’s free! Spot the countless iguanas and white birds flocking around the crocodiles. The crocodile sanctuary is located across the street from the Playa Linda bus stop.

Address:Blvd. Across the Street from Oxxo Playa Linda MZ 2 LT 1, 40884 Gro., Mexico

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Try spotting crocodiles in other awesome towns like Huatulco and Chacahua as well!

Scuba Dive the Reefs

Excitement arose when I passed Zihuatenejo’s local dive shop:Dive Zihuatanejo. Even though I didn’t ultimately go, the price of a nearby reef dive nearby was not bad, at $90 for 2 dives, including equipment. The shop goes scuba diving at a different location daily and separates the group into beginners and advanced. The shop also offers…(Scroll to Next)

Try your Luck Whale Watching

Whale watching! Humpback whales cross these Pacific Ocean waters for your viewing pleasure between December and April. Prices ranged at Dive Zihuatanejo from $85 for 1-2 people, $65 for 3+, and less if you had a larger group for a 3-4 hr boat tour. If you’re lucky, you may also see some dolphins.

Tragically, it was still too early in the season. We didn’t want to be those people who get disappointed, so I will have to cross off this bucket list activity in the future.

Budget Tip:If you plan to head south toPuerto Escondido, a dolphin-watching tour will only set you back ~$30 USD. In the right season, whales and sea turtles can also be seen on this tour.

Super-Cute Trendy Street Food Court Mercadito Zanka

Giving off some major Tulum vibes, the new-age food court Mercadito Zanka displays colorful, racy neon signs, hipster signage, and DJ’s EDM background music. Expect more street food diversity beyond the usual Mexican fare, including vegetarian options, international options, desserts, and drinks.

Address:Juan Álvarez 12, Centro, 40890 Zihuatanejo, Gro., Mexico

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Check out the Nightly Shows in the Town Square

Decorative lights sparkle on all railings and ornaments dangle from tree limbs as happy locals and tourists go for a post-dinner stroll in Zihuatanejo’s bustling downtown. Especially around the holidays, the main square is popping.

Thousands of people gather around the colorful downtown stage, entertained by different nightly programs. You can always bet there will be a clown, which may not be very interesting unless you speak Spanish and are a child. But, if you’re lucky, there may be fire dancers, gymnasts, or live music. People gather to see performances that generally run between 7 pm – 10 pm every day.

On Sundays, many food trucks convene on the sidewalk next to the square.

Wander around Zihuatanejo’s Terracotta Colored Downtown

Like Santorini’s iconic blue and white townscape, Zihuatenejo is iconically terracotta-colored. Meander among the orange and brick hues of Zihua’s downtown, uncovering hidden cafés and artisanal gems.

Hint:Check out a store with an impressive traditional mask collection with a friendly owner willing to shower you with Mexican history by the downtown stage/basketball courts.

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Stroll along Zihuatanejo’s Boardwalk “Paseo del Pescador”

Newly opened in 2021, Zihuatanejo presents Paseo del Pescador (the Fisherman’s Path), a boardwalk that bridges Playa Madera Beach and Playa Principal Beach. This connection between downtown and the hotel area hugs Zihuatanejo Bay, providing beautiful ocean views and instagrammable decorations. As you walk, watch the sea birds dive beneath the clear waters, impressively rising up, not empty-beaked anymore.

Find those Instagrammable Street Art and Signs

Following in Tulum’s footsteps, Zihuatenejo is chockful of many instagrammable backdrops. Bridges are lined with lights and ornaments. The walls are covered with beautiful ocean-themed graffiti and Mexican cultural murals.

If you happen to be here around the holidays, Mexico sure does go all out on their Christman decor.

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Additional Things to Do in Zihuatanejo if you Have time

Peruse the Costa Grande Archaeological Museum

Just off the boardwalk in downtown Zihuatanejo, the small 6-room Costa Grande Archaeological Museum exhibits the area’s local geography, history, and nearby archeological sites.

It only costs 10 pesos ($0.50 USD) to enter, and you are provided with an English pamphlet. Everything displayed is in Spanish.

No No Don’t Go Go:I only went because the entrance fee was cheap. I don’t really recommend this small museum, but it is something to do.

Address:P.º del Pescador s/n, Centro, 40890 Zihuatanejo, Gro., Mexico

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Day trip to Xihuacan Archeological Site

For history buffs, day trip to Xihuacan Archeological Site, only a 40 minute drive from Zihuatenejo – Ixtapa. Direct buses are available that leave from downtown. From the information gathered, the archeological site does not look particularly grand.

Address:Soledad de Maciel, Guerrero, Mexico

👉Historical sites are always more interesting when a guide is telling you what you’re looking at. For history buffs, book a half-day Xihuacan culture and archaeology tour

How to get to Zihuatanejo – Ixtapa

From Acapulco to Zihuatenejo

Buses run every two to three hours daily from Acapulco to Zihuatanejo. From the Estrella de Oro bus station in Acapulco, it cost 250-272 pesos and takes around 5 hrs. Make sure if you buy it online, some companies will require you to print out your tickets to be valid.

Being one of the closest neighbors, I would not recommend a day trip from Acapulco to Ixtapa due to the long drive from the destinations.

Related Post: If you’re looking for how to get to Acapulco first or other connections, refer to my Mexico transportation guide.

Where to Eat in Zihuatanejo – Ixtapa

Go Crazy over a Crazy Potato

Lord only knows how many taco shops are in any given Mexican town, but this taco place was not like all the others. La Papa Loca is a very much local place where nearly every seat was taken. They offer the regular taco affair, but with a unique twist. Choose all your typical taco or alambre toppings. But, instead of a form of a tortilla, exchange it with a giant baked potato.

Address:C. Heroico Colegio Militar 45, Centro, 40890 Zihuatanejo, Gro., Mexico

Fresh off the Boat Seafood

Zihuatanejo – Ixtapa is a seafood paradise. Prices range from 100pesos (5USD) to Coconuts, (one of the more expensive restaurants in town). All I know is that I chose correctly from the menu when divine buttery garlic shrimp from Bananas showed up on my plate. Other notable restaurant options presented seafood served in pineapples and paella.

Restaurant Bistro del Mar

I am well-versed in egg breakfasts in Mexico, but Restaurant Bistro del Mar took the cake, and I even came back the next day to eat it all over again. It helped that they had the fastest wifi in the whole town. I’m telling you, you can’t go wrong with the Portobello with Sun-Dried Tomato Eggs and muah…delicious.

Address:Eva Samano de López Mateos S/N, Playa la Madera, 40880 Zihuatanejo, Gro., Mexico

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No No Don’t Go Go: Samurai Roll

I usually let people discover bad food by themselves. Still, Samurai Roll gets a special shout-out as a No No don’t Go Go. There is no obvious restaurant sign, so you would probably never find it anyway, which should’ve been my red flag. But, I just missed Asian food so much.

Where to Stay in Zihuatanejo or Ixtapa

Is it Better to Stay in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo?

First, decide if you plan on staying in Zihuatenejo or Ixtapa. Ixtapa is home to more of a resort feel close to the beach, while Zihuatanejo includes the downtown with more mom-and-pop shops and local restaurants available.

Ixtapa is home to the large resorts and is generally more spread out. On the other hand, Zihuatanejo has that community feel with a quaint downtown lined with mom and pop shops and a boardwalk stretching from downtown to along the beach. While Ixtapa is more on an open ocean, Zihuatanejo sits in a calm bay.


Having gone with family this trip to Zihuatenejo in 2022 – Ixtapa was not according to my usual backpacking style. However, if you feel like splurging a bit, I highly recommend the hotel we stayed at:Hotel Irma. Exceptional views of the beach, terracotta walls line smartly placed floral decorations, and an infinity pool made Hotel Irma a charming, down-to-earth stylish stay.

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No No to FOMO: Best Things to Do in Zihuatanejo - Ixtapa, Mexico | Nomadicated (14)


For a budget-friendly option right on the beach, book a stay at Hotel Del Pescador. All rooms are fitted with a balcony with a sea view and minutes walk from the main street filled with restaurants and things to do.

More: Find Other Top Accommodation Deals in Zihuatanejo on

Bucket List Worthy? Best Things to do in Zihuatanejo – Ixtapa, Mexico

Zihuatanejo – Ixtapa is still largely void of mainstream tourism, but the beach, local vibe, and community effort of street decorations should entice you to put this town on your radar. I hope this guide inspires some ideas on things to do in Zihuatanejo – Ixtapa, Mexico for when you come.

With only a short time in Zihuatanejo – Ixtapa, don’t miss these things to do:

  • Snorkel at La Isla Ixtapa, checking out the crocodiles on the way there
  • Eat out at the trendy Mercadito Zanka
  • Go for a post-dinner stroll around town to see the nightly shows and amazing vibe
✈️ Find the best tours and activities with Viator to cross off your bucket list and create unforgettable memories

🏘️ Book your accommodation with in advance and check availability on the days of your travels.

🧾 Rent a car in advancewith Discovercars for those epic road trips at the best price.

📓 Safety first! Insure yourself with Safety Wings nomad travel insurance for $45/month for all your adventures and activities abroad.

Going Elsewhere? Discover Other Mexico Adventures and Resources

  • Best Things to Do in Tepoztlán, Mexico
  • Fun Things to Do in Acapulco, Mexico
  • Best Things to Do in Taxco, Mexico
  • Ixtapa Island: A Perfect Beach Day at La Isla Ixtapa, Zihuatenejo
  • How to Visit Chacahua, Oaxaca – A Secret Mexican Beach Paradise
  • Adventurous Things to Do in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
  • Day Trip to the Magical Waterfalls of Copalitilla and Llano Grande
  • Things to Do in Huatulco, Mexico and Why I Won’t Be Back
  • Never Lost in Mexico: Transporation Guide to Getting Around Mexico

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Is Zihuatanejo safe at night? ›

In general, Zihuatanejo is safe at night. However, I recommend taking a taxi after 9 or 10 pm since some of the streets can be dark and empty of people.

What is Ixtapa, Mexico known for? ›

Explore Ixtapa

The region offers a profusion of fishing charters, watersports and scuba diving sites. Ixtapa boasts high-end golf courses and lighted tennis courts. Horses are available for beach rides in Playa La Ropa and Playa Linda.

Are there cartels in Zihuatanejo? ›

A latest operation in the south of the country has revealed the cartels and police are also coming into close contact, so much so that federal police detained every officer of the Zihuatanejo municipal police force to find the false agents. The bust came through a tip from the town's own mayor Gustavo Garcia.

Is it better to stay in Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo? ›

We much prefered Zihua with its cobblestone streets, lively restaurants, and authentic atmosphere to the tourist areas that covered Ixtapa. If you're heading to the area and trying to decide between the two towns, we suggest staying in Zihua.

Is Zihuatanejo safe for American tourists? ›

Guerrero - Avoid all travel

There is a threat of armed violence, banditry, and looting in cities and on roads. This advisory excludes the cities of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, where you should exercise a high degree of caution.

Can you swim in the ocean in Zihuatanejo? ›

All beaches in Zihuatanejo are safe for swimming.

What to wear in Zihuatanejo? ›

Throw out the jacket, heavy shoes, anything with sleeves on it. Wear the jeans, runners & a long sleeve top plus these are what you go home in. You won't do anything in ZIH with them but hang them in the closet.

Why is Zihuatanejo famous? ›

Made famous by “The Shawshank Redemption,” where Tim Robbins' character Andy Dufresne escapes prison and heads straight to his dream paradise, Zihuatanejo (pronounced zeewha-tan-ay-hoe” and often shortened to “Zihua”)… forever putting this once sleepy fishing village on the tourist map.

Do cartels in Mexico bother tourists? ›

Still, experts agree tourists are not the preferred target. “Most tourists will never meet the cartels. In other words, violence is often generic.

Do the cartels run resorts in Mexico? ›

Mexico's picturesque resorts along an 80-mile stretch of the Caribbean coast — once safe for tourists — have become a battleground for four warring drug cartels.

Who was the tourist killed in Ixtapa? ›

Joseph 'Jeff' Bynens, 76, was swimming in the sea when he was attacked by the predator on December 14. According to reports, he was rescued from the water with most of his leg missing and died of excessive blood loss on the beach in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo.

Are there crocodiles in Zihuatanejo? ›

Crocodiles are known to roam the area of Zihuatanejo, and other popular beaches in Mexico. There are three types including the Morelet crocodile, the American crocodile, and the Spectacled Caiman crocodile.

Is water in Zihuatanejo safe to drink? ›

Tap water is not drinkable.

Only tap water should be consumed in hotels that specify it, we recommend drink just bottled water.

How far apart are Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo? ›

Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, although just four miles apart, offer two distinctly different Mexico vacation experiences, so make sure to choose a hotel in the area that fits your vacation style.

Is Ixtapa safe at night? ›

Safety at night:Moderate

The touristic zones of the area tend to be well-lit and patrolled by local police. However, it remains advised not to walk alone after dark, especially in desolate or unlighted areas. Visitors should consider using a taxi or ride-sharing service for transportation after sunset.

What is the crime rate in Zihuatanejo, Mexico? ›

Crime in Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Crime Index:28.92
Safety Index:71.08

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