Down the mountain

ONE OF THE many beauties of living on my Mexican mountaintop, where it’s cool and comfy most all the year, is that we can hop into the Honda, get on the autopista that passes through here and be on the Pacific Beach at Zihuatanejo in 3.5 hours flat. And it’s a beautiful drive.

We’ll be doing that quite soon.

Zihua, as the locals call it, is the old, original end of what is now the combined Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo. You’ve likely seen ads for Ixtapa in glossy travel mags. While Zihua sprang up naturally long, long ago, Ixtapa was built by the Mexican government in the 1970s to attract tourist money, which it does. Think Cancún.

You cannot see Ixtapa from Zihua. Though the two are the same municipality, they are separated by low mountains, and are about a 15-minute drive apart. The fact that they are not mutually visible means that one can stay in old Zihua, enjoy its funky atmosphere, and not give a moment’s thought to flashy Ixtapa.

The people vacationing in Ixtapa, a different sort of people generally, can do the same, ignoring what they likely consider to be the riffraff of old Zihua. That would be people like us. We are riffraff.

There are many snazzy hotels on the edges of old Zihua too, but we shun snazzy and always stay on the same short street, Calle Adelita, which runs parallel to Playa Madera and is easy walking distance to downtown. There are a number of low-key hotels and good restaurants on or abutting Calle Adelita.

We have stayed in four of the hotels on Adelita and soon we will try two more on the same trip. One is Villas Miramar and the other is the Hotel Palacios. The two sit next to one another, neighbors.

We walked through both a few years ago and were unimpressed, but their write-ups on TripAdvisor indicate we may have been hasty. And since we have found fault with the other four, often trivial, we’ve decided to branch out.

The previous four were:

1. Casa Sun & Moon*, a big building with few rooms. It’s an old hotel and most of the rooms are dark and musty. However, there are three suites that are spectacular and offer great views of the bay, plus each has its outdoor jacuzzi. They keep raising the price in spite of a severe downturn in Mexican tourism. That’s nuts.

2. Zihua Caracol, which is jointly run with the Casa Sun & Moon. They are directly across the street from one another, and share the same reception desk, which is in the Zihua Caracol. This is a pretty nice hotel, but there is no ocean view. Gotta have an ocean view.

3. La Quinta de Don Andrés, which is where we stayed on our initial overnighter on Calle Adelita years ago. This place is next door to the Casa Sun & Moon. We enjoyed our first stay at Don Andrés, but shortly thereafter it underwent a major renovation and prices skyrocketed.

Last spring, we stayed there again because the prices had gone down a bit, but we were disappointed. There were a number of design features we disliked. The bedroom was so tiny it was difficult to walk about due to the king bed. The balcony was minuscule. And the AC was unreliable. We came home one day earlier than planned.

The hotel has larger rooms, but they cost quite a bit more. Plus, there’s a penthouse that covers the entire roof, and it’s stunning. Alas, the price is stunning too.

4. Bungalows Adelamar. Mexicans are fond of calling hotels with kitchen facilities bungalows. All of the places mentioned so far have kitchen facilities, but are not called bungalows, but the Adelamar calls itself bungalows. There is no website, so the link goes to TripAdvisor’s report on the Adelamar.

This is a nice place to stay, but there is no ocean view. Pity. It is quite inexpensive, about $60 in the off season. We always go to Zihua in the off season because it’s significantly cheaper, and we are cheap people.

Being a tightwad is a big part of the reason I now live loose in Mexico —  and you likely remain a wage slave.

* * * *

But on this upcoming trip, we will stay in both the Villas Miramar and the Hotel Palacios. The first night will be in the Miramar because they are booked the two nights after that. We’ll move next door after one night. This is good because it will provide a chance to give both a test drive for future visits.

On our very first trip to Zihua years back, not long after the autopista to the coast was completed, we stayed on a mountainside overlooking the bay, just out of town. The hotel is named Villas el Morro, which has a spectacular view, a beautiful pool, but is inconveniently located, isolated, and awful parking if you come with a car.

There were troubles with the AC and bathroom, and the manager/owner was surly and uncooperative.

The most memorable drawback to Villas el Morro is that the morning sun is a blast furnace on all the rooms and their balconies. We tried to enjoy the balcony in the mornings, but were forced to take evasive, creative action, which you see illustrated in the photo below.

Surviving the sun at Villas el Morro.

We invariably eat at Fonda Dona Licha, a very nice place downtown. We are not foodies.

* * * *

* On arriving, we changed plans and stayed at the Casa Sun & Moon, a suite on the street side because the spectacular Master Suites on the beach side were occupied. The street-side suite was quite suitable and spacious. The hotel has improved what were the dark and musty rooms with nice paint and amenities. And the price was reasonable again.

17 thoughts on “Down the mountain

  1. I mentioned this place to mi esposo, who is sharing my double Lazy Boy (with cup holders), case of Corona, and 2 kilo bag of tortilla chips, and he immediately recognized it from the movie, Shawshank Redemption, which I think I slept through many years ago, long before we purchased the Lazy Boy or could afford an entire case of Corona. Your description of the places you have stayed are very good. We also usually opt for the funkier sides of town (and rooms with Jacuzzis), just because we like to live cheaply too and the experience of mingling with like-minded riff-raff is so much more interesting. We would try Zihuantenajo this month, but we already paid for a Thanksgiving trip to Nuevo Vallarta for a week. But now I have it on our list of places to go. I am looking forward to reading the review of your trip.

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    1. Bonnie: Yes, Zihuatanejo is where the two guys in Shawshank Redemption were going to settle after prison. I don’t recall much of the movie because I saw it so long ago, but I do remember that I liked it a lot. I hope it appears on Mexican Netflix one day.

      I don’t know about Nuevo Vallarta, but I assume it’s got something to do with Puerto Vallarta. I’ve been there once, just for a few hours. Didn’t care for it. Way too touristy for my tastes, and I really reacted badly to our walk down the main drag where store hucksters stood in the doorways and yammered at us in English, most asking “where are you from?!” As if they cared. I felt like I was walking down Bourbon Street again amid the strip joints.

      We go to Zihua for the sole reason that’s it’s the closest good beach town from our house. There are some closer ones, very small ones, but I want a modicum of restaurants and activity. And then there is Troncones, which is on the way and which we’ve passed through a couple of times briefly out of curiosity because it’s so popular with the local Gringos and the woo-woo set from all over. Didn’t care for it either. Nothing much there except lots of signs in English. They know their clientele.

      Probably won’t have much of a review of the trip on our return, if at all. Been there lots of times, do pretty much the same thing, and come home. There are a number of beaches in the area, and the best is Playa Ropa. There’s a restaurant on the sand, La Perla, that puts out tables and umbrellas every morning (50 pesos or roundabouts just to sit there and well worth that pittance), and the waiter brings out whatever we want. Do a search of the Moon for Zihuatanejo and you’ll find previous posts.

      A great place to visit too is Ixtapa Island. You have to drive over the hills to Ixtapa and take a boat out to it. The island is primitive and beautiful with some simple restaurants on the sand. There’s also a nudist beach somewhere on the small island, but I’ve not been there. We’ve visited the island twice. Might go this time, but I doubt it.

      Kick back and enjoy your beer and chips. The Rapture is on the way.


      1. Ah, do not mock me, oh friend of heathens, I am a Calvinist and do not believe in the rapture. I do believe in the total depravity of man, however, for which there is plenty of empirical evidence. We went to Puerto Vallarta in June, stayed in a condo near Liz Taylor and Richard Burton’s love nest. It was advertised as a few short steps off the main road and turned out to be four flights up the side of a mountain, but we had a great view and the pool all to ourselves, since no one in their right mind goes to PV in June. It was hot and humid and rained so hard every day that the water flowed under the door leading from the balcony. Our trip to Nuevo Vallarta – north of PV – is to an all inclusive with a group of friends, so is a different kind of trip – totally hedonistic – and a way to avoid eating Thanksgiving dinner with Canadians. (That was a joke, in case your sensitive readers are offended.)

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  2. It is almost a breeze to whip over to Zihua, all except for the last half hour or so. It a dream compared to what it used to be, a whole day’s excursion, but now a no-brainer. We were there in May, I think, and the weather was decent. It can get pretty wicked hot and humid there during the summer months, and I pity anyone living there sans AC.

    Your trip should be perfect. Temps are good, few visitors. I am envious. I think we may look at doing it perhaps the first week of December, prior to all the tourists.

    I keep thinking about maybe buying something there, but about a month after we return the idea vanishes because we can book tons of rooms for what we pay to visit.

    Enjoy your quick trip. Maybe that last stretch of highway might be done. Nah, probably not.


    1. Tancho: The first four or five years I lived here I often thought of visiting Zihua, but the autopista was not finished, and I knew it would be a slog. So I waited till the coast was clear, literally. And that last 40 miles or so when you cut to the left, parallel to the coast, has now improved quite a bit. As you know, they’ve been upgrading that section for a long time. It’s going slowly, but it’s going.

      We always go in Spring and Fall, never in the middle of the summer due to the heat and rain. I recall we were there either just before or just after you last Spring. And we are of one mind about living there and the necessity of AC. Brings to mind a common friend who recently bought a house just up the coast, and plans to live loonily without AC.


      1. I have been surviving quite well with just a fan since I moved in. In fact, I switched off the fan two nights ago. But we are merely on the shoulder of our hot-humid-summer weather — even though the calendar would like to convince us it is Fall. Talk to me next July on the issue of air conditioning. Reality may cause that project to leap over such mundane objects as patio furniture. And it will cost far less to purchase. To run? That is another story.


        1. Señor Cotton: Having spent almost all my adult life — before moving to Mexico — in the sultry climes of the American Southeast, I cannot grasp living in any sort of heat whatsoever without AC, especially when it’s absolutely attainable. But you come from the opposite end of the U.S. and are accustomed to a different world, weather-wise. Perhaps — combined with your very odd personality — that explains your apparent willingness to live in a sauna. It puzzles me. I truly think it will limit your visitors and perhaps eliminate them entirely for much of the year. And you are a visitor kind of fella.


        2. I, along with many other NOBs lived in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, in a climate similar to yours, for 3 1/2 yrs with no AC. Ceiling fans, the breeze, and knowing when to stay in the shade worked fine.


        3. You have a pool. Quit whining. You can spend all day swimming and then sleep in front of a fan. That, dear Steve, is called the Good Life.


  3. That last photo is a hoot. Looks a smidgen more güera than La Señora. Is it her? Or someone in the Federal Witness Protection Program?


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we live right next to a beach which is perfect when the beaches in Mexico are sweltering. And you can get to it via subway.


  4. We stayed at Villas Miramar twice. The first time, wih a bay view, was satisfactory. The second time, with a garden view was less so. Noisy, for one. Somewhat worn. The most annoying aspect was being asked, two mornings in a row, whether we’d paid for the previous night. “Are you sure?” apparently, record keeping is a weak spot there.

    On our next visit, we stayed at Bungalows Madera, which we liked. It has a lot of steps, but we were younger and more fit then.

    Last year, we broke with with tradition and stayed off center, near the mercado, at the Hotel Fiesta Paraiso, which we liked. But no sea view.
    The Fiesta Paraiso is only one block from Fonda Doña Licha, a real plus.

    Don Cuevas


  5. Came back from the beach a day early yesterday because we picked the same moment to go there that a tropical storm decided to go there. Dang. Also, we changed our plans on arrival and stayed at the Casa Sun & Moon, which was a good choice.


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