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.

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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.

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* 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.