Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo: Beaches, Hotels and Cocodrilos

Our trip to Ixtapa took a little over 48 hours. It was another 190NM of pleasant and smooth sailing from ManzanDSCF4587illo with just enough wind to push us along at a comfortable pace. At some point along our journey, a bird decided to catch a ride by perching itself at the bow pulpit for the entire first night. It flew away after sunrise, continuing its journey or perhaps searching for breakfast.

We docked without incident in La Marina Ixtapa in the early afternoon under the hot sun and almost non-existent breeze.  After the usual nice-long-shower-after-sailing routine, we decided to explore a little bit. Ixtapa itself was pretty much a town built for tourism. The marina was nestled among tall, exclusive hotel resorts and condominiums. These tall buildings all lined up along the beaches of Ixtapa, where one can enjoy the sunshine and warm blue waters. Geared for tourist trade, el centro de Ixtapa has little to no cultural or historical value.  It is lined with souvenir shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants. As one walks down the street and the main town square it is clean, comfortable and expensive. It’s nice enough but not memorable in any way.

20130218_181038About 10 km southeast of Ixtapa is Zihuatanejo, a charming old town and laid-back fishing village. Both Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are often combined as one tourist destination, being so close together yet different enough to give the tourists the feel of the two different lifestyles. Bahía Zihuatanejo is a nice, picturesque anchorage spot crowded with numerous sailboats enjoying its shelter. Every year, this town also hosts the Zihua Sail Fest benefiting the village children. We walked around the downtown area of Zihuatanejo, bustling with locals walking about in and out of specialty stores, little hole-in-the-wall eateries preparing their mouthwatering dishes, and the honking of local taxis and buses maneuvering the small streets loading or unloading the passengers.

Walking a bit further to Av. Cinco de Mayo, one would find the Mercado Artesanías:  cobble-stoned walk20130218_170736ways lined on both sides with souvenir, folk art or jewelry stores as well as restaurants and markets. It will eventually lead you down to the beach along the bay where you can watch the panga fishermen or just sit down in one of the beach restaurants overlooking the bay with an ice-cold beer in hand.  One random note for the movie lovers:  this bay is featured in Shawshank Redemption, in which the character Andy played by Tim Robbins dreamt of going if he was ever to be released from prison.

20130219_181006The marina in Ixtapa itself, however, was relatively quiet with only a few restaurants opened along the promenade when we were there. Most of the boats here were power fishing boats available for sport fishing and day trips; not many other fellow sailors were staying onboard their vessels.  One noticeable building was the landmark lighthouse, as noted in the expanded 2nd edition of Mexico Boating Guide, our cruising bible during this leg of the journey. As I continued reading about Ixtapa, the Guide authors nonchalantly pointed out that, “Shops, eateries, hotels and golf courses circle the marina, but keep Fido aboard; crocodiles grab small dogs on the dock.”  Wait, what? I felt like a sentence of this magnitude needed further elaborate details, such as how big the crocodiles were, or the frequency of such incidents, or perhaps what kind of small dogs they were talking about here. But none were given; we were left to our imagination. There were signs by the dock gate warning us not to get into the water since los cocodrilos were found in this area, as it was a tidal estuary before it was a marina.  Even though I loved the wildlife sightings we’ve had so far, I was not particularly inclined in catching a glimpse of el cocodrilo. Needless to say, precautions were taken such as limiting nighttime bathroom walks and making sure Gidget never approached the edges of the docks. However, we didn’t think the iguana-eating crocodiles were that big or even a huge issue here, seeing that people were wandering around the docks and cleaning up the boats all the time.  It seemed just like any other marina save for the signs.

Then the last night of our stay came.

As we were walking back to our boat, my eyes caught a shadow on the water on the slip next to ours. It was a black, long silhouette floating on the water like a log…  That’s odd, I thought, why on earth would there be.. and this was when I realizIMAG1020ed that I was looking at a crocodile! El cocodrilo floating around near our boat! I semi-ran and jumped back to the boat as my heart was racing, then I made sure Gidget also got back on the boat. The crocodile we saw was probably about 5 feet (150 cm) long, maybe even longer. It was far from the small crocodiles we thought lurked in these waters. Then Jerrad, of course, decided to grab a flashlight and look for more. I walked cautiously behind him, dead-centered on the dock, and found three other crocodiles around. Jerrad shone his flashlight at one of them; we could see it clearly from the tip of its mouth to its tail, as it was quietly swimming around in the marina. I gave a little shudder and headed back to the boat. It was clear to me Gidget wasn’t going to sleep outside on the cockpit that night.

Sunrise came along, bringing our last day of stay in Ixtapa. It was quite a relief for me since it meant goodbye to the crocodiles. It was one of the oddest feeling I’ve had while staying in this marina, with a golf course behind and five-star hotel resorts around it, yet crocodiles were swimming around in the waters. Perhaps, if there is next time, we will opt to anchor in Bahía Zihuatanejo instead.

View more pictures here

4 thoughts on “Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo: Beaches, Hotels and Cocodrilos

  1. Your first brush with St Croix!
    The last scene in Shawshank was actually filmed at Sandy Point on St Croix, though it was described as being Zihuatenejo in the movie.
    I think you’re catching up with Star Seeker. Tony is now single-handing and would probably appreciate some camaraderie.

    • Never knew that was filmed in St Croix, seems an odd coincidence. We are all the way down in Huatulco now, getting ready to make the jump out of Mexico. I will see if he is around before we take off, it would be nice to have a buddy boat for at least the crossing Tehuantepec.

  2. You had a Booby on board! We did too, also right on the bow pulpit (pictures and blog). And we had a close encounter with a ten-foot crocodile too, while birdwatching at an estuary near Mezcales, near Nuevo Vallarta, quite the shock when it rapidly slid into the water with a splash! That hasn’t made it to a blog yet. Now Nikk is in Portland but when he returns we will sail up to Mazatlan and across to explore the Sea of Cortez, your trip in reverse. Enjoying your tales of sailing and exploration. Buen viaje!

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